Losing a beloved pet is never easy, and as a veterinary practice, we understand the profound impact it has on both pet owners and our staff. We recently had to bid farewell to a cherished patient, Angel, a Yorkshire Terrier who had been a part of our practice family for over 15 years. Angel's owner, who had been incredibly devoted to her care, faced the difficult decision of providing her with a peaceful and dignified end-of-life journey. In this article, our vet Greg shares the heartwarming and emotional story of Angel's life and how she received the compassion and care she deserved until her last moments.
Death is a taboo subject. No one likes to talk about it, or even contemplate the end of life. It’s no different when we consider our pets. But it’s such an important part of owning a pet, as it happens to every animal we have, in the end. With animals and their veterinary care, vets are fortunate to offer euthanasia as an end to life if an animal is ever suffering. Sensitively known as ‘putting to sleep’, it is an act every vet has to carry out (often several times a day), and a procedure most owners end up witnessing, saying goodbye to their beloved pet as peacefully and as smoothly as possible. Angel’s owner recently had to go through the heartache of this appointment, and wished for ‘a good death’ as she said goodbye to her companion of over 15 years for the final time.
Angel was a Yorkshire Terrier who was approaching 16 years old by the time a decision was to be made on her passing. To say she was well known to all at the practice is an understatement. A feisty character weighing no more than 3kg, what she lacked in size she more than made up for in personality. Angel’s owner always wished the best for her, throughout her whole life, and was very diligent and observant towards her health care. Because of this and her susceptibility to health conditions, there was a barely a month that went by without a visit from her to the practice.
She had always been a clever dog, needing to be stimulated with enrichment games and having to work for her food to keep her occupied, and could successfully ‘count’ and ‘speak’ as many of the vet practice staff were privileged to witness. She had an array of toys, most notably Pinky who accompanied Angel on vet visits, the stuffed pink teddy without any eyes that rivalled her for size, and a wardrobe of fancy dress – the photo of her in her party dress outfit was popular with all at the practice. Angel was never a fan of having her nails cut (apart from by nurse Callum – her favourite), or being probed too invasively, and she would certainly let you know if she didn’t like what was going on during her examination on the consult room table.
As she became older, health issues started to appear more frequently, particularly with her digestion. Angel became quite unwell with vomiting and diarrhoea resulting in a period of hospitalisation and a referral to a specialist gastroenterologist. She was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease and prescribed a strict hypoallergenic diet for the rest of her life, which her owner religiously stuck to. Fortunately, she took to the specially constructed kibble well, and enjoyed her pieces of carrot, and later her sweet potato purée. When the years went on, her list of medication grew, from liver support to pain relief, to anti anxiety medication and ultimately senility management. Angel attended monthly nurse clinics in her special cat carrier to have pain relief injections administered, and her relationship with nurse Callum grew stronger during this period. During COVID isolation periods in summer 2020, Angel was overjoyed to see Callum drop her medication off at her door and bounded up to him in the garden.
From the start of this year though, Angel’s health deteriorated as she became very elderly. Her appetite became much reduced which was a problem when her diet was so strict and limited. Her compliance with taking medication faltered which was an issue with her long list of conditions. Angel’s owner had to start to consider planning the end of her life with a heavy heart. She always wished for Angel to pass at home, and had been close to booking in on several occasions after several days barely eating. However, each time she rallied successfully.
This summer however another rebound just wasn’t to be – Angel was refusing her favourite carrot, only taking sips of water infused with carrot at times, and when she did manage to eat her purée she was clearly uncomfortable with something in her mouth. As Angel got older, she was more and more private with her personal examinations and just would not easily allow a good look into her mouth. With bravery, persistence and perseverance from everyone involved, eventually it could be glanced
that there was a sore lump and ulcer developing beneath her tongue that couldn’t be feasibly rectified. This signalled the decision for Angel’s owner, and an appointment was booked for a home visit euthanasia appointment. Angel was delighted that nurse Callum had managed to attend the appointment to assist, summoning up her last bit of energy to greet him from one of her many beds as he entered the room. She received a sedative in her owner’s arms and as stories of her eventful life were told, she drifted off to a state of relaxation that allowed her final injection to go as smoothly as possible.
Angel’s owner was devastated at losing such a faithful companion, as much as the vet staff were upset at losing such a memorable character, but she was pleased Angel had had a good send off; it was just as she had wished. Angel was taken to the practice for one last time, with her partner in crime Pinky, and in time her ashes were ready to be collected and scattered by Angel’s owner. Such a small patient will leave a big hole in the vets, but her memory lives on as the photo in her party dress hangs on the practice wall. RIP Angel.
- Vet Greg
As veterinary professionals, it is both an honor and a responsibility to support pet owners during these challenging times. Angel's story is a testament to the deep bonds shared between humans and their animal companions. We are grateful to have been part of Angel's life journey and to have provided her with the best possible care. We understand the unique pain that comes with saying goodbye to a loyal friend, and we are here to support you every step of the way. Angel will forever hold a special place in our hearts, reminding us of the incredible love and joy that pets bring into our lives. May she rest in peace, knowing she was surrounded by love until the very end.
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