Preparing to say goodbye during lock-down

This is an incredibly difficult time for any pet guardian, but it can be especially challenging during lock-down, when you can’t meet your vet face-to-face or be with your pet during consultations. I’m writing this blog in the hope that how I coped might help someone else.   I know what it’s like because our own beautiful little 13+years dog, Rufus, was unwell in March just as the first lock-down started. We were backwards and forwards with him to the vet practice; each time we stayed in the car until the vet nurse came to collect our nervous little charge to take him in, while we waited anxiously in the car park.

It was difficult not actually meeting our vet, who was isolating, because normally we’d ask about things and would see exactly what she thought as she examined Rufus. They say that a high percentage of what we communicate is through body language and facial expression, and, of course, that was all gone. Everything had to be relayed through the nurses, who thankfully were experienced and knowledgeable so they became our highly valued life-line. As we got into August it became apparent to my husband and I that Rufus was coming to the end of his life. Although I was often on the phone to the wonderful vet nurses, who would take my questions to the vet and relay the answers, we really didn’t have a clear picture about our dog’s situation, and we weren’t able to fully express our concerns.

In the end, what I found worked best was to carefully prepare for each vet visit by:

  • Writing a brief report on how Rufus had been – any symptoms, his appetite, whether he wanted to go for walks etc. (the kind of things I thought the vet would ask me if I was there)
  • Listing our questions in clear bullet points so that the vet could easily see what we were concerned about or what we needed to know
  • Printing it for the vet nurses to take into the surgery with Rufus (some vets will have email access instead)

When it was apparent to us that Rufus may be starting to suffer, or at least wasn’t enjoying life anymore, with a very heavy heart I wrote down the question, ‘Is it time to have Rufus put to sleep, because we have noticed (and gave details of his sudden change in behaviour and symptoms)?’ to go in with him at the urgent consultation we had arranged. This time, the vet actually came out to see us in person, from a safe distance, which was such a relief. After discussion, she gave us some really strong medication to try him on for a few days, and we all agreed that if there was no significant improvement after this, then the kindest thing would be to say goodbye to Rufus.

Rufus had a peaceful last few days before we took him back for the final time to the surgery. Our vet kindly set up a long line to the intravenous catheter so that I could cuddle him in the back of our car as she injected the drug which put him to sleep. We were grateful we could be with him as he quickly and peacefully slipped away in my arms.