It is complete now, two ends of time are neatly tied
A one-way street, she’s walking to the end of the line
And there she meets the faces she keeps in her heart and mind
They say, “Goodbye…”
Tomorrow, Wendy is going to die
I have to have one of my rats, Izzy euthanized soon. Tomorrow? I don’t know yet. It’s never an easy decision to make for a pet, but some times are harder than others, and this is one of those times.
She has a pituitary tumor (all too common in rats), and the medication she was taking for it, Dostinex, suddenly stopped working a few days ago. The Dostinex is not a cure, but it can buy some time. It bought her an entire month, and not only that, it returned her to normal rat state that whole time. It was pretty amazing. Truly a new lease on life.
Now, however, she’s developed a head tilt, and it’s become so severe in just a little over 24 hours that her right cheek is facing the ceiling. She still tries to get around but obviously that’s very difficult for her. She still has an appetite, but has to be syringe-fed for the most part. I’m afraid to leave liquid food in her cage — I don’t want her to aspirate it if she can’t get her head out of the dish, even though it’s a very low dish. Afraid to leave veggies in case something gets caught in her throat. I’m compromising by leaving a dish of baby food and avocado in.
So what’s left to her? A few more days of this before she’s completely twisted up, or what? I don’t know, I’ve never had a rat with such severe head tilt before. I did have one girl, years ago, who had a mild permanent head tilt from an ear infection, but it never got worse. Izzy looked so good just last week, so this change is quite drastic.
I’ve been asking myself why I’m keeping her here. I think the biggest reason is that I can still see and sense her self in there: she’s alert and has appetite and her mind is not decrepit like her body. She still loves long cuddles, and kisses, and treats of syringes full of strawberry soy yogurt. It goes against the grain to send her off when she’s still enjoying those things, and still wants to live. Wants to as opposed to simply operating under the survival instinct.
But then, she looks up at me, and, “Mommy… why is everything sideways? I don’t feel so good.” There is nothing I can tell her that will make sense to her, and no way I can fix this.
One of her sisters, Feloni, recently died from the same thing, a PT. The Dostinex didn’t work as well for her as it did for Izzy, and she never regained the wonderful quality of life Izzy did. Her decline was swift, and when I took her in for her final visit, she barely knew what was going on around her. It was a true mercy.
I don’t want to wait until Izzy gets as bad as Feloni did. I didn’t want to wait for Feloni to get that bad either, but of course it happened at night, and faster than I could have foreseen. There is a fine line when considering euthanasia for a pet: when does it stop being too soon and start being almost too late? Is there such a thing as too soon in situations like this?
For years after I had my dog put to sleep, I agonized that I’d done it too soon. She was 19, could no longer walk or stand on her own, was exhibiting several neurological symptoms, and would only eat if I hand-fed her. I finally figured out that it hadn’t been too soon — it had actually been just right, even though to an outsider it might sound like she could have kicked it earlier. I knew at the time it was the right thing to do, and the right time to do it, but when you’ve been with someone for 19 years, when that someone is your heart, your soul, your being, it’s so hard to let go.
Not long after I asked my best friend, Linda, for advice about Izzy tonight, I started thinking about what it was like when I sent my dog to the wild blue yonder, and how long it took to realize I’d done the right thing at the right time. Everything moves faster with rats than it does with dogs and other larger animals, so there’s not as much time to get used to coming to such a decision. But I’ve realized that this is a lot like when my dog died: I could have kept her around for longer, could have hand-fed her and kept doing all the other intimate tasks for her, kept holding her and loving her until she deteriorated so far that there would have been barely any dog left.
And so it is with Izzy. My lively, fuzzy, cuddly, chubby, silly, funny girl. What’s left of her is inside her mind and heart, and my heart as well, so how long can I keep her here when her lovely self is imprisoned in her twisted body? I know in my heart it will only be a few more days, anyway… but as Linda said, it’s become an hour-by-hour thing now, rather day-by-day.
I don’t know if I’ll have to courage to take her in tomorrow. I just don’t know yet. As each hour goes by, the decision wavers. I want her to go when she’s ready, not before.
I have to go cuddle her now. I know it’ll make both of us feel better, even if it’s for just a little while.