I was mortified. Not only had I walked into someone’s kitchen uninvited, but also suggested I was about to euthanase a perfectly healthy family pet - Julian Norton

A visit to put a dog to sleep was scheduled as my last job on Saturday morning.

Julian was dealing with putting a dog to sleep this week.

It was an elderly Labrador, who had been struggling with mobility for some time. Eventually the medicines had stopped giving her any relief and Ellie’s owners were forced to make the final decision.

Once morning surgery had finished, I telephoned to confirm the time and to talk through that decision. I also needed to get accurate directions to the house, which I scribbled on a scrap of paper - past the felled tree on the left, right at the corner by the house with vertical panels on its fence, down a lane and then right at the “fancy” sign. Their house was at the end of the lane.

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The last detail was that it was the white house on the right, but my paper was too small to fit this on. The rest of the information was so specific that I felt sure I’d find the premises without problem.

I gathered my equipment in a small plastic bag- a swab to clean the leg where the injection would go, two syringes of strong barbiturate and my trusty curved scissors to snip away hair from the front leg so I could see the vein where the injection would be given. Armed with these and the directions, I headed out for my least favourite type of visit.

Putting down animals is the worst part of the job for a vet. The only mitigating factor, which makes it bearable, is that it’s usually being done for the right reasons: intractable pain or incurable illness. The relief to a sick patient is immediate, although it almost always takes some time for the grieving owner to share that relief. Ellie’s owner was certain the time was right to say goodbye but this didn’t make the sad job any easier.

I passed the felled tree and the directions were perfect. I turned right at the fancy sign and pulled up on the pebbled drive outside the imposing front door of the house at the end of the long lane and grabbed my stethoscope along with my bag of kit. I knocked on the door and, seeing a lady walking towards me, opened it and went into the large, farmhouse kitchen.

“Oh, hello!” She said, sounding surprised. “Well, I’ve just been reading your piece in the Yorkshire Post about the dog who had a phobia of needles!”

“Oh, yes,” I replied, suddenly remembering that people actually do read these columns, a fact that is easy to put to the back of the mind when composing each one at the kitchen table late on an evening.

“I really hope your dog isn’t needle-phobic today!” I added to try to lift what would surely be a sombre mood.

“Why do you say that?” the lady said, now sounding confused as well as surprised.

“Well, I’ve come to put down your dog,” I explained, lifting my bag of lethal injection.

“Oh dear. I think you’ve got the wrong house!” I went cold,“ My dogs are out with my husband at the moment, on a walk. They’re both very healthy.”

I was mortified. Not only had I walked into someone’s kitchen uninvited, but I’d also suggested I was about to euthanase a perfectly healthy family pet.

Luckily, the house-owner was amused rather than offended and I was pointed in the direction of the white house on the right, just a hundred yards away, where an elderly Labrador and an anxious owner were waiting patiently.

I apologised profusely for being late and explained my story. Despite the tears of sadness, Ellie’s owner couldn’t help but laugh. “Well,” she said, “I think you’ve got a good story to write about in next week’s column!”