Many of you have been following Cleo's story with me. (see Cleo tab) You know how hard her cancer diagnosis has been on us. Learning the terminal diagnosis was actually the easy part. Learning how short the time left was, was hard. Cleo was given two weeks to live. At her advanced age, cancer treatments would be cruel and unlikely to work. We had decided to spoil her and let her live out her remaining days in peace. For the first two weeks after her surgery she healed nicely, ate a lot, gained back some lost weight, cuddled, played and acted normal. She was doing so well I decided it was ok to leave town for a few days on a previously scheduled trip. My husband was home to take care of her. It was the day I came back home we both noticed she had lost some weight while I was gone. She was eating very little but still active and happy. Yesterday she stopped eating.
Our hearts are breaking, she appears fine to everyone but us. We know her too well. I am watching as she goes to her food and water, sniffs, looks, and walks away. As a Zoology student I see that renal failure (kidney's are shutting down) is setting in. She is still purring and walking around, alternating between her favorite chair outside, her favorite livingroom carpet, and her new fuzzy bed. Our darling Cleo is very smart and she knows what is happening. I have done my research and talked with our vet. She may be a little uncomfortable but is not suffering at this time.
Choosing what to do with a terminally ill pet is never easy. Most people do not want to think about it until they absolutely have to. I believe it is best to have a plan in place. It is easier to make decisions that are best for your pet when you are not emotionally stressed. Our hope is that we can let Cleo die in peace at home surrounded by family and things she loves. If at any time she appears to be in pain or sufferering, the plan is in place for the vet to humanely euthanise her. These decisions are never easy. Our goal is to always put her first.
In my life I have sat with other peoples pets, cat and dogs, whose owners did not want to let them go. The result was hours, days, and even weeks of needless suffering. These owners couldn't watch but refused to end the suffering, so I sat and comforted and suffered with these dying animals, powerless to help them. My hope is that by bringing to light the difficulties of death in this blog we can all learn to put the animals first.
If you have a pet I highly encourage you to make a plan long before it is needed. As a single pet owner or an entire family, ask questions and do your research. You will be glad later. Here are a few questions to get you started: Are you making this decision for you or your pet? What size, breed, age, and sex is your pet? Do you know the common ailments for that type of pet? What is the average maximum age for this pet? What is your budget for pet illness and emergencies? Do you believe in extensive treatments and have you done research on them? At what age would you not do extensive treatments? What is their quality of life? Are you willing to euthanise a suffering pet? If you can't take your pet to the vet, do you have someone who will? Do not be afraid of answers! Ask Questions. The above are just a few to get you started.
Now for my opinion:
I think it is important for everyone to deal with death, even young children. The circle of life happens. I do not believe in replacing goldfish, telling kids their pet went to live on a farm, etc. Give them a chance to say goodbye. By starting early you can help your kids deal with the difficulty of loss and make them a better adult. As an adult, if you were not raised this way, you need to acknowledge how you deal with loss. There is no one way. Everyone deals with loss differently.
As far as treatments go, I do not believe in them for old animals. For young animals I ask what will their quality of life be before, during, and after treatments? What is the cost? Many people think it's crass to think of cost so I want to explain my thoughts by telling you the story of Earl Gray, our first cat as a married couple. See Cleo tab for his beginning story. At age eight Earl's colon had stopped working. He had eaten too much plastic when he was a ferrel cat. He had been through procedures to clean it out, been on medication, and a special diet. It was no longer working. The vet we had at the time gave us two choices. Euthanise him or send him to a specialist. The second option would mean flying him to San Francisco to a specialist for surgery. The surgery would remove his colon. He would then need home enemas twice a day, medications, and restricted movements. The vet pointed out with this course of action we could have him a good five more years. We took him home, did some research and discussed it. First we asked who would this benefit? US. What would his quality of life be? POOR. What is the cost? More than we had by far. For that cost we could save a lot of young healthy animals. The hard decision was made. We spent a day showing him our love and then took him to the vet. It was devistating for us, but Earl was no longer suffering. We made a donation to the local shelter in his honor.
I have not covered everything with this particular blog but I do hope I have started a conversation. Lets be informed, be prepared, and put our animals first.
I am off to cuddle with Cleo. I want to take advantage of the precious time we have left. Her love and support though the years has been priceless to me.