We adopted Hunter, a 15yr old German Shorthair Pointer Mix, in 2017 from Great Plains Pointer Rescue. I can not say enough good things about that group ( www.greatpointers.org/ ). We instantly felt a strong connection with the gentle giant. He came to us with medical issues that were to be expected in a grandpa pup. For nine months we did not really notice the side effects of a very loud murmur. He had amazing joints. He was selectively deaf. He did not show obvious signs of Lyme disease although his antibody levels were quite high. He enjoyed frozen poop - his & rabbit pellets the most. He could be equally excited to take a walk or a nap - your preference. I had a sense he had been well loved before & that some unplanned circumstance took him away from his owners. He knew what the bank drive-up meant (insert head sticking from the back seat & out my window..."see me? treat?"). He did the same thing at Starbucks. He had REALLY worn teeth (which can happen with a lot of fetch from a gritty tennis ball). Hunter had great manners. I could let him walk up to any animal or person, and I knew he would be gentle to all creatures.
Our 9 month ownership of the gentle giant was amazing, but it did come to an end. One week before Hunter got sick I had a dream that we had to give him back. I woke up extremely depressed, but I tried to talk myself out of the obvious - Hunter was going to be going back to his original family soon. He was over 15yrs old for goodness sake! When Hunter got sick he slid downhill quickly. I was torn between trying to find out 'the why', trying to keeping him comfortable, and sorting through 'the when'. I thought about taking him into a traditional clinic for xrays etc, but I decided (after many tears, deep breaths, and a good chat with Marc) that is not what Hunter would want. Knowing why he was going to die was not going to change things. I cancelled all of my appointments & stayed next to Hunter all day. He seemed comfortable, but I knew it was the quiet before the storm. In the evening I woke Ethan & Marc up so that we could say goodbye together. I already knew that letting a pet go is the most important part of pet ownership, but it is one of the hardest choices we will ever make for our pets. Many times I, as a veterinarian, feel a relief for my patient(s) & their family once an animal is at peace. I must admit that I did not have that feeling with Hunter. I knew the instant that we brought him home we were on borrowed time. When the time came I needed to fast-forward my emotions, and I was not prepared. I was sad to lose him, and I had to work really hard to remind myself that we were lucky to have him for the limited time that we did. We loved Hunter like we had had him since he was a puppy. I am thankful he trusted us to shape his retirement. He taught me what it is like to lose an animal quickly. I can work clients through this process, and now I have the experience to be better at it for myself.
Dr. Strobbe lives with her Son, Ethan, in Ames Iowa.