We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle; easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we would still live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan.
You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief... and unspeakable love.
What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; All that we love deeply, becomes a part of us.
It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.
Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night.
~Edna St.Vincent Millay
End-of-life care is comfort care
Your pet’s quality of life is about what matters to your unique pet – the pleasures they want more of, and the discomforts that threaten to take up too much room in their life. There is no one better than you to safeguard their quality of life and to ensure their life ends well.
When we first start to think about what quality of life means to us, we often focus on what we don’t want – “I don’t want him to suffer” or “I don’t want her to be in pain”. It is equally important to envision what you do want for your pet’s happiness and for your relationship in the time that remains.
As time runs short, what do you want that time to look like, to feel like? How are you best able to support your pet so they can still live their life in a way that they value? What can you reasonably expect from the disease process and what resources do you need in order to lessen its impact?
Caring for your pet at this vulnerable time encompasses many uncertainties. Think about what worries you most about what lies ahead? What are your options for dealing with uncomfortable developments? What is the inherent value or the inherent risk to your pet of living another day? Think about what tradeoffs you are willing to make – either for the possibility of more time together, or to ensure that your worst fears aren’t realized.
There are a number of excellent resources online which can help you think about what matters to you at this stage of your pet’s life and help you decide on a plan to achieve your goals. Two that I recommend are pethospice.bluepearlvet.com/resources-and-support/education-resources and vet.osu.edu/HonoringTheBond. I also collect relevant articles and share them on my Facebook page, Dr. Meredith Galbraith House Calls for Pets.