By Dr . Greg Martinez , DVM Gilroy Veterinary Hospital
Dr . Greg Martinez with his first dog , Sadie .
My first dog as an adult was Sadie .
Our family had dogs when I was young and I thought I had experienced all dog ownership had to offer . Besides , had been working for a vet since I was 16 , and had just finished vet school . How much more was there to “ owning ” a dog ? Sadie taught me so much about a dog ’ s love and companionship that I still miss her . She rode with me out to my large animal visits , trained for marathons with me , and slept under the covers at night . She spent 24 hours per day with me for 10 years . She was my constant companion . Lonna , my wife , once asked me who I would be most concerned about if a house fire were to surprise us in the night . Of course , I assured her that I would make sure she was awake and that all three of us could safely make it outside . Sadie ’ s kidneys started to fail when she was 14 . I was devastated that I could not cure her . All my schooling and education did not matter . An important and irreplaceable part of her body started to fail and she only had a year or so to live . I fed her a better diet , gave her fluids under the skin , and always made sure she was comfy , before I went to work . I watched her activity and appetite decline , her ability to balance deteriorate , and half of her body weight disappear . I kept her going because I thought that was my job . Then Sadie taught me one more important lesson . She was miserable , but would weakly wag her tail whenever I would walk up to her . I started to realize how miserable she was , and how I was
only keeping her alive for me … and not for her . One day , I decided that letting her go was the humane thing to do . I took her out in the country where we used to run together , let her look around a bit , held her close , and released her from that diseased and worn out body . Of course I cried and missed her but was relieved that she did not have to suffer any longer .
Deciding when to let a pet go may be one of the hardest things that we are faced with . However it can be a gift to terminally ill or very sick pets that are obviously suffering . Many clients bring their ailing pets into the clinic once the family decision is made , to be reassured that they are doing the right thing . Most people know when the time has come to let go and I usually agree with their decision . On rare occasions , I may offer a stronger or different medication or surgery that might give their pet a little bit longer . However that is only if the pet is not suffering and is still interacting with the family to some degree . If a pet seems really miserable , has lost a lot of weight , does not want to eat , or is suffering from severe dementia , then it is time to consider letting go . For example , a happy senile dog or cat may lose some weight , interact with the family , and eat well , but may sleep 20 plus hours a day . Senile dogs may bark at nothing and get lost in corners . A cat may lose weight and be unable to get around as well , but actively seeks attention and food . As long as the pet seems comfortable and is eating , they are living life . Once an animal stops eat- ing , that is a bad sign . Every animal loses their appetite for a day or two every now and then , but to not eat for a week signals something very uncomfortable is happening .
On most occasions , I “ interview ” the family to get a feel for the interactions and activity level of the pet . Most pets get really hyper at the vet and some pretty sick animals really seem to “ wake up and look better ” because they get a big surge of adrenaline . Once I explain what is happening , it usually helps the owners feel better about this tough decision .
Once the decision is made , an injection of tranquilizer , then an overdose of anesthetic in the vein allows the pet to flee the defective body . In making the hard decision , I always counsel my clients to try see the world through their pet ’ s eyes and not through their own . I often have my technician help my clients let go of their pets because it just doesn ’ t get any easier . I always keep pictures of my deceased pets around me to keep them in my thoughts .
Sadie , Teddy , Archie , Carly , Jake , Kato , Alvin , and Maxine … thanks for all the love and the lessons .