You know what New Year's resolution I'd like to see every journalist, animal activist, shelter communications director, and, well, everyone, make?
To stop using the word "euthanasia" to describe the killing of healthy or treatable pets.
When my Deerhound Raven was dying of bone cancer, every morning when she opened her eyes I waited to see if there was joy in them. Joy at the sunshine, at seeing my face, at the prospect of facing another day.
A few times there wasn't; they were dull and flat. But I would do something -- adjust her meds, have her acupuncturist visit, love her extra-hard -- and as long as the next morning her eyes lit up for a few minutes, we kept on trying.
And when Raven's eyes stayed flat, when she couldn't settle into a comfortable position, when she didn't care about food or walks or even me, that was the day we were done.
I held her across my lap, and smoothed back her ears, and kissed her as she sighed and closed her eyes. I felt her body, tense against the pain, relax. I felt her weight on my legs get heavier. I heard her breathe, then give a little gasp, then breathe... and then stop.
I told her I loved her, and then I let her go.
That's "the last great gift, when you take your animal's pain and make it your own." That's euthanasia.
It is so incredibly painful to hear that word applied to the killing of a pet for no reason except that she or he is homeless. Using a term that speaks to the loving end of suffering, the same mercy I wish I could have shown my mother when she was dying, is cruel and disrespectful to everyone who has ever made that last agonizing decision for a beloved pet.
It's also disrespectful to the animals being killed, by acting as if what's being done to them is a gift, or an act of mercy.
And above all, using "euthanasia" when you mean "killing" is a lie. Just stop.
Photo: Raven, taken by Sandy Lurins.