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Monday, August 12, 2013

The Difficult Decision

Five minutes ago, I ended the life of an older, but not "ancient" cat on a soft towel in a quiet room in the back of my office. She went to sleep peacefully and painlessly. This cat belonged to some nice folks that my family has been acquaintances with for a long time. The husband spoke to me yesterday about their cat. I was not at work, and we had been talking about something else (probably sports), when he abruptly mentioned that his cat had started urinating and vomiting all over the house. She had ruined several pieces of furniture as well as the carpet in the basement. He said, "I think it's time to put her down, don't you?"

I never quite know how to respond to those situations, because you see, we had not seen his cat in two years. I assumed that since he hadn't brought her for an exam (and possible testing), that he really wasn't interested in trying to find out why she was vomiting and urinating all over. He was really just wanting me to "sign off" on a decision that had already been made. The cat had originally belonged to his son, who had long since moved away.

I'm not judging him. There are often mitigating factors when people decide that it's best to end the life of a pet. We usually are not privy to these circumstances. I believe that sometimes the person making the decision isn't even aware of some of the psychological "baggage" that is influencing their choice. The gentleman in my story is an intelligent guy. He is smart enough to know that maybe I could have done something medically that would have helped his cat. He's also smart enough to know that it might have been expensive, unrewarding (ie ineffective), or labor-intensive (have you ever tried sticking pills down a cat every day?)

So he probably had his reasons for not seeking my medical assistance, but instead my reassurance that they were making the "right" decision. Was it the "right" decision? I am humble enough to admit that I don't know. There are simply too many factors that I am unaware of.

I do know this: His is a good family, and although the cat might not be high on their priority list, I think they provided a comfortable home for her. I also know that humane euthanasia results in no suffering for the pet. I was there to make sure she left this world in a painless manner (which is better than many of us will have.) For reasons of their own, they chose euthanasia over exploring medical options. It's not the decision I would have made, but that doesn't make it wrong.

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