Any pet owner that has had to have their animal euthanized can testify as to how difficult that decision was to make, but to stay by their beloved pets side while this is being done can prove to be too much for many people.
Some owners choose to leave their animal with the vet and some owners choose to stay with their pets when the time has come for them to be put to sleep. There is no right or wrong decision, everyone has their own way of dealing with their own emotions and what one person can cope with, another can’t.
My first cat Bruno was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while undergoing surgery to see why he was vomiting. There was no option but to have him put to sleep and as I was a veterinary nurse at the time, I got to see him on the operating table to say goodbye before the vet sent him on his way to Rainbow Bridge.
I could not face staying with him as it was done, I don’t know why but I just couldn’t and that is something I never quite forgave myself for. I know that he was asleep and knew nothing about it and yes, I know that I did the right thing – and the kindest thing, but it still to this day haunts me that I wasn’t there until the end.
For months afterwards I was haunted with images and nightmares that my precious Bruno was not really dead even though the rational side of my brain knew he was.
My second cat Juniper was diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct just less than two years after we lost Bruno, she was also undergoing an exploratory operation to see why she was vomiting and once again we were cruelly hit with the cancer diagnosis.
‘Would you like to stay with her while I do it?’ The vet asked me.
There was no question about it, of course I had to stay with her.
Juniper was lying on a knitted multi colored blanket, still fast asleep from her anesthetic and her IV drip taped onto her leg. I took in her soft and gentle face, pink nose leathers and stunning tortoiseshell markings, I felt the cool pink pads of her paws with the feathering in between the pads and memorized every inch of her while inside my heart was breaking at the thought of what I was going to witness.
Would she know I was there, would she know if I wasn’t? Half of me wanted to run out of the surgery so that I couldn’t see the vet purposely ending my cats life. But the other half was still hanging on to the pain of walking away from Bruno nearly two years before.
Why did I want to run away – self preservation for me? Why did I want to stay – to put right about how bad I felt for leaving Bruno or was it because it was the right thing for Juniper? Who knows, possibly all of those reasons I guess.
I kissed her and hugged her as the vet injected into her IV drip and within a few minutes I could feel her tiny heart slow down until it stopped and that my friends, was my first ever time of what I term ‘walking my pet to the bridge’.
I recall crying so hard that I could barely breathe but I also remember feeling an immense sense of relief because it meant that cancer could no longer rob my tiny little cat of her health and cause her any more pain and suffering.
That was my first experience, the second was with my elderly whippet Rema who was in renal failure and although she looked healthy, she really wasn’t and on the day she went ‘to the Bridge’, she turned down a beef sausage and that was totally unheard of. She looked into my eyes and silently screamed ‘I have had enough’.
I held her in my arms as the vet put her to sleep and once again I took in her scent, her fur, her grey muzzle and cloudy opaque eyes and then broke my heart as her larger than life character left her body at the same time that her heart stopped beating, leaving nothing more than a frail grizzled and skinny whippet lying on the table.
Was that really my dog? She looked so tiny, I was sure she had been bigger than that or was that just her character?
Did Rema care that I was there? I like to think she did. She didn’t fight it, she relaxed in my arms and gazed up at me – and you can bet your sweet life she knew I was there and I like to think that she knew I had walked her to ‘the Bridge’.
Once again my heart was broken, the pain inside was tangible – why the hell was I putting myself through this again with Rema when it hurt so much with Juniper? Now that begged a question.
I did it because I felt I had to, I did it because I regretted not doing it with Bruno, I did it because it was the final journey and I did it because I knew if I collapsed alone at home my pets would probably rather sit and die with me than escape to look for food elsewhere for their survival.
Now I am not judging anyone that feels unable to be with their pet on their final journey, it is a totally personal decision that only you as a pet owner can make.
I am purely describing it as someone that has not been there and also as someone that has been there.
For any pet owner, it is a painful and emotional thing to go through. Whatever you decide to do, I can guarantee that it will either hurt like hell to walk away and leave your pet with the vet, or it will hurt like hell to hold them as they die in your arms.
The right to say goodbye is denied to so many pet owners when their animal suffers a traumatic death and for me personally, if my pet has to go to Rainbow Bridge, then I will walk by their side to the gates.
Samantha Rose (C) Copyright September 2015