If it should be that I grow frail and weak,
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done?
You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hands,
We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so,
When the time comes, please let me go.
Take me to where my needs they’ll tend,
Only, stay with me until the end
And hold me firm and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree,
It is a kindness you do for me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don’t grieve that it must be you,
Who has to decide this thing you do.
We’ve been so close – we two – these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears. – author unknown
I trust many of you have seen this poem. It gets me every time, especially the last line. When I think about the final days, minutes and seconds with my last dog, Cooper, I lose it. If I think about the end with Murray, our perfectly healthy 11-year-old, I well-up. We can’t bear to think about losing our recent addition JoJo and she’s just 11 months old with hopefully 12-15 years ahead of her. I think about special relationships that family, friends and co-workers have with their pets and the loss they will feel someday, and that gets me.
Another line from this poem is equally powerful. “Stay with me until the end and hold me firm and speak to me.” Some say this is an owner’s responsibility. Others call it the best gift we can give our loved companions.
The SPCA helps close to 300 owners give their companion animals this gift each year and no service we provide is more compassionate.
We often hear from owners after they’ve visited the SPCA to put a beloved pet to sleep. They talk about their gut-wrenching decision, and how our staff made those final minutes ones filled with compassion, respect and kindness. New employees may not think much about this when they’re hired…about how much we can touch someone by providing a dignified, humane, ending. They likely think more about helping people adopt and begin a new life together.
One of these new staff members received a call from a family that visited the SPCA recently to say goodbye to their family dog. She shared that call with co-workers.
The family, she said, gave a heartfelt thanks for all we do — for rescuing and rehabilitating animals and for showing professionalism and sympathy at the end. They had been planning their dog Beauty’s end of life and ran into hurdles with the way they wanted her euthanized, with all her family present. She explained that a local veterinary practice refused to accommodate their wishes and wanted to charge an incredible amount for extra people being present during the process.
They made several calls to the SPCA to ask about our process and explain their wishes, and said we were kind and patient fielding their many questions. On the actual day of their appointment, our lobby was filled with people and animals. Despite the chaos, this family of six was met with kindness and compassion.
The family loved the card we sent following their visit. They gathered to read it and cried as they reminisced about their special times with Beauty. They even mentioned the impact of our handwritten note.
Mayra, our staff member who performed the euthanasia, made the family feel at ease despite the overwhelming emotions, and conducted the entire process in the most compassionate manner. She was assisted by Ana, who hadn’t previously performed this task with owners present. These owners extended their love and gratitude. They don’t know if or when they will be ready to adopt again, but said they would visit the SPCA.
Workshops, training manuals and annual reviews serve an important purpose for our staff. But, it’s hard to find a more powerful confirmation of our mission than a story like this, shared by one staff member to others.