We were contacted last week to arrange to euthanase him.
Two weeks ago, Radar's human, “E” was admitted to hospital as an emergency due to serious illness. She had struggled to find someone to care for Radar who ended up with a friend of a friend. Since then the carer has struggled to manage him. He has intermittent vomitting and sometimes pees inside.
The outlook for dear “E” is not looking good at all and it is most likely she won't return home.
Overwhelmed by it all, "E" had felt that euthanasia was her only option. “After all Radar is at least 12 years old and might have cancer”.
Cherished Pets was contacted to attend, to collect him for euthanasia. A consent letter had been written.
But .. Sweet Radar greeted me at the door, tail wagging and enthusiastic to have a visitor.
A quick assessment soon established that Radar was feeling ok, in fact he seemed pretty happy. Yes, he may have some health issues, but I was not comfortable with ending his life on that day.
Therein lies a serious moral and ethical dilemma that many vets face when elderly people feel the need to euthanise a cherished pet when their circumstances change. It's excruciating and heartbreaking for everyone, and fatal for the pet.
This sort of moral stress is a driving and overwhelming force in burnout in the veterinary profession.
This is also an area the Cherished Pets team deals with regularly. We know how to manage these delicate conversations and create better alternative solutions. But it takes time, energy, money and resources and we have reached our capacity.
So what happened?
I chatted to the friend, and we agreed that “E” may have made this decision because she was feeling overwhelmed by it all, she knows she is not returning home and can no longer care for Radar, and she is worried that he is creating "problems" for the people minding him. The friend suggested I call “E” and discuss options.
In her hospital bed, "E" was sounding very frail indeed. I explained that I was with Radar, and while he may have health issues, we need time to assess him to know for sure. (Radar has not been seen by a vet for years, and a cancer diagnosis has not been made). I asked “E” if she felt ok with me taking him in to respite care for a week so that we could assess him and help decide his fate. Dear “E”’s shaky voice replied, “I would like that very much indeed”.
So plan b was to not end this beautiful life today. Instead we brought Radar to our hub for a full health check, bloods, worming, vaccination and de-fleaing.
We contacted our very dear CP respite carer, Robyn, who agreed to take him in to temporary care while we got a plan sorted.
All this took time, energy, money and resources. We are expecting a spike in requests for crisis care for pets. We've had five this week!
Volunteer Respite Carers need to meet certain criteria including a fully fenced, and safe yard, and willingness to accept dogs who are not perfect, behaviourally or physically. Many of our respite dogs are not good with children, other dogs and cats. Therefore, we are desperately seeking carers who have none of the above, and are flexible, compassionate and available at short notice.
3. Refrain from judging people who make difficult decisions in times of crisis, or for the stretched veterinary teams and rescue groups who have to make hard calls. We find that with gentle and compassionate consultation, we can create together a better collaborative plan for all.
5. Ensure you have an Emergency Care Plan in place for your pets, especially if you live alone! Contact us to find out more.
Radar was a lucky boy that we were able to take him in to care at short notice. This is not a service we can guarantee. We need to grow support with funding and volunteers to enable us to respond to other requests.