Weathering the storm


Second in a series

Cheryl contacted me as soon as she and Michael were hit by the first wave of bad news. I learned long ago that what people in this fragile state need most is a brief sympathetic remark like, “Oh, gee”. They don’t need assurances that life will go on, platitudes like, “it’s better to have loved and lost”, or even, “tell me how you’re feeling”. They need us to shut up and listen – with kindness and empathy. My job was to support these folks as the bottom fell out of their life with Poupon, the pet who’d brought them so much joy and love.

Cheryl and Michael tried desperately to understand the cancer that was stealing Poupon from them. They wanted to comprehend the how and why. They also knew they had to plan for the inevitable. How, where, and when was it best to but their beloved cat to rest? Bury him or have him cremated? We talked about all of it plus how their lives would change after Poupon was gone.

I explained their options and listened to Cheryl’s escalating sadness. Remembering that difficult time she has said that, “After two weeks of exams and tests we made the heartbreaking decision to put Poupon to rest. We realized it was the most loving thing we could do – before he started to really suffer.” She and Michael had the courage to briefly set aside their own emotions so they could shortcut their special pet’s impending misery.

Poupon’s fear of veterinary clinics started years previously. Restraining him for a blood draw an assistant had unintentionally scared him badly. Like all cats, he was a master of “one event learning”. No way was he going near a doctor’s office again. Euthanasia would happen at home, where it’s often best done anyway. But how could Poupon’s final moments be free of fear?

People are well-meaning. A whole lot of friends weighed-in with advice. Many urged Cheryl to replace Poupon ASAP. Good idea?
Next week: There is life on the other side
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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.