Goodbye parsnip / by Suzanne

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Making the right decision doesn’t necessarily feel good. I was reminded of this when we helped one of our cats die in July.

We were devastated when told Parsnip was sick from something of which she wouldn’t recover.

The news was hard to compute. Although she was almost 16 years old she looked healthy and vital, and was often mistaken for a younger cat.

But an x-ray and a certain behaviour - hiding in the dankest and darkest part of the house behind the furnace - told us otherwise. Parsnip was dying.

A natural death is what many of us want for our pets. It’s what I wanted for Parsnip. But the veterinarian advised me my end-of-life scenario for Parsnip was unrealistic. The fluid around her heart meant her death would most likely be awful. In Parsnip’s case allowing her to die “naturally” meant a prolonged suffering, one we wouldn’t necessarily see (cats are very stoic when it comes to pain) or be able to manage.

The vet never said what I should do but her opinion was clear; it would be cruel to keep Parsnip going any longer and we should help assist her death.

Euthanasia seemed unfathomable but I was able to understand my discomfort with making the decision to euthanize Parsnip wasn’t the priority. She was suffering and it would only get worse. Still, making the decision felt uncomfortable.

So we brought Parsnip home. After a long phone conversation with a hospice vet and listening to her guidance I felt more assured assisting Parsnip’s death was the right thing.

Calling to schedule the appointment to euthanize was hard. My thinking got cloudy. Maybe it’s too soon? Maybe we should wait for a more catastrophic moment when we would at least have no doubts? The hospice vet said she understood my reluctance to book the appointment and that it was common for people to call and want to cancel. She was considered, thoughtful and when she said better a day too soon than a day too late I knew she was right.

We were grateful for the two women who came to our home one Saturday morning to perform the procedure - a sedation-first euthanasia, which put Parsnip into a gentle sleep before administering a lethal drug. I’m happy we could be present and play a comforting role.

They helped us manage our grief, too. We especially appreciated how they left the room after Parsnip was sedated so we could be with her one last time and whisper our goodbyes. Other gestures were thoughtful: they gave us a small stone with her name on it and a sachet of the fur they removed to install the catheter.

Although it was a peaceful end - Parsnip on her favourite blanket, eating cat treats, with us around her, stroking her and expressing our love - it reduced us to tears and we still feel the loss.

She was a beautiful animal, a walking purring work of art, a member of the family, enmeshed in our lives.

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