A certain reproach inevitably comes from one’s friends, because their affinity for and bonding experience with domestic animals differs from their own. I suppose I’m really just trying to prepare myself to simply accept with grace such comments as well intentioned products of their own experience.
I’ve heard this a lot over the years: “Lauren, it’s a cat!” Thank you; yes—I studied taxonomy in college too. Felis catus. Yup. (Insert enchanting smile here.)
Here are a few numbers. Coolidge has been a very present member of our household for nearly 100% of his life—and 24% of mine. I have been diligently treating his diabetes for 47% of his life, and 12% of mine—never missing a blood test or an insulin shot. I spent a virtually 24/7 vigil with my cat for two entire seasons—10 weeks when he broke his foot when he was two, and nine weeks when he had a feeding tube and required six “belly snacks” a day, when he was eight. His broken foot required him to remain in a 4’x4’ kennel (it dominated our living room) so he wouldn’t run or jump. I also had to monitor him because Coodini figured out how to bust loose of his cast.
Six years later, Coolidge developed hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver; without a feeding tube, death by starvation due to inappetence is certain). He demonstrated remarkable talent for yanking his feeding tube out. My husband stitched it back in a few times until we discovered a plastic webbed athletic tape I could wrap around our resourceful cat’s middle to secure the tube, and unwrap it for each feeding. I ordered cases of syringes and tape from Amazon that summer.
It’s a small matter now, but I also turned down two very good job offers during the autumn of the broken foot. There just was no way I could leave Coolidge alone because of the potential catastrophes he could bring upon himself. If he spilled his water he would have none; or he would unwrap his cast in a few moments of boredom, or miss his small litter box that fit the kennel better than it fit him. I have no regrets, none. I should have become a vet instead of a lawyer anyway. Better still, I’d rather have been a vet tech. Vets have to deal with people; as a tech I would work mostly with animals who wouldn’t argue my emotional correctness. But I couldn’t handle YLDs.
Another thing people distressed over their companion animals do not appreciate hearing is, “Why don’t you just get another cat (dog, cricket, etc.)?” Several people actually asked me this about Coolidge when he was only two. They considered foot surgery appallingly wasteful. A cat, in their minds, is a thing you throw away if it breaks and get a new one. Good thing there are enough people who don’t feel that way to support a first-rate veterinary orthopedist in Seattle. We never asked anyone else to pay for Coolidge’s operations.
There is also the friend/psychic who thinks she knows your animal is suffering and it would be merciful to put him to sleep. An owner and her vet know whether or not the animal is suffering. Sometimes it is necessary and proper to face having to proceed with a pre-natural death. And because this very hard decision is the exclusive bailiwick of the owner and her vet, this uninformed suggestion is never appropriate.
I think the most supportive thing a devoted owner of a very ill pet would like to hear is, “How goes the vigil?” Then your friend could raise one finger for “It’s on,” or two fingers for, “It’s over.”