When Pet Loss Canada was in its conception stages, one of the people who was very encouraging and supportive was a local veterinarian. He even offered to monetarily sponsor the site but I declined since it was to be a non-profit organization. At the same time I realized that several of our “teaching schools” did little to lift up those who were is great need from grief. I naturally anticipated that one of the greatest users of Pet Loss Canada would ber the entire veterinarian and animal care industry. NOT A CHANCE! Sadly they, in general, felt that they were capable of providing such counselling and grief support. I attended a large meeting of veterinarians several years ago. A guest speaker asked the question: ”how many of you veterinarians follow up with your client after euthanizing their animal. Out of about 75 attendees 4 raised their hands. And this is modern grief support!?!? The reality here is that their post trauma follow up is incredibly poor. The excuses provided: we send a card; we ask their friends about them if they too are clients. BUT THE WORST IS THIS: “WE ARE TOO BUSY- WE DON’T HAVE THE TIME!”. Well, consider this: the clients who lose a pet probably will have another and the follow up by their veterinarians and staff could very easily encourage that person to return to the same veterinarian.
One of the on-going difficulties and concern are the costs. For example, I am very aware of the cost to veterinarians, in general, by removal companies. I am also aware of what their costs are. My average costs for my pets, from my veterinarian of about 20 years was about $150.00. When we had to euthanized my Tobias I inquired about the cost to get his ashes back. The response: “oh, at least $500.00 and perhaps more!” One of the continuous complaints I here while speaking with hundreds of grieving owners from all over the world, especially in North America, is COST. Just like our countries medical care systems, the costs are continuing to increase. In the case of veterinarians, they are a private industry with no open funding except by the clients. It is now becoming rather evident that many, not all- it is probably unfair to generalize- are simply in it for the money. Many veterinarians bring in 1-2 million dollars a year. They have the right to do so but it does hurt the clients. Moreover, when it comes to a decision of euthanize and opposed to CAT Scans, MRI, surgery, etc is that clients may have to take the low road and select the route of least cost. So the increase in fees and costs of service are a definite determining factor in an animals future and a client’s emotions.
One other point: a couple of hears ago a local vet asked me to visit her office and, AT NO COST,
Talk to the staff about compassion fatigue and burnout. I gave my talk, and provided some handouts. The veterinarian’s final comments: “well, my staff don’t have these problems- they do ok!” One of the staff indicated suffering from several symptoms of burnout including crying, fatigue and major changes in social life. WOW! What was I doing there? Who was I helping? If all was well why was I asked to waste my time? These are very fair questions!
So, cost vs care & comfort; empathy vs supposed professional over identification with a client (transference); love vs respect and appreciation.
I will continue to work as hard as I can for as long as I can to make certain that, on a non-profit basis, grieving people are cared for. But sometimes I have to scratch my head and wonder what is happening in our society with our best friends. BRIEN