College of Veterinary Medicine

From the Dean


by Bryan 29. March 2012 21:40

“I wrote the obituary for the obituaries editor.”  

Thus opens “Salt”, a wonderful Sherman Alexie short story from his PEN/Faulkner winning collection, War Dances.  In the space of 20 impeccably crafted pages, Mr. Alexie deeply examines loss.  Not simple loss, but rather layers of loss; I am still pondering how many layers – quite like I am still pondering how many dreams were within dreams were within dreams in the movie Inception.   

One of the layers of loss is euthanasia.  In one thread of this story, an elderly woman had lost her husband, and then had to “put down” Henry, their cat.  She explained that Henry developed “cancer of the blood” grieving for the loss of the master of the house (“They [cats] see a lot of death, they do.”). 

She goes on to say:  “What’s that big word for killing cats?”   

“Euthanasia.” …  

“Yes, that’s it. … Such a pretty word for such a sad and lonely thing.”   


In what must have been destined to be my “euthanasia reflection day,” earlier this week I not only read this story on my flight over to Seattle, but then had a good discussion of euthanasia with one of our alums in Bellevue, and later met up with a friend who told me that she and her husband recently decided that it was time to have their beloved Max the Poodle euthanized after 15 years of good life, but with many infirmities of late. 

All this, I guess, to remind me of the special burden and obligation veterinarians bear when helping ease such a sad and lonely thing.

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