Any animal lover will tell you that losing your pet is one of the hardest things to experience. Whether through illness, age, or accident it can be very difficult to fill the void left in your heart and in your life by the loss of your furry companion.
I’ve often wondered which is worse: Losing your pet suddenly and never getting to say goodbye, or being with your animal as they take their last breath.
For me the decision to have my beloved cat put to sleep was gut wrenching. Even though I knew she was suffering, and had been since basically the day I rescued her. We had 9 wonderful years together and during that time she was on several meds daily. In fact, during the last 9 months of her life I was giving her IV injections daily. That in of itself was a huge challenge for me. I definitely have a needle phobia. I had to take her in every week to have blood levels checked and as soon as it was time, I bolted out of the exam room. To this day I still can’t be in the room when my pets need shots of any kind.
But when it became obvious that the end was approaching and Savannah needed me to step up I did. It wasn’t the cost aspect of bringing her in to the vet every day for the fluids; It was her comfort level. If you had to have chemo every day, would you prefer to do it in a loud, disruptive clinic with people yelling, or would you prefer the peaceful environment of your own home?
It was definitely a challenge for me. My vet told me he was more worried about how I was going to handle the whole thing and NOT my cat. It took a lot of practice with the Dr. and indeed the first time I did it at home I nearly passed out afterwards. As the vet knew she would, Savannah handled it like a trouper and it was relatively easy until we got months into it and she began to develop scar tissue and it became increasingly difficult to find an injection site. If you aren’t familiar with sub-Q fluids injections with an animal there is only a small area between the shoulder blades where the needle can go in. You have to pinch the skin and pull it up like a tent. And on a 6 pound cat there isn’t much room to work with.
Even though I knew it was coming, had known for months in fact, the day I had to say goodbye was more difficult than I ever imagined. If you’ve been through the loss of the pet you know that it’s like hitting a brick wall at 100 miles per hour without a helmet. I had spent weeks preparing myself and thought I was ready… but are you really ever ready to say goodbye to someone you love? Someone you’ve cared for for several years? Someone who was always there for you through laughter and tears?
Although death wasn’t imminent and she may have lasted through the night and even for another 24 hours, she would only continue to get sicker and her suffering would increase. Then my vet said something to me that I will never forget. “You have to listen with your head because your heart will never let you let go.”
While it was one the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, my vet gently reminded me that what I was allowing was a final, loving, humane act for Savannah by ending her suffering. He also shared my grief with me, having cared for her since day one. He told me I could take her home and if I needed him, even at two am, I could call his cell phone and he would meet me at the clinic. I didn’t want to have to take her for her final moments to some unfamiliar 24 hour animal hospital. I wanted her to be with people who loved her, and Dr. Johnson was just as emotional about the situation as I was. He told me that he didn’t want to be the one to have to put her to sleep, but that he would do it for her and me. Having a Vet you trust and rely on during a crisis like that can mean the world. Your head and heart and emotions are in a tail spin and I will be forever grateful to him for his support and guidance during that time.
Because Savannah was ill for so long I had a lengthy period of time to decide whether or not I wanted to be with her when she took her final breath. It is a deeply personal decision that you have to live with for the rest of your life and I can’t image having to make it in a moment’s notice. There is so much going on in your beloved companion’s final moments that while you think you had everything planned out, it’s such an emotional time that you question every decision afterwards. I, however, stuck with my choice and I absolutely do not regret it to this day.
Even though this all happened 5 years ago I still remember it as if it were yesterday. If you or someone you know has recently or will soon be going through a situation like this and I can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Having someone who has been through the experience can be a tremendous comfort, as my vet was to me.
Peace and Love are present in my world now,