Tackling the Christmas cull

So, it’s that time of year – again! Where has 2018 gone?

Coming into December and moving through to January, people slow down from work and have time to spend reminiscing on the past 12 months and make plans for the next 12 months to spend with time with their loved ones, perhaps this included their pets? Perhaps their pets were with them at the beginning of the year but have now crossed the rainbow bridge. Perhaps they haven’t yet realised it, but they may be about to participate in ‘The Christmas Cull’.

Anyone new to practice may not have heard of this yet and those of us who have experienced a few festive seasons in practice will understand exactly what this is and get confused when our non-vetty friends think we’re are making it up.

If you are new to practice, here is a rundown of what the Christmas Cull is;

It is where you will find an increased number of people coming in for a put to sleep in the few weeks prior to Christmas and there are a few theories as to what is going on, I would say that they are all correct.

Theory 1 – The Johnsons with 18 year old Muffy.

Muffy, the terrier, was bought as a pup 18 years ago, since then the Johnsons have had 3 children, 4 cats, 2 house moves and very few visits to the vets, but Muffy is now starting to show her age, the Johnsons are quite cost aware and it’s the last time their family will be together for Christmas as he eldest child plans to move to Australia. They look to Muffy who now is slow, has to be lifted out of the house to the garden and is as blind as a bat. Mr and Mrs Johnson decide that they may as well get Muffy put to sleep now, just in case she needs out of hours care and/or disrupts Christmas day. After all, it’s likely that Muffy will be put to sleep in the next few months anyway and the vet is aware of her issues, however Mrs and Mrs Johnson would never reveal their true motives.

Theory 2 – The Smiths with 5 year old Bailey

Bailey is a loving moggy, nothing special to look at but a pleasure to be around, and recently he was diagnosed with kidney failure. Generally speaking, Bailey is of no bother to the Smiths and he does quite admire their recent addition to the family. The new addition wasn’t a conventional looking cat, it cried a lot, didn’t have any hair or whiskers. It also seemed quite dependent. But it got its own super fancy box to sleep in next to Mrs and Mr Smith’s bed so Bailey thought it must be special. Bailey didn’t notice his kidney failure, he’s a cat – he doesn’t know what kidney failure is but The Smiths had recently noticed small puddles of urine around the house which smelled quite strongly. The Smiths didn’t mind, but Auntie Mable did and she was coming to visit this Christmas for the first time since the new arrival and everything had to be perfect for her, it always did. Auntie Mable was allergic to cats and would not appreciate a cat in the house, let alone an incontinent one. The Smiths made their decision as they had been told by many of their friends that when an animal ‘toilets’ in the house, it’s the beginning of the end.

Theory 3 – The Blacks with 9 year old Ben

Ben is a black Labrador who has been at his master’s side through thick and thin for as long as he can remember. He was a loyal servant and adored Mr Black, they went out every Saturday in the colder months and Ben would wait patiently by Mr Blacks side whilst he shot, Ben was always so thrilled to get the command to pick up and come running back to his post with his retrieve. Life was good for everyone until Mrs Black took a turn for the worse and passed away earlier this year. Mrs Black left behind her beloved husband who struggled over the next few weeks, there was only one reason that Mr Black kept going – it was for Ben. Ben made sure that Mr Black had a reason to get up in the morning and leave the house and that the house was never quiet or lonely. Over the summer, Ben started to look a little old, walking long distances was a problem and running became a distant memory so Mr Black took Ben to the vets where he received the best supportive care to help relieve the pain but Mr Black made the difficult decision not to shoot this season. Instead they would spend their Saturday mornings at the local shops, talking to the passers-by. One November morning someone asked Mr Black ‘So, what are you doing for Christmas?’ Mr Black hadn’t thought about this, he has no children and very few friends, it had always been Mr and Mrs Black together at Christmas. It’s ok, he had Ben, he and Ben would wake up, exchange gifts, eat food and fall asleep in front of the TV. As long as he had Ben by his side, Mr Black would be ok. Ben had been seeing a vet every two weeks (he was insured) so the vet understood the situation but also had to think about what is best for Ben as he quickly deteriorated and did speak to Mr Black about time-lines. The vets prayed that Ben would be comfortable enough just until January but it was not to be, the phone call came in (as it always does) on a Friday afternoon at 5.30, 5 days before Christmas, it was Mr Black. Ben could not get up, his eyes were vacant and he looked like he’d already given up. The vet got straight in the car to pay one final home visit to Ben.

As a member of staff in practice these situations can be difficult to deal with and in my experience it is generally frowned upon for members of staff to admit they are upset and even less frequently heard of that staff talk about their feelings post put to sleep.

With mental health being more present and accepted that ever it is this time of year that it is most important to be sure not to keep things bottled, don't let them itch away at you. Talk to people. There is a well-known Facebook group full of lovely vet nurses who have been there, done that and got poo on their t-shirts. Ask them for help if you feel you have no one else, you’ll feel better after letting it out – I promise.

Merry Christmas all.

Lots of Love

Chunk Training.