This letter made me feel lovely and warm inside so I wanted to share it (after getting Jane’s permission).
I have been meaning to write to you for ages. I knew this would be hard to write and more than a few tears have been shed writing it! From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being our Vet. Thank you for making the end of Robin’s life a totally calm, intimate family moment.
Our lovely dog was part of our lives for almost 16 years. He came to us as a puppy, as I wanted my children to learn both how to care and be responsible for for a animal. Also, I wanted them to appreciate the companionship and unconditional love that a dog can give. Robin certainly exemplified this – insisting on lying on the sofa with sick children -always knowing when anyone was upset. He clearly enjoyed long mountain or beach walks and simply adored camping trips. His loving and loyal nature were typical whippet traits, as were both his determination (for example, claiming rights to sofa and chairs very early- despite our initial reticence on this matter), poor recall, idiosyncratic command vocabulary, relative dislike of mud and cold water and being a life-long opportunist thief. He rarely barked and I don’t think I ever heard him growl. He was submissive with other dogs, although after having been bitten three times, was less predictable with certain characters- but allowed people (human and canine) into our home with a welcome, clearly had friends (including a labrador who came to lodge with is for a few months) and at the end of his life, in spite of his undoubted ‘sight-hound’ characteristics, tolerated and befriended a small, bolshy little kitten, who joined the household. For us, he was the perfect pet and, more than that, a member of the family.
Robin had a lot to put up with as, at the age of seven, he twisted his spine running in the garden and, in the blink of an eye, for almost a month was unable to walk..He never complained and, following over a week in hospital, tried so hard with his recovery, which was not easy and involved (in addition to lots of love) home physio and aqua therapy. Gradually, he started to weight bear and then walk again, with a curious, unsteady, swinging gait building up to three miles or so – but our lovely strong boy never ran again. He (and we) also had to endure the indignity of incontinence – another lasting legacy of his accident. .As the years passed, he had to deal first with a little TIA then with a pancreatic issue that meant him losing weight, and although helped by a special diet, it was clear that he was becoming old.Thinner, increasingly unsteady on his feet, unable to clamber onto furniture or walk any distance, his condition became a worry and we constantly checked with the barometer of ‘quality of life’ that we had talked through with Karl and his colleagues. As long as he was wanting to be with us, we all wanted him to be there!
A second TIA happened during lockdown and we talked through care and progress on the phone with the Veterinary receptionist (Maraide) who was absolutely wonderful. She gave us wise counsel – to be with our boy for a last little while. We saw some improvement but in our hearts, we knew that he could’t endure much more, even though he just seemed determined to stay with us. I found the responsibility of the impending decision really incredibly hard. I knew that the practice offered the service of euthanising a pet in the home environment and there was no doubt that this was my preference but Covid regulations threatened this as an option. Given the long journey somehow I thought he would just carry on and I really didn’t want to be the one to end his life and the thought of simply taking him to the surgery (a place he really found terrifying) and leaving him to be ‘prepared’ was just too horrible to contemplate. My neighbour told me that her dog had signalled with her eyes that the time had come and Robin did, I think, something of the sort. I rang the surgery and the Nurse I spoke to offered me an appointment for that afternoon but talked through other options, given what she felt would be the Vet’s advice. I asked about the possibility of a home visit if he was to be put to sleep and she told me that this was a service that they offered, and that Karl would phone me. He called back within half an hour and, without hesitation, said that he would come after his surgery to see Robin. He would bring everything with him and would treat him, if that was possible or, undertake the euthanasia if the end was really the best, kindest and most responsible thing to do.
I cannot praise or thank him enough for how he dealt with everything. We brought Robin out into the evening sunshine and laid him on his bed. in the garden. Karl examined him carefully and said that there was nothing he could do and that this decision was the best and kindest thing. – the right thing to do. This somehow relieved me of the burden of making the decision, for which I was and remain, extremely grateful. Karl gave us time to say our last goodbyes and thanks to our most special and dear boy. Karl somehow was quietly in charge of everything but totally unobtrusive, giving Robin the injection so carefully that he didn’t even notice it. He simply closed his eyes and went to sleep. Karl told us that he had gone and then allowed us as much time as we needed to be with Robin. It was just the perfect end to Robin’s life: calm, peaceful, in his own garden, on his bed and blanket and with his whole family around him.
Karl was so calm, kind and gentle with the dog. So patient, thoughtful and sensitive to my and the children’s grief, giving us the time we wanted. So reassuring and unobtrusive, making the last moments of Robin’s life very quiet and still and when if came time for him to take him away, he somehow did this effortlessly and I found myself scooping Robin up in his blanket and carrying him to the waiting ambulance, where there was a comfy bed and blanket waiting – another thoughtful touch that made this part of the process that little bit easier.
On reflection, I realise that neither the nurses nor Karl spoke of money. It was organised seamlessly but not spoken of in the moment – another thoughtful thing, And, a day or so later, we received a hand-written card and some ‘Forget-Me-Not’ seeds, which meant an enormous amount – a small thing and something that would have taken a few moments, but which meant so much. Karl knew Robin and wrote a meaningful and completely personal message about him and us, for which I am extremely grateful. A service which I can only applaud and commend. Thank you Karl and your whole team,
My sincere good wishes
Jane M Smith