Crash is laying on the foot of the couch, leaning against my leg sleeping as I write this and I can’t help but notice how painfully skinny he is. In his prime Crash was a good 11lbs of muscle, fat and fur. A solid armful for petting and snuggling with at night. Now, my love barely tips the scales at 8lbs. He just won’t eat enough food to put or keep on weight. And I am reminded that Crash is getting old.
Actually, he already is old, almost 18 years old to be exact. He has a slew of medical issues that we have been dealing with for years; unfortunately they seem to have caught up with him. Maybe 6 months back we first started to notice that he was slowing down. His fur wasn’t as shiny and smooth as it had been, he has old cat fur now! He stopped eating properly. He is slowly and steadily loosing weight in part because he is not eating properly. His body is just not working the way it should. He has a laundry list of medication, including lactated ringers (aka sub-q fluids) which he should be getting daily but hates so we get it every other day as Katie’s schedule allows. He hates medicine and fights me tooth and nail when it comes time to get it. I am grateful for that at least, I know as long as he at least occasionally fights me, that he is feeling well. Other than the fact that his body just doesn’t work the way it used to, he seems to be a happy, contented little furball. Sure he spends most of his time sleeping, but so do my grandparents. He doesn’t play like he used to, but with poor eyesight and creaky joints, I can’t blame him. The past week or so he has become a little fiesty, perhaps the infusion of Cracker’s young blood into the house has helped. He sleeps, he enjoys the little food he does eat, and he loves to snuggle and get loved on.
For months I have had worries about him floating around in the back of my mind. When will I know it is time for him to go? What will I do if I realize that I will have to make the decision to have him euthanized (as opposed to him going on his own). Should I be thinking about doing it now? He seems happy enough but his body is clearly starting to shut down. Do I keep giving him the medicines he needs and hates? or do I stop and let him go? My mom says I am giving him medicines and doing all this for myself, so that I don’t have to face losing him. There is truth to that, but I also do it because I want him to have the longest, happiest, healthiest life possibly. If I knew he were suffering, there would be no question of keeping him going any longer.
When I worked at the veterinarian’s office and at the shelter, I always told people “You’ll know when it is time.” I wonder now, is it true? Will I know when it is time? I love Crash so much that it hurts. The mere thought of him dying is enough to get me upset. Yet, I know that someday soon he will pass over the Rainbow Bridge. Sadly, there are no clear answers. Nothing set in stone for end of life care on cats and dogs. I wish I could look at him, and his life situation right now, from an unbiased outside perspective. It was easy to tell a cats progression when I worked at the vet’s office and only saw them every few weeks or months. It is so much harder when you see your cat everyday and are blinded by love and the pain of loss.
Sadly for me it is not just a question of what is best for Crash, but a question of cost. (this post was in part inspired by an article on Catster.) Thankfully my parents are willing to assist with basic medical bills, since the cats joined our family when I was just a child. I am spending extra money on acupuncture for Crash, in hopes of getting his body well enough to put some weight back on. Best results are seen with at least weekly sessions, so this is a weekly expense added onto my already stretched paycheck. And a weekly commute added to my busy schedule and stretched tank of gas. I would do anything for Crash, but where do I draw the line? When do I decide that that one more pill is just too much for him? Do I have a right to decide that? He is and always will be my baby boy, and you do anything for your babies, right. Yet, I can’t help but think that I am unnaturally extending his life.
I realize I am lucky to have had my love around for this long, I thought for sure I was going to lose him a year and a half ago after his last pancreatitis attack. That doesn’t make the knowledge that he is nearing the end any easier. I hope to have him around for another year and simultaneously prepare to lose him any day. I suppose for now there is nothing to be done but keep on doing what I am doing and try to stop worrying about him. He will go when it is his time, and I best love and enjoy him now, while I still can. I think the only thing worse than losing him, would be realizing I didn’t give him the time and love he deserved while he was here.
What did you do when your cat or dog was nearing the end? How did you decide it was time for them to go? How did you decide to medicate or not medicate? I would love to hear your stories.