Love hurts, love scars,
Love wounds, and marks,
Any heart, not tough,
Or strong, enough
To take a lot of pain,
Take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud
Holds a lot of rain
Love hurts, ooh ooh love hurts
The price we pay for loving a pet is the pain of saying goodbye. The time will come when the companion who has become interwoven in virtually every aspect of your life will leave you forever … will die.
I used to think that it made a difference whether you had to put a pet “to sleep” or it died on its own. It doesn’t. We’ve had a cat in the prime of life drop dead – literally – of a massive heart attack or stroke. Another cat had squeezed every drop out of life and had to be helped to cross the great divide. Both deaths hurt just as much.
This past Monday I had to have my most wonderful friend and companion euthanized. It started with a lame leg and ended with x-rays that showed bones eaten away from the inside by cancer. Bone cancer. Osteosarcoma. It had been hiding there for god knows how long, and all it took was a misstep on a beautiful afternoon to bring its ugliness out into the open.
Between the time when I was given the diagnosis over the phone and when I arrived at the veterinary hospital, I’d scanned a number of articles on line. The scientific ones painted a grim picture with long odds against survival beyond a year or so, even with amputation. Then there were articles about pets’ “courageous battles” with bone cancer. Some lived, some died, but they all – pets and owners – suffered
Amputation is said to relieve the pain in 100% of cases. That’s wonderful if your dog (or cat) is young and healthy. My dog, Tucker, was an oversized 11½-year-old golden retriever with arthritic hips.
And what was the survival rate for those animals that underwent amputation followed by courses of chemotherapy and/or radiation? According to our vet, you’re looking at an extra 10 months or so of life. Hmm. Torture my pet with amputation, recovery, and loads of trips to the vet’s for treatments or … the other option?
Because I love animals and am devoted to my pets, the only option was to suck it up and live up to the moral contract I signed when Tucker came home with us. The terms of that contract state that should he become sick and filled with pain, I was morally obligated to ease his suffering. Sometimes the only way to do that is to say goodbye.
Some pet owners go to any length and spend any amount of money to hold on to their companions for even an extra week. Others live in denial that anything’s amiss with their friends’ health, somehow not seeing the skeletal bodies (“she needed to lose weight”) or understanding that all those naps aren’t so much for recharging batteries as they are to escape pain.
No one loved a pet more than I loved Tucker. He was my gentle giant, my confidant, my comfort and pride and joy. I was on the floor with him during his final moments. It was my voice he heard in his ear, crying, yes, but also telling him how much he meant to me and that he was loved. It was my right arm cradling his head and my left across his chest, stroking his silky fur, that he felt as he slipped away.