Hearts wide open even as they break

Feeling a sort of dull ache this evening that comes now and then.  Hoping to ease it with words but not sure what they are nor if it will be enough as I type.  Seems to be the result of accumulated loss.  Some mine.  Some of others.  I lost kitten I was fostering just a few hours ago and that along with news of two friends, one an old friend and another newer one, who had to make the difficult decisions to let their old dogs go in the last few days have my head and heart in knots.

The kitten I lost, was one of a litter of five that came to the shelter in horrible shape over a week ago.  No more than two weeks old, one was so sick it was euthanized immediately.  In all honesty, they were in such poor condition, their chances were slim and had I not been able to foster them, I would have recommended euthanizing them all as their chances were nil in the shelter environment where tiny babies cannot get the 24 x 7 care they require.  But I brought them home.  I lost two in the next 48 hours to natural causes but thought or hoped the last two would survive.  Yet despite their progress over the last week, I came home to one in dyer condition tonight and even as I rushed it to the vet, I knew the outcome.  The decision easy to make but yet hard to accept.  There was nothing more to be done for him except to put an end to his suffering.  Sometimes my best is not good enough.  A fact I have learned to accept but loathe.

Knowing that there are times that we don’t even have a choice to try makes losing even this one heartbreaking.  Honestly the worst, hardest and most sad are those that are made simply because we have more animals than room.  Choosing to put healthy animals to sleep because there isn’t enough room for them all is just unimaginable but a reality.  How do you explain it to anyone?  How do you expect people that love animals to do such a job?  And how do you expect them not to be angry at a world that creates such problems that they are then left to solve?

Recently someone messaged me upset when our shelter put a kitten down right after it came to the shelter without giving it even a chance.  Telling me what we should have done angered me but at the same time how do you explain that this kitten they have brought is one of hundreds we received in the last month?  How do I make sense to someone not involved that we have 60 kittens in foster homes that are healthy and are just waiting for space in the shelter or at the pet store for a cage to be empty so they can be placed up for adoption.  Trying to explain to anyone that we can’t save them all is impossible as it is hard for me to accept even after all these years.  And thinking that it’s an easy decision for anyone equally impossible.  And I’ll readily admit I was angered by what I considered thoughtless direction.  So I took the advice and remained silent in my sense of helpless anger.

When my old dog Tag was sick, someone hoped for me that he would die in his sleep, saving me the pain of making the decision of when to end his life.  I couldn’t wish for that even if in some way it might have seemed easier.  I wanted to be with him.  Wanted him to know that he was not alone.  And I feel the same for each animal where such choices must be made.  Whether I’ve known them for 14 years or for 14 minutes.

As I hear about the losses of my friends and know the wonderful lives their beloved animals lived with them, I knew that their decisions were made out of love for them.  How lucky for them….those whose lives were long and full of love.  Yet I believe it’s the same for those that make decisions for animals they barely know.  Never easy.  Never done without care and compassion.  Never done without pain for those that have the task of holding those animals as they take their last breath.

As I handed my tiny kitten to the vet tonight, I knew she felt the same sense of care and compassion.  It was difficult and I shared the hopelessness she felt when I placed his struggling body into her hands.  She didn’t need words to explain to me she couldn’t save him.  And I could not blame her from not being able to work miracles for him. I could only be thankful she was there to help me make it as peaceful as possible.  Helpless, hopeless but not careless.

Nonsensical as it is the last gift we give is the last bit of love we can share as we say our final good-bye.  With a caring touch, with a whisper of our adoration, with a prayer as we cling to them one last time….with our hearts wide open even as they break.

Categories: Shelter Facts


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