Saying Good-Bye to Pets

This is the pet store.  We got some medicine from there today because the mice are sick.

They were sick a few months ago, but they got better with the medicine.  But about 2 weeks ago, they got sick again.  The pet store had a different medicine, and it didn’t help.  Now that they have the original medicine available, I’m hoping this cures them.

I’m a bit nervous about how sick they are.  I have had five pet cats and I’ve had to take all five of them to the vet to have them put to sleep.

For Catherine, there was an unfortunate miscommunication.  I intended on holding her while she died.  The vet didn’t understand.  He said he would take her back and get her ready, and did I want to hold her afterwards?  I said yes, meaning that after she was injected, I would hold her until she was dead.  I sat in the waiting room and heard Catherine give an angry yowl.  A bright-eyed, chatty woman was sitting there too, and piped up, “So, what’s your pet here for?”  Honestly, I didn’t want to crush the poor woman, but as soon as I answered, “To die,” I burst into noisy, blubbery, shoulder shaking tears.  That poor woman.  She must have felt like such a heel.

When I went back into the room and my sweet Catherine was already dead, all I could think about was her yowling as the poisons were injected into her and the fact that she was alone, wondering why I’d left her with the vet who was killing her.

I held her little body and it seemed to weigh more than normal.  Usually when I held her, she would press her little body against me and put her fuzzy arms around my neck.  But this time, she just dangled there.  Dead weight.  I felt so hollow.  It took months before I could walk into the apartment without bracing myself.  It was empty without her.

For the other four cats, I made sure to hold them as they died.  It is heart-wrenching and painful, but the pain of knowing Catherine’s last few minutes were alone and terrifying was worse.

They fight against the injections.  They are scared and don’t want to be at the vet.  You hold them and tell them it will be all right, but it won’t.  Because you know they have every reason to be scared.  This time, they really will die.  I couldn’t let them face that alone.

The moment of Peter’s death, his body gave a shudder, and he was gone.

Sophie and Clara got more and more still and I wasn’t sure of the exact moment when they were gone.

Richard went into a diabetic coma and never fully came out.  I found him at the bottom of the basement steps, lying on his side. I thought he was already dead, but when I said his name, he rolled his eyes at me.  It was all he could move on his own.  I don’t know how many hours he had been lying there, unable to move.  I carried him to the vet.  I didn’t know whether or not he was in pain.  His poor body was so far gone they wouldn’t have been able to fix him.  Instead of letting him linger any longer, unable to move, I let them end his life.

I can’t imagine holding a person while they die.  I’ve learned enough by now to know that there are some things that you think you can imagine, but when it actually happens, you realize the experience is unimaginable until you’ve lived it.  This is one of those things.  I know that I truly can’t imagine holding a person while they die.

All this to say; I hope the medicine works.  I wish I’d never gotten these mice.  Not because I don’t love them, but because I do.  Even though these are mice that we’ve only had a year and a half, and not the cats who I loved and cared for for 14 years, I still love them.   When we got them I fooled myself into believing that the mice would die peacefully in their sleep from old age and wouldn’t get sick.

Not everyone who reads this will understand.  I have a number of friends who never understood my love for my cats.  They certainly don’t understand my love for the mice.  They’re just mice after all.

They might not understand me, but I don’t understand them.  No, I don’t love the cats more than the people in my life, and I don’t love the mice as much as I loved the cats, but it’s still love.  And it still hurts to see the mice hunched over and having trouble breathing and knowing they’re in pain and that they could die.

It’s certainly not as all-encompassing as loving or  losing a human, and I would never even suggest that it is, but does every bit of love have to be ocean-deep in order to be called love?   And does every bit of sadness have to be soul-wrenching in order to be called sadness?