When Is It Enough?Feb 28, 2023
One of the hardest things we do as humans is outlive our animal friends.
They become our friends, confidants, keepers of secrets. They keep us warm at night. They become a pen pal to a sick child.
And then they die.
My belief system says that just like us, they continue. They have multiple lives. They come into this existence with an agenda, just like we do (and then immediately forget what it is). They serve us, and we serve them. It’s definitely a two-way street.
Fiona, pen pal to a child who had cancer.
Because it’s a two-way street, we need to be aware of when they are done with their physical body and know whether or not to let them go.
There’s always a lesson in there somewhere. Some people will keep an animal alive at all costs. Sometimes that may be appropriate, but one of the big questions to ask is “Am I doing this for the animal, or for me?” Another one is “What does my animal friend want?”
If you’re keeping an animal alive because you can’t bear to let them go, it’s time to take a good hard look at what you’re doing. You need to examine closely your motivations, and also the animal’s quality of life. Is your friend enjoying life, or are they just laying around looking like they’d rather be somewhere else.
The thing with animals, especially dogs and also many cats I’ve met, is that they will keep themselves alive FOR US. They will endure pain and suffering so we can have those last few days, weeks, or months with them. Do they like being with us? Of course. But when it involves suffering on the part of the animal, is it fair? They wait for us to wake up to whatever it is we’re needing to learn, so that we can send them on their way (and they can come back if they want into a healthy young body!).
We had a beautiful black cat named Aloysius, with gorgeous amber eyes. I’ve never seen eyes like that on a cat before or since. We had him from the time he was 8 weeks old. As he got older, he did the usual older cat things - he didn’t groom himself as much. He slept at lot. He had trouble jumping up on things (and this cat at one time could jump 5 feet straight up a wall - he was amazing). He ended up with a little bit of hyperthyroid and little bit of kidney failure. He was getting old. We gave him some naturopathic liquified medicine twice a day for several years, and his kidney numbers actually got better, and his hyperthyroid settled down.
Aloysius of the beautiful amber eyes.
When he was about 17, and he was sleeping 20 hours a day, I started asking my mentor, Joy, how he was feeling and if he was ready to go. He always said no. He was enjoying his old age. He had a chair that we called The Old Man Chair that was his to sleep in. He was still interested in food. I would ask about him every few weeks, and he finally told her “Enough already! I’ll let you know when I’m ready!”
When he turned 18, he was really slowing down. I could see in his eyes that something was off. Even though he was still eating, he got thinner. He still liked his meds; his numbers stayed consistent, but he wasn’t himself. I asked again, and got the answer, “Yes. Let me go before I get worse.”
We called our vet, who came to the house. Everyone got to say goodbye, and he slipped away quickly and with no effort. No fighting. It was beautiful, and so, so sad. He was a special boy.
Some animals will make it very easy for us. My heart horse, Wilma, was a Friesian and when she turned the ripe age of 26 (old for a Friesian), I was grateful and amazed. We didn’t ride any more. She was starting to look her age, but she still enjoyed meeting people, coaching, and eating. My husband went out to take care of the horses and everyone was fine. When we went back out a few hours later, Wilma was obviously in distress. I walked her while waiting for the vet. His examination discovered a serious knot in her intestines that could not be fixed without surgery. At age 26, her chances of surviving the surgery were low. She looked at me; I looked at her, and we said our goodbyes. She knew I wouldn’t be able to handle a long illness, and she hated the idea of lingering. From the moment we discovered her in the barn to the moment she was gone was less than three hours. That was five years ago and it’s still surreal to me. I haven’t found another horse that can measure up to her. I miss her every day. But I respected her wishes, and let her go.
Making the decision to respect our animals and let them go is that hardest thing we can do. It hurts. A piece of our heart is ripped to shreds. And they show us how to survive that kind of suffering, and that everything does, indeed, go on.
Wilma and Aloysius may not be here in the physical, but I talk with them all the time, and I can feel their gentle beings and their laughter from wherever they are. I’ve asked Wilma more than once if she’ll come back to me - so far, I’ve gotten no answer. But even if she decides she doesn’t want to do another turn in a physical body, I’ll always have her to talk to, and to assist me when I coach. It’s a comfort.
If you have questions about whether your animal wants to live or move on, feel free to contact me through my website, harmonysheartanimals.com. I’m happy to help.
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