Your pet’s last day

May 25, 2010

Having your companion animal put down is one of the worst moments in your life. There are many wonderful veterinarians who indeed care about animals, especially at the death of your pet. In this article, I share my personal experience with the hope that the essence of my message will find its way to reach the hearts of the veterinarians that belong to the latter category, and help them change the way they handle euthanasia.

It was time for my cat Muffy. Her vet made house calls on a regular basis, so by the time she was ready to leave this planet, I thought he would have some respect for her final moment. Not just because I spent thousands of dollars with him, but as a human being.

This veterinarian even told me weeks before her passing that he would never be late for a “sacred appointment.” He even repeated the words to his assistant saying proudly to her, “‘Sacred appointment,’ that sounds good. I like it.”

But came the “sacred appointment,” he did not show up. He was late for two hours without any courtesy to call. I was left in limbo with such tormenting agony while waiting. Even if he showed up on time, it would have been an extremely difficult experience, so this last appointment should have been treated as truly “sacred,” not just to make it “sound good.” It was too late to find another veterinarian to euthanize her at this point, and my cat and I suffered while waiting.

This was bad enough, but what I’ve found even more unethical was that he charged me for extra travel time for him being late. It was not my fault that he was stuck in traffic coming from the downtown area to the west side, instead of from Santa Monica. He was making a profit by squeezing in another appointment before my “sacred appointment” while I waited, holding my dying cat in my arms for two hours.

Two days after Muffy’s death, I received the “receipt” which reflected this unauthorized charge, and that’s how I found out that he charged my credit card for his own mismanagement of appointments. I called his office, sent a fax, and left messages, so that they could rectify it if it were a simple office “error.” But I never heard back from either him or any of his employees.

No one should be put in such a position to have to fight for justice only two days after her pet’s death, when she is barely starting the mourning process. I felt sick to my stomach to have to deal with “business” because it was the time for healing, not for defending. (He never reimbursed me, by the way.)

Consequently, I did let go of it at that point because I didn’t want to be haunted by the negative energy, and guess what happened two months later! — He called me by error thinking that I was another client of his! I took the opportunity and told him all of the above. He was only shocked that he accidentally called me, whom he had been avoiding.

Quite the contrary to my hopeful anticipation, instead of letting my sentiment get through to his ego and to admit his error, and possibly institute a change within him, he quickly got off the phone, promising to call me later that day. Of course, he never kept his word …once again.

It is not just the money, but it is the principal of the matter that made me contact his office in the first place. It is his mentality that added more pain when I was in deepest despair. To him, it may have been just extra dollars to gouge, but it is an undeserving agony to those who are grieving. It was very disappointing that he would not respond at all to the letter I faxed him explaining how disheartening the whole experience was. Had he felt threatened and did not want to admit his insensitivity, holding all the guilt inside along with his inner defense? Or was he simply greedy and heartless, and has no conscience? I will never know.

I certainly did not need this bizarre phone call, two months later, to make me relive the same insult and be reminded of the pain. But things happen for reasons, I thought, and I’ve decided to let this story out in the universe and disperse the energy, with the hope that it’ll come back as a positive force to help others deal with euthanasia at peace when the time comes.

Ask your veterinarian now, while your animal is still going strong, to treat your “sacred appointment” with respect, and not to add unnecessary pain to what you and your animal have already suffered.

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* This piece is a reprint of an article printed in The Pet Press

Marie Atake is Founder & President of Forte Animal Rescue and a former Commissioner on the Board of L.A. Animal Services.