About a week ago, our oldest cat, Lily, stopped eating. 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 spending time with the kids and just a few days later, she was vomiting and parched. I took her to our veterinarian, Dr. Jeff Beverly, on Wednesday.
Initial blood work ruled out a few suspected diseases, like thyroid issues and kidney failure. She was given fluids for dehydration and an ultrasound was scheduled for Monday morning. But on Friday night, she was listless and vomiting again. Dr. Beverly said to bring her in at any time if her condition became any worse, and I did so the next morning. He agreed that she should be hospitalized because she needed IV fluids and had a heart murmur, but since their practice was closed on Sundays, he quickly set us up with an emergency care hospital where they could 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 an 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, I was overwhelmed. My brain was spinning and as the vet calmly and sympathetically explained why Lily was not going to recover from this, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it all.
My oldest daughter, Amanda, was with me, and she asked if we could talk to Dr. Beverly before we made any decisions. Just a few minutes later, she came back in the room and said he was coming right over. I asked him so many questions, but they all really boiled down to, “What we should do?” I didn’t want Lily to suffer, but I didn’t want to lose her, either. He said that we could take her home and bring her back at a later time, but I took one look at beautiful Lily and, noting her lethargic look and her obvious dehydration, 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. His medical expertise and compassionate, thoughtful words helped us make the decision. My daughter was my rock. We cuddled and talked to Lily for hours that day, and then a little while after we made the decision, we kissed her sweet head and said goodbye.
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 greet our pets every morning, and it feels strange to leave out Lily’s name. But I also feel slightly relieved because I don’t see her looking incredibly lethargic or trying to get her to eat when it was the last thing she wanted to do. I want to remember her as a healthy, bright-eyed, loving, happy cat. The photo above 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. A condolence card from our vet summed it up so well: “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 better for it.
Here at the ASPCA, we believe that spay and neuter procedures should be a priority for pet parents. In honor of World Spay Day, which takes place every year on the last Tuesday of February, we’re taking a moment to focus on this important area of our work. And, while it may be a bit challenging to do so, it’s a good idea to introduce the concept of spay/neuter to your kids as they learn to become responsible animal caretakers.
Here are a few ideas from our Spay/Neuter Operations team for starting the conversation:
• Use a script. It can be hard to find the right words to discuss spay/neuter with young children. Try saying, “Spaying and neutering are surgeries (or operations) performed on dogs and cats so that they can’t make more puppies and kittens. This is really important because there are so many animals who live outdoors without homes and owners. There are also many more animals living in animal shelters who are waiting to find families to take them home. It is important to help reduce the amount of dogs and cats without homes in our neighborhoods because sometimes the animals outnumber the people who are able to care for them.”
• Keep it age-appropriate. Depending on your child’s age, you may or may not want to go into too much detail. If your kids are older, you could consider mentioning that during a spay/neuter surgery, the animal’s reproductive organs are removed so that they can’t mate and produce more puppies or kittens.
• Paint a picture. Either literally or figuratively, it helps to illustrate how quickly animal populations can expand without spay/neuter procedures. One way to do this is to explain that one pregnant cat can have up to six to eight kittens in her uterus (or belly) at one time. When those kittens reach puberty, they too can produce litters of kittens. What starts as one cat can exponentially lead to hundreds of cats and kittens out in the street or placed in the shelter looking for homes. Spaying and neutering our pets is essential to breaking this unfortunate cycle.
Does your pet support spay/neuter? Post a photo of yourself (or your pet!) on your social media networks with a sign that reads “I’m Into S&N” and use the hashtag #ImIntoSN. Then, sign our spay/neuter pledge and you could win an ASPCA prize pack.
James Mikel Wilson resides in Houston, Texas with his wife, Kathy. His son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren live in Manhattan, for whom his book, “Paw Tracks Here and Abroad,” was written. Jim's wisdom and insights were gained over the 65 years during which he owned six dogs. He wrote “Paw Tracks” about his family’s many adventures with their dog, Snickers. His family’s dogs and the many others he knew through his friends enabled him to write this story with sensitivity, humor, and appreciation for the unique role canine companions play in the lives of humans. We spoke to Jim about “Paw Tracks” and his love for animals.
Why did you decide to write Paw Tracks?
My career necessitated many family moves. When Snickers, the heroine of the story, reached twenty years old, the thought occurred that I could write a diary about our joint adventures.
I hoped that the diary might serve two purposes—to provide a family memory book of raising our son in a variety of geographic locations and to give our grandchildren a window into the past to know and see their father and grandparents differently.
Family and friends convinced me to transform the diary into a book. That shift of focus created an opportunity to address the joys of adopting pets, moving with them, wondering at their adaptability, and creating a teaching moment on living with geriatric animals.
What do you hope parents and children learn from Snickers’ story?
I hope the book facilitates discussions about the joys of adopting a pet, the responsibilities of caring for a pet, the many ways in which we learn from animals, and how these relationships touch our human experiences and emotions. I wanted to convey these topics in a manner that pet lovers of any age could relate to and enjoy.
My editor Meghan challenged me to find Snickers’ point of view. What did Snickers want us to know, and what was she thinking and feeling? And, Tod, my illustrator, captured her big heart and equally big personality through his wonderful drawings.
What do you believe made Snickers so special?
First, her age! She lived to be almost 22. She took advantage of her time to the fullest. There are many sides to Snickers’ personality that endeared her to us: survivor, comedian, clown, watchdog, show dog, tramp, explorer, diplomat, cuddler, friend, eager pupil and teacher.
In your book, Snickers has quite the adventure. Please tell us a little about life and travels with your family and Snickers.
Snickers did not like to be contained. After leaving a past life of abuse, she had temporary diversions including escaping a travel crate in JFK Airport, digging out from her kennel in Switzerland to join the St. Bernard in an adjacent pen, and wandering briefly into the lives of an Irish couple while we were on home leave. But, she never really intended to leave—only to seek new adventures.
This story offers considerations for families traveling or moving with pets. I wanted readers to hear through Snickers’ voice that, yes, we leave things near and dear to us behind when we move, but the opportunities open new doors to rewarding and, sometimes, life-changing events of which we had never dreamed.
Why did you approach the ASPCA to help share Snickers’ story?
My wife and I both felt that the underlying themes in Paw Tracks—promoting adoption, preventing animal cruelty, and offering a variety of educational materials on pet selection and care—paralleled the ASPCA’s mission. We have always been aware of the outstanding work the ASPCA has done for so long. We were, and are, right on the same wavelength!
Paw Tracks Here and Abroad: A Dog’s Tale is available for purchase on Amazon.
Mary Dell Harrington, mother to two kids and two dogs, is a blogger at Grown and Flown, where she writes about parenting kids between the ages of 15 and 25. She is also a certified pet therapist in the New York City-metro area. Find her on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.
Our family is not very crafty, but each year on Valentine’s Day, I gathered doilies, feathers, and pink markers for our daughter (now a college freshman) who loved making her own straight-from-the-heart designs. I remember her as a little girl as she sat at the kitchen table, gluing red hearts and writing out “I Love You” in glitter while Choco, our big chocolate Lab, slept nearby. That special card for her special dog was one she often finished first.
Did Choco notice and fully appreciate the sweet Valentine from the youngest member of his family? What Choco seemed to crave the most were our daughter’s belly-rubs and ear-scratches—tactile reminders of her affection.
Cho was already six years old when our daughter was born. As she grew from a baby to a toddler, he was her gentle playmate. She tumbled over him while he slept and was patient as she dressed him in our family’s wardrobe of hats. While she played, Choco felt her tiny hand on his head and his back, every caress an expression of devotion.
Touch is a vital component to the relationship you have with your dog. This Valentine’s Day, if you are considering buying your pet a squeaky toy or a card, don’t forget to simply give him a hug. While handling is easy and natural for many pets, for others there can be some hesitancy. Visit the ASPCA’s Pet Care section for tips if your dog resists touch.
Our little Hayley has had a rough couple of months. She was diagnosed with canine diabetes and then just a few weeks later, Cushing’s Disease. It has been a long and continued battle to get her blood sugar levels down to an acceptable number due to the fact that her Cushing’s Disease has her endocrine system going haywire.
After several weekly vet visits, I took her in to have yet another blood test performed to see if her cortisol levels and endocrine system were working any better since increasing her medication from once daily to twice daily.
I always feel bad before she gets bloodwork done because she usually has to stop eating and drinking at midnight, and for Hayley, this is no easy task. Due to her diabetes, she is constantly very hungry and thirsty. Two days before her last test, she slipped on her way down our porch steps, but since it had been snowing, I didn’t think much of her misstep. Luckily, she wasn’t hurt.
The next morning, I put her food down, but she seemed unable to find it. I motioned to her, and she heard me and came over. Just a week prior, she had been methodically watching my every move around mealtime, but now she seemed uninterested. Later that day, she ran into a kitchen cabinet and the foot of the couch and the wall. At first I wondered about her insulin levels, but noted that she wasn’t dumpy or sleepy; she wasn’t just lying around or listless—it seemed that she just could not see.
We received good news and bad news: The good news is that after months and months of fine-tuning her medication and insulin, she was responding to the medication for Cushing’s. The bad news: She was going blind from diabetic cataracts. A thick cataract is covering her eye, inhibiting her vision quite distinctly. For young, healthy dogs, a quick surgery can remedy this. But, due to Hayley’s heart murmur, advanced age and health conditions, our veterinarian and I both feel that it is not safe for her to undergo surgery.
This was something I never expected, and it happened so, so fast. We don’t think she can see anything, so we are learning how to care for a blind dog. The most important thing is to keep her safe. We accompany her outside multiple times a day to the yard, and we are vigilant about keeping all doors closed at all times. With the recent snowstorms in New York City, we have been extra protective of her.
I have read that there is a delicate balance between teaching her to remain independent and helping her when she needs it. My kids and I take turns caring for her every day. At night, we put her bed in her crate and make her sleep in there so she will not get hurt, and she doesn’t seem to mind it at all, even after years of sleeping out in the open wherever she wanted.
I have said this before: Hayley is still as spunky and free spirited and even happy as ever, despite her never-ending challenges. She’s the strongest lady I know, and she is quite the inspiration.