Monday, August 15, 2016

Letting them go

This morning my sweetie and I had to euthanize her elderly cat, LC (Little Cat). She was as close to 20 yrs old as you can get, without paperwork. She wasn't doing very well at the end, but even so, it was the first time she had refused her breakfast, and barely drank her water, she could barely walk, and the litter box, when she could get to it, was more miss than hit, so I think it was okay.

Euthanasia is not an easy decision to make. I've done it a few times, and it has never been easy. It's heart-wrenching. I've never slept well the night before, or even a few days before coming to the realization that it is, perhaps, time. 

LC was not the most lovable cat. I came into her life late, just over five years ago. I was warned she had bitten and scratched, that there was a red flag on her vet file, and not to handle her too much. She was beautiful, a Smoke Tabby, dark and striped on top, lighter beneath, with huge, luminous eyes. Small, but feisty, or maybe fierce is a better word. But she had her moments of need, when she would come to you for attention (affection?) and even then, you wanted to be careful, she could change her mind. And the dogs were wary around her, if only due to our cautioning...Except Samantha, as a wee puppy, had ventured too close and when we discovered her eye full of blood, realized LC had sliced neatly through her third eyelid with a claw. The eyelid had to be surgically snipped. Hank never liked LC, but never suffered any injuries. Lucas has only ever wanted (desperately) to herd her. Duncan, (the best dog ever), suffered a smart smack on the nose as a puppy that drew blood. LC pretty much ruled the house.

Still, I cared for her during my few years with her, fed her, picked her up once in awhile for cuddles and pets, took her to her vet appointments. I like cats. Even ornery cats. But I was very wary, right to the end. And when it came her time, she was not going to go without a final snarl and flexing of her claws. But as she was going, I kissed her head and said, Good girl, LC. Good girl. And my sweetie and I both cried, and said Good-bye.

(I have reprinted the below even though it is about resonates.)

(Donald McCaig ~ A Useful Dog)

It is hard to kill a dog. We put it off and we delay and when we finally do it we ask ourselves afterwards if there wasn’t something more we might have done. And of course there was. Whenever you have to kill an animal, there is always something more you might have done to keep him alive. But after years with livestock and dogs, there comes a signal, faint but unmistakable that says: it is time. Ignoring that signal is cowardly: you are less willing to face your loss than the dog is to face his death.
   Moose and I never quite got together. He was a nervous sheepdog and I wasn’t a good enough trainer to soothe him. Oh, he could do routine chores alright and had a good life here on the farm. In the hot summer months he spent hours swimming in the river.
   Last fall Moose started limping and the vet found a lump under his front leg and maybe we could catch the cancer if we amputated. Three days after his amputation he hopped out to the corral to help with chores. Moose got around pretty good & even learned to lift his leg again but no, we hadn’t got it all, and a couple months later his right eye went blind and he started to smell bad. So now he’s in a place where the sheep don’t spook him; he’s much calmer and his new trainer knows better than I did how to handle a dog.
   The evening before I killed him, the three-legged, one-eyed sheepdog went out to help me feed. He kept the ewes off the feeders. All through the night he vomited and in the morning vomited his butter-enclosed aspirin tab.
   Moose died here, where twelve years ago he was born and he’s buried in the graveyard on the hill where I hope to be buried someday. Moose’s mother and father were already on the hill.
   We carried him to his grave on his sheepskin bed and set his letter underneath. My wife, Anne, writes a letter for every one of our dogs and I have never asked her what she writes. She says it’s a passport and I like to think of Moose coming to the last river he will ever cross and offering the boatman his letter. Oh, yes, I was a very good dog.

   But it may be, it just may be—all our dogs waiting on the far side of the river that Anne and I must one day cross—those letters may not be dogs’ passports. They may be ours.