28 January 2009

Scott Adams puts his cat down

Scott Adams is the creator of the Dilbert cartoon strip. He began a blog on typepad about two years ago, then moved it to the dilbert.com website.

Today's blog entry is particularly sad. In it he details the putting down of his 19-year-old tuxedo cat Sarah. Here are some excerpts:
In the past month she had been letting me know the end was approaching. Maybe it was the way she moved or just some sort of animal ESP. I just knew. And so I spent as much time as I could with her, extra petting, in just the ways she trained me. Recent visits to the vet confirmed that there was no cure for old. We tried to enjoy the time we had...

I opted for the injection, and hoped for the best. Sarah still had some fight left in her, as we learned minutes ago while the vet checked her vitals. But somehow she knew this was different. She knew it was time. After 19 years of fighting veterinarians, she let the vet shave her leg without the least resistance. And in so doing, she told me I made the right decision. I looked in her eyes as the life drained out of them. I was devastated.

But today I am happy, even more than usual. I think about how much Sarah enriched my life and I am grateful. I think about how much I learned from my relationship with her, and even from her passing, and I am thankful for it all. Today everyone in my life seems more precious. I'll always carry Sarah with me, and I know I am better for it.
The full blog post is here. You should read it if you have ever had to put a pet down. It reminded me of a similar essay written years ago by Harlan Ellison entitled I think "Don't Leave Me With Strangers," about his need to put down his pet dog Ahbhu. I can't find that essay online, but here is an excerpt from notes I have stored on my hard drive:
At first they thought it was just old age . . . that they could pull him through. But finally they took X-rays and saw the cancer had taken hold in his stomach and liver.
I put off the day as much as I could. Somehow I just couldn't conceive of a world that didn't have him in it. But yesterday I went to the vet's office and signed the euthanasia papers.
“I'd like to spend a little time with him, before,” I said.
They brought him in and put him on the stainless steel examination table. He had grown so thin. He'd always had a pot-belly and it was gone. The muscles in his hind legs were weak, flaccid. He came to me and put his head into the hollow of my armpit. He was trembling violently...

I cried and my eyes closed as my nose swelled with the crying, and he buried his head in my arms because we hadn't done much crying at one another. I was ashamed of myself not to be taking it as well as he was.
“I got to, pup, because you're in pain and you can't eat. I got to.” But he didn't want to know that.
The vet came in, then. He was a nice guy and he asked me if I wanted to go away and just let it be done.
Then Ahbhu came up out of there and looked at me...

Ahbhu looked at me and I know he was just a dog, but if he could have spoken with human tongue he could not have said more eloquently than he did with a look, don't leave me with strangers.
So I held him as they laid him down and the vet slipped the lanyard up around his right foreleg and drew it tight to bulge the vein, and I held his head and he turned it away from me as the needle went in.
Out of fairness to the author, I'll stop there; you should be able to find the full essay at the library (I think it was in Deathbird Stories). Or perhaps someone who knows of an online source can post a link. It's a heart-wrenching and unforgettable essay, and a perfect companion piece to Scott Adams' blog post today.

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