Our 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
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 through 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
the following steps:
- Stop making it about me. The selfish time is over; it is time to think about my beloved companion and what she wants/needs.
- I can keep her comfortable with palliative care until she is emotionally ready to go.
- I can send her love through my touch. Medication is good, but in many situations, touch provides a comfort of a different kind.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.