Sunday, October 16, 2011

When the Time is Rhonda of LilPawzDesign

Opening your home to a needy animal is kind of like eating potato chips…you can’t stop at just one! Once bitten by the rescue bug, I’ve had my heartstrings pulled by more sad stories than I can count. It’s probably a good thing I’m married to someone who has limits to his tolerance!
Regardless of how we acquire them, at some point we have to face the one inevitability we all hope to avoid: Having to decide when to end the suffering of our beloved companions. We can’t live our lives dwelling on this, but sometimes we miss or ignore the signs because we can’t bear the thought of being without them. When this happens, we’re selfishly protecting ourselves from potential loss rather than focusing on the quality of life our pet is missing.
A few years ago I faced this dilemma. I had a beautiful long-haired part Maine Coon cat named Misty. She had been part of our family since she was about 8 weeks old and had grown up with all of our children. She loved to lie on the arm of the sofa with her long fur spread out all around her, basking in her own glory.
She had kind of a strange purr, but we never thought much about it because it just seemed to be her own special trademark.
At about 12 years of age we started to notice her feeling a bit lighter when we picked her up, but other than that she seemed to be doing pretty well for an elderly kitty. After a while, though, we noticed she was eating less and less and not moving around as much as she used to. She still loved to climb into our laps for petting, but she appeared to be ultra-sensitive to our touch. If we didn’t pay attention to how we were petting her she’d suddenly bite at us as if to say, “Enough already!”
Next we started noticing she wasn’t eating very much, and her fur was losing its luster. We tried tempting her with special “people” foods she had always loved, but even that didn’t work. Finally I decided we had to find out what was going on, or if it was just “old age” overtaking our sweet kitty.
In the course of trying to find a diagnosis and help her regain her strength and vitality, the vet made an astonishing discovery. Apparently Misty had a birth defect that had affected her growth AND her breathing. Being a Maine Coon, she should have been a very large cat, but she was always fairly petite even in her prime. It turns out all of her vital organs were pushed up into a very small space in her upper chest. This explained the strange sound in her purr. Unknown to us, each breath of her life had required a concentrated effort which she just accepted as normal the way animals do so many things. As she had aged her organs grew more restricted, until finally she was hardly able to get anything down and her breathing was obviously labored.
I had to start considering that Misty’s life was probably coming to a close. But she still had a sparkle in her eyes and still greeted me with enthusiasm and vigorous purring. I hoped maybe we could nurse her along with a very soft diet. The vet agreed that only I would know when the time was right to help her to a peaceful ending.
I struggled with this, going back and forth about it for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, Misty kept purring and “adoring” me with her eyes. I was so afraid I was letting her suffer too much, but it felt like she still had a will to live and didn’t want to give up. Then one morning everything changed. She came up to me and barely meowed. When I looked into her eyes the sparkle was gone. Worst of all, she wasn’t purring. Her eyes seemed to be pleading with me, “Mom, I’ve had enough. I don’t want to do this anymore, and I can’t.”
That was when I knew. Her life was in my hands, and for her sake I needed to do one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
The vet let me hold her until she was gone. It was so peaceful and gentle I knew I had done the right thing. But that didn’t stop the heartbreak or the tears. 
It took a few months for the ache of missing her to subside, but life did go on. I was comforted in knowing Misty had the best life she possibly could have had under the circumstances and we had loved her well. I had been tempted to hang onto her, but the vet was right. I knew when it was time, and I don’t regret making that decision when I did. It was a deep loss for me and my family, but I couldn’t put our desires above her lack of a quality life caused by her deteriorating health.
I have seen other pet owners wrestle with this issue just as I did. Some of them are able to make the right decision to end the suffering, but some stubbornly refuse to admit their pet is suffering beyond what they should.
If you are in this position or think it may be getting close, I hope you’ll pay close attention to what your beloved pet is telling you. And when they are ready to be done, honor their life and all the unselfish companionship they’ve shared with you by being willing to unselfishly let go.
I now have two sweet little Chihuahuas who “own” me. They’re still young. But I hope if I am holding too tightly to them when their life has been lived out, someone close to me will remind me to be unselfish again. They deserve no less.
This article was submitted by Rhonda of LilPawzDesign; graphics from
Rhonda and her business partner, Sharon, have their studio stocked with a lovely variety of "fun functional fashion for Lil Dawgz!" Both of these talented artisans are participating in the CFA Guild coupon week to raise funds for the Close to Home Animal Rescue group. When purchases are made using the special coupon code, 10% of the purchase price will be donated to Close to Home. So be sure to check out LilPawzDesign and the other artisans who are particpating by clicking HERE or on the box below - and don't forget to use the coupon code!

Use coupon code 10CTH-CFA at participating stores to help Close to Home Animal Rescue


Debra at Sleepy Cat Designs said...

Thank you so much for sharing such a personal story, Rhonda. I've been in much the same position a few times over the last few decades. It's the hardest part of being a responsible pet owner/guardian. At least we can ease suffering and pain for our animal friends when the time is right, though. And that takes real and unselfish love, for sure. I'm certain all who read this excellent guest post will empathize deeply and be moved by your experience and feelings.

Creative Critters said...

This one left me crying. I lost my Ozzy 2 years ago, and during the last few months of his life I was hand feeding him because he wouldn't eat on his own. But he still watched the birds, purred and gave me kitty smiles when I petted him, and he was still "Ozzy". I made him promise to tell me when it all became too much though, and he did just that. One day I was sitting on the floor with him and I looked into his eyes and I just knew. He was ready to go. I planned on calling the vet the next morning, but he actually passed away that night. The last hours of his life were filled with love and as much comfort as I could give him. Now my Cedric is nearing the end of his life as well. I made him promise to tell me when he was too tired to go on, and I know he will. It's probably the hardest decision a pet owner has to make, but also one of the most important. Thank you so much for sharing your touching story.