5/1/2014 - 4/23/2021
A week before she was supposed to turn seven years old, I put my cat Belle to sleep. It was the hardest decision of my life. I've had to euthanize my cats before but they were older. It doesn't make it any easier but you don't want to see your beloved friend suffer and sometimes we wait a day or two longer than we should. We keep them alive because we can't let them go.
My veterinarian, who has been super kind and attentive, and let me trade commissioned art for the high cost of dealing with the insidious nature of cancer, advised me to put Belle to sleep before her breathing got too bad. Before she would start to panic and die an awful death, gasping for air.
When I brought Belle into the Vet to check on her status, I didn't think I would be putting her down two days later. A week before, Belle was still very active. Playing, scratching, hopping on top of boxes, galloping to the open windowsill with the fire escape for a back rub, kneading on my chest, meowing and purring. But then it became obvious that she was slowing down. Having trouble breathing. She wasn't playing anymore. Mostly stationary. But who can truly tell how much longer a cat wants to live?
I realized the bond you make with an animal, the trust you manifest between each other, affords the responsibility to make the hardest decision. I felt that Belle could possibly live another week. But the fact was she would probably pass away in a brutal and horrific way within 48-hours or less. It feels impossible to pull the trigger, allow the doctor to push the ingredients in the needle that will expire their life when your friend is still active. Still very much alive.
You hold her in your arms. Place the duck toy that she showed up with when you first met next to her face. The toy she's known all her life. Slept with. Dragged around from one corner of the apartment to the other. She looks at you, wondering what's going on? Why are we in a strange, dimly lit room? What's happening? You look deep into her eyes and try to communicate through your tears that you're sorry. So sorry. You just want one more minute with her. One more minute to play and snuggle and talk but she can't do that anymore. She is very sick. Tired. Maybe she understands as she looks at you -- hoping you know what to do because she can't make that decision. She trusts you to make it for her. This is the greatest challenge of the trust you created together.
I love you, Belle.