Today I saw our Vet for the first time since Chief’s euthanasia. As soon as we sat down in the waiting room, a young girl about 15 years old and her dad exited tearfully out of one of the consult rooms. Dad’s face was red and strained with emotion, and the girl dissolved into tears on her dad’s shoulder. My heart broke for them from across the room, knowing all too well what they were going through.
After a little while, the Mother came out blotchy faced and carrying an empty cat carrier and the three of them left the clinic silently, united in their love for their missing family member, and in their overwhelming pain and despair.
As our Vet (the same one that just moments before had to lovingly send off a beloved member of someone’s family) appeared at the doorway, she recognised us and smiled kindly. Emotion got the better of me as I got up to greet her. The last time I saw her friendly face was probably the single worst day of my life, and yet I feel so much fondness and gratitude towards her. She was part of the little energetic huddle that saw my boy from one world to the next, and she will forever be dear to my heart. As we hugged, I felt Chief’s presence with us just for brief moment, there was no way he was going to miss that reunion, and what he had obviously decided should be a group hug.
After speaking for a little bit about my wise old boy, it was time to introduce Matilda, our Ragdoll kitten. New love has come in to our family, but our love for Chief remains ever as strong, unforgettable and irreplaceable.
The mixture of feelings a person has towards their Vet and vet clinic after losing a pet would vary greatly. Some people may feel the clinic and their Vet reminds them of the trauma, the sadness and the loss. Some people may feel uncomfortable about the depth of emotion that arose during this difficult time. Some people may even feel angry towards their Vet or clinic. Even if the loss was at no fault of the Vet, the need to compartmentalise feelings of grief and anger is certainly something that happens. Some people may feel that the Vet and clinic is a lovely and meaningful connection to their pet and their memories, especially if you have an excitable Labrador who simply loved going to the vet and the ensuing adoration from the staff. All understandable emotions and all of which I am sure every Vet has experienced and understands.
Vets and Vet Nurses experience such a range of highs and lows in their job. They have to go from the energy in one room of despair, devastation and grief, into the next consult room with a joyous family with a new little puppy or kitten, and adapt accordingly, often with barely a break in between. Most are animal lovers, and they empathise with your situation completely. They may not show it but their hearts will break a little bit for you, and so will every heart in the waiting room as you leave with your empty cat carrier, or clutching a now redundant lead. We are all united in our love for our pets and the emptiness and sadness that engulfs us when we have to part with them.
And just as your Vets heart will be heavy for you when it’s time for a difficult goodbye, they will also share in your joy, whether its weeks, months or years later, when you arrive with a delicate ball of fluff or excitable waggy tail. Animals have a way of connecting us all. Whether it’s due to the interesting looking dog on the other side of the park that your dog simply MUST meet, resulting in a 45 minute discussion with a stranger about your furbabies and life stories, the empathy from strangers in the waiting room as you leave minus a member of your family, or the care and understanding from the amazing Vet staff when your heart is fragile and broken, animals are to thank for all of this beautiful connection between humans. They teach us so much about love and compassion, and I can’t help but wonder if, as they watch all these connections and loving emotions unfold on the Earth, all of the pets we have ever had, are smiling from Heaven, knowing their work is done.