(if it is too much to read about another person’s grief for the reader, I would suggest you skip this post.)
Today I had to have my one cat euthanized, a polite word for having to have my cat killed because it was the best decision of a lot of bad ones. I’ve read that when one accepts having a pet, one makes an agreement with sorrow. It was our sweet Mordred, who was with us for almost 16 years. He started acting not like himself and that is always a bad thing when it comes to elderly cats. He was diagnosed with pancreatitis, which one of the hallmark symptoms is refusing to eat or drink. The vet gave him some IV fluids and meds to decrease the disease and increase his appetite. But he still refused to eat and drink, except for a few treats, far too few calories to live on. The last two days, we gave him fluids by mouth with a needle-less syringe to keep him comfortable at home for a few more days.
Now, we could have had a feeding tube installed, given fluids sub-Q (with a needle syringe under the skin) and kept him alive for a while longer, and he would likely have simply slept most of the time. But that isn’t much of a life, not when he would run away from me when he saw me coming with the supposed “help”.
I’ve always been a proponent of euthanasia, that one’s death is just as important as one’s life and life isn’t simply respirating and metabolizing. I’ve believed this as a theist and as an atheist, that life has no innate specialness that should require suffering in its final days. I never accepted that some deity had the only right to kill people, which was probably one of the early signs I wasn’t going to always remain a Christian. But it’s still very hard to let a loved one go, and in my case, it’s much harder to lose my pets than any human that I have cared for. I guess it’s because I’ve chosen to have my pets and they depend on me to take care of them. They understand nothing but that.
It would be easy to say “well, I don’t agree with euthanasia this once when it will hurt me personally.” Taking extreme measures could ease the pain that comes from the dreadful responsibility to care for an animal and friend even if that care means that you make his death gentle and peaceful. But that would only be putting off the terrible day for no better reason than my own selfishness. I miss Mordred terribly, but I know that a gentle death is better than a slow fearful starvation.
Many theists would claim that it is in just such a painful situation as loss of a friend would make everyone believe in the god that they tout, the vile claim of “no atheists in foxholes”. By their claims, I *must* have been praying desperately to these gods for a miracle and seeking solace in claims of some afterlife. But I’m not and their false claims fail again. From all of the evidence we have, there is no afterlife, no heaven or Elysian Fields, or reincarnation or some returning to a vague spiritual force. I will never see my cats again, though I do wish I would. I have only my happy memories of them. Please let me share a few with you:
Mordred was a tiny cat, about 7 pounds, and black with a white locket. He looked much like the “Le Chat Noir” poster, all scruffy and pure attitude. He was adopted from the local Humane Society and he was probably only about 9 months old when we got him. He was always full of piss and vinegar, making it his business to ambush the other cats, most who outweighed him by at least double his weight.
Mordred was quite an acrobat. He once jumped backward from a standing start entirely over a loveseat when he was startled by who knows what. He also made the questionable decision to leap upon a hanging basket (holding plants) that we had just put up in our living room, quickly plummeting to the ground. Needless to say, the hanging basket never was put back up.
Much to his disgust, and our amusement, he became a surrogate mother to three of the other cats we have. They were very small kittens when we got them from my parents’ farm. The momma cat had been killed but they at least could drink on their own. They absolutely loved Mordred, always trying to curl up with him. He would growl, get up, move a foot and then settle down again, and was rejoined by the kittens. One of them, Grendel, still loved to do so, even when he was about three times Mordred’s size.
In the last year or two, he took to lying on top of our microwave so he could keep me company in the kitchen, being my little kitchen goblin. He also learned to get up there just before I got home from work. When I opened the door, he greeted me with a loud squawk, demanding treats. If treats were not forthcoming, then he would do his best to grab anyone who walked by.
Mordred was also often in bed with us, especially during the cooler months. He decided his favorite spot was on my head. For a very small cat, he would take up as much pillow real estate as possible, and then curl around my head. He also had a tendency to sleep with one eye open.
It will be a sad and lonely time for my husband and I. And unfortunately, the “kittens” aren’t so young anymore either so it won’t be the last time we know we will grieve this year or the next. It hurts very much, and it is worth enjoying every moment with that which you love to pay for such pain. Don’t figure on some time “later”, don’t regret not doing something now.