April 24th, 2012, 8:16 am · 6 Comments · posted by delstonejr
Our friends at the Walton Sun recently reported that an animal shelter director’s decision to euthanize a dog generated a social media frenzy of criticism. Apparently many people felt the director’s decision to put the dog to sleep was inhumane and attempts should have been made to save the dog.
My understanding is the dog was in bad shape, covered with scores of tumors. The director felt the most humane thing to do was euthanize.
I’m not going to second-guess the shelter director. I wasn’t there and I didn’t see the dog – only a single picture on Facebook. If the director felt a humane death was best for the dog, I support that.
From my experience, I can tell you there comes a point where medical intervention only perpetuates the misery and euthanasia is a mercy, not an expedient. That’s true of pets and human beings.
I didn’t know my cat was sick until a friend who hadn’t visited in awhile commented about how thin she’d become. How could I have not noticed? Well, it’s easy. When you see the cat every day, changes can escape your attention. She looked the way she’d “always” looked. But not to my friend. So I scheduled a trip to the vet, where I learned her kidney’s were failing and nothing short of a kidney transplant would save her.
I chose not to go the kidney-transplant route. The cost would have been astronomical and the benefits dubios – the cat was already 13 years old and was at that age where if kidneys didn’t get her, something else likely would. I gave her fluids intravenously every day, plus vitamins, a special diet, and lots of love. She was my favorite cat and I didn’t want to see her go.
But one day I realized I was not doing her any favors by prolonging her life. She was a pitiful sack of bones and would have died long ago had I not artificially extended her life. So on a cold December afternoon I took her to the vet a final time, and the deed was done. I think it was a relief for both of us. Now, she rests in my mother’s back yard beneath the shade of a hickory tree.
Shortly thereafter my other cat fell ill. This time the culprits were diabetes AND kidney failure. Thus began a two-year nightmare of insulin, IVs, special diets and supplements, force-feedings, and constant pain – for the cat and me. At the end he spent his days hiding behind the TV set, looking for a place to die. In May 2010 I made another trip to the vet, and he lies with his housemate in my mom’s back yard.
In both cases I think I waited too long to have the cats put to sleep. They suffered longer than they needed. The problem is you can’t know, as their owner, what’s the right thing to do. Your thoughts are clouded with the love you feel for your pets, and the antipathy we all have for death. You want them to have what I called “good life,” where they enjoy a relatively pain-free and secure existence. Because you aren’t walking in their skins, you can’t really know when it’s time. You guess and hope you’ve made the right decision.
And that’s what the director did when she euthanized the dog.
I think it’s a shame the euthanasia option doesn’t exist for people. I’ve seen friends and family members suffer needlessly when there was no hope of recovery, no hope for a future. We abhor death, but sometimes I think it’s the better option.
In my heart I know that dog is in a better place, having crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and the director made the right decision.