How I helped my client let go

How I helped my client let go

Faced with a severe case of denial, one veterinarian shows how client care doesn't end with the death of a pet.
Nov 01, 2010

The report lying on my desk sent shivers of disappointment and sadness through my body. I wasn’t surprised by it—in fact, I’d suspected the worst for some time. What made me miserable was the idea of telling Mr. Eskridge that his beloved Missy had only a few more weeks to live.

Missy, a sassy 22-year-old poodle mix, had been an anniversary present to Mrs. Eskridge 21 years earlier. She was also a gift to lift Mrs. Eskridge’s spirits. At the time, Mrs. Eskridge had recently received the news that she was unable to bear children due to a genetic reproductive problem.

The gift worked, and Missy became the child the couple could never conceive. The two doted on their furry bundle of joy, pushing her in a stroller around the neighborhood and making weekly visits to Dairy Queen for Missy’s ice cream cone during the summer months.

Missy was my patient for 21 years, and except for occasional bouts of gastritis brought on from eating people food, she was the picture of health for most of those years. It was with a fit Missy at his side that Mr. Eskridge had told me about his wife’s diagnosis of breast cancer several years ago.

The pleasant visits became strained when only Mr. Eskridge showed up with Missy, or when an obviously weakened Mrs. Eskridge came along. As time passed, I saw less and less of the failing wife, and reports of her illness were increasingly distressing.

After a valiant fight, she lost her battle with a very aggressive form of cancer. Of course, everyone at the hospital was devastated, and the only comfort that Mr. Eskridge seemed to find was in his relationship with Missy.

To say that Mr. Eskridge became a little obsessed with Missy after his wife’s death would be an understatement. We began to see the two on an almost weekly basis. Any minor problem with Missy, real or imagined, brought Mr. Eskridge to the clinic at any hour.

On most occasions, after we determined Missy was fine, he would stay and reminisce about his wife. I felt that this was well worth the time. I had studied grief and knew that Mr. Eskridge needed to talk. Plus the entire staff enjoyed his company, so it was a win-win situation. On occasion, we even solicited his help with minor chores around the clinic, always with Missy at his side.