I hate blue tarps. Ask most people what comes to mind when they see a blue tarp, and I suspect they will say, “camping,” or “shade.” When I unfold a tarp and hear that rusty plastic rattle, I see the stains of fluids of decay; I smell death. Blue tarps cover the corpses of my failures.

I touched too many tarps this summer, overheard too many phone calls that tell the whole story.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Is he old, or … ?”

“I see. That’s too bad. Yes, we can take care of that for you. I’m sorry.”

“Will you bring him here, or do you want the doctor to come to you?”

“Well, you can call the rendering company, or I can give you another number.”

“All right, you’re on the book for tomorrow morning.”

I know the appointment even before our office manager hangs up and says, “I’m sorry. You’ve got another one tomorrow.”

I’m sorry, too. I recognize the necessity of euthanasia, and intellectually, I’m glad to belong to a profession that can legally end suffering. But those are abstractions.

Price-shopped euthanasias are the worst. When a client’s first words are “What will it cost to put my horse to sleep?” the rationale doesn’t matter. That is code for “I can’t afford to keep my horse.” We had too many of those this summer–too many decrepit horses, too many hard-pressed owners burning in guilt, too many blue tarps.

People are sometimes horrified that I am willing to kill an animal that is not suffering. Sometimes I am horrified, too.