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KrisK

Respect for the Passing

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I found this on-line not long ago...Knowing that many of us have had to face this decision which is so difficult and knowing that this decision may be in my future with my Zachary, I thought it might be good to post here. It is thoughtful and well written IMHO

 

 

 

Respect For The Passage

 

I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on a very difficult topic - death. Each one of us pet owners will be faced with the loss of our companion. It is not unusual for our personal views regarding our own mortality to become involved in the decisions we make for our pets. Some owners are unable to let go of their animal companions and cling to every last shred of hope. These people need confident direction and understanding to allow their pets to die with peace and dignity. I have long ago realized, it is my place to let these owners know it is time to stop hoping and allow their friend to pass on peacefully. We need to take care of them in their dying. Because of the shorter life span of animals, I will outlive most of my patients. I see them born and I see them through their death. This is very different from human medical practitioners who still insist on treating death as a disease, rarely seeing a patient’s life cycle in its entirety.

 

Owners often ask me how I can be sure it is time for their friend to die. In Chinese medicine it is believed dying is associated with the loss of shen, the vital life force that is seen in a patient’s eyes. Having stared into many dying eyes, I have come to believe this is true. I also understand the physiological changes a patient experiences from life threatening diseases – pain, weakness, nausea, respiratory distress, numbness, and unrest. I also spend time talking to my owners who will give me a clear picture of their friend’s quality of life and his priorities in life. This is different for each patient – some dogs need to take that daily excursion to the mailbox while others are content to curl up on the couch with a view of Mom and Dad getting the mail. Your cat may find it very important to make the upstairs trek to the litterbox, while others will accept you moving it to the kitchen, underfoot and all. Each one with special needs and individual personalities, your pet will try to make these decisions very clear. And if you can’t understand or see clearly through your tears, we are here to guide you through this process.

 

There are some premises which all of us must respect. Animals do not fear death and that is not because of ignorant bliss, but rather an appreciation of the power of nature and her continuous cycles: the planets revolving around the sun, the moon revolving around the earth, the change of the seasons, night turning to day, water to vapor then back again as rain, and on and on and on. They are still connected to the laws of nature and know no fear; they just accept what they cannot change. Sometimes my patients are anxious, whining and restless, but I have come to realize they are worried about their people! Their Mom and Dad are crying, afraid, and unsure. Is it not the pet’s job to lick their tears away and wag their tail so hard that their parents will start to smile? But they can’t, they are dying and it seems like their parents need them more than ever. It is important for owners to know they need to let their friend move on; his duty of bringing unconditional love and joy has been fulfilled.

 

A second premise must be mentioned. Our friends do not wish to live forever. They are not looking for quantity, only a quality of life. They have a purpose here; they are temporary gifts which must be returned. Our pets take away our pain, suffering, loneliness, selfishness, anger and misfortune. With a warm purr or happy woof, they try to teach each of us how to live as better human beings. If we listen to their quiet yet profound message, then a pet’s life will be eternal and meaningful. We need to live our lives as well, sharing the simple unconditional love and acceptance we have enjoyed from our furry companions.

 

Donna M. Raditic, DVM, CVA, Integrative Medicine Service, Resident in Nutrition Veterinary Teaching Hospital, The University of Tennessee

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Well said. And well reasoned.

 

We knew what we had to do for our first dog, Vamp. And we did it. Chuck had to take her to the vet. He cried all the way home.

 

We also knew what to do for Fergie. She was fading away. But she was bright-eyed, responsive, hungry, and thirsty until the middle of her last day. But she was not in pain. The vet told us so. And we let her go on her own, with us petting her. We still cried.

 

Had Ferg shown pain, lost interest in us, eating, drinking...or if she'd had the possible seizures, we'd have made a different choice, of course.

 

I worry about people who make "the decision" way too soon. Neighbors of ours had a lovely golden retriever for 6 years. They got it because, when the dog was 6, the owners took it to the vet to have it put down. Reason? It was getting old and didn't have "quality of life" anymore! Thank goodness the vet convinced them to give her the dog, and she then called these wonderful people. That dog had a great 6 years left.

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Excellent essay. Thank you for sharing it.

 

Over the years, I've lost a significant number of cats and dogs - and had to make the dreaded decision for too many of them. They have let me know when it was time to let them go - I truly believe this. The only one I regret is the 23 yr old cat whom I didn't listen to but kept trying to save - and yes, it was my vet who told me hope was gone and insisted I look at Pandy with my eyes and not my heart. Thank goodness for caring vets.

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This is very timely for me. My good friend has made arrangements to have a vet friend come to her house this evening to euthanize her oldest dog. The dog was diagnosed with mast cell cancer a couple of weeks ago and it is being very aggressive. It has been difficult for me to see her make these arrangements with such a calm and deliberate attitude. It's not that she doesn't love her dog, though. She loves her dogs as much as I love mine. She is just a braver person than I, I think, and is not going to be selfish and keep her dog around as long as possible even when the dog is no longer having much quality of life. I really hope I will know when is the right time to make that decision when the time comes for each of my dogs. But, let's hope that that is far off in the future.

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That's wonderful, thank you for sharing. Very timely for me, too, as Monday night my husband and I had to say goodbye to our oldest cat. He was with us for 17 years, through every milestone of our lives together. We're blessed that he lasted as long as he did, we made 3 other appointments to let him go, and canceled them when he rallied back. But as hard as it was, we finally knew the time had come. And yes, we probably waited longer than we should have. I always prayed that I'd KNOW when it was right, but the day of the appointment, knowing it was looming, was horrible. I hope I'll be stronger next time, as the actual passing was very peaceful. When it comes to my dogs, though, I'm not counting on being any stronger or braver, but I can hope.

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Thank you Kris.

 

This is different for each patient

 

This stood out to me. Miss was always so on top of life. She was a very in charge dog and wanted to be a sidekick and partner. When she wasn't too interested in food, it didn't bother me too much - I coaxed and babied. When she wasn't able to play ball I was sad, but she could deal with it. When she slowed way down and slept most of the day but was still able to come room to room to hang out with her people that was okay, too. She was still doing everything on her own - I don't know quite how she did it, but she could handle the steps and make in in and out of the car with the help of a step.

 

But when she stood in the yard twenty feet away looking at the car with eyes that said "I just can't do it" I knew that was about it. That last afternoon after I had given her extra meds she was able to make it around the yard on her own and check things out - kinda shaky and laid down and took a couple naps but she did it on her own. The only thing I had to help her with was getting into the car for the final trip.

 

She is just a braver person than I

 

No, she is being strong for her dog. I never, ever thought I'd be able to make that phone call to the vet. And even now I don't know how I did it. But when you know in your heart that you need to, somehow you are able to set aside your pain for a few moments and do it.

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