Geriatric Pet Care

How do you come to the decision that it’s time to end the life of your best friend? My beloved Opus is 16 1/2 years old, and has been a good and faithful companion for all that time. She has been my best friend, knowing when to come and cuddle when I am upset, playful and ready for fun on good days. She’s been there through some of the toughest days of my life, and some of the best. She’s loved by friends and family alike. She’s such a character, people say I should write children’s books about her. Next to my husband, I love her more than anyone on this earth. And now I have to decide whether to follow through on the decision to have her put to sleep.

A few years back, unbeknownst to myself and the Big Damn Hero, she got really sick. Kidney stones, 2 distinct bladder infections, crystals in her urine. We had no idea, until one day we noticed a rust-coloured stain on some boxes in the basement. And then we found more, and more, and more. And then, the smell. The overwhelming ammonia smell of cat pee. We took her to the vet. We tried FIVE YEARS of medications, homeopathic medicin, psychology, behaviour modification… and still, every day we would come in and find a new puddle of pee somewhere.

Then we bought a cage. A giant 4x4x3 cage of joy. We made it into the Opus Pleasure Dome. When she was unsupervised, she was in the cage. She was getting older, and she slept most of the day anyway, so she was content in her little palace. AND it stopped the peeing. We were so happy.

But then, she started to go downhill. She started to get very sick. A few days before I had my miscarriage, we took her in to the vet. Kidney failure was the diagnosis. We thought that it was the end. She was not herself — lethargic, quiet, unresponsive. We were ready at that time to let her go. “Hang on for a bit yet,” said our wonderful vet. “I am not convinced it is time.” Well we waited and watched for a week. No change.

Then my horrible, awful miscarriage. We didn’t get to the vet for a day or two, and then I went into hospital. My poor husband sat there all night with me, and then in the morning stopped in to see Opus at the vet. “Funny thing,” said our vet. “She’s doing very well. She seems to have made a remarkable recovery.” From seriously ill, to healthy and ready to go, in a matter of days. She knew I needed her, and she could not leave me yet. She had to come home and take care of me.

We both came home. There was no more peeing. We were all really happy. Opus was healthy, and could live for years yet. She had her best checkup in years a few weeks back. She’s putting on weight and looks much younger than her age. We thought we had the problem licked, finally.

And then she came into the room one evening and peed on the armchair, right in front of me.

Maybe it was a fluke, we thought. Maybe a senior’s moment. But then we noticed stains elsewhere. And she’s getting senile, so when I am not in the room with her, she yells and howls at the top of her lungs. She yells as she goes off to get something to eat. She yells when she wanders down to get a drink. She yells as she roams around the house. She yells ALL NIGHT LONG. And then she peed again tonight on the furniture.

So we have to make the toughest decision either of us has ever made. Do we turn our back on taking care of a loyal and faithful friend when she needs us most? Or do we pack it in after years and years of cleaning and smell and tears and frustration, and say we can’t take any more?

I am selfish. I want to have nice things, instead of things we don’t care about because we know she will ruin them. I want nice furniture, furniture that is fitting a middle aged couple and not looks like it would be suited to a college dorm. I want to leave the doors open to all the rooms that have been closed off from Opus so the house is bright and inviting again. I want hardwood floors. I want to not be embarassed to have people over and see our mismatched, stained furniture and smell cat pee and think we don’t mind living like this. I want to have nice things.

I want my Opus back, the way she used to be. My best friend.