A Moment with “Jake” from the Heart of a Very Seasoned AHT

**The names and dates in this story have been changed to protect confidentiality
straight from the heart of a very seasoned animal health technologist

It started as an ordinary, busy Saturday, on a recent long weekend…
Late in the afternoon, a call came in for us to see “Jake”, a dog that was apparently lame and was not able to use his hind legs.   Upon meeting the client in the reception area I could only think to myself what a magnificent, stunning dog. Before I was a 4 year old, long haired German Shepherd that was possibly – no, undoubtedly – the most regal, stoic, beautiful large dog I have ever seen. But who was in obvious pain and discomfort.

Assistance was required to move him into our treatment area for assessment and unfortunately, x-rays revealed that the news was grave. A serious back injury of unknown origin had occurred 4-5 days prior and poor Jake was unable to use his hind legs, he was paralysed. To further add to the problem Jake’s owner was not present, it was his neighbour that brought him to us. Jake’s owner himself was suffering from a devastating illness and was unable to come to the clinic. As per clinic protocol we needed authorization from the owner to begin any treatment so our doctor on duty called the owner, explained the diagnosis and the grave prognosis. Jake would require major (and very dangerous) spinal surgery at one of the speciality referral clinics, either in Edmonton or Calgary. Recovery could not be guaranteed and it would be very expensive.

The owner made the very difficult decision and opted for euthanasia. Our doctor was the first to hear the verbal consent from the owner; I was to witness the second. In confirming this man’s wishes, I noted that he was crying and quite distraught as expected. What was unexpected was what followed. The owner asked to set down the phone and after a short moment passed he came back on the line and explained he had a card in his hand, a card that our clinic had sent him from a prior euthanasia. He proceeded to read the names off the card. I mentioned that I was present today as I was that day over a year ago. This seemed to give him some sort of comfort and a sense of reassurance.

The image of Jake sitting, his hind limbs immobilized, while I placed the catheter in his left front leg will stay in my heart forever. He was visibly trembling, so very scared yet so trusting. He did not flinch, his big, beautiful brown eyes so intent on me, it all seemed so unfair.

The neighbour seemed at a loss as to what to do while our doctor gave Jake his final injection. I told him to please just pet Jake, talk to him, as he knew him well. He relaxed, then drifted off, no longer in pain. Under my breath, I whispered a prayer, for Jake, the owner, for myself  “and you shall know with the last breath you take, your fate was ever safest in our hands.”

A day passed, then two, then three, I thought of Jake and his owner often. Jake left a presence, an imprint in my heart, for that very short time that I was allowed to be part of his existence. I could not imagine the pain and grief his already troubled owner was to endure. He will never realize the priceless gift he had sent my way, to imagine that he held so close, a prior sympathy card that had been sent not days, or weeks, or months but a year prior.

Unfortunately, we don’t realize or often appreciate the impact we have on our Morinville Veterinary client’s lives and theirs on ours.  A very humbling experience and lesson learned.

I shall never forget that day.  I think of it often.

Written by Morinville Veterinary Clinic