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26 April 2005


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I never imagined that working in the health industry would be fun and stress free, specially in the case of pets...

That must have been very rough, to see al that suffering, without being able to help much...

Elayne Riggs

I think if you've got the money and you really, really can't let go, it might be worth it to put your old and beloved pet through so-called "miracle" treatments. But I've had to say goodbye to two beloved kitties, and another is probably not long for this world. And I think it's cruel to try to prolong their pain if there's nothing that can ease it. They don't understand why they're in pain, they just want release. And they find ways of telling you when it's time to let go; we just have to be better at understanding those ways. I know it's just about the hardest thing in the world to do, but to hang on to an animal when it's told you it wants to go is just cruel and selfish, in my opinion.


Elayne, I find a couple of things about your comment interesting.

First, the context in which you mention money suggests to me that you believe people who choose to spend money on their pets' care do so simply because they can, not because they are considering the best interests of their animals. I have spent rather a lot of money on the care of my pets, but my decision-making isn't at all based on money. As I tell my veterinarian: "Not one penny spent to simply extend life -- this needs to be about quality of life."

Second, your use of the word "it" to describe an animal. As a writer, I'm very sensitive to word selection -- why people choose the words they do. The use of "it" to describe a living being speaks volumes to me about how you view where an animal fits in.

When you use the word "it," you put an animal into the same category as a chair or a box of flatware -- inanimate objects that feel no pain, have no emotional life. When you use words to turn an animal an inanimate object, you make it easier to make a decision based on money, convenience, what-have-you.

As a pet-care columnist I hear every day from people who love, love, love their pets -- until the animal becomes expensive or inconvenient, and then it's time to "get rid of it." How easily these bonds are broken, and how much our "common sense" and "common language" help to do so.


Elayne, you say "if there's nothing you can do to ease" their pain, or keeping them around when they are ready to go. But those things are not always absolute. There often ARE things we can do to ease their pain and give them back their joy of living. Sometimes that requires we "think outside the box" and seek out alternatives (as I wrote about in my post), and sometimes it requires that we care enough about our animals to spend the bucks it takes to give them a longer, happier life.

Of course some people simply can't afford the second choice. But a lot of people CAN but refuse to, putting a low value on the happiness and life of their companion animals. I'm not one of those people.

The other thing happens too, of course - people who drag a suffering animal through day after day after day of misery to meet THEIR needs, without considering, or caring, about what's best for their pet. No one in their right mind would advocate that, certainly not me.

But there are not only two choices: Letting them go or dragging out their suffering. There are lots of other options. There is a whole universe of middle ground there.

And one of the things is that we have accepted a certain amount of debility and shortening of lifespan for our pets because we don't avail ourselves of good preventatives such as herbal medicine, homemade diets, and healthy lifestyles, and also because we do not choose to afford, or genuinely cannot afford, certain diagnostics and therapies that are available when our pets are stricken with illness or injury.

The fact is, it's not "normal" for a cat to be old at 7 and dead at 10. Cats can and should live into their 20s, and be pretty happy and spry right up to the end. Dog lifespan varies tremendously with size, but considering a dog of average size to be "old" at 8 or 9 is absurd, and another example of what I'm talking about.

Changing how someone perceives an issue is free, even though the actions someone takes based on their perspective might be very costly, or even out of reach. I'm not discussing the limitations of genuine financial hardship, because there are people who don't have enough money to feed their kids or pay their own doctor bills - clearly these folks aren't going to be getting acupuncture for their arthritic dog or getting an MRI on their cat who might have a tumor. Or feeding a homemade diet of grass-fed meat to their pets, either.

But for those who think it's not WORTH IT to push the envelope for an animal... well, that's kind of the whole point of what I'm rejoicing in, the real love and the deep bonds between the animals and humans I saw in Lisa's practice. They were NOT forcing a life of suffering on their dog or cat to meet their own neurotic needs. Some of the animals were in great shape, thriving and living happy lives. And those few who were in dire condition, yes, the owners were out miracle shopping, but I had no feeling that they wouldn't give up and let go when they'd exhausted all reasonable hope. They were if anything as in tune with their animals as anyone I've ever seen. They were just hoping that there was going to be something they hadn't known about that might help.


You made me think of a recent comment from Dr. Tom Beckett, a vet I respect very much. Maybe you saw it yourself, Christie. In response to someone who was nervous about pushing for the high dosage of doxy we all recommend on Tick-L for the treatment of tick disease, afraid of losing her "credibility" with her vet, he said: "I wouldn't worry about "credibility". A veterinarian should not hold it against you that you are deeply concerned about your pet. It is owners that don't give a damn that cause us to lapse into expletives."


I remember trying to call the vet when I had to make an appointment the last time for my little cocker, Bonnie. I waited until I thought I could control my voice, and then, when she told me they had no appointments, I lost it. Had to get my husband to call back. He went with me, and we both cried. Hard. He was wearing his camouflage outfit, too, which must have looked incongruous.

They were sweet, though. I love the folks who work at vets' offices.

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