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Letting Your Pet Go
Cinnamon Loved the Snow
A Personal Account
I know I am in good and grand company with this topic. Everyone who has to face the decision to let a pet go endures emotional pain. If some say they don’t, then they are probably just putting on a brave face. I wonder who has gathered statistics about the numbers of pet owners in the US, in other countries, in the world, who face this decision daily, weekly, monthly, yearly? Are there hundreds per day, thousands per week, tens of thousands per month, millions per year?
I have been blessed with cats and a dog who enjoyed a good life with me, lived to relatively old ages, but who also came to a point where I had to decide their ultimate fates. Just me, not the vet, not my child, not my friends, not my relatives. Just me.
A Lonely Place
That’s a lonely and frightening place. No matter the support I receive from all whom I love and respect and admire, I am still left with signing my name to the agreement to euthanize. In that simple pen stroke of my signature, I terminate a life.
The euthanasia agreement, clipped together with x-ray results and doctor’s notes, was before me on the day that my old dog Cinnamon, an 80-pound Golden Retriever, was in critical condition.
She had started the day just fine, eager to go out for her morning walk, where she peed and pooed as usual. One hour later, she refused her breakfast and laid down on the floor, panting. It was warm in the house and it was also the changing of the seasons, so I didn’t think too much of her refusal to eat or of the panting.
A short half-hour later, as I worked in my office, I heard a deafening crash coming from the dining room. Racing in there, I found Cinnamon pinned underneath an overturned chair, her face smashed to the wall, unable to move, surrounded by glass shards coming from the door of the dining room hutch which she had fallen into. I could see that Cin could not navigate her way around a place that had always been comfortable to her. This peaceful place had turned into a perilous obstacle course and a harbinger of death.
A Glorious Cat, My Teacher, Ed
Trusting in Others and in Yourself
An hour later, after rushing Cin to the emergency clinic, my daughter and I were told by the vet that Cinnamon most likely had a tumor which caused a rupture to her liver, that her heart was enlarged and surrounded by fluid, and that it was questionable that surgery could repair the damage. If it did, then there was still the question of whether the tumor was cancerous, and therefore needing chemotherapy, and whether there was a tumor in her heart as well. Given the condition of her heart, enlarged and surrounded by fluid and the questionable outcome of emergency surgery, her chances of ever having a good life after surgery were slim to none.
Cinnamon was an oldie, Goldie retriever, approaching her 11th year. Some Goldens live longer; most don’t. It was her time.
That’s so hard to face, that it was her time. I wanted her to live forever with me. How irrational is that? My conscious mind knows the reality, but my emotions long for something else.
The vet did not lie, and my daughter held my hand through this painful decision. I put my trust in them.
My decision to let Cin go then and there, in the emergency clinic, after she had been so much herself in the morning, was agonizing. In such a short time, she was here and then she was gone. But I could not, would not, prolong her life for the sake of my need to have her with me, or because I doubted what medical professionals said to me. I had done that with my awesome cat, Ed, whose life met an agonizing end two years ago, because I had my own misguided hope that I shouldn’t have. I thank Ed for showing me the wisdom to be able to let Cinnamon go. He, as Cinnamon, was a great teacher.
Cinnamon, at Peace
The Spirit of the One You Love
Today, two days after her passing, I still start at noises in and around the house that remind me of her. Children from next door going in and out the house; Cin loved those children and they loved her. A creaking as the house breathes in the changing season; Cin would have heard that, and her ears would have perked. I still wake up in the morning and think, “Time for Cin’s walk.” But there is no Cin. I go to the refrigerator and take out makings for breakfast and catch my thoughts as they wonder why she isn’t there beside me looking for a treat.
It will take some time to get these day-to-day habits and associations about Cinnamon in a comfortable emotional place. For some time, I will have a brain-space that tells me she is still here and needs to go for a walk, or that it’s her dinner time. I’ll hear a creak in the house or the laughter of the children next door, and I will expect Cinnamon to be here to perk her ears up and ask to go engage. I will wake up in the morning, head toward the kitchen, and expect to see her smile and wagging tail. I can see this vividly, at this moment. I think that means that she is here with me, but in a manifestation other than that of a living, furry dog. She is in my heart forever.
Meanwhile, I know that my emotional experience of Cin in my delayed acceptance of her passing is a connection I need to have with her, right now, as she is crossing rainbow bridge.
To read about Cinnamon and her love of snow, please look here.