Sparkle, our 16 year old calico cat, skirted death Saturday, and in so doing, used up another one of her 9 lives. She has 5, no; make that 4, left. We have not had our cats much past that age except for Simba, who died at 19, despite the last 4 years with diabetes and being stuck with insulin twice a day.
Ken and I have gotten rather handy with animal care but try not to look too hard at the dollars we have spent in food (including “special diets”) vets, leashes, collars and tags engraved with their names and our phone number, treats and training, brushes and combs and clippers. I have an uncomfortable hunch that we have gone a wee bit over the top with our (my) animal habit that has had an impact on our finances and from which we may never recover. But we have loved them all fiercely and weep our souls out when they pass. We never quite recover from that either.
And then we go and do it again.
Unless you have crossed the Rubicon of deciding the WHEN of euthanizing a beloved pet, there is no describing the depth of doubt. There have been times when it has been crystal clear, like when Bear (#1) threw a clot that lodged in his femoral artery, instantly paralyzing him. I knew it the instant Ken called me to say his favorite cat could not move his back legs what had to happen next, the sooner the better for the cat, not for us, who had no time to process the unexpected loss of a glorious and playful animal only five years in this world. But usually, we have brought our animals along with us throughout the quiet years of their lives until their biological clock runs out. And we have reluctantly accepted the heady responsibility to make the decision to halt the progress of wasting disease or intractable pain.
Truth to tell, I do not ever want to make that decision, despite having done so a dozen times. I have learned certain emotional markers, but it never, ever gets easier. Experience does; however, grant me a temporary leave of sanity so I can sob in the shower or crumple in the pet food aisle at the supermarket.
I know many people who have vowed “never to have a pet again because it hurts too much to lose them.” With this, I have no quarrel. I understand the desire to avoid pain. But it’s like an abandoning an entire ocean because of a rough boat ride. Sparkle is still with us, amazingly, dozing peacefully on the faux fur blanket on the sofa. Her calico coat is a little rough and falling out in places because of the necessary use of long-term steroids. The skin underneath is bright pink and warm as if she spent a day at the beach. But she still solicits attention, greets me at the door when I come home from work, eats and drinks and sleeps on my pillow at night. As my vet points out, she still has a quality of life. It’s not time yet.
But last Saturday, I drifted into Phase I of Decision Making, the one where I had to hold myself up and ask who am I doing this for…me, or my beloved pet? When the arrow of my heart’s compass points to me, then it is time to put the machinery in motion…call the vet and make the last appointment, give my pet instructions of the others waiting for them on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, remind them to watch for me too. Thank them for sharing their Light in this current life turn and ask them to come back in whatever way they choose, because love is never lost, it just keeps going round and round, the great Circle of Life itself.