Sunday, September 18, 2011

Thoughts on Closing the Circle of Life

About six weeks ago, I had to make a decision to euthanize my oldest cat, Roscoe. Roscoe had been plagued with a large, benign bony growth in his mouth for nearly a year. His personality hardly changed at all, in fact, he was the only cat to even come close to getting along with the dog and seemed to have gotten more lovable. But one warm evening last August, I noticed how difficult it was for him to eat. While his eyes were still bright, his demeanor still vocal, and he craved cuddles more than ever, it was obvious his quality of life was diminishing quickly.

The next day, I had to go to my car to make the appointment to bring him to the vet. On one hand, my feeling was to not assume anything about what the vet might say and to remain optimistic. On the other, my gut was screaming loud and clear about what was going to happen. I knew that evening would be my last with Roscoe.

At the vet, he was spry as ever. He leaped from the carrier and explored the entire examination room. The vet said he was "bright eyed" but after examining the growth in his mouth, the conversation about putting him down dominated. The vet seemed almost impressed with how happy Roscoe was, but he made sure I understood how quickly his quality of life would decline. So I made the decision to save him from weeks or possibly months of misery and signed the paperwork.

I stayed with him the whole time. I didn't watch the actual injection but I petted him and kept contact with him through his last breath. I felt that it would be easier for Roscoe to leave the earth with his "mommy" there, and hopefully my love for him was what he took with him to whatever afterlife a kitty cat might have. It was not easy for me, but at that point, what was easy for me was not a factor. It was about making his last moment as comfortable as possible.

Throughout the whole time, I managed to hold it together. But the second I was out the door, Roscoe's collar in one hand and a crinkled receipt in the other, I lost it. For the first time in my life (aside from squashing a bug or fishing), I was a primary player in closing the circle of life for another creature. While I know without my decision, Roscoe would have starved to death, it was still a very riveting moment in my own growth as a person to be a part of ending a life. I still can't find the words to describe what exactly this means, but in retrospect, I feel good that I made the right decision and did what was best for Roscoe.