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. 

and

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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