Saying ‘goodbye’ to a beloved pet

About a week ago, our oldest cat, Lily, stopped eating out of the blue. She began vomiting a bit and quickly appeared dehydrated. She had become very skinny over the past few months, but I chalked that up to age, because she was still so friendly, happy, and lively. However, one day she was rubbing up on the kitchen chair and chomping down on a bite of pizza with the kids, and yet, just a few days later, she was vomiting and parched. I took her to our vet, Dr. Jeff Beverly, at Marine Park Vet Group in Brooklyn on Wednesday.

Initial blood tests ruled out a few suspected diseases, like thyroid issues and kidney failure. She was given fluids for dehydration and the next step was an ultrasound scheduled for Monday morning. But on Friday night, she looked listless and was projectile vomiting. Dr. Beverly said to bring her in at any time if she became any worse, and I did just that on Saturday morning. I was sure she needed fluids and, honestly, I was afraid to keep her at home.

Dr. Beverly agreed she should be hospitalized, because she needed IV fluids and had a heart murmur, but since the practice is closed on Sundays, he quickly set us up with an emergency care hospital where they could also perform an immediate ultrasound. In less than an hour, Lily was being triaged at the 24-hour facility.

A nice vet that I had never met before quickly proceeded to give Lily and exam and an ultrasound, and then informed us that Lily has intestinal cancer. There was a large tumor in her intestine, which is why she could not keep anything down. Then she said we could put her down that day.

When I heard that, I pretty much lost my train of any rational thought. I was just told Lily had cancer and needed to be put down all within 30 seconds. My brain was spinning, and as the vet calmly and sympathetically explained why Lily was not going to recover from this, I couldn’t wrap my head around it all.

My oldest daughter, Amanda, was with me, thank goodness, and she asked if we could talk to Dr. Beverly before we made any decisions. The doctor said she’d call him to fill him in, and then we could call and speak with him. Just a few minutes later, she came back in the room and said he was coming right over.

I asked Dr. Beverly so many questions, but they all really boiled down to “what should we do?”

I didn’t want Lily to suffer, but I didn’t want to lose her, either. When he said that we could certainly take her home and bring her back when we reconciled ourselves with the poor prognosis, I took one look at beautiful Lily being cradled in my daughter’s arms, her lethargic look, and her obvious dehydration, and I knew we had to let her go.

I have said before that Dr. Beverly is outstanding, but he was even beyond that on Saturday. I don’t think I would have been able to make that decision if it wasn’t for his medical expertise and compassionate, thoughtful words.

I also would never have been able to do it without my daughter there. She was my rock. We cuddled and talked to Lily for hours that day while waiting, and then a little while after we made the decision, we kissed her sweet head and said “goodbye.”

Now, even though I know it was the right thing to do, we are all still so very sad. We miss petting her, feeding her, and even talking to her. I always say “hi” to our pets every morning, and it feels strange to leave Lily’s name out of the loop.

But I also feel slightly relieved, because I don’t see her looking incredibly weary and trying so hard to get her to eat when it was the last thing she wanted to do.

I want to remember her the way she looked when she was healthy, a bright-eyed, loving, happy cat. The photo here really shows the true Lily, and that’s the way I’d like to remember her. It is never easy to say “goodbye” to a beloved pet, but hopefully, the memories of the good years outweigh the suffering at the end. Lily had a wonderful and happy life, and that’s what I try to keep reminding myself every time I miss her.

As I was finishing up this piece, I checked the mail and found a condolence card from the vet’s office, and the text is on target: “Some friends come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave paw prints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”

We’ll always have Lily’s paw print, and we are definitely all the better for it.

Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Find Sullivan on her blogs, Just Write Mom and Some Puppy To Love.