My Pet Died… and I Think It’s My Fault

I don’t blame the man for taking his dog home that night. Mildred looked a thousand times better than when she came in, and the man had made clear that the mounting cost of treatment was quickly becoming difficult to bear. I don’t know what his personal circumstances were, and I can’t say definitively that being at the emergency clinic would have changed what happened. I don’t know these things, and that’s why I don’t judge him. I carry my own guilt about not pressing him harder to go to the clinic, but I forgive him for his part in Mildred's outcome. I hope he’ll forgive himself.

The Guilt of Loss

I believe that there are many pet owners out there who have made decisions, sometimes on their own and sometimes with their veterinarians, which they regret. If you are one of those people, I want you to know that neither you nor your vet can know the future, and we all feel guilt when our pets leave us. We wonder if we could have done more or if we missed something important along the way. That is the guilt of loss.

All that pet owners and veterinarians can do is our best: try our hardest, ask questions, follow instructions and make what seems like the right decisions with the information and resources available to us. If we have done all that, then we have to put the guilt behind us, learn from our experiences and move forward.

That is what I wish I had said to the crying man. It’s what I hope I will say the next time I see guilt and sorrow in the eyes of the grieving family members of a lost pet. And I know there will be a next time, because pets just don’t live long enough.

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