VBB's Receptionist: Hello, World's Best Veterinary Hospital, how may I help you?
Client: My cat is dying. What should I do with the body if she dies while you're closed?
VBB's R: Hold on. What's going on with your cat? Do you want her to see the doctor?
Client: No, I don't want to pay for a visit. I just want her to die at home but then I don't know what to do with her body when she dies. Is there someone who will come get it?
VBB's R: We can see her today. Do you want to come in today?
Client: No, I just think she's dying. Please tell me what to do with the body.
VBB's R: Well, you can wrap her in trashbags and keep her in the freezer or garage until we open and then bring her to us for cremation if you like. But are you sure you don't want to have her see the doctor, even for euthanasia?
Client: No. I said I want to let her die at home!
VBB's R: Ok, I'm sorry. I'm sorry your cat is sick. Take care.
VBB's R: Hello, World's Best Veterinary Hospital, how may I help you?
Same Client: It's my cat! she's having trouble breathing. I'm on my way in with her.
VBB's R: Wait. Is this the cat that was supposed to be dying at home?
Client: Yes, but, I didn't think she was going to have trouble breathing! She can't live like this!
VBB's R: Well, no. When an animal dies, it stops breathing, and stops living. So, you're coming in?
Client: Yes, of course, I'll be there soon. [hangs up]
The client and her poor cat did arrive shortly after, and the cat was in fact having trouble breathing. The owner wanted us to fix the breathing so that she could take the cat home to die - but wanted to make sure the cat wouldn't continue to have episodes of trouble breathing. On the one hand - I do understand it is horrible to watch someone you love struggle to breathe. I have watched countless animals as well as a couple of humans do this, and it is just awful. On the other hand, like my receptionist said - when you die, you do stop breathing. Sometimes, when you're in the process of dying, you breathe irregularly for a while, and then do some gasping, because of the way CO2 builds up and triggers a reflex to breathe. Death is not like a Hollywood movie.
We ended up euthanizing the poor kitty because I could not promise that there would be no additional episodes of dyspnea. I hope the client wasn't too disappointed that her kitty didn't get to die at home.