it is almost impossible to navigate rescue waters and not disagree with someone else. we all have our own opinions, beliefs, experiences and practices that have helped to shape us. and all of those things are going to make us different from each other in some respects.
I have spent the last 25 years working closely both in animal rescue and human nursing with the aging, sick, and dying. it has intricately and uniquely shaped me in many ways and does make the way I do or not do things sometimes different from the rest.
I remember when Pops was here and there was a great deal of questioning about the fairness of not putting him down. our vets were monitoring him closely and were comfortable with continuing to move forward with him, we his caregivers truly believed that despite his problems and disabilities..Pops really was happy. but the questions kept swirling around the rescue periphery whether we were doing the right thing for Pops or just being unkind and selfish.
SAINTS is in a unique position, as a rule we do not have young and healthy animals..this means most of our animals are old or sick. at any given moment anyone can come here and see old and sick animals. how old is ok? how sick is ok? and who and with what kind of knowledge and experience gets to be the judge?
you have to understand that the opinions about quality of life in rescue when lined up together can run longer and further apart than a football field. I know someone in rescue who euthanized a cat because the cat was diagnosed with thyroid disease..she felt shoving a pill down his throat every day was unfair. I know someone else in rescue who NEVER euthanizes...obviously dying animals are left to die naturally, she believes this is how nature intended and it is right.
so SAINTS is in a unique position of not only having our own beliefs and opinions on when it is appropriate to end an animals life..but all of our doors and windows are wide open so anyone can come thru and actually see what we do and it may or may not match what someone else would do.
this means I have to exercise great caution in ensuring that what we believe and what we do does not ever cross certain lines. with both Pops and even Gideon, I absolutely had to have ongoing and recent vet medical visits and documentation to prove we were in fact taking very good, careful and responsible care.
at one point I asked Dr Paton and his medical team to come out and have a look at Pops to offer a second opinion, they are not our regular vets but they are highly respected. I think it hurt our vets feelings a bit and they thought maybe I didn't trust them when I absolutely did. but I needed that extra back up opinion with Pops to irrevocably prove that we were doing ok by him. Dr Paton came with another vet from the clinic and one of their vet techs. he examined Pops thoroughly, took more xrays and then told me this...
he said that when I had called him and sent him photos and xrays of of Pops and his feet, he was really worried. he felt that sometimes rescue goes too far in misguided good intentions in trying to save horses that really should be euth'd. he said that on the way out here, they had a long discussion on how to handle the situation to ensure that Pops would not be allowed to continue to suffer. I laughed and said..oh...you were afraid we were one of those crazy rescues who thinks everyone can and should be be saved (lets call a spade a spade.) he said that this was exactly what he was afraid of and he was glad this was not the case. in the end his recommendation was...put Pops down when he was ready. he said we were doing all of the right things for him and he had no concerns regarding his quality of life or his care. we really did do the very best for Pops that we could...specialized housing that included soft surfaces under his feet, appropriate pain medication and medical treatment. he said our vets were doing an excellent job on slowly trimming back his feet. and he said Pops was very obviously happy. I asked when I would know it was time to let him go and he said just by looking at Pops and the care he was getting, that we would know when it was time and he was right. we knew when the time came to let him go and we did.
I always appreciated that Dr Paton took the time to let us know that he valued the efforts and the care we were taking to do right by that little crippled horse and that he was fully comfortable with the decisions we were making surrounding Pops and his quality of life.
it no longer mattered what others thought, I had responsibly confirmed what we who knew and loved him thought..at that moment in time, Pops was doing ok.
I want people to understand this...life and death are not black and white..there are so many different factors in play.
I believe there are two responsible and compassionate times to euthanize animals..the first is when their life and continued care becomes a burden to them to have to continue to live each day. the second appropriate time is when their life and continued care becomes too great of a burden to their caregivers. if the burden of continued care becomes is too great for their caregivers, then the animals will suffer from the inability of their caregivers to continue to provide that level of care.
when either of those times are reached is always unique to each animal and caregiver., it is dependent upon us to recognise when either time is here. I think if we truly care, I think if we truly are trying to do what is best, I think if we are honest enough to see not only our own feelings but what the animal is feeling, we will usually safely, compassionately and respectfully get there.