She meant well, I know, but the question haunted me for years.
“You didn’t go in with him?” my mother asked. I was calling to tell her I’d just left my beloved old Doberman, Bruno, at the vet’s to be euthanized. She talked about how glad she was she’d stayed to stroke our old Lab’s ears when she was put down. But I hadn’t known I could stay and always felt terrible for failing to ask if I could.
As my greyhound began to decline, I vowed to do better by having him die at home. My mother didn’t have that option, but vets now make such house calls, bypassing stressful office visits and allowing owners to be on hand.
When I made the arrangements, I discovered things I hadn’t considered. While owners often decide “today’s the day” when they bring a pet to a vet to be put down, house calls require scheduling. I’d be looking at that date on my calendar for a week. And at the vet’s, the pet is usually taken away for the injection and brought back for farewells so owners won’t witness potential unpleasantness like a missed vein. But I put aside concerns about my own comfort, set the date, and burst into tears.
I’m not an obsessed pet owner, but I’d had this ex-racer for 13 years, and he was special. I could take him everywhere. Impressed with his gentle elegance, art-gallery owners would invite him in, joking that he complemented their works. A gallery visitor once mistook him for a statue and shrieked when he moved.
When he did stretch out for a sprint, I could feel the g-forces from his astonishing speed. Even his name was perfect: Legs.
The planning for his last day was emotionally tough, but it allowed for some comforts. We invited all his friends—human and canine—over to bid farewell. Though ailing, Legs enjoyed the attention as he lay on his favorite bed, a canary-yellow French-designer beanbag chair. I was able to request his favorite vet for the procedure, not a stranger on emergency duty.
Dr. Ed Morris, of VCA MacArthur Animal Hospital, arrived on a Monday evening, gently applied a tourniquet, and gave him the shot. I stroked Legs’s ears, and he drifted off. The end was quick and easy—for Legs at least—and I felt in a way it was now for Bruno, too.
The next day I packed my bags for a much-needed getaway. I left a photo of Legs with birth and death dates on my front patio, where he spent his final days basking in the sun on that yellow bed, drawing coos from passersby. I returned to dozens of cards and even flowers, a bittersweet reminder of just how special he was.