Saturday, December 31, 2011

Playing God

This is supposed to be a funny blog, but yesterday was basically the hardest day of my life, so bear with me as I pour my heart out to you in the best way i know how. This basically reads as a Sarah McLachlan commercial gone wrong, so I understand if you can't read it. I could barely write it myself.

I woke up this morning with my eyes welded shut, swollen and raw from the horrific things id seen the day before. It started off as a normal work day, i worked from home and around 11am i got up to get myself some cereal. I walked by the patio door (or doorwall, for my comrades from michigan) and noticed a stray grey kitty curled up in one of our patio chairs. We'd been meaning to take those downstairs for weeks and i silently cursed myself for not having been proactive before the snow hit.

He was moving a bit slow, and, bleeding heart that i am, i put out a plate of last night's marlin steak for him. He ate the entire plate, and that's when i noticed his eye was damaged and swollen shut. He had patches of fur missing and more scratches above his other eye.

I felt something inside me break and I realized that I had to do something. I couldn't just let him sit outside in the snow and cold to heal on his own. I feared he would run away and I wouldn't see him again. I rushed inside, got an old towel, wrapped him up in it and carried him to the garage. I put a little food and water for him. He immediately ran to a corner,  though I had set him up a bed, and I couldn't coax him out for anything.

K came downstairs with me, and we decided that we should make some phone calls. I contacted our local vet and asked what she thought I should do. She suggested calling shelters and seeing if we could get him in there, or to bring him in for a visit to have him checked out--at which point he would essentially be our cat, and we would take on responsibility for him.

We have 3 cats already, one has one eye and we're lucky the other two get along at all. K and I knew we couldn't take on a 4th, (truthfully, we barely get ours in for their shots on time, which I'm not proud to admit.) I started posting on facebook to see if anyone would take him, and calling shelters. Most of the shelters I called were full or had at least a 3 week waiting period before we could get him even submitted for approval to get in there. I didn't realize shelters were so full or had to be so choosing until now. And I will tell you, I'd hate to be the person at those shelters who has to make the decision on who to allow and who to turn away.

We called the vet back and made an appointment for later that afternoon. I at least wanted to get him checked out, then I figured we could keep him in the garage for a few days while we located a shelter that would take him. (We didn't know if he was sick, and we couldn't risk bringing him into the house to infect our other 3 kitties.)

We herded him into a cat carrier and managed to get him into the vet's office. I was shaking with nerves, I had barely eaten all day, and my stomach was in knots. I had no idea what was in store for us.

The doctor came in, a beautiful girl who couldn't have been more than 24 years old. She had kind, compassionate eyes, and she treated us with respect and handled the kitty with care. She pulled him out of the crate, and I doubled over in tears the moment I saw his face. It was worse than I had originally thought, we hadn't been able to get a good look at his face in the dark of the garage.

*Fair warning, this is graphic.*

His eye was punctured, and hanging out of its socket. His other eye was infected as well, though not as bad. He had patches of fur missing, and scars along the top of his head where it appeared he had gotten into a fight. My heart broke into a million pieces and I realized suddenly that we faced a more somber truth than we had thought. She softly examined his body and told us that they would have to remove his left eye. The vet's office offered to dip into it's stray fund and cover a large portion of the cost of the surgery for us, $400 of $500. The money wasn't an issue, I would gladly have paid the full $500 for him. But it was then that I realized that we would have a hard time getting him into a shelter like this, and I relived the life of our cat Gwennie, who ironically has the same eye missing and was stuck in a shelter for 4 years before K and his ex lovingly adopted her.

My chest tightened with the decision I was forced to make. Unable to control my emotions, even in front of the vet, I sobbed uncontrollably and said over and over "I don't want to do it. I can't make the choice." She left the room for K and I to consider our options. I considered having him have the surgery and taking him home until we could find another home for him, but I couldn't have him recover in the garage--he would need to be in a warm bed, with lots of blankets and constant care until he could get better. I couldn't imagine taking him home for the night and letting him suffer with this horrendous injury for that much longer while I attempted to call shelters to get him a home. On top of that, the doctor was going to perform the surgery the next morning and after that it would have to wait a week or more. I couldn't let him suffer for that much longer. The doctor suspected a respiratory illness and the possibility of feline leukemia. We wouldn't know until we had him tested, and we couldn't risk the lives of our 3 until we knew for sure. Ours would most likely harass him, and I couldn't stand to see that during the recovery process.

I never in my life thought I would be able to make the decision that I did yesterday, but with a strength I didn't know I had, I played God. With shaky hands and tears staining the paper, I signed the release to euthanize him. She offered to take him back where they would do it privately, but I insisted that I wanted to stay with him. After all, though we had been in each other's lives for less than a full day, I was the only person he was familiar with. The vet came in with the vet tech, both with compassionate eyes and soft hands, and K and I stroked and talked to the kitty the entire way through, holding hands behind K's back. I told him I was sorry he had to go through this and that I loved him. And I do love him, I will never forget his presence in my life, or the piece of me that his existence and death changed. I gave up a part of my innocence that day, but I couldn't help but hope that I prevented a slow death alone outside in the cold.

There comes a moment, when a living creature's fate is placed in your hands, and you are given the choice to let them live or die. Something snaps inside of you, and you are forever changed. You suddenly want someone, anyone to tell you what to do. What the right decision is, to absolve you of the burden to have to make the decision. But ultimately it is your choice, and with little time or knowledge, you have to make one of the hardest choices you'll ever have to make. You have to give voice to a creature that cannot talk, and follow your heart the best way you can. The only way you can, out of pure love and compassion. It changes you.

They injected him, and his body went limp, it looked like he was sleeping. And where I had felt mad panic and pain a few moments before, I suddenly felt peace. No more suffering for the little guy, he wouldn't have to endure the cold, fear and pain any longer.

It has hit me in waves over the last day and a half--heaving, uncontrollable sobs that only K holding onto me can stop. My face is unrecognizable, eyes puffy and swollen and my heart is broken into a million pieces. I don't pray often, but right now I'm praying I made the right decision.


  1. Wow. This one hits me right in the solar plexis.

    I had a kitty who died too. but she was mine and I loved her so much. Her bladder was blocked, and she couldn't pee, and I felt so bad. I cried and cried and cried, and then I called my friend and he cried with me. Thankfully, she died on her own and I didn't have to choose to take her life.

    I know how you feel. It's hard. Really hard.

    I found you through 20SB, and I'm following you now. Good times and bad. :-)

  2. B, thank you so much for your comment. This has been one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through and it means so much to have some support. I think I just needed someone to tell me they understand my sadness, you know? Thank you, I really appreciate it. And I'm so sorry you lost your kitty too, my heart goes out to you so much.

  3. Big hugs girl. I can't imagine having to make that decision. You have such a big heart and I am sure you made the right choice. You could have just shooed him away from your patio and left him in the cold, where he certainly would have died from his injuries and from exposure to the elements. Instead, you gave him the gift of being in the presence of love and kindness during his final minutes. Much love to you.

  4. Thank you so much, Katie. That's what I keep trying to tell myself. It's so hard to make a decision like that because I feel like who am I to decide his fate? But all I know is I tried to do the best I could for him. I wish we could have taken him in, but even then, he would have had to recover and take meds and all that would have been painful and scary for him too. Thank you so much for the support, lady--it's really helping me feel better.

  5. Such a heavy heart story but I have to commend you on taking him in to get care for him as far too many times people just ignore stray animals as they don't feel it's their responsiblity which is tremendously sad. I myself almost a year ago rescued a cat that was put outside by it's owners who moved away and left him defenseless without any front claws and I couldn't bear it and took him in. Putting an animal down is one of the hardest things to do I relate to you on that when we had to put our family dog down but it's ultimately saving that animal from further pain & suffering. If everyone could be so kind as you two were as even though very sad situation you should be proud of the actions you took to help him.

  6. Thank you, I honestly so appreciate the support. Every day I wake up sad thinking about him and get sad, but now that it's snowing and really cold out, I find myself feeling relieved that he doesn't have to suffer out in the cold anymore. Thanks for the comment, I really appreciate it.