Saturday, August 27, 2011

Life is good with animals.

Watching any pet or animal get old, is not always easy.  Though some age gracefully, some do not.  It's different though with cancer.  It accelerates that aging process, and never in a graceful way.

As some of our readers are aware, our 9 year old lab/border collie, Gracie has cancer; however what we haven't mentioned is that Cissy, our 14 year old cat, too has cancer.  We mentioned a bit here about the hospital visit, but went on a blogging hiatus afterwards and never explained.  Cissy's cancer seems to be a little more touchy as it had completely stopped the digestive process in her body.  Her spleen, kidney, and liver are partially cancer ridden.  She was on meds to get everything up and running again, but is now off of those.  She's only on a steroid to help control the growth of the cancer. So that basically catches everyone up on the details about two of our beloved pets having cancer.  Currently, we are in the process of fulfilling our responsibility to those pets.

I believe that when you take "ownership" of any animal, it's your responsibility to care for that animal, and treat it with respect.  We've spent what to us is a lot of money in the last year to uphold this responsibility, and we would have spent countless more if we thought it would be to the benefit of either. Fact is, with all of our decisions, we always first thought about quality and second about quantity.

For Gracie, we decided on just the pain killer route as we didn't feel the it would be a quality remainder of life recovering from a major surgery like amputation.  A part of me still wonders what if, but right now, she's actually using the broken leg, and getting around better than she has since it first happened!

Cissy's been doing quite good as well!  She's decided now that she deserves only wet food, which is a little divaish, if you ask me, but I suppose she deserves it.  Charlie, our new kitten, is pestering her what seems like constantly so the least we can do is give her wet food.  As I mentioned before she's only on the steroid now and when we finished with the medicine to keep her system going, we were very concerned that she would immediately revert back.  We talked about it before she came off of that med, and decided that if she did revert and she stopped eating and know, then we'd most likely have to put her down.  With Gracie we are essentially managing pain (even though we know the cancer is spreading), but with Cissy the medications were actually supporting her failing system.  We weren't sold that supporting her vital systems like that was quality, but more us wanting to extend the quantity for our benefit.  Happily, she never missed a beat coming off those meds.  She's still eating and making us very aware again when she's hungry.  I do still feel bad that we picked up this crazy kitten, and I wonder if sometimes she thinks we did it just to spite her.  I think I've said in the past that she never was very loving to me, so I think I wouldn't blame her for those thoughts, if indeed that's what she thinks.  Not now though.  I love her very much, and it's hard to imagine a day without her.  I can pet her almost whenever I want and pick her up, but she still doesn't groom my hair like she does Lynette.  I guess I should just be grateful for the love I do get.

Living with not just one, but two pets with cancer is tough.  Within reason, we could still go away for a weekend and take Gracie, but it's a different story with Cissy.  She doesn't necessarily adjust to new places, plus she'd need a litter box.  It's just not feasible.  At the present moment, we are now simply limited to day trips.  Yes, someone can easily come over twice a day to feed her the wet food, but she gets her medicine in the evening, and I wouldn't expect anyone to do that.  It's a two person job, and it took us a month just to figure out the best way to do it.  I wrap her in a towel, making sure her front legs straight and pointed down, and all that is showing is her head.  I hold her firmly against my chest, while Lynette holds her head, forces her mouth opens and uses a syringe administer the meds.  It's quite the event, but we've gotten much better, and now that it's just the one it's not so bad.  I still wouldn't expect or even think of asking anyone to do it in our stead.  Gracie too, I would only really consider taking to my parents or Lynette's parents.  She's familiar and comfortable in both places, but I don't think she's all that comfortable in the car anymore.

I don't pretend to compare our pets with cancer to people with cancer.  There is no doubt, that they are not comparable.  I do however think there is little difference in the respect and responsibility we have towards them.  Sure I recognize that with a person, we would be fighting for a cure, and not simply sustaining what we can for a balance of quality and quantity.  I think every living creature has an inherent worth, and I think if more people thought this way, many of the troubles in the world would simply not be issues.  I know that some people (none that I'm great friends with, I'm sure) don't agree with this type of thinking, which saddens me.  Somemeds themselves cost us very little each month, especially compared to what we get back in return.  This may rub people the wrong way, but I question if many people should really have a pet, if they can't afford to care for them adequately if they are sick.  It all comes back to the responsibility and respect for the animal.

I've learned a lot over the last year.  I've learned that even when you think it's the end, a dog can show you that she has more strength and stoic beauty than you've ever seen.  I've learned that even a cat that you joke about being evil, can become so much a part of what you enjoy in your life that you question how it'll ever be the same without her.  Even though we are a little inconvenienced by not being able to come and go as we are used to, it's humbling to see Gracie and Cissy continue to persevere without much expectation of sympathy.  Sure Gracie still stares you down with those big brown eyes trying to make you feel sorry for her and give her either something tasty or a scratch behind the ear, but she's done that since she was a year old.  Cissy still doesn't act that much different than she has since we've moved in here.  She's still excited when we make popcorn, yet only "petable" when she allows said petting.  She's never used her claws against the kitten no matter how annoying she is (which is very annoying, most of the time).  Humanity could learn a lot if it slowed down and observed these sort of behaviors.

Life is good with animals.  It's always a reward, even when you have to watch them fade away.  I've thought more times than I can count that I wish I could take their pain away, but in the big picture I know that their time is ending, and the lessons that they've taught us will move us to bigger and more important goals in life.  I thank God everyday for the blessings in my life, even if those blessings sometimes come in difficult packaging.


Kelly said...

Eric, I love your blog.I work in a vet clinic and I wish more of my clients thought like you do.Some make really rash decisions ,selfish decisions and quick decisions based on what they think it will cost .Then they always regret not trying ,but some people here the word cancer and thats the end,they quit listening and dont want to hear about all the options,some expensive,some not.I think you guys are doing a wonderful job and Gracie and Cissy are very lucky to own you!

Belinda said...

Hi, nice post. I feel your happiness, pain, frustration, confusion, hopeful, then hopeless, etc. My oldest dog was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago and the vet gave him 3 months. As it turns out, we still do not have a definitive diagnosis but the combination of eastern and western medicine has worked wonders for him. Both Gracie and Cissy will tell you when its time so know that you are doing what is right for them and not you, no matter what anyone else says.