Is it That Time?

scan-752Growing up on a farm gave me insight to the circle of life at an early age. I saw crops planted and harvested each year to feed the hogs that were raised to supply food for the world and our immediate family. I was introduced to baby pigs as I helped my father give iron shots to prevent anemia and clip baby teeth in order to protect the mother sows udder. I was in charge of caring for the runts that were not able to fend for themselves in those large litters. My younger brother and myself would fix milk replacer for them and then transition them to creep feed and offer all the TLC a young pig could handle. I snuggled with pigs more than I care to admit during my younger years.   The ones that did not survive were carefully buried behind the barn and we rejoiced with each one that was able to move to the feeder pig facility.

I had a number of outdoor cats that would have litters every spring and those little kittens always seemed to get the “kitty cold” and would start doing poorly. My dad told me that if I wanted to help them, I could give them a shot of penicillin and see if they improved. Some responded immediately and others continued to decline and eventually passed away. Yet each of them were loved every moment of their lives by a young girl that learned there is a time to live and a time to die.

I had farm dogs that worked side by side caring for the livestock and others that were there as protectors and/or companions.   Attachment to each of them ran deep and as they aged, it became apparent that soon we would have to say good-bye.

I guess you could say that all of these experiences set me up to be a veterinarian. These experiences also made me more aware of the circle of life. I saw life and death often in nature and realized that there is no fear in death. I would see the peace in an animal’s passing and that there was no longer any pain or suffering. I would remember the joy that they had brought to my life, even if it was only for a short period of time. I would realize that my life was blessed because they had been special to me.

As I spend time with clients at Winterset Veterinary Center during the difficult moments surrounding euthanasia, I am reminded of the peace that comes in the end when our furry friends have taken their last breath. I can remember the joy they have brought to their forever family and know that these humans have been eternally blessed to have had this time with this special furry friend.

Please understand that as a veterinarian, these situations are some of the most difficult parts of my job. Yet, I would not choose to be anywhere else when that time comes for a pet-owner. I have been with them during the good times, and I would never abandoned them during these final moments when facing the most agonizing decision they have ever had to make for their special friend.

I find myself counseling often on “Is it that time?” Only you as a pet owner can know and decide if it is that time. People ask me, “But how will I know?” I tell them, “You will know.”   We were given a greater intelligence to be able to sense pain and suffering. Maybe by using our 5 senses we can relate to the struggles they endure during those final days. No more twinkle in their eyes, lots of moans and sighs, lack of interest in food and water, avoidance of affection and interaction, and/or unusual smells. Maybe it is the physical challenges they face such as incontinence, nerve deficits, joint diseases, heart disease, etc.   Sometimes these issues can present in combinations that make it apparent that successful return to a quality lifestyle will be next to impossible.   We all can hope that one morning we awake and find our furry friend peacefully passed in the night. Yet I must say, that gift is not granted nearly enough. If you have been given that gift in the past count yourself BLESSED!

I want to make certain my clients know that they will not be judged on what they decide is best for their furry friend. Only they can sense what has changed in their pet’s life that makes it apparent that this is the right time. I recall a day when I was asked to go outside to a pick-up truck to administer that final injection that would end the painful day to day struggles their furry friend had endured. I climbed up into the bed of the truck and sat in front of this very special dog that I had had the pleasure of caring for. No struggle was given as I placed my tourniquet and found that vein. I began injecting the solution and in her final moment of consciousness, she laid her head ever so peacefully in my lap. It was a moment I will never forget because I understood how much this final gesture had given her freedom from her pain and suffering.

Our furry friends deserve to have their final days be full of love and attention to their every need and comfort. The unconditional love they bestow on us daily is something that we will always hold most precious and dear. If you are coming to an end in the life of a furry friend, just always keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity. If each day is a struggle for your pet and they are having more difficult days than good days it may be time. If the sparkle has gone from their eyes, they no longer greet you at the end of the day, and they rarely seek you out due to the constant struggle they have to get around, it is most likely time. Know there is peace in their passing and joy in the remembrance of the blessings they have been in your lives.   My favorite saying when it comes to this topic is, “A furry friend’s only fault is they do not live long enough.” These words ring true for me and for all those who have had the pleasure of loving a pet.

What would your pet’s New Year’s resolution be?

With the beginning of a new year, we all seem to find things we would like to change or improve upon in 2017. I have often wondered if our pets could make New Year’s Resolutions ……what would they be?

Of course, just like their human family members, I am sure a healthier lifestyle would be one of the top three. Now what would that mean for our pets. I would say changing their diet to be more digestible and nutritionally balanced product would be a top priority. No different than our children, if it were left up to our pets, they would encourage us to look at what tastes great and pleases their palates. Not even considering the number of calories or the amount of fat in each product. We recognize that higher calories usually means better taste. They would possibly choose canned formulas over dry diets. They would look for the treats that taste great and have no nutritional value.   Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Of course they would love to have more exercise since that would allow them more time with the people they love and adore. That exercise could come with a brisk walk every morning or wrestling at the end of the day. In their minds it all would be great because they get to be with their people!

They would probably strive to get along with others. Again that seems to be a common thought amongst their 2 legged friends. Relationships are key in all circles of life. Our pets have stress and anxieties about meeting new animals as well as new people sometimes. Wouldn’t it be great if we could change those dynamics with a snap of a finger even in our own lives? Find ways to express ourselves without offense to others. Be more honest and open with people without fearing that this would affect the relationship. Pets use body language when interacting with other animals and these social clues are universal in the their world. If the ears are pinned back and the hair is raised, there is no mistaking what this pets body language is saying to the other in the area. Do not approach. Stay back. I am not your friend. Being able to read each other that quickly could sure save some heartache and frustration in our world as well.

Enjoying life to it fullest certainly would be a priority. What else do pets have to do each day but love their life? I have often said that if reincarnation was something I believed in, I would want to return as a house cat. What a life they have. They never have to go out in the cold weather. Lounging around basking in the sun pouring through the South windows. Unlimited food set out daily and even someone to clean their box. What a life it would be. For our dogs it is so easy for them to find joy from our rising every morning to our return at the end of the day. Barking at the cars that pass by our home to lounging on the couch waiting for that moment when you walk back into their home. Yes, I mean their home. It is their territory and they decide often who is welcome and who is not. I cannot tell you the number of times a client has remarked that their pet(s) do rule the roost. “I get growled at for trying to come to bed.”  “My dog doesn’t let me sit in my favorite chair.” “My cat only allows me to sit on the sofa.” “My pets tell me when it is time to eat.”   Of course I know that with these comments, this pet is lucky to have a forever home and will never be without a large dose of love and attention.

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So as you look forward to 2017 and hoping it will be a better year than 2016 in some way we all need to remember that each day is a gift to be appreciated. We look back at 2016 and see some things that maybe we should have done differently but with a new year ahead anything is possible. Strive to make your pets New Year’s Resolutions come true and I am sure with each new day there will be plenty of joy and love to go around.

Holiday Blessings

Thanksgiving 2016 has come and gone. This time of year is always a great time of reflection for me on all the blessings in my life. Of course those blessings always include family and friends that surround me each day and give me purpose in my life. The simple fact that I have a job which supports our family and allows me to practice close to home is something incredible to be thankful for. Dr. Jim Pottebaum and our staff of Stephanie, Mary, Ann, Kristal, Jessica, and Kaylee help me be the best vet I can be. I often forget to express to them how grateful I am for all they contribute to my daily happiness.

This year brought about a lot of reflection for me and I found myself thinking about clients and patients that I feel are blessings to me every day at Winterset Veterinary Center. Each and every day of work is unique and challenging because of those cases that come through our doors. The career of veterinary medicine doesn’t allow me to ever become bored with what I do each day.

The emotional changes that I feel in a typical day at work range from joy at holding a new puppy or kitten and feeling the warmth of their tongue on my face and smelling that sweet baby breath. To deep despair, as I enter the room with a long time client knowing that today is the last day I will be looking into those loving, trusting pet’s eyes. Of course, there are those pets that despise me long before I even get close to them. I sympathize with their owners knowing how stressful it must be for them to bring their pets to see me. I try to reassure them that it is not their fault when their pet misbehaves in the clinic. Changes in a pet’s routine are a challenge for many and how they respond is as varied as the breeds we see each day. As I reflect on this past year, I can recall cases that brought me to tears at the unexpected loss of a pet, or the joy of seeing a pet that recovered against all odds, or the relief knowing that I had saved that pet from certain death, had I not stepped in at that exact moment. None of these experiences are more important than the other, but each of them has made me a better person and veterinarian. I thank our clients for entrusting their family pets to our care.

dog-1087539_640So as we reflect back on our Thanksgivings, we also look forward to the biggest giving season of the year, Christmas. The Winterset Veterinarians are collecting donations to help feed the hungry pets in Madison County. Many families struggle during this time of year to provide for their families, say nothing about feeding their pets. The Multi-Purpose Center gladly accepts donations as will each of the veterinary offices in Winterset. A small bag of food or cat litter or a few toys can mean a better Christmas not only for those families but also their pets. If we all do our part in giving of our resources to those less fortunate it can make a huge impact. Please consider donating today and brighten the days that lead up to the most joyous time of the year.

May you all have a very blessed Holiday Season and as we look towards 2017 may we always find the good in everyone we encounter and remember to be thankful.

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