We got a call yesterday saying that Schmitty did pull through the surgery. That’s good news. The bad news is – the really bad news – is that Schmitty’s cancer has spread, which means he doesn’t have much time left and the time he does have left, as well as its quality, is probably going to be up to us. Of course, in the wake of the news, I am now unbelievably regretful for having put him through this surgery in the first place. I only hope that he’s not too scared right now and not too lonely and not in any pain. Tobyjoe and I spent many tearful hours yesterday discussing what we need (and want) to do now. We have decided that no matter how badly we feel, we need to start thinking for him and putting him through anymore unnecessary pain just to prolong his life 3 to 6 months is out of the question.
I have to be honest with you, I haven’t felt this sad in… well, ever. That’s pretty shameful to admit considering I have had to say goodbye to family members and friends. If only I could ask him what he wants and explain to him why we did what we did, then maybe it wouldn’t feel so horrible. And I knew this day would be hard. I pictured the tears and the puffy face, the hard time sleeping; I was ready for all of that. But what I didn’t think about was the actual experience of reliving the memories as well as letting go of our routine together. I’m going to miss him so much. And I can’t stop crying. I can’t even see the computer screen as I type this.
How do people get through this? Do we go in and say goodbye when they finally put him down? What should we do with him when that’s over with? We have no yard in Brooklyn. Last night, I started to read more stories about people who lost pets and it made me feel a little less awful knowing I wasn’t alone. Misery loves company. That old cliché is true. I didn’t have any pets growing up so I never had to say goodbye to one. Schmitty is my first. What happens now? How do you do this? How long do you cry? When does it get easier? Have you done this before? When will I stop wondering if he’s going to follow me to the bathroom? Or run to the food bowl in the morning? Or greet me at the door?
My heart is shattered.
I feel that I need to do this for the sake of history and writing it down makes me feel better in the time that it takes for me to type.
The doctor called earlier today. I answered. I should not be answering the phone right now, which is why Tobyjoe has taken it away from me. In the past couple of days, every time someone calls and even hints about Schmitty, I begin to cry and literally can’t utter a word. It’s terrible for the person on the other end. Anyway, a doctor called and he said to me that the cancer in Schmitty’s abdomen covers the size of two human hands put side by side. He’s also running a fever. I was trying to find out if he was in pain or if there was any hope at all. Unfortunately, the oncologist doesn’t return until Monday and the results of his biopsy don’t come back until then either. Which means we might have three more days of wondering ahead of us. And I’m not sure I want to go through that.
When the doctor told me about the size of the troubled area, I began to cry. It took every bit of composure to say the words, “I have to call you back.” That’s when I broke down and began sobbing again. Tobyjoe came out and I told him it was time for us to let him go, that the cancerous areas seems to be way too large. We both agreed that that was what we’d do today; say goodbye. And then the phone rang.
Tobyjoe answered this time. The same doctor called apologizing for how he had acted. He said he spoke with the oncologist and she said that Schmitty is going through what every animal goes through after this type of surgery and that we should wait until we get the biopsy results back to make any decisions, that the infected area could be fatty deposits, not necessarily cancerous and inflamed tissue. (Earlier, when I brought up chemotherapy again with the doctor he told me that if the infected area came back as cancerous, it would be extremely painful for the cat, hence the catalyst for my breakdown.)
Tobyjoe is going to head in to see him tonight and make the decision at that time. As much as I want to go, I don’t think I can handle this right now. It doesn’t help that I’m pregnant. And today I had a small contraction, which I read is fairly normal. But still. Tobyjoe reminded me that the most important thing in our lives right now is our unborn son. It’s probably best I avoid visiting Schmitty, especially if he’s cut up, shaved, and not well. I am sad enough as it is. I could spend 13 lifetimes with Tobyjoe and never, ever make what he’s about to do for me up to him.
I’m leaving this horrible decision up to Tobyjoe. We’re having an ethical dilemma at the moment. But if it’s time to let Schmitty go, then Tobyjoe will know tonight when he looks into his big green eyes.
Because I am a total worrywart with the imagination of a person on hallucinatory drugs, I insisted we go in earlier today, before visitation hours, to check on Schmitty. Tobyjoe (bless his sweet, sweet heart) went in and asked to speak to a doctor and visit with the big fella. We wanted answers. We wanted to know that he wasn’t scared and suffering, lonely and in pain. I told Tobyjoe that the decision was up to him. If Schmitty looked uncomfortable, he could ask them to put him down. I stayed upstairs and sat in the waiting room, crying, watching yet another breaking news story about some gun fire at a NASA building. I sat and waited; the Nation seems to be in shambles right now – one nation under guns – and all I selfishly care about is my fuzzy, fuzzy man.
Eventually, Toby resurfaced from the ICU with a smile on his face; Schmitty looked OK. He was in good spirits and immediately perked up when he saw Toby. He’s on medication and feeling no pain. Plus, and this is the best news, he ate! I had made the decision earlier (Thanks to Pete) that I didn’t want to have to resort to a feeding tube, that if he didn’t eat, I didn’t want to force him to go through another operation to insert a feeding tube. Schmitty gobbled food off Toby’s finger, and happily.
Since he isn’t in pain and seems to be doing fine, with both eating and the post operative care, we have decided to wait until Monday’s test results come back from the lab. On Monday, we should know how much of his body is cancer-ridden. At that time, we’ll make our decision. I keep asking myself if we’re prolonging the inevitable, but I won’t know that until later. Hindsight can knock the wind out of a person. I’m already preparing for such a blow. As much joy that cat brought me, this mental pain is so tangible right now. I almost don’t want to fall in love with another animal as long as I live.
But it just wasn’t time yet. Not today. Maybe next week, but today isn’t the day. Even though this hellish emotional roller coaster I’ve been on is so very tiring, we need to give him until Monday.
I have received countless emails from people. Each and every one of you has helped me more than you can possibly imagine, with both your comments here and via email. I have read stories, heard about heartache, and have been given hope that things do get better even though I can’t see that side of things right now. I can’t even begin to thank you all. Your stories and words and encouragement have literally gotten me through the day with even a laugh or two.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I am so, so sorry to hear about Schmitty. Especially while you are pregnant. My dog recently had a fairly serious back injury, and as he is old and it is chronic, we were terrified we were eventually going to have to face the inevitable, which I was praying wouldn’t happen while I was pregnant (it just seems so unfair). We seem to have been spared this particular crisis, but it did get me thinking about what we would do if we had to put him down. Here are my plans, which may or may not be relevant to you:
I think you will know when the time is right to let him go. This is what I’ve heard from other friends and family members who’ve been through it and I think it holds true. You will know when the time comes and will do what’s right by your kitty. And the fact that you are determined not to let him suffer will guide you.
I want to be with Simon (my dog) when they put him down. I just want him to know that I was there with him from beginning to end, even if it means more to me than it does to him. My mom’s cat had to be put down unexpectedly, while she was at work, and she’s always regretted not being in the room. This is a highly personal decision, of course.
As we have always lived in apartments with no yard of our own, I have come up with a plan for my dogs. When Simon dies, I will have him cremated and keep his ashes with me (Mrs Kennedy of Fussy had a cool urn made for her dog’s remains); when the second one dies, I’ll have her cremated as well and then we’ll spread their ashes together. That way, neither will ever be alone.
I wish you peace as you come to terms with your decision. Trust yourself, and know you are doing right by Schmitty. I am so sorry you have to go through this.
Mihow, honey, I am so sorry for you. There is nothing wrong with being devastated, Schmitty has been your pet for many years and he’s a companion!
I always had dogs growing up. My favorite, Kirby, we decided to donate his body to science – the vet asked, since he was so incredibly strong through his epilepsy (which is what took him), and it actually made me feel a lot better.
But I probably would have done as KidKate suggested – cremated him and spread the ashes somewhere he really liked to be. I don’t really believe in souls or an afterlife, but that spot would become special to me, too.
I’m so sorry.
I vividly remember when Gonzo died at age 18 and, more importantly, that I was far away and not around to be with him in his last weeks and days. It’s very hard, but the reassuring news (I hope) is that you never let go of the memories you have.
When we had to put Milly down, I went to the vet, spent some time with her alone, and when I was ready the doc gave her the shot. I did the same thing with Spider, although I didn’t have the bond with her that I had with Milly. Kerry did not want to be present in either case.
Watching your pet get euthanized is tough, and there is no shame in not being there at the very end. It is painless and quick—shockingly so, in fact.
The vet will have the means to dispose of the remains. There may be a small charge.
The big guy is a very lucky cat to have such loving people to care for him at this time. I’m so sorry for you.
my heart is absolutely breaking for you, tobyjoe and schmitty. it’s so hard to lose a pet, especially such a sweet one who’s been a part of your life for so long.
i just read about someone who had a wake for their dog while he was still alive, a few days before they had to put him down. all their friends came over and showered the dog w/ affection and said goodbye. although terribly sad, i thought that was kind of beautiful.
so sorry for your loss.
Oh honey!! I’m so, so sorry. This is just awful.
Losing a pet, for me, has been much harder than losing an (adult) person, and I’m not ashamed to say that. I think because pets love us so completely and unconditionally and are always ‘babies’ to us. They need us. It is like innocence lost when they go.
It is hard, but you will get through it. It will get easier, but it takes time. The sucky thing about grief is…there is no way around it. You have to go through it. But you will come out the other side. I still catch glimpses of my kitty who was hit by a car almost three years ago, and I only had her for 2 years. I like to think that her spirit is coming by for a visit.
As to what to do since you have no burial place…whatever you feel best about. You can have him cremated and spread the ashes or keep them in a special container. Or maybe you could take the ashes to a friend’s property out of the city and plant them with a tree?
I’m so sorry, Michele. This is not easy, ever. Schmitty knows how much you love him, though. I’m sure of that. Take comfort in what a long and happy life he has had with you.
Oh Michele and Toby…I am so sorry the both of you have to go through this. We just went through the same thing back in February when Squish got sick with lung cancer. It was probably one of the hardest things I had to do. Growing up it was always my dad who went to the vet when we had to put a pet down but now that I am the adult/parent in the family it was my turn. Let me tell you it is so hard.
My vet let me spend as much time as I needed with Squish. I had the option of being there when the vet gave her the shot. I was torn about being there but in the end I am glad I did as I wanted her to be with someone familiar when it happened.
Now as far as what we did with her is something else. We do have a yard here in San Fran but our vet had a connection with a pet cemetery in Colma (just south of here) where you can have your pet buried. I didn’t want to do that. I know that we will not be living on the West coast forever so I couldn’t deal with us moving and then leaving her behind all by herself. (Yeah, sounds weird I know.) We got her cremated. My plan is when Holly, our other cat dies, I will have her cremated as well and then spread their ashes together.
I know exactly what you are going through. Putting a pet down is one of the hardest things someone can deal with. It seems even harder when you are pregnant. I did that last summer with the feral cat I was taking care of too.
I guess I just want to say that I am so sorry the both of you are going through this and that I just want to let you know that Schmitty will be greatly missed. However, as much as it hurts, things will get better over time, trust me.
On the good side though, remember you have two other furry guys who still need your love and attention, as well as a new little guy who is going to make his grand entrance pretty soon!
Michele, i am so sorry. give Schmitty a big hug from me.
You are breaking my heart. It’s not easy losing a pet. I’m still sad about the dog we had from when I was 2 to 17. I’m now 34 and I will always miss that man. He was like a brother to me. He took care of us and used to walk us to school. Sometimes he would come to the playground when we were on recess to see us. He was the coolest dog, very smart, and many people in town knew who he was. We have so many great stories about him. Missy may remember me coming to a tennis match in tears because I found out he was being put down that day.
When my parents starting discussing putting him down, I insisted that I did not want to know. In retrospect, I wish I had been there with him. My dad still talks about how hard it was for him to take Bud to the vet that day and he still will cry about it.
Hang in there Michele. You are in my thoughts.
I am very, very sorry to hear this news. I’ve dealt with a pet’s death once before and it was the worst thing ever. It’ll take time to heal, very much just like losing a close family member. Schmitty is lucky to have such a loving family.
I’m so sorry, Michele. At 18, I lost a cat I’d had since I was 10. It’s hard to imagine life without a pet who has been there for what feels like forever.
You guys are brave and good to keep Schmitty’s comfort at the forefront of your decision. I wasn’t able to do that with my cat and she was probably in a lot of unnecessary pain toward the end of her life. I still feel some shame in that.
As for how you mourn, you do it like you do for the people you lose. I wish you and Toby and Schmitty well.
I still close the door fast in case “Cat” runs out…she never could fight her way out of a paper bag…and it hsa been 6 years. But now I smile and was glad she was ours for a while. I still see her run down the hallway. It is a peasant memory. My only regret is that I didn’t do it just two days earlier. All of us that know Schmitty will deeply miss him but will have those wonderful memories of the cat that couldn’t understand why he couldn’t walk on two feet llike the rest of the humans in his life.
I don’t know you or your cat, but I am so sorry. I was pregnant last summer and had a cat in ICU for 5 days before I delivered. She has bad kidneys, the vet dropped the “we may have to make some decisions if her numbers don’t improve over the weekend” sentence into one of our conversations. We cried the whole weekend, wondering how we were going to be able to put our cat down the day before I was due to have a baby. It was a living nightmare.
The good news is that she DID get better and she is still milling around the house as if nothing ever happened. Keep in mind now that we actually have to inject her with fluids every other day to keep her alive (like dialysis). But to me it’s worth it. I will do and spend whatever it takes. I have lost a couple of cats in the past and boy, it sucks a whole lot. BUT, it does get better, you do stop crying and you do move on at some point.
Hang tight, it’s not over yet, and you are not alone. Hope that helps.
This is awful and I am so sorry. Go ahead and cry and be sad. Pregnant women are strong and kickass. I am crying for you too, for I also never had pets until my beloved feline and do not have any idea how i will manage to do what you guys are doing.
Much love to you and TobyJoe and Schmitty.
I’m so, so sorry. I know what you mean, not being able to ask him what he wants, and not wanting to prolong his pain for your own benefit. Keep your spirits up, you don’t know what they’ll say on Monday. I had a cat as a child and she was sick like this, and the doc gave her an additional 6+ months of relatively normal life before we had to make that difficult decision. Schmitty looks like a strong guy too. Give him all your kisses and love.
You don’t ever have to feel bad about how hard this is. It’s always hard, and, for a good pet owner, it’s almost always the right decision. When my dog Murphy was very sick with slow heart failure 5 years ago, my sister was pregnant, and in a hilarious and convoluted story, we ended up driving around the city at 10 at night trying to find the emergency vet so we could make the decision one way or another. That night I slept on my mom’s couch, and set Murph up on the floor. He refused to sleep there, and though it nearly killed him, he jumped onto the couch, curled up behind me, and passed in his sleep. I’m still tearing up about this now, and, for whatever reason, the song “I’ll Fly Away” makes me cry for him. Don’t ever feel bad for being emotionally wrought for what you’re going through now.
I’m new to your site (came here through MintyFresh) but I just had to send my support during this difficult time. I’ve lived through 2 generations of cats now… and yes, it’s very hard to lose them.
The first time we had to make the decision, I said I couldn’t be there when they did it. I still regret that decision today. Ever since, I have insisted on staying and, well, it’s sad but also very comforting. It’s not at all upsetting to the animal. I was afraid of them feeling pain when the needle was inserted but each time they already had an IV in and so the medication was just injected into the IV. It’s so very peaceful and to be there, to know what happened at the end, really made me feel better about it all.
So sorry for you and your kitty… sending strength.