There are many of us who are passionate about animals. I spent most of last evening with someone who was so passionate that she has been elevated from "oligarch owner" status to self proclaimed "adroit animal aggressor." She, and I, have a great deal in common.
When it comes to being committed to helping animals we are on the same team. We chant similar fight songs, viewpoints on the anthropomorphism, and would prefer to not go on vacation than leave our kids at home alone. But, we differ on a few points.
She was telling me a story about a dog she had been called to re-home many years ago. It seems the dog she was asked to help had been adopted by an elderly woman in her 70's after her husband had died. A few years later it was decided that the woman required full time care and needed to be taken to a retirement home, and so her companion needed to go elsewhere. She described in some detail how she believed the elderly woman was just being "selfish to adopt a pet when she was so old."
That conversation caused me to pause when I recollected the events of earlier in the week when I was talking to Dr.Morgan at the clinic.
Dr. Morgan and I were standing in the reception area. At her feet was a small Yorkie who I recognized immediately.
"What is Ben doing with you?" I asked.
I knew that Ben had been in the hospital all last week when Dr. Morgan removed multiple bladder stones and that he had appeared to be recovering well.
"I did Ben's surgery pro bono last week because his family couldn't afford it and his parents are going into a retirement home. The kids can't take him." And hence, since his recovery last week, Ben had been staying with Dr. Morgan. He was now her small silver shadow and where she went he was sure to follow.
I was dumbfounded. I had seen Ben and his mom for years and I couldn't imagine one without the other.
Dr. Morgan and I just stood there. Trying to put ourselves in the families shoes.
She said to me, "I'm not getting a pet when I grow older."
I looked at her and said, "That's bull. You will always have pets. Just like me. We couldn't exist without them."
"Yeah, you're right," she agreed.
And there we were contemplating how we keep our hearts whole, and not leave a pet to be disposed of when we can no longer care for them. And so we left it. A decision to be who we were, and a decision to hope that our family would understand that those we might leave behind still had value.
We watched as Ben's mom came in to say goodbye to her Ben. We all cried. I cried because Ben had spent all week following Tracy around like a lost sheep, until he saw his mom. He jumped, and squealed, and threw himself into her arms. We all cried. We all stood there facing their pivotal point in life that we all hope we never have to face.
Do I know what my decision will be when my time comes to be cared for and I can no longer care for my pets? Well, no. But I know that I will not let them pay for my mortality. That every speck of whatever is left of my life's accumulations and work can be left behind to care for my pets. Does my family understand my position on my pets? Yes, they do. We, my family, understands that my anthropomorphism transcends my physical life. That until the day comes where I am not of sound mind or body I will loose every single solitary physical possession to maintain the ability to care for my family, who in my case are my pets.
I have had long distressing conversations with clients who requested that I put their pets to sleep should they die. They have been the most difficult moments of my professional life. How do I tell a parent who is so worried and fearful that their pets will be abused, neglected, or hurt after they depart that they would choose to put them to sleep, that I cannot honor their fears? I can only be honest. I try to retell stories like Ben's, and remind people that there are other people out there who love pets as we do, and that your final act of love for your pets is to give them another chance at a happy life. Where there are happy, healthy days left to live there is desire in every pet to run, play, wag, purr, smile, love and breathe. How can, and why would, you deny them this?
As for Ben; he is an extension of our Jarrettsville Vet family. He has been with Dr. Morgan for two weeks, and will go to his new home on Sunday. Because where we can find a way to make a happy ending we will always do so.
We wish Ben and his mom a happy ever after, and we will keep them both in each others heart and minds with frequent picture postings.
As far as the pets you leave behind, please come up with a plan for them. They need you to be the one who sees them as a child to be cared for after you can no longer do so.
This week also brings the return of Frankie, who's parents died suddenly and unexpectedly. She is once again looking for another home to call her own. For information on her please email me, or find me at the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet.
And as always, remember to hug your kids. Life is a very short and precious thing.
Many Thanks to Dr. Morgan for being Ben's lifesaver, for Kathleen for giving Ben a home, and for Claudia in never giving up on Frankie.
If you have a pet question or want to share your pets story with other pet lovers please visit Pawbly.com. Pawbly is free for everyone to use. If you see your pets as your kids you will be at home with us.
You can also find me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.