It is 9pm and I am just finishing with my 4th email to a wonderful client. Sometimes hard things are easier to talk about over email than face to face. This is not the first time I have had this conversation and will not be the last. Her wonderful, cuddly, happy 14 year old cat is recovering from (hold on let me count) six different life threatening ailments and is not thriving. We have talked about if it is time, we have discussed her personal guilt he is not getting better, and most important her feeling like she is failing her cat. When I hear that statement come out of a person who is helping her cat urinate, defecate, eat and move the only thing I can think to say to her is….. Breathe. That’s it, if they are in my office, by email or by text to just stop for a second and BREATHE.
When you wake up in the morning 2 hours early to take care of your cat, come home from lunch to express his bladder, rush home from work when you get stuck on the bridge or behind that 132 car train that shows up at the worst time it is easy to feel like your drowning.
There is nothing we can do to stop aging, we can’t. We can however take stock. Did she get her cat out of pain (YES), is her cat wanting to sit on her lap and cuddle (YES!!), is her cat able to walk (NO), but can he safely get to where he needs to go (YES). This is HUGE, he is doing what makes him happy, in a different way, but he is doing it.
Aging is not always pretty, and face it we are so good at keeping pets alive the life span of dogs and cats has increased to almost double the life span in the 1980s. We are more bonded to our pets than ever and we take the personal feeling of losing them like we could stop it.
Care giver fatigue is so deeply intimate with aging seniors that sometimes you can see the daily wins.
Big message, BREATHE, that’s it, just breathe and take a moment to realize the wins. And after your pet passes, and the weight of what just happened slowly trickles down upon you like a waterfall, take a moment to breathe. We can’t fight death, but we can do what we can to slow it, improve quality of life, and keep your pet as comfortable, happy and loved as possible.
Amber Callaway Lewis DVM, CCRT
Treasure Coast Animal Re