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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The New Eyes of Innocence

Sometimes you forget how important daily decisions are, until you see them through "new eyes".   We received a litter of three kittens at the clinic that were young, abandoned, and sickly.  They seemed to be getting better.  The food was disappearing.  They seemed to be becoming more active.  Then one of them went downhill.  She started getting thinner, and didn't appear well.  We made the difficult decision today to put her to sleep.  She was struggling to breathe.  There were only a few hours left in her young life. 

It would be so easy to not make a decision and walk out of the clinic at the end of the day without giving the kitten a second thought.  Let her pass on her own, and not burden myself with making "THE" decision.  I say "easy" because then I would not be forced to confront my employees about the situation.  I do not mean easy in the sense that the decision was taken lightly. 

Both of my afternoon workers today are young, impressionable, and wholeheartedly in love with almost every animal that goes in and out our doors.   Making the decision to euthanize the kitten was the relatively easy part for me.  I knew I would be ending the little one's suffering.  Telling my employees and stirring up emotions was going to be the difficult part.

There was a point when the kitten was trying to fight for her life.  Today, I was certain that the life was spent and the fight was over.  

I gently picked up the kitten and carried her over to Miguel, my assistant. 

"We have two choices, let her pass on her own or euthanize."

His decision was also relatively easy after having been doing this for 5 years.  But it was still heartbreaking.   The most difficult part was now approaching.  The other employee is Miguel's little sister.  She is a hard working, intelligent, mature young worker.  I am as proud of her as I was of Miguel at the ripe old age of 14.  Both of these kids have a work ethic beyond their years.
Miguel asked if we should do it without telling Kassy.  His heart wanted to spare her the role of decision maker, knowing that losing the kitten would be emotional enough.  His role of the big brother as a protector was evident.  As an employer and a friend, despite our age difference, I knew it would be best to include her in the decision, out of respect for her dedication to the animals and her dedication to my clinic.  Miguel and I both knew it was going to be emotional for her, and for us.  

I started crying before Kassy even entered the room.  I probably would not have cried had I performed the procedure alone.  When you have been doing this job for so long, there is a protective mechanism that guides you through the traumatic and emotional aspects of the job.  I feel the pain, but have lost that tender innocence that Miguel and Kassy both still carry.

I presented the same two options to Kassy, "We can let her pass on her own or euthanize".  The tears welled in her eyes, and her cheeks flushed red.

She softly whispered, "Option two."  She stayed with the kitten, and the procedure was done.  The kitten quit struggling for breath and went quiet.  That kitten died having had the love of a solid gold heart. That kitten's name was "Fluff".  We all cried.  We all knew it was best.  We all felt the pain of her loss.

Kassy cried for the kitten. 
Miguel cried for the pain his little sister felt. 
I cried recalling a time when I was the little girl who wanted to save them all (not sure I ever lost that hope).  Through Kassy's eyes I learned that I still am that little girl at heart.  I cried out of pride of the people I employ.  I cried for Miguel.  I cried for Kassy.  I cried for the kitten.  Thank God for them.

I am proud that Kassy shed those tears for an otherwise forgotten kitten.  That little life meant something to her, and her feelings about that kitten meant something to me. 

Thank you Fluff.

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Anonymous said...

Anyone that has loved an animal and lost them to death knows the pain. But pain is JUST the flip side of love. always worth it. That kitten was loved.

Brighte said...

Thank you for sharing this. It wells up so many mixed feelings of Love, sadness and compassion. I will never forget the first Euthanasia that I saw at work. My friend that worked with me was nice enough to hold the cat so that I didn't have to. The situation struck so close to home for me that she knew I couldn't handle it for my first time. It was a gorgeous Siamese that was very old and had wasted away to 3 pounds. (I too have a very old cat that at the time was losing lots of weight and this situation was bringing up questions of my cats mortality) I didn't even know that cat before I saw it come in, but I loved it right away. The moment I looked into it's eyes you could see it wanted to live, but in the last days it was with us that spark began to fade. My heart began to break because I knew what was coming, and although I am sure the cat was Ready I was not.
After a while it became easier to assist with the euthanasias because I knew that we were helping the animals end their suffering. I had always felt badly that I was able to block the emotion from surfacing, but I now understand that it is vital.
I still cry for that Siamese when I think of him.
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I love your blog.

JstMe2691 said...

Even though we know what would be best for the suffering animal our heart tends to get in the way. It is that point we realize we are not thinking about the suffering animal who is a part of the family and we do not want to let them go. I have had to make this same decision for my beloved Lil Bit and Jinxy. It was not easy but I had to put my feelings aside and do what was best for them. Sometimes the right decision is the hardest one to make....