Tough Decisions

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On a recent visit to a potential customer’s house, we were introduced to a beautiful senior pup named Ziti.  The owner told us Ziti was 15 years old, suffers from severe arthritis, dementia, incontinence, blindness, etc.  Ziti’s owners’ clearly were willing to do anything necessary for their boy, as he had a special space in their home, complete with areas for him to relieve himself when needed without soiling the home.  Ziti was obviously very well loved. A couple of weeks later, I received an email from the owners apologizing for not having enlisted our help for caring for Ziti.  The owner explained that since our last meeting, Ziti had taken a turn for the worse and they had actually contacted their local veterinarian to help relieve Ziti from his suffering.  According to the owner, the veterinarian was not available to assist, so she believed it was meant to be.  Ziti continued to eat, sleep, pee and poop, so the owners took it as a sign that their boy was not ready to leave them. As I read the owner’s email about Ziti, I was transported to times in my life with my beloved pets that I feared to make the decision to relieve them of their pain.  Obviously, our pets aren’t able to make the decisions themselves to relieve their pain or suffering.   Sometimes, it is our heavy responsibility to make the tough decisions when our loved ones should leave us. As and adult, I’ve been blessed with six different and special pets. Of the six, I’ve lost three in the past few years.  My ex-wife and I were fortunate to have been on hand when our beautiful bulldog, Winston decided to leave us.  He had just enjoyed a nice dinner of BBQ brisket and was laying in our living room.  He began breathing heavily and erratically, and then he stopped breathing.  It was time for him to go…his body was ready to give in.  We mourned him and paid his life homage as a faithful companion, friend, and special boy.  He was our first pup as a couple, and it was hard losing him, but we could hope for no better ending to a special life. In September 2013, our sweet and faithful pug, Monty also made the decision that it was time to leave.  Monty was my most special boy.  He was my constant companion for 15 years, and he was the sweetest pug you would ever hope to meet.  Through the years, Monty’s health continued to decline…a partially collapsed trachea which caused a persistent cough, arthritis, blindness, hearing loss, incontinence, etc.  Through it all, he continued to eat, sleep, drink, poop and pee, so his life was full though his body couldn’t always function as it did when he was a pup.  I came downstairs one morning to let him out and feed him prior to going to work.  By the time I reached him, he had already passed on; laying in his bed as if sleeping.  His loss was also very hard and our mourning is still very fresh, but Monty’s endearing attitude continues to fill our hearts with joy and special memories. The blessings of long lives and special endings came to a screeching halt with our very special girl, Lulu.  Through her 10 year life, Lulu was a force to contend with.  Confident, intelligent, sometimes conniving, but always faithful and loving.  Shortly after Monty left us, Lulu was diagnosed with cancer of the colon. At her height of her health, Lulu weighed 17 pounds.  Within three weeks of being diagnosed with cancer, she dropped to an unrecognizable 11 pounds.  The chemotherapy tore through her like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  Though the toxic cocktail of pills and IV’s was supposed to help her and eradicate the cancer, it only succeeded in making our girl miserable and severely anemic.  On her last night with us, she was very weak, would barely eat, and was having trouble breathing.  I laid on the floor with my girl that night to ensure she was comfortable, and at 4:20 a.m. she woke me with a sad little howl.  She was breathing very fast and she was unresponsive…I knew it was the end for my girl.  Rather than prolonging her agony, we called her veterinarian at 4:30 a.m., and prepared to let Lulu go. The doctor showed up a short while later, and right before the medication was administered, Lulu became cognizant and licked me on the nose as if to tell me that it was ok.  She was ready to leave us. It’s hard, so hard to say goodbye to someone or something you love.  With today’s technology, our pets live longer than ever before.  We’ve prolonged the lives of these beings, and they become our family, our kids, and our loves.  We want them to live forever, but just as a human, their lives are fragile and finite.  At some point, we’ve all wished they could just talk to tell us what is wrong, what hurts, and what we can do to help…alas, this is a wish that probably will never come true.  We are fortunate to have been charged with the care of all the world’s animals. Some of us excel at the task, some of us fail.  Anyone can own a pet, but only a select few can truly love, cherish, admire, understand, and coexist with their pets.  These select few have the fortune to care for their pets and the unfortunate responsibility to make the decisions that count…the tough decisions.  These are the decisions that we make for those we love.  It’s an awesome responsibility that sometimes brings great happiness and great sorrow.

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