Karen Randall, 58, has also volunteered with hospice at a children’s hospital. She lives in Silver Spring.
You are a vet. What made you decide to specialize in euthanasia?
I’ve had two full-service clinics in my career — I started with my last practice. One of my clients asked me if I could come to their home to help with euthanasia. I didn’t advertise I did it, but I would go. It was better for the people, it was better for the patient. Think about yourself going to a doctor. Most people don’t like to, but we tell ourselves we’re doing it for the good. But when you’re talking about ending a life, you’re not fixing anything, so you can make a decision not to have that fear at the end of life.
When you’re driving away from a home, job done, do you feel ... good?
Sometimes I’m on top of the world. I have had some appointments where I cried the whole way home. I’ve been screamed at. Anger is part of grief. My worst appointments are when I go to a home and people really haven’t made a decision. When I was back in Minneapolis, I’d spent a fair bit of time [with a client], and she decided, Yeah, this needed to happen. And I met her dog, and I wanted to cry because there was so much suffering going on. She changed her mind. She waffled, she second-guessed, which is very human, it’s what we do, but I want you to go through that process before you make the appointment. It’s going to sound a little crazy, but when I walked in — it was a sweet 18-year-old border collie — I looked at her, and I said, silently, I’m not leaving without you. Because it was that bad. I sat with her for 3½ hours. With the owner and the dog. And I left with her. But it would have been so wrong for me not to find a way to help [the owner] get to the place where her dog needed to be.
Has anything funny ever happened?
Funny, huh? Well, I don’t really work in fun. Not hilarious, but I was at an appointment in a back yard and about to administer the sedative when the teenage daughter jumped up and yelled, “Wait!” and ran to the house. No one knew what was going on. In a minute she came back with a box of Godiva chocolates and started feeding them to [the dog], saying, “These won’t hurt you now.” Chocolate is toxic to dogs.
That is funny, but I’m crying a little. What’s something you could have learned only by doing this job?
I had a client in Minneapolis who spent the last 30 days of her dog’s life — this was in November — in a tent in the back yard because she was an elderly Siberian husky, and she wanted to be outside all the time. [The client] didn’t want her dog to be alone, and her dog didn’t want to be in the house anymore. I see some amazing accommodations out of love.