A dear friend of mine is a vet, and she's not only a good vet, but a great vet who is well respected in the medical community. I've known her for about 12 years, and I've seen how she runs her practice- she's got a wonderful way with animals and its the people she just can't stand.
Shortly after Huddie was diagnosed, my friend discovered that her beloved Issy had cancer, and from the stage, it was terminal. You would think that as a great vet, she should have caught it, and that there was something that she could do.
In truth, things like this sneak up on you like a thief in the night. Cats sleep most of the time- and Issy was old- she had had him for a good 15 years. Some cats can live to be 21 years old, alot of them at 18, though, have had a good life. Issy had been pampered, coddled and underneath all of his fur, the cancer had grown silently.
The question of "what can be done" was answered by "keep him comfortable." There wasn't any life saving medical treatment, and my friend was making the same decision I had with Huddie, who is nine. When a pet gets to be a certain age, surgerys and chemo, are far harder on them than if they were much younger. It's ruled out as a treatment.
I hadn't seen my friend for over a week, and I knew that she was slipping into another depression, so I sent her an email, letting her know that she and her family were in my thoughts and prayers and reminding her that as a vet, she knew her answers of what to do. Was Issy in pain, Was Issy able to sustain nourshment, Did Issy have the dignity in life?
It was another week and a half that she sent word. She had made the difficult decision to put Issy down, and her husband buried Issy in the back yard underneath their favorite tree.
In a way, once the decision to let go is made, while it is the most awful decision that one would have to make, there is a relief, that follows. There is still the learned pattern of going to where the food and water bowl is- the missing of them when they curl around the ankles waiting for their dinner.
They exist, in memories, and in our photographs. What has seemed like a lifetime, is now cut, with something sharper than a knife.
I don't know if she will get another cat- Issy was a rescue, and perhaps, when there is another who needs help and has crossed her path, she will be able to feel again the love that one so small can give. for now, she is saying goodbye and her heart is broken. In time, the feelings she has now, will change.
Vets become attached to the animals brought into the clinic for care. They have their favorites, they develope a connection to the animals and the decisions they make for the animals are made with mutual trust.
the decision to say goodbye is never taken lightly, and it hurts. Being on both sides, the pet owner, and the vet, leaves no side to give comfort to. There is the knowing that sometimes there is nothing that can be done to change the outcome, there is the acceptance, that there are things that happen in the world you can't control.
there is the moment to say goodbye. The trust is still there from the pets perspective that their vet and owner have made a decision to ease the pain.
There is the feeling of guilt, of course, the should of, could of's would of's- it changes over time with resignation.
There are some monsters that are unstopable.
When the small body is held for the last time and the cardboard box lid is closed, lowered into the dirt and the last shovelful of dirt hits the ground, there are tears again, and in a way, they are needful tears.
tears that while they wrench at the heart, also heal the heart as well.
a stone marker is placed- not one with any carving, or some with a marking on it determining the place where the story ends.
or does it begin? The body in time decomposes, and becomes a part of the earth, and the plants take nourshment from it over time. from the smallest of creatures to the largest, the circle begins anew.
goodbyes, begin hellos
While none may replace that which is lost, memories, keep that which is gone, with us, once more.