Something moiself has been thinking this week: it’s been over 29 years since we (MH and I) have been a less-than-two-felines household.
We’re down to one, the all-white Nova, as we said goodbye to Crow this week.
It had been a challenging past 18+ months for Crow, with a possible “vascular incident” (stroke?), the progression of her painful arthritis, and finally, diabetes. After veterinary appointments, blood tests, and consultations, we made an appointment with a veterinary euthanasia service who came to our home to do the deed.
As difficult a decision as it was, we were also much relieved, once having made it. Crow spent her last days at home, lazing on the carpet in the sun, eating and drinking whenever she pleased.  We were at her beck and call; I told her she was at a kitty spa.
At the time we adopted Crow (fifteen years ago), all-black cats were the most likely to not find a placement.  Instead of adopting a rescue greyhound, which was the original plan to add another pet to our family, we went to Bonnie Hayes Animal Shelter,  opened our house and our hearts, and Crow made herself at home. Crow had a good life, and she was spared a lingering death.
After the phone call with our veterinarian wherein we discussed treatment and care options, MH and I had a calm, rational discussion. We considered all the angles – plus the fact, particularly important to moiself, that Crow (like any pet) cannot consent to nor “understand” any course of treatment. After the phone call, we decided upon euthanasia. When we agreed that this is what we agreeing to, I asked MH if perhaps we might take Crow on one last trip to the beach, because she seemed to enjoy lying on the deck in the sun. And we both lost it.
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Department Of The Downside Of Loving Them
Dang, these critters tug at our hearts. And because we care for them properly, they just don‘t die like they used to: they get good medical treatment;  they live inside and thus don’t get killed by coyotes or run over by a car or contract illness and/or injuries and/or infection from other animals…. And if they refuse to die in their sleep in their old age, the combination of aging and chronic illness takes their toll, then *we* have to make the life-and-death decisions.
MH’s astute observation: for all but one of the cats we’ve had who’ve died, there came that awful time when we had to opt for euthanasia for them. Odds are that, with our remaining cat, the same will (eventually) be the case. Each time, we knew we were doing the right thing. Each time, it was still heartbreaking.
Observant readers may notice that moiself is *not* is reporting that “Crow has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.” Nor am I using similar euphemisms to describe the fact of her death. Although some pet owners seem to find such metaphors comforting, they make me…well…emotionally retch. Moiself is not a believer in – as in, I’ve seen no evidence for – any kind of “heaven,” for any kind of creatures. And since I hold no such ideas for humans I see no need to burden our recollections of our animal companions with similar mythologies.
I don’t mean to come off stony-hearted. Grief is complicated; expressing it, even more so. I promise not to slap you if you use the RB term around moiself, and I hear or read about “the RB” often enough to know that it makes some pet owners feel good. The only afterlife I give credence to is the only one we can know for sure exists: that which resides in our hearts and minds. In that way and in those places, our loved ones truly do continue to live “after” they are gone.
BTW: The Rainbow Bridge, for those of you who fortunate enough not to have encountered the treacle-ism, is a mythical overpass (apparently based on imagery from some cheesy sentimental poems from the 1980s) which serves as a kind of transit for pets. For example, upon the death of their friend’s chihuahua, RB fans will say that Sparky has “passed over the Rainbow bridge,” into a verdant meadow (or other Nature Setting ® ) where Sparky will frolic carefree until the time Sparky will be reunited with his “human parents.”
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Department Of There’s Always Something
After we made the decision to euthanize Crow, moiself thought, once again, about the many rational discussions which can be had as to whether people do or should treat or view their pets as their “children” – a perspective which, I believe, diminishes and misunderstands the reality of and relationships with both animals and children.
Also (as mentioned in a previous footnote), many people, including animal lovers/pet owners and those who are pet-free, hold strong opinions as to the ethics of using advances in veterinary medicine to treat conditions considered fatal just a few years ago – treatments which cost pet owners thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars…and the outcome is, eventually and ultimately, the same.
Pets, like their human owners, are mortal. They’re gonna die. Are you keeping your pet alive – in some cases, using tortuous treatments that humans with the same diagnoses can (and often do) eventually opt out of – because it’s in the animal’s best interest? Or are you prolonging its life (read: extending its dying) or because (you tell yourself) you love it and want to keep it around for as long as possible/can’t deal with its absence…or want to assuage the guilt laid upon you, whether purposely or inadvertently, by yourself or by well-meaning friends and family (or even your veterinarian)?
“Leigh K—…found herself facing a five-figure bill when her dog, Rutherford, was diagnosed with a brain tumor…. Leigh knew Rutherford needed help when the large-breed coonhound mix struggled to walk a straight line and keep his head up. But you can’t treat without a diagnosis, which meant brain scans, which meant $2,500 down before the technicians would warm up the machine.
Then the real bills started. Radiation therapy was projected to cost between $12,000 and $15,000, which, for perspective’s sake, is a quarter of the average American household’s annual earnings. It’s a sum weighty enough to give even relatively affluent Americans a lightbulb moment on how drastically their lives might be rerouted.”
( excerpts from “My dying dog’s vet bill put me in debt. It could happen to you.” Vox, 7-25-19 )
If my father had lived to see the age of $3k MRIs for pets,  he would have scoffed at the very notion. It’s not that he didn’t like animals, or was one of Those Pet Haters ® . Growing up in the Parnell family, moiself cannot remember a time when we didn’t have pets. My siblings and I were allowed to acquire a variety of critters, from dogs and cats to hamsters and reptiles. While my parents appreciated their children’s emotional bond with their pets, my father never seemed to have much of an attachment to them. When I look back via an adult’s perspective, I consider this pet-bonding detachment of his to be due, in part, to his impoverished childhood.
Chet Parnell grew up poor, on a farm, in a place and time when animals were utilitarian. His family’s infinitely patient and tolerant farm horse, who would let Chet and his siblings climb all over him, was a plough horse. A succession of family dogs had “jobs” to do – they kept the crows out of the corn and chased the neighboring farms’ dogs and roaming strays away from the chickens, and the barn cats earned a roof over their heads by keeping the mice and rats at bay. With the exception of the horse, the other “pets” had to hunt for and feed themselves (although my dad’s mother occasionally snuck table scraps to the barn cats, much to her husband’s dismay).
My father’s heart rose to the occasion when our family cat, Mia, died. Mia, a stray kitten adopted by my family when I was in grade school, had been “my” cat,  but stayed with my family when I went off to school. After graduating college and joining the working world, my parents and I agreed that, considering both my inability to pay my apartment rent if I also had to buy pet food and litter, and Mia being an old lady kitty and attached to her home, it was best if Mia stayed with them. I saw Mia two to three times a year, when visiting my parents, and noted Mia’s increasing frailty with the passage of time. Pay attention, I pleaded with them. If there is something wrong with her, take her to a vet, don’t just let it slide.  I was determined to be dispassionate about it – if Mia was dying, I did not want her to suffer.
One day when I was in my mid-twenties I received an early afternoon phone call from my mother. She called the private line in the medical practice where I worked, which was a red flag.  She apologized for calling me at work, said she thought I’d like to know about Mia, and told me the following story.
In the past few weeks Mia, age 20, had grown weaker, lost weight, and developed a tumor on her head. My parents found a veterinarian who would do house calls; after speaking with my parents over the phone, the vet came to their house with the assumption that he would likely euthanize the cat. After briefly examining Mia he told them that that would be the most humane option. My younger sister, by then in college, happened to be at my parents’ house for a visit, and she and my mother became so distraught re Mia’s situation that Chet banished them from the scene. He shooed his wife and daughter into the house, while he stayed on the back porch with the veterinarian.
After Mia had been euthanized and the vet had left, Chet got a legal pad and a pencil, and a shoebox for the body (Mia would be buried in my parents’ backyard, by the rose bushes she where she would nap in the summer shade). He wrapped Mia’s body in a towel, placed her in the box, then composed a poem, on the spot, about Mia.
Mom read the poem to me. I found it overwhelmingly touching then, and still do, after all these years – to think about what my father wrote to comfort his grieving wife and daughter, and also the mere fact that he did so. The poem’s theme was how gentle and sweet Mia was; how she’d had a good life…. I can remember only parts of it,  but its closing stanza is etched on my heart:
Mia was loved by the Parnells all;
As there is a time to rise, there is a time to fall.
To be loved by a family is why she was made,
And now our dear Mia will rest in the shade.
As I hung up the phone, my employer noticed the distraught look on my face. Dr. B asked me what was up. With all the detachment and professionalism I could muster – which turned out to be none at all – I blubbered, “My family kitty died!” and, tried to tell him how my father had written a poem…
I was a hot mess. Dr. B placed his hand on my shoulder. Compassionately, yet firmly, he said to me, GO HOME.
And now for dear Crow, I say, with gratitude for years of love and “tummy time,” Go home.
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Department Of The Supporting Cast And Crew
I cannot say enough good things about the doctors and staff of our family’s long-time veterinary clinic, the (surprise!) feline-exclusive All About Cats Clinic. Also deserving of high praise is Compassionate Care, the in-home euthanasia service we used, as per ABCC’s recommendation. CC’s vet was kind, empathetic, sweet, and competent – she gave MH and I (and Crow, I imagine), a sense of tranquility in an emotionally taxing situation.
“She had a good life,” was son K’s post on our family chat site, when MH informed our offspring about row’s death. My reply:
“Yes, she did…and though it may sound strange, I dare to say that her death was good, as well.
She was comfy on the carpet, enjoying lots of pets from us, and she just ‘went to sleep,’ as they say. It was one of the more peaceful things I have ever seen.”
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Punz For The Day
Dead Catz Edition
Hmmmmm. On second thought….
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May you experience the distinctive love of, and for, a pet companion;
May the inevitable loss of that love help you to appreciate it all the more;
May you be strong enough to lather, rinse, and repeat;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 But not, oddly, wanting “tummy time” with MH, which, until the diabetes, was her favorite activity. She seemingly became uncomfortable sitting in laps or being held during her last two weeks – one more piece of the puzzle which help us make the decision.
 Fortunately, thanks to deliberate and innovative strategizing on the part of regional animal shelters, almost *all* healthy cats and dogs at shelters who do not have “behavioral issues” (read: biters) now find homes.
 Where I would later volunteer, in cat care.
 Too much, some critics say, in that using “human” treatments for cancers and other mortal illnesses – treatments previously unavailable to animals and to which they cannot consent – are essentially torturing pets in order to assuage our guilt….and speaking of the latter, many people on fixed incomes cannot afford the substantial vet bills but feel pressured, if the procedure/treatment is available, to do so, lest they be considered a heartless person who doesn’t really love their pet.
 Which was one of the quotes we got for what a brain scan would cost, when we were trying to figure out the “neurological incident” our cat Crow seemed to have suffered.
 And was so named to indicate that – mia is Spanish for mine.
 This post needs more upbeat footnotes. Nah.
 My mother was not one to instigate phone calls – that was my father’s purview – and she never called me at work, before or after Mia’s death.
 I have a copy of it, somewhere in my file cabinet….
Jul 15, 2022 @ 06:51:43
What a great tale about Crow. Appreciate your insight into the love and affection that goes into having a pet as part of one’s family. At one time, we had 21 cats on our farm, which followed us around like the people were the Pied Pipers. Not unusual for us to go for a walk down one of our gravel country road with a trail of cats and kittens following us. Always sad when one of them didn’t show up for our walks. The kids would say, ‘guess they’ve gone on a walk-about’ and sometimes they would return and sometimes not. Once, Harry Potter went on walk-about not to return. There was the general dismay by kids and then acceptance as ‘this is part of living on a farm, the whole
Life and Death circle. It was 3 months later that I took the Cubs group to a local dairy farm, 8 miles from our farm. Lo and behold, who does my son find in one of the barns, but Harry Potter the cat. The dairy owners said he showed up about 3 months ago, was friendly and decided to stay. Was a great moment for our son (age 7 at the time) to realize that walk-abouts can take you on marvelous adventures, to new and exciting places (warm dairy barn with lots of mice) and doesn’t just mean you have vanished. But I digress, have been fortunate to not have had to euthanize any of our farm cats, as they seem to know when they are tired of catching mice, and venture off to sleep on their own.
Our dogs though, that has been a different story, and as you said, you know it is the best solution when they are suffering, but damn it is hard on the heart.
Continue to love reading your posts, since we met on the Ireland Rick Steves trip. Slainte 🥃
Jul 15, 2022 @ 06:57:12
good to hear from you, Sherrie! And thanks for sharing your “Harry Potter” story – what a kick!
Slainte indeed, my Irish touring buddy!
Jul 15, 2022 @ 13:15:03
I often think of a poem my late sweetie wrote when I gave some foster kittens I had raised back to Cat Adoption Team. He wrote:
Our new families will pet our fur.
They will smile and we will purr.
We will love them, that is true,
But our first love will always be you.