Life and Death

I’d like to introduce you to Barney.

Barney is my cat. He’s about 17 years old (he was a stray so I can’t be sure). Barney is unique, and I dare say, amazing, because about 7 years ago he had what his Vet likes to refer to as a “vestibular event.”  You and I would say he had a seizure or, perhaps, a stroke. Having survived it, he became a different cat. I say that because before the seizure he was very aggressive and territorial. Following the event, he became very warm and friendly. He was also left lame in one leg and slightly hearing and sight impaired. And then arthritis set in as well, not too long after all of that.

To sum things up, Barney was a friendly mess.

However, not to let a few adjustments to living life deter him, Barney simply went on his merry way (well, hobbling along his way would be more accurate) as if nothing of significance had occurred. We came to refer to him as “RoboCat” since defying all odds, he lived on, year after year, with his debilitating infirmities and limitations…obvious to everyone, apparently, except Barney. He never stopped stalking squirrels or chipmunks as if he were high on stealth..and occasionally and miraculously..actually caught something (although I always suspected whatever it was must have been more infirm than he was to have lost a battle to Barney).

I really thought he was indestructible, until recently. The arthritis has over taken him, as has dementia, and he pretty much moves from location to location…meowing all the while as he goes…only to “fall down” at a new resting place, since gracefully laying down in cat-like fashion is no longer an option for him. So, in the past few days I made my peace with the need to euthanize him and scheduled the appointment for this morning. Just before we left the house, I let him out back for one last walk around the yard and spotted him stalking, then “chasing”, in unique Barney fashion, a squirrel.

On the way to the Vet’s office, he meowed constantly and at times it actually sounded like “No.” He kept trying to put his paws through the front door of the cage while I drove, cried and tried to comfort his apparent anxiety. Sitting in the waiting room, I was saying my “final” goodbye (for at least the 5th time in the past 24 hours) when the technician opened the exam door and called us in.  The Vet took him out of the cage and set him on the floor as I cried. Barney, full of Life I had not seen in awhile, just kept walking around the exam room looking for a way out. It was obvious from his gait that he is in pain. It was also rather obvious that he is not looking to die. Watching him, I began to think he really was saying “No” on the ride there.

After conferring with the Vet, we decided to try a new pain medication which would, in a day or so, indicate if he was getting relief from the debilitating arthritis.  If yes, we agreed that relieved of pain, he could have some time left with a better quality of life. 

So I dried my eyes and Barney and I came home.

Later this afternoon a friend called to say that her father is dying. Well, he appears to be dying based upon his diagnosis and prognosis. And recently, he was not conscious or communicative for a couple of days and she thought the end had come. But then, he began talking again and seemed rather put out at hearing that people were thinking and saying that he was dying.

So the moral of this story is: Who Knows?

The day may come when I have no doubts left that Barney is suffering so that to keep him here is animal cruelty. And even if the pain medication works, he will still have the dementia and I will still have to sometimes remind him that the wall is not a door and gently steer him in the right direction.

But here’s the thing. Barney is RoboCat and as long as he has the Will to live in him…who am I to say that some arthritis and a little confusion are grounds for thinking and acting otherwise. If caring for him is inconvenient for me, well…I hope someday someone doesn’t mind a little inconvenience if it’s me who has arthritis and more than a little confusion.

I’m sure my friend feels exactly the same way about her father.

Love isn’t limited to certain species.

Remember to click here to download my FREE e-book, “Too Many Secrets.”

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