Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sorrow and Hard Decisions

Poppy (in the drawer) and Squeaky in their younger days

Squeaky had always been a calm, quiet cat with the high pitched voice that led my husband and son to give him his name. Unlike our other cats, he preferred to stay indoors, except sometimes in the spring, and one year when he went outside a few days after Easter and stayed there, in the yard, until July. We acquired him a year or so after our marriage from some clients of mine who had a barn cat mama. I made his acquaintance when his eyes first opened and he began exploring the yard and peeking through the back door at me, and his mom's owners were only too happy to let me take him home.

About three years or so ago, Squeaky's kidneys began to fail, and in the last few months, he got skeletally thin. He began having accidents in odd corners, did not appear to be able to see, and started falling asleep near the food dish in the kitchen. I kept telling my husband that we needed to have him put down, but it's hard for my tender hearted husband to let go. I finally realized I'd have to make the decision on my own. On August 4th, we said good-bye to Squeaky.

To make matters worse, a week before we'd noticed that Poppy, our second oldest cat, had acquired a lump on her hind leg. We thought it was an abscess and took her to the vet, but it couldn't be drained. After some expensive X-rays, the vet operated and did a biopsy. The lump turned out to be cancer. The good news is that it is a kind that is unlikely to spread to her vital organs; the bad news is that it can grow large enough to interfere with her mobility. The vet can refer us to an oncologist to see if Poppy is a candidate for radiation therapy, which will require her to be sedated and cost 3-5,000 dollars.

We have some time before we need to make a decision. Right now, she seems unbothered by the lump. She was far more bothered by being restricted to indoors following the surgery, but she's now allowed her usual routine of napping in the garden and chasing lizards. She has really been so patient through all this, although this morning when she was due to go back to the vet to get her staples taken out, she managed to hide behind a bookcase for half an hour or so. I have to stop telling her when she's due to see the vet.

Down the road, we may need to look at her age, the cost, the likelihood of the radiation working, and the inconvenience to Poppy, and make some hard decisions. Cats, unlike people, can't make their end-of-life wishes known. They trust us, and we hope we don't fail them.

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