I’ve been honored to experience the life, and end of life, of several little animals that I loved. In my adult life, in all but one case, I’ve had the privilege of being the person who helps decide when the time is right. In also all buy one (different one) of those cases, those animals were on the upper range of their lifespans, and had a particular ailment that was doing them slowly in.
My current mammalian companion is much more past her expiration date. She has blood sugar issues that need to be medicated daily. Her diet needs to be monitored and supplemented. She gets an implant every 6 months to slow the progress and help the symptoms of the benign tumor on her remaining adrenal gland (she had surgery to remove the other one a couple years ago for the same disease. She is blind, has trouble getting around sometimes, doesn’t always make it to the litter box, shivers a lot, and her once soft and fluffy fur has changed to course, brittle and sparse, barely covering her wrinkly visible skin and bony joints. Her belly is pink and bloated from the steroids she takes. She is easily confused. I sometimes have to give her a half bath because she drags her hip or tail in poop.
But just try to put her in her cage. She’ll bite the bars like a champ. She still carries her ball, and she always manages to find my boot to read her head on, or climb up my leg till I pick her up and cuddle her. And she’ll come stumbling like a drunken bat out of hell if you’re eating chocolate (the good stuff only!) 2 rooms away for a lick ( at her age, if she wants it, she gets it- a lick only.) and god help the car that gets in her way when she’s blindly bumbling around- she will lunge at you with the ferocity of a cobra.
She IS a survivor. A refugee from a place where all her kind are gone, where she should be gone too, but has no specific ailment, other than time, taking her out, yet many conditions that get in the way. She overcomes.
Little animal, you’ve been my companion for eight and a half years, when you were a baby who cried so pitifully if your feet touched the floor because you were scared of the slickness of hardwood and tile. Little thing who shook and stared at rhe sky afeaid of what winged boogieman might swoop down and eat you and because of this, preferred indoors to grass and sunlight (until your much older years.)
Lady, I protected you from that floor and those boogie-birds and the sub and your best friends who were anything but friendly the first few months we were together. I did my best to protect your body from disease, and your brain and heart from the depression of losing all of your same-species companions years ago.
I am honored, little one, to continue to protect you however I can, from pain, and to be with you for the end of this journey, whether we have weeks, months, or years. So I will continue to warm up your feet and wash your tail and clean up your messes and feed you by hand, and help you live and die in dignity.
I saw this video of this photo project by Isa Leshko, which I suppose brought this all on. Been crying for an hour over it and her, with sadness and joy. If that’s not experiencing, I don’t know what is. Please watch:
Elderly Animals: Photographs by Isa Leshko from Walley Films on Vimeo.
See the photos at http://www.isaleshko.com