It’s never easy to tell a couple that their cat is deathly ill, but it’s part of my job as a veterinarian. I explain their pet’s affliction as sympathetically as I can, making constant eye contact to monitor their understanding. Often, the words are not enough to convey what is happening, so I show them the x-ray.
It is an unpleasant but necessary visual. In black and white, they can see the tumors growing in the stomach and throat. I pause to allow them to digest the horrific information, which glows on the wall, irrefutable as it hangs. It must feel like a kick in the gut.
I then steer the conversation toward options, and the man will usually grimace at the cost of surgery.
“Forty-eight hundred dollars,” I say. “But that doesn’t include the cost of rehab and pain medication, should the animal even survive the procedure.”
At this point, they usually bring up the subject of the final option. I carefully explain the process, emphasizing as much as possible that their pet will feel no pain.
I give them a few minutes alone so they can discuss their choices, but I can see it in their eyes as I step from the room—their decision has been made.
Some couples like to be in the room as I administer the poison. But most, like this one, prefer to remember their pet in life, and bid the cat a tearful farewell. When they are ready, I usher them towards the waiting room, where my assistant will walk them through disposal and billing options.
When I am finally alone with the animal, I put on a fresh pair of thick rubber gloves, so thick no cat claw can penetrate. Before I proceed with my fun, I tuck the x-ray away into a most special file. One that is easily accessible, over and over again.
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