This week has been really tough as one of our beloved cats, Dougie, suddenly became very ill and was hospitalised with cholangiohepatitis – a chronic liver disease.
Dougie is 14 and ‘he’s had a good life‘ – so everyone keeps saying. It’s no consolation to me though, he’s always been the healthy one. His brother Indiana is the one that is constantly visiting the vet.
Diabetic and needing a kidney support diet and two injections a day, Indie is the one that we watch like a hawk. But Dougie never had any medical issues. He was our Duracell kitty and just kept on going.
Then last Wednesday we thought Dougie may not have eaten anything all day. It’s always hard to be sure with two of them sharing food bowls and Indie being a right pig and scoffing everything.
We weren’t too worried though. It’s not that uncommon for Dougie to have a ‘fasting’ day. We figured he had picked up a bug and was fighting it.
Then one day of possibly not eating led to a second of only eating a handful of treats. He definitely wasn’t himself, curled up in a corner of our bedroom and sleeping most of the day.
The third day was my son’s birthday and we were out the whole day focusing on him – the furless brother in our weird little family.
Saturday came and Dougie was still hiding in our room and constantly sleeping.
There was no denying that something was up. Hubby took him to the vet.
When he called me to and told me the diagnosis wasn’t good I just burst into tears.
It’s ridiculous how you get so attached to animals – especially cats! They don’t particularly like or need us mere humans so why are we so damn emotionally involved? I have joked about them getting older and dying soon but faced with the reality I was a total frigging mess.
And so guilty that we hadn’t realised how unwell he was.
So began an emotional rollercoaster whilst Dougie fought to stay alive.
He had to be taken to a special animal hospital where they had 24/7 care. He was put on a drip as he was dehydrated and given so many different medications we couldn’t keep up.
Steroids to try and get him to eat. Painkillers. Antibiotics. Appetite stimulators. Gastro protectants. Liver support. The main priority was for him to eat – an absolute must if he was to survive.
Back at home, I felt so helpless. Dougie was all on his own in a scary environment with no understanding of what was happening.
I just wished I could cuddle and comfort him. I did the only thing I could do to help. I prayed for him and sent him distance reiki.
I know a lot of people will roll their eyes but for me, I felt a connection sending him love, healing energy and a plea to eat.
During all this time we were faced with the horrific dilemma no animal owner wants to face.
How much money are you willing to spend to keep an old pet alive?
It’s awful even saying it out loud, isn’t it?
And when you are faced with the decision whilst feeling vulnerable and distressed it’s even worse.
On one hand, Dougie had never had a sick day in his life, had deteriorated too quickly for us to understand and we felt we owed him the chance for survival.
On the other, he was old and diagnosed with a terminal illness. And the costs were mounting.
The vets were helpful but couldn’t give us a full prognosis without further tests. So began the increasing leakage of funds to diagnose, analyse and hopefully treat.
Once you’ve said ‘yes’ to that first ultrasound and ‘yes’ to the first night in a hospital, it’s bloody difficult to then turn around and say ‘no’. You can’t put a price on the love you feel. But sometimes you have to.
Sunday we were told Dougie had voluntarily eaten so I thanked Reiki for that.
Monday morning we were told he had stopped eating and was deteriorating.
The vet asked could we come in and visit him? Even after a long conversation, I didn’t understand if we were coming to try and entice him to eat, or to say goodbye. We had to wait for late afternoon to go in so I spent the day sending Reiki again.
Arriving at the animal hospital I was full of dread and crying before we got to reception. The staff were expertly sympathetic and ushered us straight into a treatment room to wait for Dougie to be brought to us.
An article by a vet that had gone viral had been haunting me. He had said the worst part of his job was putting pets to sleep.
Nine out of ten owners didn’t stay to comfort their pet.
I totally understood how absolutely painful and devastating it would be to be forced to watch that final transition, my family had even been one of those owners years ago.
But the words of the vet stuck in my head.
As the final injection was being administered he explained, the poor animal would look around desperately for their owner.
It broke my heart.
I had already told my husband one of us had to be there and knew, as it was my decision, it would need to be me. Just writing this brings back the dread, sickness and grief I was feeling.
To see Dougie listless and dejected in a cage was what I dreaded the most. That’s not how I wanted to remember him.
Dougie was brought in. Through my tears, I could see he was perkier than he had been the last time I saw him. I was so confused! They didn’t want me to agree to put down my recuperating cat, did they?
The vet explained that Dougie had eaten again during the day. They just weren’t sure if it was because of the steroids. We were under no illusions. It was still serious. We could try and take him home, take on his medical care or….. The ‘or’ was never verbalised but this was it. Decision time.
Hubby and I both looked at each other and thought the same thing. There was no way we could give up on Dougie if he wasn’t giving up on himself.
Armed with eight different meds, surgical gloves, a pill pusher injector, discharge sheet with instructions and a bill nearing £1,000 we took our baby boy home.