Part of the Family

This week’s post is a tough one. I’m experiencing what many people experience when their pet’s life is drawing to a close. My own cat, Phoebe, has been in kidney failure for 3 years. She’s done quite well, all things considered, and I’ve had her 3 years longer than I expected to. More recently, she began to exhibit signs of a specific form of stomach cancer that occurs in cats that have had inflammatory bowel disease for a long time. Suffice to say that last Monday, I was facing down some extremely difficult decisions about how much testing and treatment it was fair to put her through. She’s 16 years old.

I opted to try some medical management to see how she did. We’ve had a much better week and her whole attitude and physical status are much, much better. I’m confident that I’ve bought her some time, though I know that ultimately, I’m going to lose the fight against the renal disease and/or the cancer.

What I decided was an utterly personal choice based on the knowledge of my own cat’s tolerances and preferences. The forms of medication, which medications, whether I’m breaking the ‘rules’ of how to give the drugs or not, etc. … It’s all a balance between what I can do as her vet and what I should do as her owner. Phoebe will be with me for as long as she feels good. When she doesn’t, my obligations are clear to me. I owe her no less and far more.

Let me just say plainly that I have always been empathetic to owners’ difficult decisions for end-of-life care. Now, my sympathies are even more deeply rooted, having had to face this on a personal level. I will never know what it’s like for -you-, because your life and your bond with your pet are things I can’t know personally. We -all- know the pain of decisions and loss.

Today, though, I’d like to celebrate shared lives. A part of who we are is shaped by our companions. They are family. We grow together, we grow old together, we help one another even in the most difficult of times.

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The photo above was found on this Tumblr blog.
Please note that Tumblr is kind of the Wild Wild West of the internet these days. I can’t vouch for the content on the rest of that blog or any other.

Have a pet photo you’d like to share? Email Me!



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3 responses to “Part of the Family

  1. Chris

    It’s the most difficult choice we have to make. You will do what’s best for Phoebe, as you have always done. We are with you in spirit and in reality, as Ginger has reached a new level in her senility decline…at 19 years old.

  2. Sue and John Foster

    We are so sad to hear about Phoebe’s health issues. Fortunately for both of you, she couldn’t be in better hands. She’s a lucky girl to have the life she has with you and to have you for a dad. It has been said that there is a reason that you two came into each other’s lives, and that animals just learn the lessons quicker than we do. Unfortunately, as you know, the deeper the bond you have with her, the more it will hurt when you lose her… Hopefully some of the people you have helped go through this over the years may be able to give you some comfort and help back when it’s your time to do it.

  3. We are all very sad to see Phoebe slipping. Our family has lost some very special four legged members over the years. When I talked to Dr Hutch, my son, last week and he told me the little kitty was not doing well. We had a good cry and talked for a long time about knowing when the time is right to let a sick pet go. It is a heart breaking decision. Little Phoebe started out living with me until she was about a year old. She did not like our Golden puppy, we felt she wasn’t very happy in our house, so Dr Hutch took her to live with him. So two families are very sad to see the sweet cat sick. Since I work in human medicine, where end of life decisions are much more complicated, I feel better that I know Phoebe won’t suffer at the end of her life. I think it is a final act of love and tribute to our pet, to know when enoug h is enough. Even when it is so sad to let them go. We owe it to them to do what is right her. Phoebe certainly deserves to live her last days as in her favorite hiding place in the back of the closet, comfortable as possible in her own home. Keeping in mind what is reasonable treatment for her, making her feel better. In human medicine it would be called palliative treatment. Peaceful, painless, comfortable time without a lot of poking and prodding. Since Phoebe can’t tell us when she has had enough, we need to be her advocate, even though we know it may be the end for her. We will have many great memories, picture and stories to share about her long and good life. As Dr Hutch’s family he knows he is not alone in this process, he knows the people close to him will
    will always remember our little Phebs and celebrate he life and all the love
    she brought us. Sincerely, MOM

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