Pet euthanasia and parenting

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 11, 2019, 5:02 PM | comments: 0

We had a scare today with Emma, our oldest cat ("Princess Bitchy Pants"), when she was suddenly howling in pain and not able to walk easily. It turns out she had some huge abscess near/in her butt that burst while at the vet, so she's on pain meds and has to wear the cone of shame when we're not watching her so it can heal. They'll reevaluate it in a week, and it could end up just being a random infection or something more serious that caused it. Either way, she's 16, and we know she won't live forever. We kind of make jokes about her time coming, because we're realistic, but it will certainly be sad. We lost Gideon last spring, and that was hard because he was a big lover, and a lot younger.

We told Simon that Gideon was very sick at the time, and that he would live with the vet until he died. Technically this was not a lie, it's just that he only lived there for an hour at most. We encouraged him to say goodbye to him, and frankly there wasn't a ton of attachment there because Gideon was scared of Simon pretty much from the day he started moving around on his own. The grabbing hands were not fun for the big fella. A few days later, Gideon's photo came up on a screensaver and Simon asked how he was, and I guess we never explicitly followed up, so we told Simon that the cat had passed. There were some tears, but he seemed to get over it pretty quickly.

Here's the thing, I don't think I can explain euthanasia and its moral and ethical implications to Simon. He struggles with a lot of basic social contracts as it is (because ASD), so I don't see any universe where I can successfully explain killing your pet intentionally to him. I can barely rationalize it myself, and I've been through it three times in the last decade. We talk about it in humane terms but don't apply the same standards to humans. It's completely irrational to me that we play God to our pets, even though I know it's the right thing when they're suffering.

I guess where we are now is that we'll tell Simon that when it's time to take her to the vet for the last time, she won't be coming home, but I don't think he's ready for the intentionality of it. I really look forward to the easier conversations like sex and drugs.


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