9:20 a.m. Tuesday March 17. The phone rings. It is our usual veterinary clinic calling. They weren’t open at midnight yesterday, but they had been faxed the details by the emergency service we used. “How is Marshall?” I give an update. They don’t like what I am saying.
“You can’t wait until we open at 11. Take him to emergency.”
10:00 a.m. I arrive at emergency. It isn’t that long a trip, but it took me half an hour to find Marshall, who had been right there when the phone rang. A hiding cat is rarely a good sign.
It is never easy making life and death decisions. Sometimes though it is something a pet owner has to do.
It has been almost 55 years since I got my first cat. I’m not sure I can name all of the ones who have passed through my life; my mother liked to have a few around at a time. My children have only had five cats in the past twenty years. (There was a sixth cat we inherited but the kids didn’t like her so she is not included in the total.) One of those cats vanished, one died of natural causes at home. The rest we have had to make the decision: medical treatment or euthanasia.
I am always torn. Cats (and other pets) do become part of the family. It doesn’t seem right to arbitrarily decide on who lives and dies based on financial considerations, which is what I am doing right now as I sit in the waiting room at the clinic waiting for the vet. Marshall was a little better after our early morning visit March 16, but then took a turn for the worse.
10:30 a.m. I authorize morphine. I have been down this road before. I know he isn’t going to make it; the treatment cost is going to be prohibitive. I don’t want to spend that money. But how can I possibly allow him to remain in pain?
I shudder when I think how much this visit and the euthanasia will be. But he is my daughter’s favourite cat; at this point I just want him comfortable until she gets home from school so she can say goodbye.
10:45 a.m. I am waiting for the vet to come and tell me what he or she thinks. I suspect that this urinary disease is treatable, most ailments are, but the cost will be exorbitant. He is only a cat. I love my daughter. She will be devastated if her cat dies. But she knows the situation; we have been through it before. This is not fun. Emotionally I know what I want to do. That is why I think these things out beforehand. This is not a time for emotions, not if I want to be a good steward of my resources.
11 a.m. This is taking a long time. I don’t know if that is good or bad. I don’t see how it could be good. And now here is the veterinarian to tell me what is happening.
The previous paragraphs were written while waiting. This is a postscript, written after I know the result. Choices are so hard sometimes. My head and my heart in a clash of wills. I made the decision before leaving the house. In some ways I made the decision years ago. But that doesn’t make it any easier when you are told you can save your cat’s life. I am not hard-hearted. But two thousand dollars is a lot of money, almost ten times the cost of a new kitten. And that was the low estimate.
There will be no new kitten in our lives in the near future. We need time to grieve, to adjust to life without Marshall. In his short life he brought a lot of joy to a many people. None of us could ask for a better epitaph.