Fourteen-odd years ago, during the spring of my senior year in high school, I arrived at my church one evening to play for a Lenten mid-week service. As I walked up to the back door, a young cat strutted out of the bushes and threw herself at my feet, demanding to be petted.
So I did. As did the assistant pastor, and the rest of the church. We had been adopted! And pretty soon, kitty was being fed and petted by numerous individuals, myself included. I think I got more practice done that spring than any other time, being that I made sure I got to the church every day to feed kitty.
We named kitty "Elsie," a sort of play on the church's denomination, and she took up residence in an abandoned garden shed in back of the church. Her growing plumpness made us wonder if there was something more going on than good feeding, but nevertheless, I ended up adopting her and taking her home a month or so later - after which she promptly took over the second floor of our house and soon after gave birth to four kittens in my bedroom closet.
Kitty came with us when DH and I married, and she has been our only family pet during the ten years of our marriage. Besides the fact that she was a consummate bully to other cats, she has been an awesome cat.
About six months ago or so, we noticed that kitty was "aging." Being that she was about 15 years old, we just accepted that the inevitable was happening. However, when the process accelerated drastically, we realized that something else was going on. Thus began a two-month saga of vet visits and various medications, but to no avail. Though she rallied several times, it was eventually all in vain, and we made the difficult decision to have her put down yesterday.
May I say that I sincerely hope that we never have to make that decision again? It is a miserable experience.
This was both DH's and my first experience with being the responsible adults during a pet's end-of-life decisions. Though we have lost pets before, those have come under the jurisdiction of others (usually our parents during our childhood), and being the ones in charge is infinitely more difficult.
DH especially has been hit very hard by this, as kitty's care during these two months has been almost completely his job, and he was the one to be with her during the euthanasia procedure. It's going to take him (and all of us) a while to get over this.
Both of us are thankful, though, that the Lord's leading was so clear in this situation. Both of us had prayed for either healing or a natural death, and God did not answer that prayer. However, He did lead us both to a peaceful decision on timing. The very morning after we had a serious discussion on how long we should let this situation go, the Lord led a very sweet vet tech to come out and tell DH very calmly and lovingly that she thought it was time for us to consider letting her go. It was the perfect timing, and we made the decision that very day (yesterday). A few weeks earlier, when the subject was first brought up, neither of us was ready to make that decision or go ahead with a situation that we still thought might resolve well.
We never received a final diagnosis for kitty's ailment, so that will forever be a mystery - and we are praying that whatever it was was not contagious, as we have several outdoor kitties about.
Both DH and I are united in not wanting any more pets - a decision of several years' making, not just of the past few months - but I don't know how well that decision will hold up in a house full of children, the eldest of whom is already petitioning for a kitten!
Adult life is interesting, isn't it? It's full of having to learn hard lessons. I remember telling my mother (when I was a child) that I would never ever ever do things like clean up a child's vomit, etc. But being an adult is about growing up and taking on the tough things, regardless of whether we like it or not.
But regardless, I'm glad that this is an experience that only comes one's way a few times in a lifetime.
Some pictures that we took yesterday:
And what arrived from our (incredibly sweet) vet's staff today:
Goodbye, sweet kitty.
Since I did write this article last week, I've had some time to reflect on the events surrounding the above. At the time, I was somewhat irritated with God (sorry to have to admit this). I wanted desperately for our kitty to either be healed or to die naturally. I did not want to have to make the euthanasia decision. Dealing with a pet's death is hard, but being the active agent in that death is twenty times harder.
In other words, I wanted the easy way out. And God did not see fit to grant that prayer. And I was a bit put out!
But God's goal in this life is not to make us happy or to give us the easy way out. It is to lead us through the difficult roads that make us holy, that push us through spiritual growth that we would otherwise not choose. (Hyperemesis, anyone?) Despite my adamant wishes to stay cozy and comfortable, God put us through that difficult time to grow us. Though I never want to experience last week again, I realize that God has used that experience also to grow both DH and myself.
And life continues on.