Some pet stories just break my heart. As I watch my newsfeed during the day, I see the pleas to save cats and dogs of all ages. I feel the anguish when rescuers step up and the senior pet dies in rescue…too heartbroken to live on after being left behind by their family. As I see the pets deprived of a happy ending, I think of my own heartbreak of saying good-bye to my own pets.
If you’ve had a pet that you’ve loved and lost, you know that heartbreak of saying good-bye. And, after your pet dies, it’s the ache in the bottom of your soul to have a few more months or weeks or even a day to spend with the furry love of your life. It doesn’t matter if your pet lived to be twenty or ten, it’s the heartbreak of saying good-bye before you’re ready.
This coming weekend will be eight years since we said good-bye to the Late Great Rhett the Wonder Cat. Our big, jovial Maine Coon mix was the life of the party for 15 years before he slowed down dramatically. In a matter of weeks, he got weaker and withdrew more. Food was of no interest.
During that time, we were back and forth from the vet and we got no answers. I went to a new vet that immediately sent us to the emergency room and specialty vet just miles from my house. In a matter of hours, he was gone. Scarlett let out a sad, soulful meow, the phone rang in the middle of the night and that was it…the vet said it was just too late.
For a long time, I beat myself up because I didn’t know there were other options. I didn’t realize that some of the brightest minds in veterinary medicine were a few miles from our home. I wanted nothing more than a few more weeks or days with my boy. It is the heartbreak of saying good-bye when you’re not ready and feel that there may have been so much more that you could do.
I’ve seen that a lot recently. I now work in the same hospital where the Late Great Rhett the Wonder Cat died. Many of my friends have been through the doors lately with their own pets, looking for their own answers with our specialists. Some have gotten a beautiful reprieve and others the sad news that they may have a few weeks or months to prepare for the heartbreak of good-bye.
Then I go home.
And, I flip on Facebook.
And, the feed starts scrolling and you see the real heartbreak of good-bye. All the pets left behind at all ages – kittens and puppies…year-old dogs and cats…senior pets that had spent their entire life with a family. The thing they all have in common is they’ve been left behind at animal control and are now truly fighting for their lives and they shouldn’t have to be.
While some are battling illnesses, many of them are healthy and vibrant. The young dog that a teenage boy just had to have is left behind when he goes to college and his parents don’t want the dog. (He was euthanized at animal control when no one rescued him in time.) The cats dumped when a family moves. The blind, senior cat dumped because a baby was on the way and her owner didn’t want to clean up fur any longer.
I have many friends that work countless hours networking pets to rescue – sometimes with minutes to spare. I share their despair when rescue comes to late. There are the pets like Trinity the blind cat that do find rescue, only to die in rescue because their broken heart made it too difficult to fight off some of the illnesses they were facing.
It’s a part of animal rescue and it just sucks. It really sucks. Every one of my friends fighting for extra time for their pet recently have spent countless hours trying to find rescue or rescuing pets that are about to run out of time because their family no longer has any time for them.
It is the cruel, never-ending heartbreak of good-bye that just makes my blood run cold.
Some of us only want more time and others don’t want any. It just isn’t fair.
Eight years ago, I spent months second-guessing myself because I didn’t get a second opinion sooner. And, when the time came to find a new cat, we saw the flood of cats left behind in shelter after shelter in Cook and Lake Counties.
When the true gravity of homeless cats (and dogs) hit me, I realized we all were truly blessed that the once homeless kittens from Chicago ended up at a no kill shelter – Tree House, where their time didn’t run out. They were there a few months before I found them and gave them a home – a forever home. They eventually ended up spoiled on the north shore with plenty of critter theater to watch in the backyard.
For 15 years, we were blessed to have our cat and he was even more blessed because he never had to know a different type of heartbreak. His sister lived for four more years and burned through 27 lives in her last year. That was a year of extra days before she joined him at the rainbow bridge.
As she bounced back again and again, a friend of mine warned me that it was going to end badly. Scarlett would die eventually. But, then they all do and so do we. We were blessed at the end because she was truly ready to go and we felt so fortunate to have had all the days that we did…days so many pets never get thanks to their own heartbreak of saying good-bye.
Other blog posts of interest –
- Five minutes to heartbreak – about the emotional toll animal control takes on pets.
- 7 Ways to keep more senior pets out of shelters
- Dangers of rehoming pets on Craig’s list
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