As veterinarians, it is only a matter of time before we lose a patient. Some patients we can see are heading on their way out and we may be able to relieve their struggle, while others take us by surprise and we fight tooth and nail to bring them back. Sometimes we are successful, sometimes we are not.
I have been successful at reviving every patient that has “taken me by surprise.” That is, until today.
Today a juvenile rabbit started fading on me while recovering from anesthesia. The CPR we tried didn’t revive him.
How do I feel, you may wonder? I am a shelter vet after all…
You may have shared personal experiences with vets who work in private practice that grieve for the loss of a pet with an owner. It’s completely understandable. They have that sense of responsibility, that trust that was put into their hands by the owner to care for that pet, and though they may know deep down that they did everything they could, they may feel that they have failed; failed the owner and failed the pet.
Then what happens in a shelter, you must be asking, since the majority of the animals in shelters have no owners. Clearly that implicit trust and responsibility is missing with shelter vets. Right? Wrong. Wrong in so many ways!
For the animals within the shelter, I feel an incredible sense of responsibility for them. They have no one else to look after and fight for them except for me and my staff. However, unlike the shelter staff, I took an oath to protect animals and serve them and that oath did not pertain only to animals that had owners.
So how do I feel?
I am extremely sad. Devastated, really. What’s worse is that I do not have an owner to grieve with, to share my sorrow. It’s all on me.
So if you think that no one cries when an animal dies in an animal shelter, let the record show that this vet does.
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