Over the years, we had pets – dogs, cats, birds, and fishes, who came and were gone.
Whether it was due to age, illness, or injury, it was always the same ending – our beloved pet passed on in the animal hospital alone or it was put down.
For the last sixteen years, we had adopted three abandoned stray kittens and they grew up pretty relaxed, peaceful, and happy. These furry friends became family members, couch companions, and ‘mood therapists’. They have been a source of laughter and happiness at home.
Recently, one of our cats, Yoda fell off his perch a few times but got back up. We knew that he was getting old and clumsy.
But one day, he could not right himself and we knew that he was nearing the end of his days. He was a quiet cat and loved to be cuddled.
Instead of panicking and bringing him to the animal hospital, we wanted him to be more comfortable at home surrounded by family. Indeed, he seemed to be.
We recalled how all our pets who were sent there looked stressed. I think it was construed as an abandonment to them. That was not going to happen to Yoda.
We recalled how Tracy, our bull terrier dog who was struggling with terminal cancer, struggled to his feet and threw us a sad look as we left the hospital.
The vet said he had to be warded if he was to survive. He did not and missed his final days.
How our bird Chirpy, gasped erratically and would not let his eyes off us as we left the treatment room while the clinic monitored his injury, even when there was no chance of recovery.
How Tear, our dying dog from old age, whimpered gently as he lay in the back of our car on the way to the emergency room. We could have let him pass on comfortably at home. Instead, he was put down to be taken off his misery.
Hence, we made Yoda as comfortable as possible. We were sure that he did not want to be surrounded by strangers, nor be placed inside some cold cage to recover, nor to have needles and tubes attached to him. After all, he was not in pain and he was dying from old age, not sickness.
Yoda also obviously had a stroke. He was immobile and could not feed himself.
We decided to feed him his favorite tuna and bottle-fed him water. Those were his daily moments of enthusiasm and joy, reflected in his eyes.
We are fortunate to have a small garden. Every day, we sunbathe Yoda for 30 minutes which was his favorite thing to do in the backyard. Then we moved him indoors onto the lined sofa bed that faced the greenery of the garden.
The family has never felt so relaxed knowing that our beloved furry pet was so comfortable. We could watch TV or listen to music together. We caressed him gently during those times. Sometimes, we took turns to rock him in the evenings.
He even got to wear baby diapers which we improvised to accommodate his tail. He looked so cute, cuddling his soft toy. Yoda lied passively on his bed liner and looked at us with his beautiful large eyes directly as if to say “Thank You”.
Yoda ate well. He was treated to a soft diet and treats and seemed to be happy in that state.
But, death was inevitable. Eventually, one morning, I received news that Yoda left us, quiet as his usual self. After the sobbing, we wrapped him inside a soft white cotton sheet. My husband dug a pit in the backyard where he was laid to rest.
Today, the plants have thrived well and we are happy that we had given our pet a peaceful and happy death.
Two weeks later, Yoda’s sibling, Mani also had a stroke and became incapacitated. By now, both cats including our third surviving one have already surpassed 16 human years old which is quite long for the life span of an average cat.
Like Yoda, Mani, a female black cat was an adorable pet with her own quirks. She was a loner, a little high-strung whose claws are always out though she was very sociable in her younger days. Like the other siblings, they rarely meowed and the neighbors did not know we have cats.
Our surviving cat, Yuki is female and white and seems to stay clear of Mani due to an earlier episode where they had fought.
Mani would sometimes be seen leaning into Yoda. Sometimes, it was Yuki. The sight of them cuddling together always remind us family members to stay cordial to each other too and keep the peace.
Mani also received star treatment every day that she lived. She was totally relaxed as she lay on the bed that Yoda lay, facing the greenery outside and listening to some soft music.
Her eyes had become glassy, body contorted but she did not whine. She looked at us curiously. Finally, the time came. Mani passed on and her paws were set as if in prayer.
The red rose contrasted drastically with her dark shiny coat as we laid her to rest in the pit next to Yoda. After some prayers, we covered her pit and also planted our beloved plants on it.
Today, our pets have never left us, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They are a reminder to live life in an unhurried manner, be a source of solace and fun to others around, and most of all, not fear death. Just let go.
What a pet need is Love and tender care when it is dying. It needs to be comforted, consoled, and stroked. It needs to be surrounded by the family whom it has spent many years with, by the toys it had played with, and the house that it was comfortable in.