Going to bed is not possible. Because before I go to bed I brush the cat and give him the last half of his chow so he won’t stomp on me, hungry in the middle of the night. But there is no cat tonight. I have killed him.
He’d just finished his dinner and was making the yowling sound that usually means he’s about to throw up. I chased him yelling “No Not On The Carpet” all over the house until the dog and I cornered him. He was panting and a front paw looked broken. He tried to get away limping on the buckled paw. That’s when I realized he was in pain.
A bright almost-full moon glared at me as I lugged the cat carrier to the car. The cat and I drove from one emergency animal hospital to another but Cornell University’s Companion Animal Emergency and Critical Care Service confirmed what the first vet told us.
“We can stabilize him $800 to $1000 overnight $129 to have him seen by the vet, call the cardiologist in the morning maybe $1600 heart failure leaking blood clots $340 sonograms and testing, hypothermia, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – we cannot promise a good prognosis …” I’d already spent $100 at the first hospital.
“Please. I don’t want him to be in pain.”
“It’s up to you,” said the vet.
“Look, I’m the one who signed the papers to remove my daughter’s life support. So I can face letting go of her cat if it’s the time for that,” I told the doctor of veterinary medicine who looked no older than my daughter who died.
Almost ten years ago, at an SPCA extension in PetSmart, Marika held up a lethargic kitten that had multiple thumbs and a Roman nose.
“Look mom. This one has two hearts on his side.” With some effort, the kitten raised its head and licked her hand gratefully. “You’re lucky,” she said. He was lucky. The vet found eye and ear infections, an upper respiratory infection, and a heart murmur. We took him home. Marika named him Skittles and he grew to be a big, sweet, healthy member of our tiny family. Now Skittles’ luck was running out. His heart murmur had caught up with him.
This is crap, I said to myself. I am not God. Why am I always the one signing papers and calling the end to life?
Skittles was wailing when the vet carried him back to me, swaddled in stiff pink waterproof pads. I wrapped my arms around the pitiful bundle.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered into the fur on the top of his head. “Thank you for being a really great cat.” What could I say to this friend I just sentenced to death? “I love you, Skittles.” I rubbed his chin. He licked my hand gratefully as the vet injected him.
The almost-full moon glowered at me when I arrived home and walked my daughter’s dog in the driveway. It kaleidoscoped through my tears as I began my nightly chant:
“Goodnight Moon. Goodnight Marika. Goodnight Morocca, Fraidy, and Sushi … Goodnight Skittles.”
Has anyone ever had to do this? What do you do to feel better? It feels like I’ve been dumped into an old plastic bag where something’s decaying. Everything looks blurred and gray outside the bag while inside it stinks and I’m running out of air.Please Share on your Social Media
I am sorry for your loss I know exactly how you feel because I have had to do this with everyone of my cats I have had through different illness over the years each time I say I cant go through this again I am not having anymore but of course I always do because I couldn’t be without a cat I love them also there is a lot out there that need good homes such as yours and mine and I feel I would be turning my back on them if I did that because they need people like you and me with such animal abuse going on daily at least you and I can say they didn’t experience a lab or being beaten and scared they had love and they were the lucky ones there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my cats and shed tears HOPE THIS IS SOME COMFORT TO YOU BLESS X
Dear fellow cat-lover,thank you so much for responding and showing me that I really did do right for my cat considering all the sad sorry lives he could have ended up with. Gotta love those cats. They are really remarkable animals. Please give yours a chin-rub from me. Cheers!
Robin don’t blame yourself it’s not your fault, you had to do what you had to do each time you had to do it, it was down to you to take the responsibility when no one else could, I understand your pain an know you are grieving and hurting,
The pain will not go away but it will get easier, stop beating yourself up , and try to think of the better times you spent with your Daughter and your pets, if you cannot yet you will do one day, remember there is always sunshine after rain
God bless xxxxx
Thank you, June. Yes, sunshine after the rain, new life after loss. I’m trying to focus. Most days I can do this. Thanks for checking in and responding.You sound like you’ve been through some tough times yourself. Cheers to you.
I’m with Wendy. You didn’t kill your cat but took care of her. But I get the title and find it compelling. There is a part of us that feels like that when we make these decisions. We try to push it away, but it’s there. I think it helps everyone to recognize it. E
Compelling title or not I felt that way that night and when I woke up the next morning. I know I did it out of compassion and caring. But OMG “pulling the plug” happens too often and never comes easily. I feel better this week, thanks. Cheers, Elaine.
Beautiful, poignant, that holding of love and grief. So many of us have suffered through this. I remember the vet’s last house call with Daisy–how hard for me and how ready she was to go. Thanks, Robin.
Thanks, Elaine. Yeah, strange how these sweet creatures mark different chapters in our lives and stories. There’s always their side of the story which seldom gets told. How great that you could recognize that Daisy was ready to go.
Hi Robin. I am so glad we met this weekend, it is an honour. I had to “put” our dog Tara down October 2010. Seven months later Kyle was taken off life support. I know they are together, running freely, happy. It is us left behind who grieve, long for, miss them. We do the impossible out of love. Love that doesn’t die, that grows stronger with every passing day. You did the right thing. Your blog is excellent, I can’t stop reading. I’m telling everyone about your blog. I HOPE WE CAN MEET UP AGAIN, FIVE HOURS ISN’T THAT FAR!
Carole, it was so great to meet you. Thank you for all your encouragement. I love, “We do the impossible out of love.” I’m sorry for the circumstances that brought us together but I’m so grateful for finding you. I’m hoping to do the retreat in May. It will take place during my daughter’s birthday but maybe that is exactly where I should be then. Five hours is pretty close. Cheers to you.
More times than I like to recall I’ve been there holding my dog as he took his last breath. Even my very first dog that I got as a teen was assisted off this life and I refused to let them take him to do the deed. That was 25 years ago and I just wanted him to know I was there and it would be ok and it was. The most recent was last May and Al had cancer and hadn’t been in pain but couldn’t go to the bathroom. It was time. I adopted his successor two weeks later and gave another dog a chance at life. I highly recommend it. Willie isn’t Al, but because of Al and I he gets to have a good life. Take home another kitten. Pick up your routines and remember Skittles by continuing to love.
Oh Angela, your words – thank you so much. Yes, “to know I was there and it would be ok” is what I felt, maybe what everyone feels when they are faced with putting down a life they love. I will keep loving. Cheers to you.
I, too, cried reading this, thinking of your loss of Skittles and its resonance with the loss of Marika. It’s a testament to your strength and your writing that I’m so moved. And Wendy is right–you gave him, and Marika, a life that had much joy and freedom.
I love that you first tell the story from your dog’s perspective–sometimes the innocence of animals is almost unbearable.
The gorgeous photo of Skittles and his two hearts. The way you convey that our pets are our family and our history is filled with lovely details. And that almost full moon–perfect. This is a beautifully understated expression. Thank you. You continually create beauty and I admire you so much!
Oh my gosh, Kirsten. How can I reply to that? Thank you so much. Your words are a real gift to me this morning. And “continually create beauty” is going to become my mantra now. Thank you so much. I admire YOU.
Dear Robin. Wendy’s words are perfect. You had Skittle’s back and gave him peace. Many of us have been in your shoes with our dogs and cats, so we understand how you feel with your sweet cat. Breathe, friend. OOOXO/
Thanks, Jane. Yes, rereading Wendy’s words I am more ready to receive them this week. And I’m breathing better too. It’s good to hear from you. Cheers!
Alas, Robin. On several occasions, I have been through the experience of assisting a beloved pet to end its suffering. It is a humane thing to do when one’s life has lost its quality. Time heals the sense of loss and of guilt.
Time heals a lot, I’m beginning to notice. I wonder if you keep a list of these sweet creatures in your head as I do. The loss and the guilt grow more vague but I want to hold onto the memories. Thanks Annette.
Robin, so sorry you had to go through this, but I believe it was the best choice for Skittles. Adrian wanted to die at the end when there was no quality at all in his life, and I helped arrange the resources for him to do that without pain. I miss him, but I’m not sorry I did this. It’s something we can do for each other. We still grieve though, of course.
I’m still learning, Lynne. You’re right. And if I had the chance to go back in time, I’d do it again the same way I think. Yes, we still grieve. Cheers!
You did not kill your cat, Robin. You filled a promise. Spoken or unspoken we make a promise to our pets. In exchange for their unconditional love we promise to “have their back”, to care for them the best we know how, and to be there for them when they need us. The decision you made for Skittles was holding up your end of the bargain. You chose to help end his pain and suffering even when you knew that saying good-bye would cause you pain. It was a selfless act not a selfish one. Missing him and feeling the grief of his absence isn’t due to your killing him. As I certainly don’t have to tell you, its due to how much you loved him (and of course because he was your daughter’s cat). I believe this with all my heart. Almost 2 years after having to make this decision for my beloved golden retriever, I am still sitting here with tears rolling down my cheeks as I write this ( and I am not dealing with the additional grief your heart is living with), but I know its indicative of how much I loved my dog, not that I made the wrong choice. Wishing you peace in your decision and joy in remembering the many wonderful moments you and your daughter experienced with Skittles.
Thank you for your kind words, Wendy. It does help to remember that I gave him a really fine life. I know I’d be missing him and grieving even if he’d died in his sleep. That’s how it goes when you love someone or something. I just wish I didn’t have to be the source of so many lives snuffed out. Many thanks for “being here.” Cheers!