In about another hour people will begin to gather here, and we will cook a meal that will hopefully be delicious and sufficient for all the folks who have gathered. After that I suspect there will be some drinking and general Pack chatter, and after that a few DVDs will be watched. But until all my guests arrive, I'm left with some time to reflect, and I think I'll use it to write up the promised rambling entry that didn't quite make it here the other day.
It's been four days since Ra harfed, and the thoughts I had that evening are still tumbling around in my head. My biggest concern is that this is a life-long condition for my cat. He's going to be sick, there's no way around that. The only thing I can do for him is try to help him be sick less by controlling his diet and forcing those pills down his throat every day. Even then, he's still throwing up an awful lot during his "treatment," which leads me to wonder if he's really responding in a positive manner towards the regimen the vet has put him on. We've already changed his diet three times, and medications just as many times. How many more things can we do? I understand that there is no magic cure-all for this, and that it's a condition that has to be coped with... but just how much coping can I do? How much can my roommates do? How much coping can the creature that is going through all this do? How much should I make him do before it becomes unfair to the animal?
I guess what worries me the most is that last thought. I'm troubled by the fact that my pet is experiencing these pains and attacks, and he can't tell me what he wants or needs me to do. He can't even tell me when he's going to be sick; about the most Ra can do is make rumbling, hacking noises when he vomits and then look guilty afterwards. It's also immensely hard to watch him sick up his food, because within seconds it becomes painfully obvious just how difficult it is and how much it takes out of him. Ra is left panting and shaking sometimes, and always with his tongue hanging out and eyes glazed over. He's going to be doing this for the rest of his life, no matter what. It is just a matter of how well the therapy works that will determine how frequently he does it. The last time he was sick I stumbled onto him and had to watch him retch up his meal, and as I watched I felt helpless because there was nothing I could do for him. It was so painful to feel like all my options were stripped away and I was left with no choice but to let him do what he had to do. As I sat there and waited for him to finish I started to wonder, is this really the quality of life I want for my pet? I was taught by my father that no animal should suffer. That one simple lesson has two very opposite branches that fork from it. On one hand, to prevent the animal from suffering you should do all that you can to protect it and care for it, and ensure that it receives the medical attention it needs. On the other hand there is a deadly, cold aspect of reality that you have to face: I have learned the hard way that in some situations you can only help the animal avoid suffering by putting it down in a quick, clean manner that minimizes the animal's pain. I suppose you could liken it in some ways to the old cliche that goes, "If you love someone enough, you'll let them go." Maybe it is more humane for Ra to be put down. I don't like seeing him suffer like he does on his bad days. Yet, at the same time, I can't stand the thought of putting him down, and I start to think that his bad days aren't that frequent yet, that maybe I'm jumping the gun.
I love Ra a great deal, and he is many different things to me. For one, he is a companion, one I can trust and confide in. Second, he is a link to memories of the past, some that are pleasant and some that are less than pleasant. Yet either way, he provides that connection to the past, to past events and past people. Third, he is utterly dependent upon me to feed and water him, he's somebody who needs me. Being needed -- even if it is only in the way that a pet needs its owner -- can be a very powerful thing. In a sense I'm greedy, I don't want to give up any of those things; each aspect has its own sway over me. On days like today, when he jumps into my lap and stares up at me with his green-gold eyes and purrs, I just feel my heart swell with pride and happiness, two things I admittedly do not feel very often (I am a miserable old curmudgeon). I love the soft, coarse rumble of his purring and the way his body vibrates when he purrs. I love waking up in the morning and feeling him curled up and sleeping between my feet. I adore how excited he gets when I come home, and how he meets me at the door as I let myself in. He yowls and mews, then falls over like he had a heart attack: that's his imperious way of telling me that I should pet him and pay attention to him. I simply enjoy looking at him and watching the light play over his coat, because even when he's being a little terror he still is immensely sleek and cute. Most of all, however, is that he's trusting -- he's never run from strangers and welcomes everyone equally. I suspect that is the problem and the whole hub of my dilemma: he trusts me. This little ball of black fur trusts me to take care of him and to do what's best for him. Sometimes doing what's best for him is costly or frustrating, such as paying $1,500 for the surgery with the vet or having to force foul, viscous medicine down his throat twice a day. Those things, as expensive or difficult as they may be, are part of the responsibilities I took on when I adopted him and signed those papers. They simply come with the territory of caring for a life.
By not putting him down, and thus forcing him to endure days where he hurts to walk or throws up until there's nothing left but dry heaves, am I being greedy and betraying his trust?
Am I perhaps betraying his trust more by considering having him put down because of the conditions that accompany his illness?
I can't look into his eyes without feeling my heart melt some, even if he does drive me mad at times with his antics. Maybe you'll find this surprising, but even when he's sick his eyes are bright and full of life, and they reflect the curiosity and playfulness with which he has always regarded the world ever since I got him. I'm left feeling woefully, terribly uncertain about this. People like my dad may say "he's only a cat, and one you adopted as a stray for $40 at that," but he's my cat, and he can be so full of life. That life is resting in my hands, trusting me to do the right thing, and I don't know what the right thing is. Am I putting him through undue suffering by keeping him? Am I being greedy in doing so? Or am I being greedy in a different sense, and trying to get out of the admittedly unpleasant task of having to clean up his mess when he's sick? Maybe I'm only thinking about having him put down because I don't want to carry that much responsibility, because I find it the task of cleaning up to be inconvenient and unpleasant, a task that I know I'll have to do for the rest of his life... and I don't know how long that could be. It might be five years longer, it might be fifteen.
Especially at night, I worry over situations