A Sad Goodbye To An Innocent Victim

When I was in high school, the topic making the news was euthanasia. Whenever I heard the word, I wondered why everyone was concerned about kids in Japan or China: you know, “youth in Asia.”

Boy, have I come a long way.

A veterinarian’s life involves a heavy dose of euthanasia. We perform this compassionate act to relieve animals of their suffering.

Does it take its toll on our emotions? You bet it does.

Sometimes, however, it does so when we least expect it.

I received an emergency call late one night from a couple who seemed very distraught. Their bird was not a patient of our hospital, but they desperately wanted to bring him in.

Thirty minutes later, we were at the clinic going over the details of the emergency.

“Thank you so much for coming in,” blurted Sam. “Birdie is hurt real badly.”

It was subtle, but I thought that I recognized the sweet smell of a few after-dinner drinks.

“No worries,” I replied, “tell me what happened.”

“Well, we were having a party at our house and things sort of got out of hand.” Sam hesitated. “Anyway, next thing you know, my would-be-friends were taking shots at Birdie. By the way, did I mention that we rushed out of the house and we don’t have any money with us?”

Ignoring the money remark, I said, “What do you mean by taking shots at Birdie?”

“Target practice, Doc,” slurred Sam. “They were shooting at him with my BB gun.”

To avoid saying something I might have regretted, I turned my attention to my patient. Birdie lay motionless in a used T-shirt. I gently lifted him from the filthy rag and placed him into a clean surgical towel. Careful inspection revealed that one of the shots had hit its mark. Birdie’s neck had been torn open and the damage was extensive for a lovebird.

I explained to Sam that Birdie’s prognosis was very poor, and repairing his neck and throat would not be possible.

It was at this time that Sam decided to authorize euthanasia, but only after reminding me that he had no money with him. After signing the appropriate documents, Sam left our hospital and I was left with the arduous task of giving Birdie relief from his suffering.

As I looked down at Birdie, I saw a weak, helpless creature, a victim of a drunken act of violence. As he looked up at me, I suddenly felt a strange connection and I soon became overwhelmed with sadness. I whispered, “It will be all right, little one. You don’t have to suffer anymore. I won’t let anyone hurt you.” And with that, I administered the drug necessary to set Birdie’s soul free.

I often tear up when performing euthanasias, but I rarely cry. Maybe it’s because I was brought up in Kalihi and was often told to be a man and don’t cry. I’m really not sure.

Well, I cried that night … all the way home.

Dr. John Kaya is the director of the Windward Community College veterinary technician program and associate veterinarian for VCA University Animal Hospital.