Guilt Trips, Head Games & The Resultant Rage

I had a very bad, no good, rotten day today. I woke early since I was due at the barn by 7:30, and went to bring my old dog, Nikki in from the garage where she sleeps. She is usually waiting for me, but this morning there was no sign of her. I called. Still nothing. I went into the garage and found her lying on the concrete between the cars. She barely reacted when I spoke to her and petted her. Nikki is a big dog, 64 pounds, and at 14 she is very, very old for a big dog. Pretty much every day has been a gift over the past few months.

And she’s been developing more and more physical problems. Cataracts to the point she is nearly blind, she’s almost stone deaf, she breaths like she’s just run a marathon, arthritis in her hips, incontinence which, despite medicine, has been a continuing problem. Today it was clear she was not a happy animal. I finally got her on her feet and into the house. She does tend to eat like a cat in that she grazes, but she hadn’t touched her food from yesterday. She refused a treat, and there was no tail wag. There was no joy, and I realized that it was time.

I use a vet clinic just down the road that is something of a factory. A lot of vets work there. Turnover is frequent, and there is a focus on convincing people to run massive numbers of tests, and do a lot of very expensive procedures. Since I’m pretty hard headed I have always been able to say no, and since it’s a long way into town I had continued to use this place. So, I call and explain the situation and they tell me to come right now. I call Gilly and cancel my riding lesson, and I managed to boost Nikki into the foot well of the car. I make the drive wiping away tears because I love her and she’s been with me for a long time.

At the clinic they take us into a “euthanasia room” That has little birds twittering in a cage, and a cross on the wall, etc. etc. For me it was more offensive then comforting, but I figured — okay, maybe this works for other people. I sit on the floor with Nikki’s head in my lap and this vet comes in. The woman asks what’s going on. I tell her. She then says she has to examine the dog to make sure. She does a two minute exam — “Well good news, her heart sounds fine, her lungs are clear”, and then she announces it’s not time, and there are _lots_ of treatments we haven’t tried. I point out to her that this dog is 14 and not happy. She ignores me and goes on about this pill and that pill, and this treatment and that treatment. I say forcefully — “I’m not spending hundreds of dollars on a 14 year old dog who is failing.” At which point she gets nasty and says, “Well, we don’t _kill_ animals on just your say so.” I am completely rocked back by this, and I realize that this woman is playing head games with me, and trying to guilt me into treatments. I was breathless, and I sat there trying to figure out if I needed to just go off on her. She then says, “Well, if you just can’t cope we can find her another home.” Yeah, like I’m going to give away my elderly dog who has been my shadow and companion of my heart for 14 years.

I’ve steeled myself for this parting. I had been tearful, but now I’m so enraged that I can’t find the words. The woman tells me she’ll be back with some medication and she leaves. When she finally comes back she says in this snotty voice — “Well, since money is such an issue for you I’m going to give you these pills… _for free_! At this point I just want the hell out of there. We leave, and the desk says “Here’s the wet food that’s been ordered for your dog.” I end up paying for it, and find myself in the parking lot trying to boost Nikki back into the car while she yelps in pain. I debate going in and displaying a red head’s anger, but Nikki is shaking and panting, and we are trained to be polite. I finally get her in the car and take her home.

I called my equine vet who was just speechless over this. She said, “As if a two minute exam can match what you know about your pet!” And as another vet has said, “Better one month early than one minute too late.” The rest of the day was spent dealing with business that couldn’t wait, and truthfully I could not find the strength to prepare for this yet again. So because of this woman’s arrogance I now have to steel myself to face this next week, and prepare to say goodbye because this poor animal’s body is wearing out, and the gift I can bestow on her is never allowing her to suffer needlessly.

The other thing that will happen is a strongly worded letter to the owner of this clinic calling out this woman vet by name. And finding a new vet for my cats who isn’t running a money generating factory by playing on people’s very real love for their pets, or guilt tripping them into letting an old dog linger and decline.

Sorry for the rant, but I just had to vent.

17 Responses to Guilt Trips, Head Games & The Resultant Rage

  • Debbie Lentz says:

    I am so sorry you had to deal with this. Virtual hugs. Be sure to put you experience on yelp. com and any other reputation website you find.

  • Laurie Mann says:

    Disgusting. It’s your pet – your decision. Sorry you had such a rotten day with all the extra aggravation.

  • Dakota Rogers says:

    I am absolutely breathless with the telling of your day. It brought me back to the day I had to put my own companion/dog down. A piece of me was ripped to shreds but he needed to go and I realized I was keeping him around for me. It just wasn’t what he deserved. My vet was so compassionate. She was treating me as well as my friend. I’m sorry you and your companion are experiencing this horror. So, maybe this vet is the one a window sticker I saw today was written about: High Maintenance, Drama Diva, Psycho B__ch with Major Issues. A letter to the BBB is definitely in order. Meanwhile I’m sending prayers for both of you…not the vet obviously.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Thanks, guys, I really appreciated the kind words. I just primal scream about this one because it was so uncalled for. My mobile vet down in Albuquerque was wonderful. He would come to the house, and he never suggested we run $300 dollars worth of tests so he could tell me what he and I already knew — that the animal was dying. That’s another pernicious habit that I just hate.

    And really, we know our animals. We know every breath, every bark or meow, their body language. They are companions of the heart, and sometimes I think we breath in sync.

  • wolflahti says:

    “Perhaps the greatest cruelty of being human is that we outlive our pets, who can be our dearest friends.” —K. R. Kelly

  • patt demetri says:

    Sorry this occured when it was time for my 14 tear old Billdog the experience was not the same. I was living in FL where they do colostomies and surgeries and chemo on pets. Bill would never have gone along with that. He never met a human he didn’t want to bite so he went peacefully at the vets. Most of her visits were on the hood of my car while wrapped in a blanket to prevent bites. He never bit me. About a week later I recieved a call from a pet grief counselor and a card, handwritten, form my vet .

  • Melinda — what you describe is beyond cruel. When it’s time, no one — _no one_ — knows better than the owner, and the greedy callousness of the vet you describe is disgusting. I’m sorry you had to go through this, and my deepest sympathy that you’ll have to prepare to let Nikki go twice. Hugs to you, my friend.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    I really appreciate it, Steve. Of course today she has rallied a bit. Which has me doubting my decision, and feeling guilty all over again. The problem is that each rally lasts a shorter time, and she rallies at a lower level each time. What I don’t want is to wait that “one minute too late”, and have her really suffering before I take her.

  • Oh, my god. That’s horrible! That woman has no business being a vet when she’s clearly meant for sales…because money is all she is interested in when it comes to animals. I am so so sorry you and your lovely doggie had to go through that terrible experience.

    I definitely think that there are many vets who have forgotten that quality of life is so much more important than a prolonged existence. When it was time for us to put our dogs down, our vet never questioned our decision because she knew how much we love our animals. In fact, she cried with us as she put them to sleep (at different points in time). That’s how a vet should be.

  • A. J. says:

    Melinda, I am so sorry you are going through this. I had that horrible experience with my old horse a year or so ago, in which it was time, he’d gone blind and couldn’t keep weight on, but so hard to make that decision, and then the whack-job barn owner where i’d retired him decided to alert the TV news and humane society and I had reporters calling me and asking why I’m killing my horse, so much crap, it was just horrific. And Gilly and Berkley saved me–and poor Chance, and gave him what I wanted for him, cookies and grass and just gone–but this woman made it all such a nightmare getting there, so much shaming and guilting and cruelty and blindness toward me and the animal both, so much self-centered ugly bullshit disguised as “caring” I can’t even bear to think about it. I hate to hear you were subjected to the same thing. I have let several dogs continue too long, because I simply couldn’t face letting them go, and I swore I would not do that again. I barely barely managed, for our last dog, and the vet came here, and she stood up and wagged her tail for him, and he cried too. That’s HOW IT SHOULD BE. I don’t know how vets can do it over and over, they are heroes too. I’m sorry, again, and can only say I’ve been there and totally understand, will give you a big hug if you don’t mind, when I next see you. Amanda from the barn

  • Parris says:

    Oh my dear friends, I am so sorry for the pain that the uncaring vet put both you and beloved Nikki through. We have shared the sorrow and loss when it was time for Isis and Misha to cross the Rainbow Bridge, and can still laugh about all the times they gave us so much delight and joy. Nikki has been your friend and companion during good and bad times, and I know that you would never let her suffer a day longer than she could bear.

    I have never heard of a vet doing what that vet did – and I hope you do follow through with making complaints with the company that runs the near-to-you clinic.

    My vet’s office ain’t fancy, they don’t offer the latest and most expensive treatments that might give an animal a few more weeks or months of life at a high cost of suffering, treatments and pain for animal and human, but they are good people through and through. They have taken excellent care of every animal I have brought to them; a six week old Boots straight from the shelter 18 years ago this month, a friend’s Rotty who was shot by a burglar while his owner was in the hospital, to the SuperBowl Sunday feral cat with an injured leg who they had to sedate through the cage bars before they could treat him. When it was time to say farewell to Misha, they came to us, so Misha’s last moments were here in the home she had made her own.

    If you need any help, support, or just my hand to hold onto, you know where I am.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    I will happily accept that hug, Amanda. Gilly told me that awful story about your horse. I mean, god, what is wrong with people?

    I really like Cedarwood, Parris. I’ve used them several times. When Nikki had the cactus spines in her leg they took way better care of her then the place here in Eldorado. I just was trying to spare her a long stressful car ride. And you remember when we took Isis and the vet tried to convince me to amputate her hind leg when they discovered the bone cancer. I absolutely refused, my god, she was a 155 pound dog. She would have broken down her other legs in no time, and it was only going to (maybe) buy her another 6 months. After she was gone that vet caught me, and said in a very low voice “I’m so glad you made the decision you did. They make me push these extreme treatments.” He’s gone from the place now, I might add.

  • Drew says:

    Melinda, I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve been going through. My cat Mist was 16 and suffering… and I lied to myself that she was okay. It would have been the responsible and compassionate thing to do to have her put to sleep but (at age 22) I didn’t have the maturity to make that choice. One of my biggest regrets is that I could not end our time together with love.
    You’re making the right decision in Nikki’s case. She’s had a long, loving and happy life with you, and it is the compassionate thing to prevent her from suffering.
    My thoughts are with you both.
    Drew

  • rand says:

    Very sorry to hear about your Nikki, Ms. Snodgrass. Went through a similar situation w/ a 2m old kitten just this past Wednesday. It’s beyond evil when anyone, particularly a professional trained to maintain the health of others, preys on someone’s love for $.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    She has definitely rallied so I’m taking it one day at a time. It was when I found her flat on her side in the garage Wednesday morning, and she didn’t want to get up and she hadn’t eaten for a couple of days that I thought, “Okay, this is it.” But now she seems fairly perky and happy and she started eating again. Each day I have with her is a gift.

  • It’s appalling that you had to go through that. It makes me incredibly appreciative of the very supportive vets we have a few blocks away. They’ve seen us through the last illnesses of our first two cats; and while they’ve advised us sometimes that our cats weren’t at the end yet, they’ve also told us that we’d know when they were ready. I hope you can find a practice that’s as decent, and never have to go through another day like this one.

  • Ian says:

    I’m terribly sorry to hear about this. What a despicable practice, and what disgusting behavior from a so-called medical professional.

    I’m also deeply saddened that you’ve had to go through the anguish of preparing to say goodbye to Nikki more than once. You know how much I love that dog, and even though it was inevitable, I’m heartbroken that her time is coming to an end. Please give her a hug for me.

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