End of life decisions for pets are painful and difficult. None of us wants to take a pet in for euthanasia too soon and at the same time we don’t want to wait too long. On the one hand, there is hope the pet could possibly rally once more and have a little bit more quality time in this life. On the other hand, when the vet has told you there is no reasonable hope for recovery and you believe your beloved family member has no rallies left in her, you don’t want her to needlessly suffer through to the natural end of life. Nature can be cruel. Euthanasia is the final kindness we can offer to our pets.
Speaking for myself, once I’ve made the decision that it’s time, I don’t want to delay. I want the suffering to end as soon as possible. My vet has always been very good about moving us to the front of the line in these cases.
This is one of the reasons why, when reviewing the records for the many animals who die in their cages at the Memphis pound each month, I found Ebony’s story so heartbreaking. Ebony was a 15 year old pitbull whose health was failing. She had stopped eating, which is one of the ways dogs prepare themselves for death. She had wasted away to a mere 20 pounds. Her owner decided it was time. He brought her to Memphis Animal Services on the afternoon of May 10 and requested euthanasia. It was a Tuesday, when MAS was open for “all services” from 1pm to 7pm.
Rather than immediately get a vet to look at Ebony and then, assuming the vet agreed that she was medically hopeless and suffering, perform the euthanasia, MAS staff put her on a dolly, wheeled her to a cage in the kill-holding room and left her there. A staff member entered a note in her records indicating she was a “high priority euthanasia”. But it was after 4 pm and apparently high priority means something other than HIGH PRIORITY at MAS, at least after 4pm. Ebony was left alone in a cage to suffer until she finally died at some point before someone on the next morning shift noted she was dead.
I have held my own elderly, frail, weak dogs in my arms at the end of their lives. I have carried them, sometimes in blankets, as gently as possible, knowing every movement is painful for them. It makes my stomach turn to think of MAS putting 20 pound Ebony on a dolly and wheeling her to a cage. Leaving her there alone, in pain, surrounded by the smells and sounds of fear from the other dogs awaiting death, makes my heart hurt. She must have been confused and frightened on top of her physical torment. I dread to think how long every minute of those dark hours must have seemed before death finally arose from the cold concrete to embrace her.
But as awful as all of that is to imagine, the thing that pissed me off was the solitary vet note entered in Ebony’s records:
Passed while sleeping. Excuse fucking me? THIS is the vet note? Not, “none of us here are doing our jobs so we just left this pet to rot” or “appears to have groaned in agony all night long, alone in the dark while we cashed our paychecks” but the ever so peaceful sounding “passed while sleeping”. So tranquil. Almost like a service at a spa. A spa for death.
That is some first class enabling/criminal cover up there. I guess practice makes perfect.
Fire these outrageous excuses for animal care professionals already. Every one of them. Then prosecute them using the same standards as would be used against any citizen who intentionally left a dog to suffer like this. This is hardly the first time. And until the citizens of Memphis take a stand, it won’t be the last.
I hope your 15 years on this earth were beautiful and happy, Ebony. I’m sorry your death at MAS was so needlessly cruel. There are such things as monsters and you should not have had to find that out at the hour of your greatest need. How many more, Memphis?
(Thanks Lou Ann.)