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Sad event

I have been fostering Oc's semi-feral cat, Silver. Never a very friendly cat to begin with, she was acting increasingly cranky and stressed. I decided there was nothing more I could do to help socialize her and I took her to the animal shelter yesterday.

After I told them about her history and her recent behavior, they said she was not adoptable and recommended I release her for euthanasia. They said they would be willing to keep her for a couple of days, but they felt it would only increase her stress. So I decided to have her euthanized.

Afterwards, I had a very rough time of it. I don't think I've ever felt such pain. I felt heartbroken and guilty and complicit and full of "what if's." I felt like I had made the wrong decision for the wrong reasons -- convenience and cold curiosity.

I did what I could to console myself -- let OH hold me and made him listen to some of the nasty things I was saying to myself, petted my nice cuddly cat Selkie a lot, watched the Babylon 5 episode "Sleeping in Light," wrote more of the nasty things I was saying to myself in my journal, compulsively read The Economist (you know you are hurting when you read about the September 11 tragedy to distract yourself), stood out in the thunderstorm and soaked myself to the bone, did a shamanic journey and ritually cleaned up Silver's room, stayed up too late reading the net, read Rilke poetry, ate a bowl of cereal with cream. Even after all that I lay there for what felt like forever, feeling cold and wrapping up in more and more blankets, before I got to sleep.

This morning I woke up far too early, but with a comforting dream-message (Oc entering the room and saying "Love"). I was lying in bed obsessing about Silver and I suddenly remembered how Silver had been behaving when I had her in the big wire dog crate, before putting her in the bathroom. In the cage, she scarcely ate or drank, and she got pretty dehydrated. I realize that if I had left her at the shelter she would have done the same and felt miserable for the few days they might have kept her. So I am feeling more like I did the right thing after all.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 25th, 2001 08:24 am (UTC)
Oh, ouch.

It does sound like you did the best you could for her, though. If she truly wasn't happy, and there was no way to get her into a situation where she *could* be happy safely, then sometimes there's not much you can do except let go.

I sort of felt the same way when they put my pony, Dorothy, dow - she'd been colicking every year or so for over five years, then, and was getting progressively more tender in her feet (so she wasn't allowed to jump anymore) and her life was getting more and more limited. They could have kept her going, but she was enjoying life less and less, and letting her go let her go on - and maybe come back as a new and bright-eyed foal, ready to defy gravity and all of the physical possibilities of the equine body.

You tried hard to give her a good chance at a better life than being hit by a car or any of the other horrible things that can happen to feral cats. You tried to help her learn to relax and deal with people. You didn't abandon her on a roadside, or let her be tormented longer than she needed to be, once you realised there wasn't any chance she'd adapt.

Me, I wish there were more people as concerned about animals as you. It'd be a much better world.
Sep. 25th, 2001 08:38 am (UTC)
Thank you for the comforting words.

I think she was happy at Oc's, but Oc had to move and couldn't take her. Part of me feels a bit selfish (better than "hugely selfish," the way I felt yesterday) that I couldn't spare a bit of space under my furniture for her. But I think it would have been unrealistic.
Sep. 25th, 2001 09:15 am (UTC)
Stef, i agree with Gwynyth-- you did everything you could for her. You didn't do it out of convenience, not at all! The "what ifs" come from Disney-like movies where at-the-last-minute the animal is rescued. But you'd already taken care of her and knew what the real situation is.

I don't know what to say. I know from reading your entries that you love animals dearly and would never enter into anything like this lightly.
Sep. 25th, 2001 09:20 am (UTC)
Thank you.
You're right -- the really "convenient" thing would have been to ask the shelter to keep her for a while, so they would have to make the decision when to euthanize her and not me. But I am more convinced today that that would have been worse for her.

Sep. 25th, 2001 09:25 am (UTC)
Re: Thank you.
You took the decision into your own hands. That's a lot better than leaving it to others. It's responsible and took a lot of courage.
Sep. 25th, 2001 09:33 am (UTC)
Re: Thank you.
Responsibility sure hurts sometimes.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 25th, 2001 09:34 am (UTC)
Thank you.

*hugs back*
Sep. 25th, 2001 09:26 am (UTC)
I wish things like this didn't have to happen, but if someone had to decide whether to put down one of my cats, you're one of the people I'd trust to make the right decision. I know how much you would care about them, even never having met them. I'm sure you did right.

It is always hard to lose someone, even when it's "only a cat" and a difficult one at that. May you be comforted.
Sep. 25th, 2001 09:37 am (UTC)
Thank you.

I am comforted.
Sep. 25th, 2001 11:07 am (UTC)
When the right choice is the hard one
One of my online friends, who I've known for sevreral years, dewhitton, is a bloke in Australia whose online handle is usually "BattyDen." He takes care of bats. People call him when a bat is found in a house, or lying injured on the ground; he has contacts with all kinds of wildlife care people; he's done all the research he can, in rehabilitating and caring for bats in any state.

But sometimes, when the fragile bones of their wings have been injured, or the membrane torn, the best thing he can do for them is put them in a jar of chloroform.

I've told him before, when he agonized over having to do the right thing, and I'll tell you: you're one of the good people. The easy choices aren't always the right ones; they're the choices that leave kittens abandoned in shrubs, that leave cats behind when the owners move. That's easy. Caring for them as much as you can, and knowing when the best you can do is to let them go quietly - that's the hard part.

Wah, now I'm crying. snif You do good, truly you do. Thank you for doing your best for those who can't do for themselves. Take care.
Sep. 25th, 2001 12:38 pm (UTC)
Re: When the right choice is the hard one
Thank you. For channeling Kuan Yin to me (again).
Sep. 25th, 2001 03:42 pm (UTC)
I hate feeling powerless, and I hate feeling culpable. My heart goes out to you both because I have great affection for you personally and because I am moved to tears at the memory of times when I have chosen to do things whose motivations/results/goodness I questioned. It's a sucky, painful place to be in, and I'm sorry that you've got yet another sucky, painful thing to slog through. For what it's worth, I can't help thinking that life with you was the best chance Silver had at happy/healthy. I'm sorry happy/healthy didn't work out. *hugs*
Sep. 25th, 2001 10:27 pm (UTC)
Re: *sigh*
I hate feeling powerless, and I hate feeling culpable.

Yeah. Exactly.

Thanks for understanding.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 26th, 2001 09:18 am (UTC)
Re: Owww owww owww...
*hugs* accepted gladly. And respect means a lot coming from you, because I respect you a lot too. Thanks.
Sep. 26th, 2001 07:14 am (UTC)
It does sound like you did the right thing. Which isn't always the easy thing, and it doesn't always feel good. It sounds as though you've looked at every reasonable alternative ans that none of them would have worked. I can only see it as a good thing that she was spared any length of a stay at the shelter before she would have been euthanized. This also freed up space there for a kitty who just might be adoptable after all.

We do what we can. I'm trying to remember this too. A few weeks ago, one of my clients called to tell me they had been evicted from their apartment and had to be out by midnight. They had both recently lost their jobs and had fallen behind on their rent. They wanted to find out if I could foster their five cats until they got back on their feet and got a place. This would have been very difficult for me to do in any circumstance, but since my house is going on the market in a few weeks it's downright impossible. All I could do was explain why I couldn't, and give them as many possible resources/ideas I could think of. It didn't stop me from feeling terribly guilty for not being able to do more for them myself.

You really do not seem like a callous person *at all*, and even less like someone who would euthanize a cat simply because it's the most convenient thing to do. The fact that it was on your mind afterward says to me you don't take those decisions lightly.
Sep. 26th, 2001 09:26 am (UTC)
This also freed up space there for a kitty who just might be adoptable after all.

Oh, good point. I don't know why this bit didn't even occur to me over the past couple of days. It's usually on my mind constantly because in the summer some cats are euthanized simply for lack of space.

They wanted to find out if I could foster their five cats

FIVE?! Wow. Sounds like you made a big effort to find resources for them to contact. I hope they followed through.
Oct. 21st, 2001 08:50 am (UTC)
a tough decision
I had a 14 year old male Tabby named Silver who suddenly became very ill just a couple days after St. Valentine's day, I found him laying in the bathroom floor rigid and distress breathing. We rushed him to the emergency vet where they said that his liver had failed. They could try to rehydrate him and treat him for the problem, but at most he would only have a few more months and alot of meds and time at the vet. There would have been no quality of life.

Quality of life is important. Silver had lost some weight over the last few weeks but we thought it was because he had been playing with the puppy so much. He had acted fine earlier that day when he came to me for his afternoon snooze on my lap while I crocheted.

We had him put to sleep, and it broke my heart. We have his two sisters and they still occasionally prowl the house calling for him, but if given the choice over again I would make the same choice.

I think your Silver needed the same assistance, quality of life wasn't working for her. Better a quick painless death then weeks of stress and becoming physically worse off.

I don't know if you are familiar with the practice known as a "dumb feast" it's done on Halloween. I've done it most of my life. When you fix dinner that night you set aside a small plate with food on it and surround it with pictures of your loved ones, human or animal, that have gone on before you. You sit and eat dinner with them and talk about the good times and their good qualities, then when dinner is done you take the plate outside to be consumed by whatever wild thing finds it.

It's a very comforting process.
Oct. 22nd, 2001 01:55 pm (UTC)
Re: a tough decision
I'm sorry you lost your Silver. I am glad he had a good long life with you and you chose to spare him pain.

I've come to the same acceptance, mostly, about my choice for "my" Silver.

I have never heard of "dumb feast" but it sounds like a wonderful Halloween-time tradition. I think I will incorporate it into the ritual I'm planning for this Friday. Thanks for letting me know about it!
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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