Man’s Best Friend

I just got a second opinion about Newcastle’s latest health crisis. He’s nineteen years old with a congenital heart condition and now hyperthyroidism. None of the treatments are particularly savory—either for price or how difficult they’re going to make Newcastle’s life. I don’t want to buy more time with him by making him miserable and confused. (“Why is father sticking his finger down my throat?”) And I can’t imagine he’s got long anyway.

When I asked my regular vet what would happen if I chose not to treat it, she gave me a huge guilt trip. When she was listing the treatments, she mentioned a topical ointment, but when I asked about it and told her it was the most appealing, she shamed me for not caring about my cat. A little discomfort a couple of times a day is better than all the suffering he would go through if the ointment didn’t work.

When I talked to my parents, they said, “He’s just a cat.” They didn’t say it in a derogatory way, but as a statement of fact. I trust my mother’s impartiality on this issue despite Newcastle earnestly trying to kill her.

So I got a second opinion. This doctor told me about the effect untreated hyperthyroidism could have, especially on his heart. She told me that cat could possibly live five or six years untreated, but not likely. She looked at his medical records and told me Newcastle could live another three years, but a lot less if the hyperthyroidism went untreated. She said it’s in the early stages, so I could just monitor him for a few months. I basically went to a second vet looking for permission not to treat him, what I got instead was peace of mind and total honesty.

I let Newcastle into my backyard this afternoon, and I monitored him the whole time so he didn’t get into any trouble. I watched him, clumsy, slow, and arthritic, explore. His feet walked on loose soil and packed concrete, and he picked and chose which plants to sniff and which ones to snack on. He escaped into the neighbor’s yard before I could stop him, but I lured him out, using myself as bait. I had brought my phone out with me because I expected to be bored. I was not. I was transfixed.

Overwhelmed, he sat down, and I understood what I want. I want my cat to be this happy until it’s time for him to retire. Nothing will ever compete with the jungle outside the back door, but I’m giving him extra scritches, longer cuddles, some human food, and maybe a spa day or two. And if this means making each other miserable for twenty seconds a day, then I’ll do it. I’m not ready for him to go, and if I can buy another three years, then here’s my credit card. On the other hand, I will not extend the life of a suffering animal just because of my feelings.

Newcastle is not suffering, though. He got to see the backyard. Life is good. I ordered the ointment.

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