Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Saddest Part of the Journey

Yesterday was one of those difficult days that all pet owners dread having to face.  We had to make a decision to end the suffering of one of our "fur-babies."

Our 15-year-old cat Rascal began showing signs of a urinary tract infection over the weekend.  I called our vet on Monday morning and was able to get him in.

What I thought was a bladder infection turned out to be so much more. Tumors were wrapped around and inside his bladder and urinary tract.  His kidneys were full of blood and beginning to fail.  And the vet found a heart murmur from a valve that was not closing properly.  He had clearly been sick for some time but had given us no indication of his deteriorating condition.

Because of the seriousness of the situation and the assurances of our vet that our beloved cat was dying and there was very little we could do, we made the sad decision to end his pain.  He was still under anesthesia from the exploratory surgery when I sat down next to him, talking to him and petting him while the vet gave him the final shot.

I told him that even though the rest of the family could not be there, we all loved him.  I told him what a wonderful cat he had been and that it was okay to let go.  I watched as he took his last breath and left any pain he may have been in behind.

I fully expected to bring my cat back home with some antibiotics.  Instead I brought him home in a box to bury him in our backyard.

The decision to love and care about anything, be it a person or an animal, always come with the risk that we will experience the pain of loss at some point.  With an animal it is almost certain to end in heartache, simply because their life spans are so much shorter than our own. I know people who have experienced the death of a dog or cat and can never bring themselves to take on the responsibility of pet ownership again, simply because the pain and grief are too much to bear.

Bringing an animal into your life can be difficult, in both the beginning, as they go through the puppy and kitten stages, and at the end when letting go is inevitable.  It is the time in between, however, that keeps me bringing animals into our lives, and always will as long as I am able to care for them.

They give love unconditionally with no strings attached.  They help us exercise, comfort us with their silent presence when we are down, and make us laugh with their antics. All they ask in return is that we care for them for the duration of their lives.

I have never understood how anyone could surrender an animal when it becomes old or sick to a shelter or vet's office.  Pet ownership should never be conditional.  When you take on the responsibility of an animal, I believe it is your obligation to see them through their entire journey, no matter how sad that ending may be.

We still have several pets at home, including Rascal's two 15-year-old sisters.  We know we will take this road again sooner rather than later.  But it is a journey I am willing to conclude with them, all the way to the bitter end

Rest in peace, Rascal.  We love you.

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