It’s funny, we’ve had many pets in my home growing up. Cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, rats, iguanas... But none of them were under my care exactly. Sure I fed and walked and cleaned up after them but it was up to my Mom to decide when it was time to say goodbye. The pet in the house was the family’s, or a roommate's, or a friend's...Today I have a new understanding of what it really means to have the little life that trusts you to care for them suddenly need you to show compassion and against every screaming voice in the back of your head, choose to say goodbye. Oddly enough, as an adult I have never before had to make that decision. When the quality of a pet’s life is no longer on the table, there has always been someone else who needed to make that decision. The only pet I ever owned and cared for solely was an iguana named Pugsley. She passed unexpectedly and even though I missed her, I didn’t have to choose to let her go.
Early this morning, I had to choose to say goodbye to my Angel as an illness that we thought we had under control suddenly became severely out of control. Angel was an adult cat my roommate and I found in a shelter that people had been passing over for a good few months. In her cage she was sad looking. You know how some cats will come to the front of the cage to try to get your attention? She was perched on a box, almost out of sight. It was as if she had been passed over by so many people that she had just given up trying.
She was 12 and had medical issues but nothing too scary. So we took her home. From age 12 to 15 she became the boss and changed the house for the better. Changed me for the better. I'd be lying if I didn't say I fell absolutely in love with this little soul. She even did her part to make sure that my site work was up to her standards...
Hospitalized once for issues with her liver and pancreas, the last 6 months of her life were focusing on keeping her healthy. Special diet, medications, injections, doctors visits... all of which led to the unavoidable moment when I would be told that I needed to make a very important choice. Force treatment on my furry little Angel and make her uncomfortable, just to try to prolong the inevitable or, love her enough to let her go peacefully and comfortably. In the arms of a trusted friend, without pain or fear. The selfish side of me wanted to try more. Somehow force the failing organs to heal. It wasn’t for her, it was for me. So I wouldn’t have to say goodbye. Of course, that was an option, albeit one that guaranteed nothing more than a few days barring a miracle and putting her back into a cage where we could only visit twice a day.
Have you ever decided when it was better off that a friend should cease to exist to end their pain? Every part of me says I made the right choice. In my gut I know I made the humane choice. The only choice that expressed how much I love my furry little “Mooch” and that I could never let her suffer. The doctor must have seen it in my face after it was done because he came over and told me I did the right thing and that it takes more love to be compassionate enough to make the harder choice than just wanting to hold on to those last moments, all at her expense. I know I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if she ended out suffering and I knew I could have prevented it.
In her battles against each sickness, each and every treatment, doctors visit, hospitalization or even if she just wanted to be comforted, my little Angel would push for me to hold her. She had to have her paws on my right shoulder or if I was sitting down, my right arm. That was her spot. Even if I carried her and she had her paws on my shoulder, she'd press her head against the side of mine, almost like a half hug. I'd talk to her as we walked to the bedroom for snack time or for whatever medication she had to take at the time. She'd calmly just go right along with whatever we needed to do. This morning just after 5am in exactly the same fashion, she went to sleep in "her spot" one last time.
But still, I’m sitting here with her empty collar, empty bed, and an empty feeling.
I've loved each and every pet that has ever passed through my life and I have learned to look back at how much it meant that they were in my life. Not once did their life end because I had to choose to end it. Until now. Maybe I should consider myself lucky. Maybe when Angel first came into our home, she considered herself lucky. She sure was grateful and you could see it in her expression anytime you talked to her or cuddled her. What if we never adopted her? How long would she have carried on locked in a cage, just passed over by everyone? Or what if the people who adopted her didn't care for her correctly and give her all that she needed? Either way, she wouldn't have gone as far unless she got lucky. I choose to believe she knew how lucky she was just like I know how lucky I was to have such a loving and trusting little soul in my life and that the only comfort I can find right now is that I know her last nap in my arms will be the one that finally gives her peace.
I love you Angel, I always will.
December 10, 2005 - December 22, 2019