Reflections on the death of a beloved animal

Have you ever made the decision that it’s time to end the suffering and misery of an animal in your care?

Bear loved boxesYesterday I took my cat Bear to the vet to discuss his deteriorating condition and consider my options. We decided it was time to end his suffering and he was put to sleep.

I hate having such power and I love having such power. I hate being the one who makes the decision, the one with that ultimate power. I question my motives: Am I choosing to do this now because I don’t want to watch him vomiting any more? Is he really fine enough to enjoy more days of sitting In the sun and sleeping on my lap? How do I tell when it is time, when it is a kindness to end misery? Is it a convenience to me? Am I tired of cleaning up after him? Am I doing this for myself or am I doing this for him?   I wrestle with the conflict.

But I love being able to choose to end his pain, his yowling as he’s about to vomit, his episodes of projectile vomiting, his scratching and biting when I inadvertently touch painful areas, his weight loss, his of eating of kitty litter crystals, his look of misery and longsuffering, his decline… and I love being able to give freedom from suffering to a creature I have loved and cared for.

Does ultimate power always come with an equal knowledge of its awesome responsibilities? I hope it does. This is no decision to be taken lightly. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be faced with such power and choice over the life of a loved human. If it is this difficult with an animal how could I possibly ever contemplate a similar situation with a dearly loved friend?

A few weeks ago a friend said to me when I told him Bear was dying, “Well, that’s why you don’t have pets. There’s all the grief when you lose them.”

My response was: “That’s why you do have pets. They teach us to grieve as well as love.”

Jolly beiong persuaded to look at the camera.I learnt this years ago as I loved and cared for a dog from puppyhood to old age. He offered participation in the progress of life in a shortened version and I realized children as well as myself, could learn what they would later experience with their most cherished, treasured human beings.  If we are to love then we will experience pain and grief and loss. We can’t have one without the other. I used to fear grief and I suppressed it without even being aware. I feared it would overwhelm me, that I would not survive it. My dog showed me I could grieve. I could love without reservation, feel the loss of that creature and survive. And now I cherish his memory. Never would I regret having shared his life, and the same with Bear- I received far more than I gave.

Angie, my shared co-living partner and the other person who has known Bear best, was here yesterday and so could come to the vet’s for our final visit. She said that Bear had had a good life-  an abandoned cat who hung around my house eventually staying to become part of the household. I thought about this. Yes, I hope he had a good life, but more than that he was a precious gift… and I thought some more.

I will die happy if my life is a precious gift for even one person.

an ending.What more could we hope for?

The kindness of strangers and my undying gratitude. Number 1

IMG_0020 I’ve just come back from the vets, after taking Bear the cat to have his flea treatment applied. Last year I lived in a rented flat, I’d sold one house, not yet bought another, and had a persistent problem with fleas. The previous tenant had both dogs and cats. Moving here, we seemed to have brought them with us. Bear is a big cat. He hates any of the flea treatments and can smell them as soon as they’re opened. I suspect he recognizes the shape, he’s quite clever. Open one and he takes off. I can’t hold him and apply the treatment. I end up scratched and bitten and Bear ends up cranky and still flea ridden. Early in the year I had a friend staying with me and a flea leaping on his leg was the absolute last straw. In desperation I rang the local vets. ( only just moved, tired and stressed) How much would they charge to apply the treatment for me? Answer: nothing, as long as I bought the treatment from them. “Bring him up,” they said,” and we’ll do it.” So up we went. As I was thanking them profusely, I started crying. Well, everyone started apologizing for upsetting me, although you’d think that veterinary surgeries are places where you often see tears. “No,” I reassured them, “I’m not distressed, I’m crying because I’m so happy!” and another flood of tears. Result: One happy, relieved and grateful woman; one calm, flea-free cat; one happy friend and a flea-free home.