“Where are you going?” I choked back tears as I imagined these words coming from the mind of the emaciated old cat on my exam table. She had lost half of her body weight in a month, and stood before me a measly 4 pounds. Though her owner declined testing, cancer was most likely to blame. Her owner was devastated. She had been a faithful companion and cuddle buddy for the last 15 years, and he couldn’t bear the thought of letting her suffer. He decided to euthanize her.
I have been a veterinarian for 3 years, and in that short amount of time I have euthanized hundreds of patients. It’s a daunting task, and despite popular belief, it never really gets any easier. There are, however, certain cases that are harder than others. This was one of those cases.
This decrepit old cat gazed longingly as her owner headed for the front door. She even called out to him with the tiniest of meows as he left the clinic. He didn’t want to stay, didn’t want to see what was going to happen next. What happened next is that I held her and comforted her, tears burning my eyes, as her sedative began to take effect. Before too long she had passed on, but those of us left behind continued to bemoan the last few minutes of her life. Perhaps in this profession we anthropomorphize animals too much, but in these cases my mind can’t help but imagine what the animals are thinking. “Where is my dad? Why did he leave me here? Who are you? Why can’t I keep my eyes open? Where is my dad? I want to go home.”
Some might think this chain of thought foolish, even childish. But those people don’t see what I see. When you turn your back to walk away from your friend, you don’t see the confusion and sadness in their eyes. Our animals play only a small part in our lives. Each one stays with us for a little while and leaves a paw print on our hearts, but we all will inevitably move on after they leave our sides. But to your animal, you are their entire world. You are their caretaker, friend, playmate, keeper of the treats, and cuddle buddy. Everything that they live for is wrapped up in you. So please, remember that when it comes time for them to cross that rainbow bridge. Stay with them, comfort them, love them…because that’s all that they have ever wanted from you.