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working with the dying...

 
 
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 05:42 am
I've been volunteering at my county's animal services center, and I've been pleased to see so many people who are so caring... but I'm having a hard time swallowing all the death I have to witness. I completely understand why they need to euthanize some animals, and I have no problem with that, but I keep walking in on it. At the time I'm ok, but it is starting to haunt me.

I've been wondering how people deal with this kind of thing, either with animals OR people. Do you ever get used to it? Is it going to be easier when my own pets, or my own family members, die?

I'd love to hear from others who deal with this.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 3,208 • Replies: 35
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 06:10 am
At these apartments I make friends with lots of elderly people. Many are living their last days. Last week in passing one good friend's home, I met her daughter and son-in-law, who informed me she had gone to the hospital. They were there to clean up the apartment, for she had gotten blood all over the carpet, bed and some walls. When I learned my friend was still in surgery and on life support I urged her family to get back to the hospital and I would clean up the mess. As I cleaned it, I could not help reflecting on the numerous friends I have lost in the twelve years I have been here. It could be demoralizing, except, I made a difference in their lives, by being helpful when their relatives couldn't be there. The woman I just wrote about is probably in the final stage of dying by now. But, she had a tranquil life here, and her friends were numerous. All in all, I think it's break-even for me in this.
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L R R Hood
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 06:58 am
Thank you, edgar, that was very interesting and helpful.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 07:27 am
L.R.R.Hood- From what I remember, you are a relatively young person, who probably has not experienced death much. I remember that as a youngster, the entire concept of death was alien to me. You see it in the way young people take chances, and do daring things. For the young, death has nothing to do with them, personally. It is merely an abstraction.

As one goes on in life, and people who are close die, at first it is a searing shock, and quite traumatic. There then comes a realization that we all die.

When a person gets older, at some point in time the realization sets in that death is merely the end of the life cycle, and the death of a person is not as emotionally searing. That is not to say, that if you have been close to a person, that the loss of that person is not an unhappy event. It is the death itself that is not as troubling. One can face death itself with relative equanimity.


Quote:
it is starting to haunt me.


If I were you, I would really think through what you are experiencing. If seeing pets die is so terribly traumatic for you, maybe you should not be exposing yourself to it.
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L R R Hood
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 08:47 am
Yes, I'm 26. I've lost a few distant relatives, but no one very close.

I can't figure out if its the animals dying that bothers me, or the fact that I'm becoming desensitized that is bothering me. I'm starting to think its the latter.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 09:32 am
Edgar, again, I am consistently impressed by your humanity.

L.R.R.Hood, I've been in the same situation -- volunteered at an animal shelter, a favorite disappeared, asked hopefully if he was adopted, downcast eyes and "no..." (over and over) -- I was still a teenager at the time, but I had to stop.

I think it's reasonable that one of those two things have to happen -- it'll bother you, or desensitization. If both options are upsetting, maybe you should find something else.
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BoGoWo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 10:21 am
a couple of years ago one of my cats was very old and sick and, after a period of medication, special food, and care, his time had come.
On the day when it became obvious that his suffering must end my daughter (her cat actually - except possession is a ridiculous concept) and i took him to the vet who, while i held him, gave him the injection that would mark his passing.
As he died, he honoured me by pissing all down the side of my pants; a surprisingly welcome anointment!
But most important, i thanked the vet profusely for being available to take care of an unpleasant duty, for our long time companion, that i would have been unable to accomplish so 'eventlessly' myself.
The work that people forced into this position by expertise, and their compassionate nature do is, believe me, greatly appreciated.
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MyOwnUsername
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 10:44 am
LRR, fact is that in reality nothing is actually so terrible as in your head when thinking about it. Yeah, there are incredibly sad situations and losses.
But not really as in your head.

War is terrible thing and when I was kid thinking about war (and KNOWING that I will never ever be in one, and that my country will never ever be in war) it was so terrible - those images. I thought there is no life at all in the war.
Then, imagine that, there comes war. They shoot at you every day, they are sending rockets on you every day, when you are at school, when you are out with your girlfriend, when you are playing street soccer with your friends, when you are just sitting on a river bank and thinking how great sunset today is. You go to funerals of your 18 year old friends, you are sitting by the window playing on your computer and your mom enters room and tells you to lay on the bed because rockets are falling all around and at the moment she gets out of your room rocket hits in front of your building and three large pieces smash windows and fall on your bed...

But you STILL DO HAVE FUN. You are not going around crying and deeply suffering. You DO have girlfriends. You DO play soccer with friends. You DO laugh and smile. You DO play your on your computer again.

I am first child in family, not only to my parents, but to all my grandparents as well. And my mom supposed to be unable to have kids. So as a kid I was loved so much that it cannot be described. And I loved back. And whenever my mom was 10 minutes late I was completely terrified, imagining all kinds of terrible scenarios in my head.
I loved her same when i was bit older. And when I was teenager. And when I was not teenager anymore.
And then she died.
And, you know, I just knew and felt that I should be fine. Yeah, there were sad moments. Just few days ago I was walking through the street where I grew up and I remember how we used to walk together when I was just a little boy and my tiny hand in her hand, and my smiles when she got home from work, and her next to my bed when i got fever...and I cried.

And then again...I was smiling even before her funeral. With my brother. We were telling jokes to each other. And I felt kinda calm at her funeral. Maybe I was never that calm in my life. She hadn't done everything she done for me in her life so that I can become histerical when she dies.

That's life. Death's part of it. And important thing is that those that died are either okay or they're nothing at all. They're not suffering. They're not in pain. They're not wondering "oh, gee, I am dead, it sucks so much".
They are fine.

And I am sure we all want our dear ones to continue life as best as they can and to be as happy as they can after we die. So, why shouldn't we try to give them the same? And time actually does heal everything. Unless you don't want to be healed....

You'll be fine
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Sam1951
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 10:54 am
LRR,

Good job, there! Animal Shelters need volunteers. Becoming attached to an animal and then learning that it has been euthanized hurts. In your position I think I would work on setting up a fund to provide free spay and neuter clinics. If there are any No-Kill Shelters in your area you could try volunteering with them.
My experience with death has for the most part been good. I was with both my paternal Grandmother and Mother when they passed on. In both cases death was a relief. The terminally ill or elderly, who are ready to go leave me with a feeling of peace. I do not weep for them or myself.
Death by needless violence including warfare and accident is another story. Those deaths leave me with a feeling of frustration, anger, regret and sorrow for those left behind.


Sam
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 10:59 am
A close friend of mine had to put down her cocker spaniel yesterday, her close and for a time here only friend for 11 years. It was a very upsetting experience. But the dog had pancreatic cancers and she had reached her end. You are experiencing many of these events and what you feel is simple a means of protecting yourself. You are not insensitive just reacting normally and appropriately.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 10:59 am
MOU, wow, what a story. Thanks for sharing it.
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Miller
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 11:03 am
When I had to have my dog euthanized, I was asked by the Vet. personnel, if I wanted to witness the procedure and death.

I told them, no. I know what dead animals and humans look like. Nothing is to be gained by viewing another death.

Best to remember your loved ones and pets, as they were when happy and healthy.
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 11:11 am
In the case of my friend they spread a brightly colored quilt on the lawn behind the clinic. The dog lay in my friends lap while the shot was administered and she quietly sliped away. It is a personal decision, and each of us deals with the death of a pet differently. But when someone has been with you through thick and thin my friend thought she should be with her to the end.
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Miller
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 11:11 am
L.R.R.Hood wrote:
Yes, I'm 26. I've lost a few distant relatives, but no one very close.

I can't figure out if its the animals dying that bothers me, or the fact that I'm becoming desensitized that is bothering me. I'm starting to think its the latter.


At the age of 26, if you're neither an RN nor an MD, you've probably not seen much death. If you're seeing large numbers of animals being euthanized, it's possible that the event isn't nearly as traumatic as it was to you, when first witnessed.

After several sedations of animals to their deaths, Vets become used to the event and move on to care for their live patients.

On the hospital wards of human patients, it's another story. As most good nurses will admit, it's never easy when a patient dies. When it does becomes easy, the practioner should really consider living the practice of nursing/medicine.
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BoGoWo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 11:24 am
Miller wrote:
When I had to have my dog euthanized, I was asked by the Vet. personnel, if I wanted to witness the procedure and death.

I told them, no. I know what dead animals and humans look like. Nothing is to be gained by viewing another death.

Best to remember your loved ones and pets, as they were when happy and healthy.


what i feel you missed Miller, was that your pet has an extremely important connection to you, and at the end of its existence it must be comforting to not be abandoned to strangers.
That said, living creatures can tell to a certain extent (probably by body language) that unfamiliar beings mean them not harm; so this and being very sick, may lessen the potential shock of the event.
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L R R Hood
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 11:24 am
Acquiunk wrote:
A close friend of mine had to put down her cocker spaniel yesterday, her close and for a time here only friend for 11 years. It was a very upsetting experience. But the dog had pancreatic cancers and she had reached her end. You are experiencing many of these events and what you feel is simple a means of protecting yourself. You are not insensitive just reacting normally and appropriately.


Do you know if the dog was eating Pedigre brand dog food?
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 12:04 pm
No it was not. the dog generally ate a meal prepared for it of chicken and rice or peas. She also loved doggie treats.
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doglover
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 12:17 pm
Acquiunk wrote:
In the case of my friend they spread a brightly colored quilt on the lawn behind the clinic. The dog lay in my friends lap while the shot was administered and she quietly sliped away. It is a personal decision, and each of us deals with the death of a pet differently. But when someone has been with you through thick and thin my friend thought she should be with her to the end.


Last September we had to put down our Cocker Spaniel, Kody, who was 12 and suffered from a fatal form of anemia. The doctor asked us if we wanted to be present and we said of course. We felt he needed us to be with him...to let him know that we loved him and that everything would be okay. When we looked into his eyes, he knew his time had come to leave. He licked our faces and we kissed him back and held his paws in our hands as the drug was administered to him.His death was quiet and peaceful. The last thing Kody saw were our faces looking at him with love and kindness.
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L R R Hood
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 03:19 pm
Hmmm, this thread is not really helping me. Sad Its just bringing me down more.
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doglover
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 04:05 pm
L.R.R.Hood wrote:
Hmmm, this thread is not really helping me. Sad Its just bringing me down more.


As someone who has worked at a cemetery for almost seven years, I often come into contact with those who have just lost a loved one or persons or family members who have been diagnosed with a terminal condition and are coming to the cemetery to make their final arrangements.

Doing that job at first was difficult. But I soon learned from watching and listening to my co-workers that if I wanted to continue in that job, I had to learn how to separate myself from the grieving people I came into contact wih. I could feel empathy for them, but if I was going to make it in the business, I had to learn to not take every sad situation and loss personal. If you do, you will burn out quickly. You have to compartmentalize. At the end of the day, leave the grief and the sadness at the door. Appreciate life and the living more. Seeing so much death makes you realize how precious life is and how fleeting it can be.

What I learned to do was be a caring, strong presence in the lives of those grieving people. To give a touch on the arm, a smile that says I care, to be as helpful as I can be to the grieving family.

I think it has helped make me a stronger person when it comes to dealing with death. If you think of death as moving on to the next phase of life, it does seem to help. To me, all death is the same. Be it human or animal.
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