Saturday, April 12, 2008
The agony of indecision
My sister’s 17 year old dog Sparky had a seizure or a stroke or something really not good while I was on the phone with her this morning. Needless to say, we hung up in haste. An hour or so later, she called back to tell me that the episode seemed to have passed and he was resting. But she is on deathwatch. If he were a human, we would be calling hospice. I hate this part of loving an animal.
Every time I get up in the morning or come home from work or travel, I worry about it. An aging pet is a concern all the time. Their little bodies run to a faster clock. We will all love many animals in our lives; they will love only us. In exchange for the love and devotion we owe them care, love and pain-free final days.
The decision to make the final trip to the vet is a heart-rending one. I have agonized over it every time I have had to make it. Sometime it is an emergency and there is no decision process. It is a scab that is ripped open and bleeding, no matter how prepared we are. Sometimes the decision is their own, with them refusing water and food, preferring to sleep or crawl off to be alone. Sometimes it is the long wait; watching for a sign that they are done and it is time for us to let them go.
I have tried to pay attention to the signs and not be greedy, because this is not about me. I made that mistake once. After my cat Chester’ s collapse I carried him for an entire Thanksgiving holiday not ready to let him go. He had been with me through thick and thin for 18 years. He rallied and lived for another year, but he was miserable and never well. It was unfair to him. I will never do that again.
I have had cats in my life for well over 25 years. I have agonized over the decision to make the long trip to the vet many times now. Is it better to make the decision and the drive or hope to find them gone peacefully in the night? Either way it is a dreadful thing. But I would rather they see a loving face a the very end; then be alone and frightened.