An Open Letter to Our Clients on Their Hardest Day

The loss of our furry family companion is devastating, and often the loss can leave us in a fog of emotion. We seldom stop and think about the veterinarians that do that work every day. Veterinarian Dr. Liz Bales explains the memories that live on outside of the exam room.

By Liz Bales, VMD

I want you to know that we remember you.

For those of you who have made the difficult decision to put your beloved pet to sleep, you know it is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. Maybe you are alone, holding your cat for the last goodbye. Maybe your whole family is gathered, and you are comforting your kids as you all let go of your favorite dog. No matter the circumstance, this is an unforgettable and deeply meaningful day for you.

I want you to know, it is deeply meaningful for us, too.

It is your moment. Our job is to support you and your family through this hardship and to perform what at times can be a technically difficult medical procedure. We deeply respect the sanctity of these moments. And it affects us.

We carry your moment with us when we have to go into the next exam room and cheerfully vaccinate a puppy. Your moment stays with us when we clock out and go home to make dinner and care for our families. Sometimes, your moment lingers in our hearts forever.

I just wanted you to know.

Tonight I was at my local farmers market with my family for dinner. My eight-year-old daughter loves dogs, maybe even more than I do, and was patting every one of them that wagged by with their humans enjoying the beautiful evening.

This parade of dogs led us to chatting with a couple nestled in to a table for two for dinner. After a few minutes of conversation, I said, “I believe we have met before. Only once.”

“We have?” the husband replied.

“Yes. I was your veterinarian at the clinic across the street.”

“Yes,” he said. “That’s right.  You put our sweet cat to sleep that night.  Wow. That was 12 years ago.”

“I did. I have thought of you often.”

“We had a severely disabled son. He died just a few days later,”  the wife said sadly.

“I remember,” I said softly. “You shared with me all that you were going through at the time. It was all impossibly hard. I have never forgotten you.”

And I never will.

Your vet won’t either. We remember you. We carry with us your love for your pet, your smiles at their purrs and wagging tails, and your grief when you say goodbye.

I just wanted you to know.

Liz Bales, VMD

Dr. Liz Bales, VMD, has been in practice for 17 years and has a special interest in the unique behavioral and wellness needs of cats. She is the founder of Doc and Phoebe’s Cat Company and the inventor of The Indoor Hunting Feeder for cats. Dr. Bales is featured as an expert in feline medicine for the 2017 series Natural Pets Tv – The Cat Edition, and in her Pet-X talk on the natural feeding behavior of cats. In print, Bales has contributed to Modern Cat Magazine, and Cat Talk magazine, in addition to her own blog, Dr. Bales has been a guest speaker at The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and The University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

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