The Guilt of Euthanasia

Trigger Warning

If a frank talk about euthanizing a beloved, suffering pet would upset you, then I suggest you skip today’s post. I write what’s foremost on my mind and important to me, and this is what came up for me.

The Guilt of Euthanasia

You would think that laying down to meditate in the middle of the afternoon would be a relaxing, calming thing to do.  For me, today, that did not happen. Instead, a terrible thought went through my head.

I thought of it, that very moment, when the vet injected the liquid that ceased Hunter’s bodily function in an instant. An excruciating guilt filled with regret and sadness kicked me in the stomach. I spent the next 20 minutes sobbing over having to put Hunter down.

Even though there was no hope of survival. Even though I know we all die. Even know I know that 18 years is ancient in cat years. I keep thinking the following thoughts:

I want Hunter back. 

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I killed my kitty. 

Even though I know there are circumstances, I feel terribly guilty. I felt caught between two equally terrible decision: to let my cat suffer to a considerable degree until he died, or to have the vet inject him with death-inducing drugs. After loving another living being for 18 years, each decision would have produced its own kind of guilt.

When you don’t act, you can be upset by the thought that things could be different if only you would have acted. When you act, you feel all the responsibility and, sometimes, guilt that comes with acting. A momentous point in time becomes imbued with the weight of that decision, even when the action comes a while after the decision.

After meditation was over, I washed my face to cool down the redness of my eyes and nose. I worked out with my trainer and sorted through the mail after coming home.

I opened an envelope from the pet insurance company. Inside was a generic sympathy card. Just the few kind words in the card had me on the floor crying. Gwenny flopped over next to me, belly up for pets, and purred up a storm. I was happy to hear her purrs, but sad to be reminded that I won’t be hearing Hunter purr anymore.

I used to tell Hunter, “Please just die in your sleep, will you? I don’t want to have to put down another cat.”

If only it would be that easy!

Right now, it feels like I don’t want to go through this anymore. I found Hunter as a kitten, and he stole my heart immediately. Then we became very close, and I felt like he thought I was his momma/petting machine. He had such intense eyes and would stare at you as if trying to communicate psychically. My heart would ache every time.

Now he’s gone. Eighteen years is longer than I had with my other cats, but it feels too short. Maybe it wouldn’t feel too short if the end did not have to come to such an abrupt stop that required my intervention.

But I have two more. Two more cats to live with until they need my intervention at the end.

I guess I could stop having pets so that I would not have to go through with this. While I was meditating, Gwenny curled up in the sun on the ottoman next to me. As I pet her, I realized that she’d have to live her life somewhere. Someone, somewhere would adopt her, probably, and they’d have to do the same thing. This is the ultimate pain of pet stewardship.

I think I would be able to keep the resolve of not having any more cats until the moment when I looked into another kitten’s or cat’s eyes, fell in love, and relived the joy of bringing them home.

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5 Truths I’ve Learned From Working Out

Now that it has been a couple of months since I began working out, I’ve realized a few things about the nature of working out, its relationship to the body, and the applicability of the the lessons I’ve learned to other areas of my life.

Truth #1:  weight and body size are not necessarily related

I hadn’t noticed my mid-section changing much. Then I uncovered some capri pants that I had put in a giveaway pile. They had not fit well in several years, but I loved them. I figured I would fit into them one day, but it didn’t happen. I decided to try them on.

Not only was I able to fit into my size 6 capri pants, they were very roomy in the thighs, waist, and tush! I wondered whether I was a size 5, and whether I should add a belt. My weight has been the same, maybe even a pound or two more, than when I began working out at the gym.

This experience made it clear in my mind that weight and clothing size don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other. If you work out, body fat becomes replaced with lean muscle. A friend of mine pointed out that, pound for pound, muscle takes up half as much space on your body than fat.

So, the next time you see someone super skinny, remind yourself that you might be seeing a dedicated gym rat, not an anorexic.

Truth #2: hard bodies equal hard work

Having seen and understood that the changes in my body are because of my efforts, I now know that people who have sculpted bodies have been at it. For years. I have a newfound respect for the these people, men and women alike.

Every muscle that you is a result of reps, days, weeks, months, and, yes, even years, at the gym. Whereas before I was intimidated because I compared my weak little self with them, now I am inspired. I see all kinds of possible outcomes and goals in front of me every time I step in the door. I realize that I can have that body, too, if I put in the same kind of effort that they do.

If you want that kind of body, then you need to work on it, too.

Truth #3: having a coach is key

I told my coach Leo the two truths that I learned. While waving my workout book, Leo said, “When we’re done with this, you’ll be able to work out on your own.”

I panicked a bit and said, “What? Like when you retire?”

Leo bust out laughing. I told him I was in this for the long haul, and I doubted that I there wasn’t going to be a time when I didn’t work with him. This exchange led me to my third truth.

While pointing my right index finder towards his right chest, I told him, “The only reason I’ve kept working out these past two months is because of you, Leo. I would never have been able to keep up my pace if it hadn’t been for working with you.”

Leo told me he liked what I said because it showed I had a long-term plan and was motivated to work out. I enjoy working out with Leo. He’s matter of fact, and, yet, encourages me and makes me feel like I can do. I’m not sure I could do all that by myself.

After I left the gym, I started thinking about this post, and I realized a fourth truth.

Truth #4: Determination is a Mindset

Another reason I have been able to keep up an average of 4 visits a week to the gym, with a goal of making it 5 days, is because it is a done deal. Like eating, showering, or brushing my teeth, it’s something I do.

Working out is not something I’ll get to if I’m feeling up for it or if I run out of time. When it’s time to pack my stuff and go, I pack my stuff and go. I no longer shove myself off the couch or from my computer chair, groaning. I know I’m going to do it so I don’t waste any energy in the debate. I get in the car, drive 10 minutes, do a quick change, and get on the treadmill to warm up before lifting or spend the 30 minutes speed walking. Or I take a class. Tonight, dance music and speed walking calls my name.

Don’t get me wrong. When my cat died last week, I did not go to the gym. However, I was there the next day so that I still got my 4 days. This week, something came up on my usual Tuesday so I went Wednesday.

Realizing I had the determination, or mindset, to get my ass to the gym made me realize something else.

Truth #5: I need to treat my writing Like the gym

Writing is something that is not on my “I’m doing” list. I have my twice-weekly blog here, and that’s about all that I have been doing for the past few months. I haven’t given up on my writing goals, but I haven’t been working on them, either.  I had mindset in place during the first half of the year, and it made my writing happen. By August, I had put it on the back burner and turned to working out instead.

Focusing on my health has turned out to be a good move because I’ve relearned some crucial lessons that I can use to get my focus back in my writing life: Make a decision, make it a done deal, find a a coach, and put in the time.

Normie and His Nonna

Last  night, I went downstairs to find my cat Normie. We live upstairs in an apartment from my mother, but our doors are often open to allow the cats to visit her. Most nights, I find him and bring him upstairs.

All the lights were off except for the one in my mother’s bedroom. Her door was halfway open. I was about to knock, but I could hear that she was awake by the turning of a page in a book.

“Ma?”

I poked my head inside to see this:

#Mom + my #Normie cutie pie #catsofinstagram #kitty #cat

I bust out laughing. I’ve never seen Normie get under a blanket with my mom before. I had to get a close-up of his cutie-pie face:

Normie wrapped up

Then Normie opened his eyes. I tried to get a shot, but a yawn got in the way:

Momma & Normie in Bed 4

Mom and I can’t help but laugh at Normie. Whatever this cat does contains an element of entertainment:

Momma & Normie in Bed 3

Then more laughing and licking:

Momma & Normie in Bed 2

Finally, the desired shot:

Momma & Normie in Bed 1

Although I still think that my favorite photo was the first one I took because Normie looked pleased as punch to be snuggling under the same bedspread as Nonna.

Now he doesn’t have to share, which has never been his strong point.

And Then There Were Two….

Trigger Warning: If you’ve recently lost a pet, are grieving, and would rather skip the details of the last day of a sick, old, and dying cat, you might want to skip this post. If you want to read a tribute to my cat Hunter instead, read my blog from Monday, October 6th.

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When I woke up yesterday, my husband told me that there was something wrong with my beloved 18 year old cat, Hunter. Mark had given him his medication and his subcutaneous fluids. Hunter didn’t move much, nor did he eat more than a nibble of his treats. Hunter did not come at all when food was put out.

I saw Hunter sitting uncomfortably by the water bowl. He moved away, and his back legs stumbled. You could tell he was in pain just by looking at him. When you can see that, you know it’s bad.

Hunter climbed into a chair where he likes to sleep, but he couldn’t quite rest comfortably. He moved slowly and did not lie down all the way. I decided to call the emergency line at my vet’s. I heard from my vet about 15 minutes later. She was already going into the office, so she said to meet her there.

Hunter looked so ill that I began crying. I went downstairs and told my mother to come up and visit Hunter because he was very sick. She was alarmed at how he looked and cried with me.

After getting some coffee, Mark and I drove Hunter to the vet. A physical exam indicated fluid in his stomach. The vet took some out and showed us the foam at the top, which indicated a severe protein deficiency. We considered draining his stomach, but the vet said it would probably fill right back up. We could take him to a specialist for it, but testing would cost at least a thousand dollars without giving us any real hope of him getting better.

Given his poor prognosis and that Hunter was excruciating pain, we decided it was time to say good-bye to Hunter and asked to have him euthanized.

I have loved animals all my life, especially cats. After you spend 18 years doing everything you can to keep your pet happy and healthy, telling a vet that now is the time to end your pet’s life  is nauseating. I hate the very idea of it.

But what are my options? Hunter was already in a lot of pain, and my vet said that he could die at any moment. I do not really feel there are any good options when you come to a point like this.

I called my mother to let her know what we were doing. I could only understand half of what she said through her crying. Since we moved down to New York, Hunter has been a constant companion to her. After she started to give him treats, my mother was Hunter’s queen. He would get on his hind legs and tap my mother’s arm to let her know he wanted food. Other times, he would grab her arm and pull it towards him. Or he would meow, which was more like a cute little grunt than a meow.

Hunter had the cutest little face, the most intense stare, and the softest fur you would ever touch. He used to flop over in my lap so I could scratch his belly. I’ve spent 45 minutes, an hour just petting that cat’s belly at least a couple of times a week since I got him. More recently, he did it only occasionally because he was no longer comfortable laying on his side. I think the last time that we did this was in the last couple of weeks, but it wasn’t for more than 5 minutes before Hunter had to move.

So now our home and our hearts are emptier. Yesterday was three years ago that I first met Gwendolyn, and today is three years that I brought her home. Life is like that. Sometimes you mourn and celebrate on the same day.

When you have them from when they are kittens, like I have with Hunter and Gwenny, they really do think you are their mother. That parent/child bond can exist between you and a being of another species. Hunter was an especially sweet and affectionate cat. He could not get enough of whatever attention that you wanted to give him.

I will miss his snuggling, his belly, his fur, his tail. I used to gently hold it and tell him it was my tail. If he was in my lap, I would lay it against my chest and pet his tail. He would let it stay there. So soft!

Some people claim that you cannot love an animal and that animals cannot love you back, that it is only attachment. To them I say, go to hell. I loved my cat, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he loved me back. Sometimes, the final way that you can show them your love is to recognize when it’s time to end their lives. It’s just so painful and goes.

When Hunter was euthanized, he was surrounded by me, Mark, a vet tech, and the vet who had cared for him this past year. She thought he was a great cat, too, even though his pain meant he growled when he received the physical exam or was put on the scale.

After Hunter died, I pet him for a little while, gave him kisses, told him how much I love him, and how much I was going to miss him. I feel like someone shot a cannonball through the place where my heart and lungs used to be. The house feels empty, even though I still have two kitty babies in my life.

Each living soul is different from another. Getting or having another pet doesn’t make the grief less or the grieving easier. Even though it’s painful, I will open my heart and home to cats who need homes as long as I possibly can. The only thing worse than having to put your beloved cat down is having an empty house.

Bless you, my baby Hunter. I hope your journey over the Rainbow Bridge was a good one. If there’s an afterlife, I hope to see you again. Find us a comfy chair where I can sit down and rub your belly for as long as you want.

Post Poned!

Today’s regular blog post will occur on Friday, October 17, 2014.

I apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause my readers. Thank you for your understanding.

Day Trip: New England Autumn Hike

I called my August trip back home to Massachusetts the Visit the Kids trip. I hadn’t seen my friends or their 11-year old daughter since my husband and I moved back to my childhood, New York home in September 2013. I also wanted to visit my niece C who was born to close friends  four days after we moved.

This trip was the Visit the New FurKids trip. Two sets of friends who lived near the Worcester area both acquired new fur kids, one was a kitten named Mia and, later, an elderly pit bull mix named Julio. Because we have an ill, elderly cat, we decided to make a quick, one-day trip back up north to meet our new fur-niece and fur-nephew.

So you would think that this trip will be full of pictures of animals.

You’d be wrong.

During the first leg of our trip, our friend took us on a hike near Rutland, MA. The day was bright, clear, and chilly. Shortly after we started, we passed by a lake bordered by trees.

2014-10-12 11.22.19   2014-10-12 11.25.03

Along the hike, we encountered a dead forest.

2014-10-12 11.35.41

The hike ahead was long and inviting.

2014-10-12 11.42.25

We stopped at a tunnel.

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Since we were on a schedule, we turned back around the way we came.

Water dripped down the mossy rock face and onto the colorful, fallen leaves. I would have taken a video, but leaf blowers started blowing in the distance right after I had the idea.

2014-10-12 11.46.52

 

From our walk, we went to eat at Flo’s, a nearby farm. The cows were just chill in’ along the fence.

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Later in the day, we went for a walk with our friends and Julio. Our friends in Marlboro, MA walked us and Julio  on a trail through woods adjacent to a park and country club. The fallen pine needles crisply scented the air. So much better than any kind of pine freshener than companies try to create in their fake labs.

Life, with friends and furkids and hikes in New England on a crisp autumn day,  is great.

 

 

An Ordinary Life

American society places an enormous amount of pressure on children to be extraordinary. You know what I’m talking about.

Prodigies. Child business owners. Child actors. Self-possessed teens who quit school at 16 to go build an empire or play guitar. Toddler musicians. Anyone who followed their hearts desires, persevered, and became famous at the last second.

You know, those people who, by virtue of their birth and inborn talents or with the kind of family support that most people can only dream, somehow get catapulted into the public limelight as a paragon of ingenuity or talent or success. Or all three.

Then there are the rest of us.

I include myself in this category. I have not found my life’s work’s calling. I have not switched into that mode where I am utilizing all my strengths to put forth a confident version of myself in the public life we call employment, whether artistic or otherwise. In comparison with the rest of the American public, no one knows me because I do not stand out.

Truthfully, I am OK with that.

All my life, I have desired to find the one thing that I could do to bring myself into the realm of the extraordinary. I did not want it because I wanted to be better than anyone. But I deeply desired the kind of commitment and the experience of flow that people who know where their hearts lie experience.

Here are some things I truly enjoy: Being with my family, friends, husband, and cats. Working out at the gym. Being outside. Walks on the beach. Riding my bike with my husband.

I hate that this world asks us to look at the things and activities that we love the most and find ways to make money out of them. Being paid to do the things we love means we enjoy them less. It’s called the Over-justification Effect. External rewards reduce one’s internal enjoyment of a particular task.

If I am asked to spend 40 hours a week working, then I cannot think of a job as just a job. The need to truly enjoy the work increases, but the likelihood that the enjoyment will be as much as it can be is reduced. So I am stuck. I have tried a couple of different routes, but my heart wasn’t in it.

This year, I took on writing, and I am failing, by my own standards. However, I also wanted to get healthier, and I seem to be having success in that area by regularly committing to working out. But no one’s going to pay me to go to the gym and feel good.

Right now, I am not working outside the home. I am in a situation where it is not required so I can concentrate on getting healthier. I want to be able to give it my all, but my fibromyalgia pains suck so much energy out of me that doing is not possible. Without real health, I will chronically be exhausted as I work, and that’s no way to live, in my opinion.

I have not completely accepted that I am an ordinary person who will live this life only as ordinary. I grew up hearing about how smart I was. But being smart is not the sole answer to make it or living a happy life. Intelligence is not the only means by which goals can be achieved.

And thank goodness! Otherwise, the world would be quite the boring place.