Story, painting and photograph by Lehan Winifred Ramsay
Vale to my old dog, old dog, old dog bd, who died yesterday, pretty old but not as old as I would have liked him to be. And this is for him, this consideration of euthanasia.
A year and a half ago we went together to the animal doctor, me crying and him grimacing, and I asked the doctor to euthenize him. The doctor said no, he was still in pretty good shape, and he was right, it wasn’t an end ailment he had, not a spiralling sickness, it was temporary and he got over it. The doctor didn’t give me medication, he gave me some painkillers because I asked for them, and I put them away.
But on Monday we went there again, walking the kilometre or so along the road. Bd’s tumour had grown immense, and it was now changed, and it was damaging, nasty, impossible to heal. I had received a second opinion about removing the tumour, it was the same as the first, it was too big to remove. I took a plastic box with the last piece of my birthday cake in it, chocolate gateau, because I wanted the doctor to euthanize bd, and I wanted him to have that cake before he died.
But the doctor refused. Refused to euthanize him and refused to treat him. I suppose he had a particular line, at which he would euthanize, and we had not yet crossed that line. And I had already told him I had received some ointment from another doctor, so I suppose he felt he could also refuse treatment. Also, I suppose that he hastened the line, and in his own way that was treatment.
And so we came home and the next four days were kind of like a horror movie, and I was a bit frozen, a bit slow, as I went over options, went over possibilities, tried to figure out how to do this, how to do that. On Thursday I gave bd a painkiller. Painkillers are essentially useless for this kind of thing because once you start them you are going to have to continue them, the pain will be much worse when you come back to it. So okay, I thought, I can do this if bd can have painkillers, and if I can have antidepressants. Because the pain of this is going to kill me too. But with those two things it’s doable.
The other doctor came on Friday afternoon. We didn’t talk about it in advance. He brought the drugs. He described the situation, the options. I held bd, and we ended his life.
A year and a half ago I thought it was simply my judgement, that I was not capable of knowing, because I am not an experienced doctor, when is the time for ending the life of something. Now I think that is only half of the story. It is also that the doctor treating the patient is not capable of knowing, because they are not close to the patient, when is the time for ending their life. And that, I think is the fundamental difficulty.
I, here, was thrown into the dark ages.
He didn’t get his chocolate cake, in the end, he didn’t get any chocolate. The pound said they would collect his body and they came pretty soon. They said they would also take some flowers or food if I wanted. While I waited for the pound to come and collect his old body, I made him a brown felt lions collar, I put it in a little pouch with a block of chocolate.