Quote of the day


Joseph Campbell

Monday, February 10, 2014


Remember that movie with Hugh Grant called "About a Boy"? Remember how his life was divided into 30 minute blocks of time just to fill in the gaps? (if you have not seen this movie, please go get it now and watch it- priceless). Lately, it's become more apparent to me that much of my time and energy the past few years has been looking for ways to fill in my small gaps of time. Personally, I'd refer to them as voids. We all have them. Some call it "wander lust" some call it "soul searching". Right now, I call it frustration and exhaustion.

What fills your voids? What makes your life more complete with vs. without these elements?

One paramount part of who I am is my adoration for animals. Have you ever loved some one, some thing, some place, some idea....so much that it hurts? Well, that's how much I care for the well being of animals.

Over the years I have been a part of the passing of a lot of animals, my own included. I still reflect on certain days, certain years, certain moments...and can vividly remember the sobering thought of realizing that they will never return.  There is a big topic in the veterinary field called compassion fatigue ( Compassion Fatigue). The idea is that those who work closely with animals every day can become almost numb to the emotion of it all. This is most commonly seen in the decision to euthanize. I think the idea is valid, but not for me.

The past two weeks have been harder for me than usual. Ah, lets call a spade a spade...the past 4 weeks have been hard for me...and there are a variety of important reasons why this is the case, only one  of which I will delve into tonight.

The past two weeks have come with the passing of two very special animals in my life and others. They were not my own but what they exemplified as loyal creatures and love givers, made me feel like, at any time, any place, any where, any how, they would have embraced me. Given me a lick or a tail wag or a nudge. Just because it was me. Isn't that what true love is?

Last week my good friend Bailey Stevens died at home. Bailey was a handsome yellow lab who was  a trouper through and through. He never missed a beat of a tail wag or a treat and endured many trials and tribulations over his long life. Most recently (last year), I removed his spleen which had a 5 lb. tumor on it. It was on the brink of rupturing when I gently exteriorized it from his abdomen (I'll never forget that).  The tumor was benign (a very rare occurrence for tumors of the spleen) and even though he was 10 yrs. old at the time of surgery, he recovered like a champ. I remember the day after surgery, he looked at me as if saying "hey doc, where's my breakfast and why is there this giant lamp shade around my neck??". He spent the next year romping around with his little sister Denale and they were such fun when it came to seeing them for appointments. My last kiss from Bailey was in late December 2013, at a wellness check-up where he seemed to be doing great.

On Wednesday morning I got a message from the office manager saying Bailey died over night. After talking to his dad, I believe Bailey suffered GDV (gastric dilation volvulus), meaning his stomach bloated then twisted on itself (did you ever see the movie or read the book "Marley and Me?" Same disease Marley died from).  Sounds like Bailey had, as usual, a grand evening meal then played with his sister for awhile before he started going down hill. He began vomiting foam and was restless. Mr. Steven's said he was upstairs, downstairs, outside, on the couch, on the floor...but couldn't get comfortable and he continued to non-productively heave.  In the course about 8 hours he eventually went to find himself a place outside to rest. It was there where Mrs. Stevens sat with him until he passed. Today Mr. Stevens told me that when Bailey died, he cried not just for Bailey but for all of his dogs that had passed (this man does not cry easily and I don't believe he had yet outwardly mourned the loss of his other previous dogs until now). Bailey spent his whole life giving love and getting love in return. He conquered injury, illness and a major surgery. But, in the end, what he faced was too great for sweet Bailey. I will miss you my friend. So much.

Today was another particularly trying day. Coming off a week of a sore throat which then turned into congestion and then a fever over the weekend, I had just about enough energy to get to work for half the day. I felt a great need to be at work for a few reasons including, calling owners back regarding blood work I ran on Saturday and, more importantly, to see a another sweet lab named Buddy Bailey.

Buddy had been diagnosed with cancer last month. He had multiple nodules in his spleen and liver and it was really just a matter of time until the cancer  took over his body. He was a big, handsome black lab with a lustrous coat. He was full of energy and a zest for life.

I spoke to his mother on Saturday afternoon who said that Buddy refused food for the first time since his diagnosis. She elected to watch him closely the rest of the weekend and come in for an appointment today. Well, Buddy's energy continued to decline as did his appetite (although mom said he managed to have a yummy pot roast last night). On presentation today he was too weak to stand and he was pale. His abdomen looked distended and I believe one of those many masses might have been bleeding into his belly.

After I spoke to mom and dad and we all agreed it was time for Buddy to go, Heather, a wonderful vet tech, and I entered into our comfort room (a room that is down the hall from the waiting area and main exam rooms) to place an intravenous catheter. We place a catheter for every euthanasia. It gives us the security of being in the vein and, even if the animal moves, it will not affect our procedure. The final few moments of any animal's life is precious and we try to make it as smooth as possible.

Heather and I tried for nearly 45 minutes to feed a catheter into one of Buddy's fragile peripheral veins. The problem was he was so under perfused (low blood pressure) and hypovolemic (low blood volume) that every time we entered a vein it either collapsed or blew, meaning it became useless. Mom and dad sat at Buddy's front end the entire time Heather and I tried. They kept petting him and telling him what a good boy he was and every so often he would give them a tail wag just to say I love you too and its going to be ok. They were just as brave as Buddy.

I cannot remember the last time I had such a difficult time performing a euthanasia and I hope this never happens to anyone. Eventually, we had to use Buddy's jugular vein because that was the only vein that was prominent enough to feel, feed and inject. Buddy, until the very end, showed me what a patient, tough, enduring and loving dog he really was. I am so sorry for the delay today Buddy. Thank you for your patience and for showing us all what it means. We will all miss you sweet boy.

These are the nights I lay awake. These are the nights I cry and feel a deep sadness in my chest. I can only hope that Bailey and Buddy have met and are full of energy, spirit and, always, love. I also hope they have met the other dogs and horses that have passed through my life personally and to my relatives that have passed and all the loved ones in YOUR lives that have passed. I hope they are having fun and let's thank them all for reminding us how each day is a blessing.


  1. And I thought I had a rough day. Emi, I admire what you do on so many levels. Loss and Letting go are part of life but never easy. A great reminder to be in the moment always and love with all your heart. To spend the "voids" with the people you love and doing the things that truly make you happy. Maybe even an opportunity to figure out what is really important.

    Big hug to you.

  2. Sounds like you will have quite the welcoming committee when you get to the Rainbow Bridge! Working in the shelter world, I too have seen more euthanasias than I had ever bargained for. My shelter also performs owner-requested euth's and I always have a hard time deciding if they are harder to be a part of when the animal has no owner to be there with them, or if it is harder when there are grieving family members. But in the end, seeing all the wonderful families walking out the doors with their newest four-legged buddies helps me to cope with the sad events. Thanks Emi for writing such a thoughtful post, I have to get my tissue box now :)!

  3. Aw, thanks for the post Darlene. Xx

  4. Dear girl I know you were crying as you wrote that last paragraph.I was crying as I reading it.I've always thought how hard it is being a vet because of the dying.The loss of all family pets is the same as the loss of a human family member.Sometimes the pain is worse.Due to that stress on you as the vet I've always thought your involvement in grand efforts was like a cleansing.Sort of how you can keep going.My heart would like to reach out to you in a big loving embrace.Remember if you weren't there for these kind creatures it might be a less caring less skillful person sending these beloved pets on their last journey.Make sure you keep placing a grand effort way out in front of you to keep you focused.I think it will keep you on track.You are great woman smart emotionally honest and I am certain loved by all of your clients . Lastly you are loved by all of us just because of you just the way you are.I'm amazed by you.Deep breath now get lots of sleep keep training get that core strong.Keep your eyes forward .Now go get'em

  5. Wow thanks for your words Karin! Means a lot to me! Xo

  6. Oh, this made me cry! I cannot believe Bailey Stevens died... If there is one thing no one can argue Emi it's that you have the utmost compassion for your clients and their pets.

    Every time an appointment showed up for euthanasia I disassociated. Had to. Coal is in the double digits now and I just cannot fathom what an empty spot he's going to leave in my heart.