I took my pet to the veterinarian two weeks ago. I would say our pet, but I am the only one here left to care for him. This is not the first time I have taken him or his brother who died in December 2013 of a form of cancer. Since my husband became sick two pets have died and are still missed. This pet is my last connection to the life my husband and I led the last three years. This may sound strange, as I have family and friends that would say they are connections. I have memories that will always connect us. This is different, the pet was here every day through every part of his illness. If I was at the hospital and came home he would be so grateful to see me. I started napping on the couch for part of my time home before returning to the hospital, as the pet was lonesome. I left the TV on for him as he was sad and lonesome when my husband and I were at the hospital or doctor visits. He watches the TV, while I do not know if he understands it, he does express when something he likes is on or at least it seems that way. At any rate it seems the TV took some of his loneliness away while we were not here.
While at the veterinarian this time I knew this was a serious matter. He is no longer young and has been showing signs of age for the past two years, but in the past month he has really started to show age. He has lost a lot of weight. He had started crying as if in pain. The noises he made to let me know he was happy had stopped, but that was addressed at a previous visit a month ago. This time the doctor wanted to use anesthesia on him so she could get a better look to see what was wrong. I was warned he might not survive the anesthesia, but I felt he needed to be checked and if died, it was meant to be. I definitely know I would not have him put down, that is a choice I could never make. He was taken to the back and I was left in a waiting room alone to wonder if he would be okay.
As I sat there worrying, I heard the veterinarians shoes walk to the door, stop and then pace back and forth. She blew her nose several times. I became more worried hearing this. I assumed he had died or a terrible diagnosis was about to come. My mind wandered in that short amount of time. I could hear the vet as she wore high heels. I thought how impractical to wear heels in her profession. I then thought of all my husbands doctors and realized many of the females doctors wore heels too. In the short time I had to think, I kept thinking how it seemed not only impractical but also unprofessional. That female doctors should be wearing more practical shoes. Not high heels. High heels seem to signal a party or somewhere other than a doctor’s office or hospital. Before I could think much more there was a knock on the door and vet entered. She apologized for taking so long and said she had been outside the door with a runny nose from allergies.
The vet had a possible diagnosis and a definite one. The definite: my little guy was getting older and probably has lived his full life span. His teeth though were the possible diagnosis, they might need to be ground down. I talked with her for a while, the surgery to have this done was going to be very expensive. I no longer have my husbands income and I need to start getting one of my own. I wondered how does one put a price on life. What price is too much? I know if it were my husband I would pay any price. But this is different, this is a formerly abused pet I rescued that is past his life span. I have given him a good home for over five years. I have made sure he has all the food, treats and toys a pet could want. Some say I spoil him. To me, it is not spoiling, it is trying to make his remaining days happy, make up for the abuse he suffered before he came into our lives. The vet was not sure it really was his teeth, it was just a possibility. She was not sure he would even survive the surgery. Even if he survived surgery, it might not be his teeth and he might only have days or weeks left to live with or without the surgery. I would still be responsible for paying for the surgery. My decision was a tough one. I decided not to allow her to do the surgery. I asked her to give me something for his pain so he lives out his remaining days as comfortable as possible. I see him fading each day. The medicine helps the pain, it does not stop his weight loss, growing smaller, looking older. Each morning I awaken expecting him to have died overnight and am glad when I see he is still alive. I know one morning soon I will awaken and he will be dead. Or he could die while I am holding him. Or he could die during any given moment. At any rate, I know from looking at him his time is near. I am trying to make him comfortable.
After returning home from the vet I thought of the heels. I thought again of the doctors were who treated my husband. Some wore “sensible” heels, other high heels and some wore flats or sneakers. I had never noticed, as much of the time they walked on carpet and I did not hear it. I thought to myself that they should all be wearing some type of shoe or sneaker with no heel. Then I realized that I was being unfair. That I would not expect a man to wear certain clothing or shoes. (Though I would prefer male doctors not wear ties as they can be a way to pass infection to patients, that is a health issue, not how I perceive a doctor should dress). I want people to look at me and be fair. Yet here I was passing judgement on what type of shoes a woman doctor wears. In my life with my husband I rarely noticed something as insignificant as shoes. I have never expected anything from doctors other than to treat my husband and do the best they could. While I still think comfortable shoes would be more functional for a doctor, it is not for me to say. I always have thought I was very fair in my judgements of others. I now see there are some areas that need work. Starting with accepting a doctor has every right to wear heels if she wants. If this is turns out to be my biggest problem in moving forward, I will be lucky. Until I move forward, I will not know if there are other things I am not fair about. I am still learning.
In writing this it brings up many moments of the last few years with my husband. Though his illness was not age related, he too grew weaker each day. Though the memories of my husband are mostly happy they are also sad, as the end result was the death of my husband. What I am dealing now with my pet is similar to the last week of my husband’s life which is what makes it so sad. No he cannot communicate, but in his little eyes I can see the fear of what is happening to him. I guess when we love someone or something unconditionally there will be pain when they die. For now, I will make sure my little guy has all he needs and makes sure he knows he is loved. I know when he dies it will be hard. I will truly be alone. My only true connection with my husband, even if it were only because he was here though it all, will be gone. I am not looking forward to that day, but I will know I have done all I can to try to make his last days happy ones.