A Good Death

How my mind works…

Have you ever taken a look at your internet search history?

Mine is a sort of map of how my mind works. Lately, both my search history and my mind have been filled with death. 

It started with mortality definition which led to mor spirit…to mor definition to prefix to prefix mor to creator etymology to prefix im to  immortal etymology to In & Im – English to mortality song to Top 10 Songs about Death

this immediately followed by a totally different tangent prompted by the prefix Im…

Image definition, reflection etymology, what light can do, properties of light, reflect etymology, image etymology and then

alternatives to cat litter, chicken scratch as cat litter and purina laying crumbles  (it works!)  (talk about tangents!)

over the next few days, the following…

distraction etymology

empty etymology

empty definition

black and white spotted moth

moth symbolism

what is flash fiction?

measurement of juice of one lime

what to do for a toothache

ibuprofen for heart patients ok?

sacred touch

grayson highlands

cat clock with twitching tail

how to teach your puppy or dog to stop chewing

graham cooke crafted prayer

dale allen hoffman

paratrooper etymology

A few days and a few hundred searches later…

cat hospice care

death midwifery

death doula pet

International End of Life Doula Association

Broth for cats

how to help your cat die peacefully

signs

letting pets die at home

what is the dying behavior of cats

is it inhumane to allow your cat to die naturally?

euthanasia etymology

Isaac etymology

Name meaning Isaac

 

“Here’s Your Sign!”

Our animals communicate with us in many ways.

The decision was hard…but it wasn’t.  We had had almost a week of preparation and we spent it wisely.  We loved on Isaac.  Even more than usual.  In so many ways.  Mostly, we celebrated him and thanked him for his life.  We also let him know that even though we wanted him to stay with us forever, it was OK for him to let go if he was ready. We asked him to please, please let us know…somehow…some way.

And, he did.

We had put everything on hold as we attended to Isaac that week, including our plans for a long weekend in the mountains, our first get away together in over a year.  Although Megan would have been home to watch and care for him most of our time away, we wanted to be with Isaac through his transition, if he was going to transition (remember, he had experienced these episodes multiple times previously, and had come back from what we had thought was the brink of death, so we were actually hopeful…) no matter how it played out. We had cancelled this trip before (I had my heart attack/opening the week we were supposed to go) and would do it again.

Our hope was that, if he was going to go, he would simply slip away peacefully in his sleep.  He was comfortable, his breathing was not labored and when awake (he slept…a lot) he showed no signs of fear or anxiety.

Here is a very good article on the ABC’s of letting your pet die at home, from The Daily Vet Blog

On letting pets die at home…and the ABCs of doing it right

So we waited.  And we watched.  And, we loved.  Out loud.

“Isaac.”  “Isaac.”  “Isaac.”  “We love you.”

He (and all pets, really…all the time…) loved hearing his name.

He purred.

Wednesday night, the night before the day we would need to cancel our campsite reservations if we decided not to go, Isaac gave us our first sign that he was ready.  I was laying in bed with him cuddled on my chest, scratching his head and chin as he enjoyed so much…running my hand gently down his suddenly bony back and sides.  Suddenly, I felt a warm wetness and carefully setting him aside, I saw that he had lost control of his bladder.  I almost cried.  He was such a proud and majestic cat…he would “rather have died” than to let that happen.

Later that evening, after we cleaned up the bed and placed protective coverings on it, Bob had Isaac on his chest…doing their usual pre-bed-time snuggling, and I took this picture of them:

Isaac and Bob

Until I saw the picture that night, I (and, I think Bob, too), literally did not have the eyes to see with how … depleted … Isaac had become.  I saw the picture and instantly thought of a heart-breaking thread I had read when researching pet death.  The young woman had refused for 8 months to see what was so obvious to everyone else…that her beloved companion had become little more than skin and bones…wasted away from a life-long disorder which she had nursed him through for years…even to the point of carrying him everywhere he had to go for over a year.  It wasn’t until she saw a picture of him taken on the day that he died that she realized how “selfish” (her words) had been by putting his comfort second to her desire to have him stay with her for as long as possible.

That was our second sign.  Even though Isaac was still jumping on and off furniture, and would still eat a bit (sometimes even a lot) every few hours, and was still drinking well, the picture was proof that we could not deny.  His body wasn’t processing nutrients and he was wasting away.  Our loving eyes just had not perceived what was fact.

A Good Death

The decision.

euthanasia (n.) Look up euthanasia at Dictionary.com
1640s, “a gentle and easy death,” from Greek euthanasia “an easy or happy death,” from eu- “good” (see eu-) + thanatos “death” (see thanatology) + abstract noun ending -ia. Slightly earlier in Englished form euthanasy (1630s). Sense of “legally sanctioned mercy killing” is recorded in English by 1869.
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=euthanasia

Isaac gave us our third, and final sign deep in the middle of that night.  I laid awake, watching over Bob and Isaac as they slept.  Around 2:30, Isaac awoke and before I could stop him, jumped off of the bed and began staggering down the hallway then went into a seizure.  Thankfully, it didn’t last long and besides weakening and making him a bit confused, he shortly seemed pretty much the same as pre-seizure. But for me, I knew it was him putting punctuation marks on his previous two signs.  We had hoped we could give him the gift of passing from this existence to the next at home, where he was familiar with, where he was most loved and where we could alone with him in our grief, but not at the expense of his comfort.

Isaac and I got back into bed and he slept while I waited for morning.

comfort (v.) Look up comfort at Dictionary.com
late 13c., conforten “to cheer up, console,” from Old French conforter “to comfort, to solace; to help, strengthen,” from Late Latin confortare “to strengthen much” (used in Vulgate), from Latin com-, intensive prefix (see com-), + fortis “strong” (see fort). Change of -n- to -m- began in English 14c. Related: Comforted; comforting.
comfort (n.) Look up comfort at Dictionary.com
c. 1200, “feeling of relief” (as still in to take comfort in something); also “source of alleviation or relief;” from Old French confort (see comfort (v.)). Replaced Old English frofor. Comforts (as opposed to necessities and luxuries) is from 1650s.
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=comfort

The decision was obvious in my mind and heart, but Isaac was Bob’s baby…they had been together for over 21 years and I knew Bob needed to have the final say.  When he woke that morning, I told him about the seizure and we agreed that we did not want to risk Isaac going into another, possibly longer, scarier and more painful seizure, or any number of other difficulties that can occur as animals pass naturally.

Isaac window last day

 

Isaac’s last morning was filled with sunlight, kitty companionship and lots and lots of human love.  At one point my intuition guided me to offer to Bob to take Isaac for his last visit alone.  I had initially been so relieved that he was off of work…that I would not have to face this by myself, but all of a sudden realized that it was too painful for Bob to face and that I could gift him this solice.

It wasn’t easy.  It never is.  But it was the right thing to do for Isaac, and although I am an advocate for and prefer natural home death for both pets and humans, I would do it again.

If you are struggling to make “The Decision”, please know that if you follow your heart, there is no “right” or “wrong” and most importantly, that your beloved fur child knows you love them…and love you right back.

And, that doesn’t end.

Isaac and Bob2

very_tiny_red_heart_animISAAC

1995 – 2016

“One who laughs”

very_tiny_red_heart_anim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting with Death

isaac

Death came to visit last week and decided to stay awhile.

Our Isaac is dying.  We know that.  Last night I jokingly told Megan I thought he pulled this trick every few months so he could get the special treats he loves so well…Kentucky Fried Chicken, grilled salmon, sardines and the like.  But, unlike previous times, he’s not perking back up.  He’s twenty-one-and-a half-years old and has pulled through these spells before with wonderful vet care, frequent feedings and most importantly, tons of LOVE, but this time is different.

We’ve been caring for and watching him closely since last week.  Of course we don’t want him to die.  He’s a part of our family.  He is especially Bob’s baby.  He’s seen us through the most painful of times as well as the most joyful.  He is a part of us…he is our hearts.  And, of course, we don’t want him to suffer.  We are at that oh so difficult stage of our relationship with this most awesome cat…The Decision.

Making The Decision.

Death has become a familiar guest in our home these past few years.  We lost Bob’s mom Pauline and not too long after her passing, his father Robert died peacefully in our home after extended hospice care.  During this time our dogs Ozzie and Max both passed away after long happy lives, as did our cats Hallie and Jackson.  Rose, Cypher, Mouse, two un-named feral kittens and their mother were all taken from us by Feline Leukemia.  I’ve also tended to a couple of injured baby squirrels as they made their transitions.  It’s never easy.  But, it is always sacred.

As pet owners, it is part of our sacred contract with these gifts from God, to care for them the best we know how and are capable of, and sometimes that includes making “The Decision.”  Out of all of the pets named above, we’ve only had to do that once.  All of the others either peacefully slipped away in our loving arms, or unexpectedly while we were sleeping.

“The Decision” sucks.  It really does.  And, the thing about it…is that until you know, you don’t.  You really don’t know that you can actually make that decision until a moment arrives and you understand it is the right and only thing to do.  And, even then, it still sucks.  But, until that moment arrives, death has come to visit and you have become a death doula for your beloved pet.

Being a Death Doula.

From the New York Times:  “The word doula, Greek for “woman who serves,” is usually associated with those who assist in childbirth. But increasingly, doulas are helping people with leaving the world as well.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/24/your-money/death-doulas-help-the-terminally-ill-and-their-families-cope.html?_r=0 

You do what you can to make your pet’s last days and minutes as comfortable…even enjoyable…as you can.  For us, that includes offering Isaac frequent, tempting foods, water and cream (he is one of few cats that not only tolerates cream, but thrives on it), holding the bowl up to his mouth for easy access and not forcing him if he’s not interested.  It entails frequent monitoring to make sure he is not in pain or suffering in any way.  He sleeps in our bed and we wake ourselves to check on him.  We make sure our other pets are not pestering him.  Most importantly, we hold him and love him and celebrate his life…out loud.

“Isaac!  The proud and noble!”

“Isaac!  The devoted and wise!”

“Isaac!  You have loved so well!”

“Isaac! We love you so much!”

Always using his name.  Always in LOVE…

Until he leaves us, his way eased by the most powerful force in existence…or another possibility that LOVE presents…he recovers, which as I mentioned, has happened before, or we come to that moment when we know what we didn’t before…that the decision is no longer a decision, but a reality.

LOVE will let us know.  It always does.

Until then, we will entertain Death as we do all guests…with LOVE.