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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

4 April 2002 Issue

Personal Tragedy, Losing Boris

The newsletter today is of a very personal nature and speaks of the death of my beloved companion animal, canine, Boris Beane.
Hard as it is for me to relive this experience I feel compelled to share with you the horror I experienced Monday euthanizing my dog. In writing this I hope you can protect your fur babies from experiencing the botched euthanasia that my dear Boris encountered.

I know most of you have suffered the loss of one or more precious ones.  I know you understand the tremendous grief and loss I am feeling at this time.  I am so traumatized, so hurting that typing this is almost impossible.  Because of the pain I will make this short but informative.

Monday, I took Boris to the vet for a routine blood check of his liver functions.  He had been diagnosed with a serious form of cancer and we were watching him closely, the blood test would reveal if the cancer had finally invaded his liver.  It had been four weeks since his surgery and so far he was doing remarkably well.  I had him on a special anticancer diet which also included cancer fighting herbs, minerals and vitamins.

When we first arrived Boris was weighed.  I was surprised to find he had gained 6 pounds since his Friday visit to check his blood sugar.  His abdomen did look bloated but he was a large dog,  115 pounds and I assumed he was just pudgy.  After we talked to the vet he took Boris to get some blood.  When he returned he said he did a tap on his abdomen to see what was causing the fullness.  He held up a tube, in it was blood.   Boris was bleeding internally, the cancer had gone into his liver.  There was no hope and we had to do the kind and loving thing, euthanize him.

I was not prepared for this.  The shock was tremendous.  Thanks to my dear
friend Jill, Veganradfem, I was prepared to at least make sure the euthanization was done right.  Jill has worked in shelters and seen many dogs euthanized.  She had told me of the different drugs, different methods that are used to end a life.  I learned euthanasia can be a horror to an animal.

 I told the vet I wanted Boris tranquilized before they administered the drug.  I also said I wanted them to use Phenobarb as the euthanizing drug.  He agreed with me and said the euthanasia drug was a derivative of Phenobarb and Boris would just fall into a deep sleep and his heart would slowly stop.

The vet left the room to get the tranquilizer and I began to hug my baby.  My husband was sobbing that he wasn't ready for this, we both were in shock and agony and our Boris, so innocent, licked my tears gently.

This was especially hard as we had been trying so hard to keep him alive and healthy for the last year.  Boris had been diagnosed with diabetes last February 2001 and we had had a couple close calls with insulin shock, rushing him to emergency rooms after he had seizure.  At these times we gave him karo syrup, rubbed it on his gums. This had raised his sugar and stopped the seizing long enough to get him medical help.  We had to watch his sugar closely and do urine test at least 4 times a day.   For over a year our lives were complexity controlled by his schedule.  He was never left alone for any long periods of time.  He needed lots of extra attention and care.  This we did out of love.  Now our worst fear was upon us and our final act of love was about to be played out.

The vet returned to the room and gave him the first tranquilizing shot.  I help his head and whispered in his ear.  Sooner than I expected he was tranquilized.  He no longer seemed to hear my voice nor respond.  It was so difficult, but I felt I was at least doing this in the kindest, most caring fashion.

About fifteen minutes passed and the vet returned, he began to administer the medicine that would relive him of his suffering.  He told us by the time he finished giving it all to him he would have passed from us to the rainbow bridge.
After the process had ended we were given a stretcher to use to transport Boris to the crematory.  It was a long and quiet drive.  Once in a while I would look back at him, lift the blanket and check him over.  It seemed to me he didn't appear to be dead.  I don't know why, a gut feeling.  I told my husband I didn't think he was gone.  He assured me the vet had listened to his heart and pronounced him deceased, he felt very comfortable with his expertise.  Still uncertain I kept checking Boris for signs of death.  He didn't get stiff.  He was still very mobile.  When we got to the crematory I felt his legs and body.  His legs were still very moveable, his body felt light, there didn't seem to be the heavy, dead feeling a body acquires as the blood pools. I noticed he still felt very warm, very warm.  I told my husband I wouldn't leave him at the crematory till he got stiff.  I wanted to be sure he was gone.  I just had this nagging feeling something wasn't right.  I know my dog, he seemed alive to me.

After a little discussion we left the crematory with our Boris still with us.  We went about 10 miles and stopped for a drink of water and returned to the crematory.  Now over an hour had passed, actually about an hour and a half since his demise(?).  My husband left me in the car with Boris and went in to make the arrangements.  I looked at Boris again, he was still warm, his legs still moved easily and suddenly he peed.  That did it for me.  I went inside and told the woman I wasn't sure he was dead.  She said if I was uncertain she could make arrangements for the nearby vet to check his heart.  I agreed and off we want to a different vet.
When we arrived at the office I went in, wasted time filling out papers and finally the vet came out to the car.  I told her my fears and showed her how mobile his body was, no stiffness and how warm he was.  She listened to his heart.  We were out in the country now and it was very quiet.  She looked up at me in shock.  "This dog is still alive," she said, "I can hear a faint heartbeat."

I cannot ever explain my feelings at hearing this.  My first thought was had I not listened to my gut feeling he would have been incinerated alive.  All sorts of possibilities, horrible visions passed before my eyes.  Thank goodness I listened to my inner voice.  Never underestimate your gut feelings, especially when it comes to your pets.  Remember, they have a bond with you and somehow they communicate.  Boris had let me know he was still with me and he didn't want to leave.

We immediately returned to our vet.  I was quite upset, obviously.  My vet came out to the car, surprised to hear my claim.  He listened to his heart and said he heard nothing.  We were in a very busy area and cars, trucks and buses were constantly passing by.  It would be impossible to hear his heart over all that noise and I told him so.  I showed him how warm Boris was, how pliable. He was not gone.  HE WAS STILL ALIVE!

The vet went inside and came back with a needle, the medicine didn't look the same and before I could question him, he was leaning over Boris and stuck that needle right into his heart over my protests.

Boris was now officially dead and in many ways so was I.  This ending, this
botched excuse for euthanasia was unforgivable.  The only rationale he had to
offer was this bit of information.

He told me that many times a vet will euthanize an animal and place it in the back room (this is in cases where people leave their pet) when the vet goes to leave at night he finds the animal up and walking around.  He said they then have to euthanize again I had no response for this dirty little secret he shared with me.  He seemed very flippant, I felt only contempt for his indifference.

Too upset, I took my Boris and left never to return.  We went home and within a half an hour Boris showed signs of being gone, really gone.  He was stiff and his body no longer warm to the touch.  It was now safe to take him to the crematory, make the arrangements and get a time to return for his remains.

This weekend I will bury Boris in the backyard that he so loved.

The house now is very quiet, no more barking for attention, no Boris.  The silence is deafening.
I hope all of you remember this and when or if you have to make a decision to euthanize please make sure the signs of your beloved pet passing area there.  Never proceed with any burial or cremation until you feel the body is stiff, feels heavier and is cool to the touch.

Thank you for taking the time to let me share this with you and may you find in this a peace of mind when you lose a beloved one.

Linda Beane

We have received many responses from our readers.

When a loved one (human or companion animal) dies, we experience the same emotional feelings of sorrow and loss.  To understand more about this bereavement process, see the all-creatures article series on Mourning the Death of a Loved One.

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