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Down the Road

"Putting them down"
By Milt Gross
Apr 19, 2015 - 6:18:51 PM

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Tom before he became ill with cancer. We had no idea that within a few weeks we'd be putting him to sleep -- something I'd said I'd never do again after I had to put a dog to sleep years ago. Milt Gross photo.
Recently we had our seven-year-old kitty, Tom, put to sleep. He was dying of cancer and had wasted away to a very thin body.

The vet had said that he, Tom, would let us know when he was ready to be put to sleep. He lasted for three more weeks, but one afternoon while he was on the sofa with me, he began to cry a bit. He also "jumped" a little; I knew he was ready.

The next day we did something I swore after the first time with Springer, a part Labrador retriever dog, I'd never do again. We took him to the vet's to be put to sleep. Dolores took with us a cushion that Tom had lain on many times, a Tom favorite. She laid him on that cushion while the vet did his unpleasant job. The vet put something on his lower body near a rear leg to kill the pain, then cut into Tom's body and located a vein. He inserted the needle carrying the deadly chemical into a vein. And we waited.

It seemed like over five minutes before the vet declared Tom passed away.

I didn't cry this time, as I had done with Springer. She had looked up at me as the vet administered the killing liquid into the back of her neck. With her look at me, I felt as if I had betrayed her.

We had had Springer about six years, but on a Maine Appalachian Trail Club volunteer work trip on Surplus Mountain west of Andover, she had slipped on a steep part of the trail -- basically a cliff up which we could walk. When we reached her, she was unable to get up. We rigged up a carrier for her using a backpack, but she nearly slipped off it and over a cliff, so I carried her on my shoulder.

We camped overnight by a brook, and the next day she went under her own steam down the trail to the car. For another year, she hung on, but she finally reached the stage of failing where she could no longer control herself or walk by herself.

I tearfully took her to the vet.

It's impossible to describe the love these pets had for us. Tom would sleep on my chest or on my lap if I was sitting, not watching TV. We kept him in bed with us toward the end, where he would not move all night but the next morning jump from the bed and head for the room with the litter box. He ate very little his last days.

We were both very sad for him, as we watched him worsen day after day until we took him to the vet for that awful "putting to sleep."

We petted him until the vet told us Tom had passed away.

Dolores left the cushion with the vet to be cremated with Tom.

I don't believe the wishful thinking of pets going to doggie or kitty heavens. I guess they just die. Perhaps if I believed in a pet hereafter it wouldn't be so hard.

I've seen lots of dead animals, including the deer that was killed by a car on our road and which I dragged across the yard to the woods where a bobcat and coyote argued over the remains. In two days, the deer was all gone. I never cried for wild animals, most of which were smaller critters.

I knew these pets loved us, but I never realized how deeply we loved them. Most of our cats were carried off by a neighborhood owl while outside. At least that's what we thought, because we had seen the owl hanging around in the trees. It's tough, opening the door and stepping out to find your pets and not find them.

But for these two we had put to sleep, it was a lot tougher. We knew it put them out of their pain, but it was still tough.

These pets had loved us and depended on us for everything.

I hated to see them slowly become worse in their sad condition. I hated to be the one who took them in to be put to sleep. I hated to pet them as they passed away.

People tell us, it was for the best. It put them out of their pain.

I think they're right, and, at this point, I guess I would do it again.

But it didn't put me out of my pain. When I left the vet's office the other day, I felt weak. I came home and lay down for two or three hours.

Our pain is still with us.

We still have Samatha, or Pest, who goes by several other names. She sniffs around the house occasionally, I think looking for Tom. Last night she claimed his spot on my lap. This made me feel a little better. After all, Tom had been suffering.

But I still have my pain -- the love pain.


Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@roadrunner.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2014


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