Thursday, August 27, 2009

putting an animal to sleep. :(

When he woke, I knew something was wrong. Normally Dan's ferret would crawl out of his bed and greet me, but now he stayed put, oddly looking at me. I reached out encouragingly. "Hey there, little fella. Cooome here!" I wanted my after-nap hug.

Dan was away on a trip and I was watching his beloved ferret for a week. If you've never gotten to know one, they're kindof like a mixture between dogs and cats. They're curious, playful and, if you handle them frequently as kits, affectionate. Floyd was all of these things, the sweetest bundle of fur you could imagine.

I waited for him to come out of his bed, yet he balked. I called to him again and realized with alarm he couldn't move the back half of his body. He laboriously pulled himself up over the lip of his bed and when his hindquarters appeared, I was horrified to see that they were not only paralyzed but an eery blue color.

"Anoxia" I thought immediately.

It wasn't a stroke but the circulatory system was shutting down.

I knew he was old. I knew he was sick. But he'd been these things for a few years. I didn't know he was on the edge of death. Here Dan was hundreds of miles away on a boat in the middle of the ocean and his beloved pet, in my care, was dying.

I never had an animal put to sleep before. But I knew it had to be done or the poor little guy would continue to suffer. He refused food, a sign of pain.

I rushed to the vet with him enveloped in a soft cushioned box and sped down the road watching the glorious sunset, wondering how could death happen on a day so achingly beautiful? I turned on the radio and heard the soft melody of a song I'd never heard before crooning lyrics that echoed my thoughts.

I stayed just a little too long
Now it's time for me to move on
I pulled into the parking lot and tenderly gathered the box while Floyd looked at me questioningly, his innocent face turned sweetly upward.
Goodbye yesterday, I just can't stay around
He had no idea he was dying and no idea that in a few moments, I was going to hand him to some strangers to "put him out."
Goodbye morning, sorry it had to end
I peered at him for one last look, fat drops falling silently into the box and wetting his soft fur. Then I ran inside.

You see I cried just a little too long
Now it's time for me to be strong
I handed the box to the robotic clerk behind the counter. We had no local vet because the ferret usually saw Dan's veterinarian uncle. And so I was not at a place we had any relationship with.

Businesslike, I gulped back tears and handed them the ferret. They asked if I wanted to be there.

I couldn't. I couldn't stand there and watch the life drain out of him.

They say I'm hopeless
I stood in the waiting room, completely and utterly alone, fighting back waves of sadness. Why now? How am I going to break the news?

Fifteen agonizing minutes crawled by where I tried in vain not to think.

An emotionless assistant finally emerged from the back and handed me a shoebox, lid closed. "Here you go," she offered. I silently held out my credit card, a stoic pillar of sand about to crumble any second.

Goodbye yesterday, I can't take you with me
And then I turned to leave.

The face that I presented to the world, the one I thought looked strong, must have been a mask of grief and loss so transparent that a woman, a complete stranger standing in the doctor's office looked at me and kindly opened her arms for a hug. She said gently, "I've had to put a few cats to sleep, I know how it is."

Not usually prone to hugging strangers, I fell into her arms and she surrounded me with warmth. Not a pat-pat hug, but a true hug of comfort. A strangled sob suddenly escaped and I realized I'd been holding my breath. Unable to speak, I nodded to thank her for her kindness. Then I broke away and ran to the car where I could break down in private. I sobbed the whole way home.

I always wanted to thank that woman for being there for me that day when I so badly needed it.

Hello yesterday, remember how it used to be
She'll never see my blog. She'll never know how much that tiny gesture meant. But I'm writing this today as a tribute to that little creature. And to say that the kindnesses you offer strangers may matter more than you could know.

Lyrics to Hopeless
by Dionne Farris

Hello morning, now when does the fun begin
Goodbye morning, sorry it had to end
But see I cried just a little too long
Now it's time for me to be strong
Hello morning, I sure missed you last night
Goodbye morning, you just won't do me right
I stayed just a little too long
Now it's time for me to move on
They say I'm hopeless, as a penny with a hole in it
They say I'm no less, no less, no less, no less, no less
Than up to my head in it
Hello yesterday, I sure need you now
Goodbye yesterday, I just can't stay around
You see I cried just a little too long
Now it's time for me to be strong
Hello yesterday, remember how it used to be
Goodbye yesterday, I can't take you with me
No, no, no I can't
You see I stayed just a little too long
And now it's time for me to move on

. . .

My other TMI Thursdays -->


creature 0f habit said...

Awe man.. too sad. =(

Kelly O said...

Oh hon, I'm so sorry. :(

geekhiker said...

Every time I think I should get a dog, it seems I run across something like this and doubt clouds my mind. *sigh*

Very sad, but I have to say, very well written. Thanks for sharing.

linda said...

Man! Your writing is just getting better and better. I totally loved reading this - beautifully written. And how awesome for the gifts of compassion and empathy we can receive from people at times when we really need it.

Wonderful wonderful!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Im so sorry for your and your friends lost. I had to put my grandmothers dog down today becasue she couldnt do it. It is painful beyond words. The only thing that is even remotly comforting is that it really is an act of Mercy when the animal is suffering. *hugs* and God Bless

spleeness said...

Thank you so much for your kind words everyone.

I'm so sorry for your loss too. Cyberhug back atcha...

Steve said...

Aw shucks! I'm crying now!

That's beautifully written! I hadn't seen this before we met for coffee or I'd have said so.

Poor little Floyd...

Safe journey.

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