Soucheray: The hardest part of being a pet ownerWhat do we do when a beloved pet is sick and must be euthanized?
By: Kate Soucheray, Woodbury Bulletin
What do we do when a beloved pet is sick and must be euthanized? It can be a devastating experience for a family and one that, if not dealt with properly, can cause long-lasting grief and pain for family members for many years. We are in the throes of just such an experience at this precise moment in time and every day is challenging for all of us.
We have had our cat KC, short for Kitty Cat, since we brought him home as a kitten from the Animal Humane Society here in Woodbury 13 years ago. He comforted our kids through countless situations they faced during junior high, high school, college and beyond. He has been a faithful pet, one that was persistently present, especially when times were tough for our kids. He would seem to intuitively know when one of them needed to be snuggled and he would lend a cheek to rub against their cheek, or just lay next to them and drift off to sleep, letting them know he was with them for the duration of their difficulty.
When it was discovered about five years ago that KC had diabetes, our veterinarian told us that the only animal that could be cured was a cat. We were advised of the route we would have to take, which would include shots every day for several weeks, into the nape of his neck. We chose to do what we could to cure KC because our daughter, whose cat it was, had gone to volunteer in New York for the year following college graduation, and we didn’t want to do anything until she returned home. We thought it could be devastating if she was not at home and we euthanized her beloved pet without her being able to say goodbye to him.
So give the daily shots we did. Return to the vet we did. And then one day, the vet informed us that the test results showed that KC had been cured. We cheered and rejoiced and were relieved that we had done what we needed to do to keep him alive, at least until Maggie returned home and could decide for herself what her next step would be.
Well, that has been five years, and the cat went to live with Maggie and her husband at their new home. The diabetes has returned and KC has gotten a bit aggressive and is definitely not himself anymore. He has returned to our home in Woodbury, and is living with us at this moment, as we decide what to do next. It is an excruciating decision and one that is painful and difficult for all of us.
When I was growing up, we took in our grandmother’s dog when she went to a nursing home, but I never bonded with the pet. One of my younger sisters had a cat, but again, I never really bonded with that pet, either. With KC, it has been different. I have been the one who fed him nearly every meal. I took him to many of his vet appointments and made sure his food dish was clean and his water dish was filled.
It’s interesting how the simple care of a pet can bring about a bond that one does not anticipate. Meeting the basic needs of a pet can endear that pet to the one who does a major share of the maintenance. If you have a dog, and you are the one assigned to walking him or her most days, it’s likely you have a bond that is different from those of the other family members.
A pet is a true member of the family and reflects the family’s personality, both collectively and individually, as well as contributing its own personal flair to the group. We all love KC and it will be a very difficult day when we have to say goodbye to him. We won’t fully be able to adequately thank him for all he has given to us, but I think he’ll know how much he has been loved and appreciated for just being himself.
Soucheray is a Woodbury resident and a licensed family therapist