Comassion in Action

When It’s Time to Say Good-bye

Jesus statueOur pets play and sleep with us. They comfort and love us, often for many years. We are often closer to them than to many of our human friends and family because they are always there, showing their love. (For example, see Tribble’s Job.) It doesn’t matter what we’ve done, who we’ve offended, or who we disappointed. They remain steadfast. We might discuss coping with grief after they pass, but rarely do we talk about that time period right up to the end.

Sometimes our pets get to a point

mastiffs

Our mastiffs, Tess and Tundra

where their life is threatened by disease, illness, or injury, and as their caretakers, we are in charge of their veterinary care. This is an expensive proposition, sometimes prohibitively so. It calls for choices. How do you tell this member of the family that you can’t afford the care that they need? How do we know that they want the chemotherapy, the operation, or the medication? We often bumble our way through, sometimes rightly and sometimes regretfully.

My cat Pixar died a few years ago; I wasn’t ready for him to go. He was still young for a cat, a mere nine years. I had a dream that he was in trouble, so I took him to the veterinarian and we increased increased insulin dose for his diabetes, but things went quickly downhill. It was clear to everyone who knew him that Pix no longer had the will to live, but I was unwilling to let him go. After all, he cuddled with me every night, never complaining when my pain made me toss and turn. He would touch me with his paw and I could feel peace and relief stream throughAbyssinian cat my body. I couldn’t imagine life without his emotional and physical comfort. I just knew that I could fix everything, but I couldn’t. In the end, I had no choice but to say good-bye.

I have spent the past few years reviewing that situation, knowing that I could have handled it better. I’ve concluded that it isn’t my right to substitute my will for his. If it is a pet’s time to go, I do him no favors by prolonging the pain and keeping him here when his heart is not in it. If he has a strong will to live, there is a much different course to take; see Miracle Dog for my actions in that case. What about those times when there is medical treatment available, with much expense and trouble for the caretaker and the pet? The choices are much harder then. How much are we able to sacrifice? How many treatments are they willing to go through? What does our beloved pet want to do? It can be hard to know. I admit, I’ve used animal communicators to help me through troubled times such as these (see Animal Communication: Our Sacred Connection ). Sometimes I don’t like what the animal has to say to the communicators – that they are tired and don’t want me to go financially broke trying to fix their already-broken bodies. Yet at other times, they tell me of their enthusiasm to keep going and they plead with me to help their bodies keep up with their spirit.

When we can’t patch them up, and we see old age or a progressive illness drain them of their vitality, what are we supposed to do? My many companion animals have taught me

Standard Red Poodle, dog

Ember

the following steps:

  1. Stop making it about me. The selfish time is over; it is time to think about my beloved companion and what she wants/needs.
  2. I can keep her comfortable with palliative care until she is emotionally ready to go.
  3. I can send her love through my touch. Medication is good, but in many situations, touch provides a comfort of a different kind.
  4. I can listen to my intuition to understand her needs. After these many years together, we have a silent communication that I can use at this time to sense what she wants and needs.
  5. If I feel in my heart that she’d rather pass at home, I can give her a comforting place to let her body shut down. It could take minutes, hours, or days; I can be patient and attentive.
  6. When she is in overwhelming pain and can’t leave her body, I can help her with that through humane euthanasia.

As painful as this part of life is, as the caretaker, it is my job to be there for my beloved companion animal. I can comfort and take care of her until she says good-bye. And then, when we are both ready –and because love crosses many boundaries — I can invite her to return in a new body. After all, reincarnation is for all souls, not just humans.

butterfly

20 replies »

  1. Your post is very touching. Do you realize that all the same pains and thought processes exist when it is a human being that you love? Often we make our ill loved ones continue with treatments they don’t want because we, who are not suffering the illness, make them feel obligated to extend their suffering with treatment so we don’t have to give them up. Please let the ill make the choice. Often we have as much to learn by losing a loved one as we do by living with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, because of the circumstances, I did think of my terminally ill father as I write this post. It gave me much food for thought that I just couldn’t put here.

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  2. This is a beautiful post. I had lost mine for unknown reason and I can still feel the pain occasionally. To be honest, I wish I know she was sick so I can treat her and maybe when I am ready I can let her go…but it was so sudden.

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    • I understand; the same thing happened with one of our young dogs a few years ago. We had no warning; she just laid down to sleep and never woke. I miss her so much, too.

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  3. You are so right about listening to what your animal is saying to you about what he/she needs and wants. This is beautifully written, Karel, and filled with loving “tips” to consider when dealing with a sick pet. Thank you.

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  4. Very sorry for your loss. My family lost our 14-year old Pomeranian, Zeus, about 3 years ago. It’s still so odd walking into my parents’ house and not having a little furball come over to greet me. 😦

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  5. It’s never easy to think about the end of our pets’ lives, but it’s so important that we do so. You raise all the important considerations we must take into account. There’s no “right” answer but with love and careful consideration we can do what’s best.

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  6. Sending you sooo much love and please remember this….your beloved kitty chose to stay a little longer. I have found that more often than not, our pets are healers until the end. They make the choice to hang on until they know their humans are ready.

    May you be wrapped in the wings of angels.

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  7. We’ve had to face this difficult decision with each animal we’ve had, as have all my friends; it seems pretty rare that pet parents don’t have to struggle with this awful dilemma at some point. Second guessing any decision in the aftermath of loss is part of the whole horrible ordeal. Sounds like you were very in tune with Pix and made the best possible decision.

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    • Thanks for your support, RaisingDaisy. I’d like to think I did it right with Pix, but in truth, I should have let go a little sooner. I just didn’t want to believe that he didn’t want to stay.At first, I couldn’t believe that he could love me so much, but his body just couldn’t continue. I also thought that as his caretaker, the decision was mine as to whether or not he got medical care. I didn’t think that he may not have wanted it; it kept him alive, but at a physical price that I didn’t know at the time.

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      • And there’s the strong possibility that if you had let Pix go sooner, you would probably be second guessing that and wondering if things would have gotten better if you’d waited just a little longer. The decision itself is so hard and heartwrenching, but the torment of second guessing any decision in either direction lasts far longer. I do understand, I still have one pet’s passing that haunts me after several years.

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  8. I unexpectedly lost my cat last week. I can’t comment to much it’s a bit too fresh but I just want to say – beautifully said. Very caring, very true. I’ve had 16 cats. First time in 30 years I haven’t come home to a kitty. That’s a lot and we had our journeys and I will always treasure them for it. I feel like you feel/felt. I obsess about what I could have done different, did I make them suffer, etc. Remember, we try our best and if we made a mistake we won’t do it next time. Thank you for this post.

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    • I’m so sorry that this grief is so fresh for you. We know that it never goes away, just that time softens some of the sharpness of the sting. You might consider an on-line obituary. It’s a new service in beta testing by fellow blogger at Paws to Talk. You can contact her through mailto:hello@pawbituary.com. My condolences to you. (I’m sorry that this somehow was published previously as a post rather than the comment it was intended to be.)

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