I read Facing Farewell: Making the Decision to Euthanize Your Pet, by veterinarian Julie Reck. She is exceptionally well qualified to write this, as she used to run an in-home euthanasia business. (Now she runs a full service veterinary hospital.)
In the course of working with many pet owners as they made the decision to euthanize, she discovered that many owners went through a great deal of anguish that could often be assuaged by providing them with more information. This book is the outgrowth of that discovery. Having had two of our dogs euthanized over the years, and closely monitoring two others who died naturally, I wasn’t sure if I would learn much. But I did.
Here is how she describes the purpose of the book: “I spent a significant amount of time pondering why a veterinarian can make end of life decisions for her personal pets with less misery and suffering then the average pet owner. This difference resides in knowledge and familiarity. I have been trained to recognize animal pain, I understand when no further medical options exist for a disease, and I know the procedure and drugs of euthanasia. I cannot provide you a veterinary degree in this book, but I can provide you the comprehensive information on the process of euthanasia that you deserve as a pet owner.”
The first chapter discusses how dogs and cats don’t share the human fear of death. Dr. Reck tells some interesting stories of how dogs and cats have reacted to the death of other pets in their households when she has been present. That reminded me of when our dog Cider was euthanized by our veterinarian on on our living room floor, and how our other dog Teddy Bear sniffed her once and then ignored her body. Seemed to us that he understood she wasn’t there.
Next, she explains the euthanasia procedure and some options in how it can be done. I learned a couple of things that could be useful, but the main benefit to me of this book was the following chapter on animal pain. She says dogs and cats do fear pain, and she also emphasizes how they are programmed to hide their pain from others. This chapter spells out in some detail how to be alert to cues — subtle and not-so-subtle — that your pet is experiencing some pain.
The last part of the book is an excellent discussion of how to come to a decision that you can live with regarding euthanasia. There was a moving discussion of young pets that would be very helpful to someone with a young dog or cat. It was informative to read about how young animals, with their more vigorous life forces, can overcome surprising difficulties. But not always, and in this section, as throughout the book, she writes with compassion and facts blending well together.