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Not Again...Another Family Pet...Passed Away

In our house this past week we were preparing for a 21 hour round trip drive to Jackson TN so we could deliver my children to their father for spring break, and we were hoping for a quiet, uneventful week so we could rest up for it.

Unfortunately it would seem like the longest week ever, and was anything but quiet.

It started when my son's body decided to magnetize two illnesses in the same week, leaving us sleepless for two straight nights from high fevers, breathing treatments and an ear infection.

Come Friday night, with my son’s antibiotics well into him…we thought that we were past the worst of the week and looked forward to some down time; most importantly-some sleep.

It was also our last night together before the kids left and planned on having a nice dinner then sitting down to cuddle and have family-movie-night.

A little snafu along the way was that my car needed some work done to it. Not too big of a deal, we’d just begin movie night a little later than usual.

About half way through the day I noticed my aging black cat (Max) was really slowing down. He’d been getting slower these last few months but we there were no other changes in him. Until today when it seemed he was having trouble getting onto the bed and out of the litter box. 
‘Poor thing’, I thought. 'He really is getting old'.

By dinner time I wasnwas not too sure anymore about movie night; at least not for me and Max.

He was quickly taking on other signs of not being well. I was thinking he and I might need to take a rain check on movie night, and trade it for a trip to the vet. We were leaving in the morning and would be gone for 24 hrs and I was concerned he wouldn't be left alone.

At that point my car was in the garage, up on jacks with the wheels pulled off, and my fiancée had driven off in his car to pick up a tool from work; I had no way of taking Max to the vet just yet.

I paced as I texted my concerns to my fiancé and even discussed my thoughts with the kids.

They all agreed to seeing the same signs as I did and that it would definitely be best to take Max to the vet as soon as possible. 

My nine year old, who has a serious interest in medicine and animals had already decided she was going with me. She got the cat carrier and made Max a bed. When it was time to go, we gently put Max in it and as I prepared to leave, kissing everyone goodbye and putting on a hopeful (but probably not very convincing) face as I toted Max out the door. We had all assured each other that after Max was checked out we’d come back and have movie night.

On the way to the vet my daughter talked soothingly to Max and assured him we were taking good care of him and not to worry because we would be at the vet soon. It was about 8:45pm and the only place open was the emergency animal hospital, so that's where we went.

After a short check-in, they took us into a room. They took Max out of the carrier, put him on the scale, and then took his temperature. The weighing seemed to go fine, but the vet’s assistant did not seem impressed by the cat’s low body temp.They took Max into the back and sent us out to the waiting room while the vet checked him out completely.

The verdict? 

Not what I’d wanted to hear.  

Old age. A heart murmur was found, which was from a possible blood clot that went to his back legs, which explained the sudden loss wobbliness. It was not looking positive. More tests were possible, at a price, but would most likely reveal more of what we already knew.

Trying to keep Max alive would just be prolonging the inevitable.  His quality of life in the future would not be any better than it was today.

I was told the prognosis in private, while my daughter waited outside in the waiting room. It was now my job to go deliver this information to her. Possibly becoming a vet, she'd come here hopeful that she’d be the hero and bring Max home feeling all better. It would be her first patient. And sadly, she was about to lose her first patient.

I walked out to her and as she watched me exit the examining room her big blue eyes were optimistic and eager for me to tell her what the next step was so we could get Max well and take him home again.

I decided to just lay it out straight but suddenly spoke in the softest voice I’ve ever used…(I’m pretty sure it wasn’t intentional).‘ Max is old Honey…’,  I began. Here came the tears-she wasn't naive. But she was still stunned-she stared at me, quivering lip and all. 

I couldn’t believe I was saying this to her; not only that, I couldn’t believe we were spending our last night together in such a sad manner, burying another family pet.

Once the reality of it set in, we had another problem; three other family members, who’d watched us  leave with Max assumed they’d be seeing him again; they needed to be told he was not coming home.We called and told them the news. Between choked back tears and constant pauses, we explained everything. 

It was 10:45 at night, but they didn't hesitate to get up, get dressed and drive to the animal hospital to say goodbye to our Maxxy.

Stroking Max’s fur, trying to keep him comfortable and desperately hoping to make him oblivious to what was about to happen, we patiently waited for the rest of our family to arrive. As we did, we discussed our feelings. 

She shared how upset and shocked she was that we were putting Max down instead of healing him, and bringing him home - as she’d expected.  Devastated myself, I tried to console her and explain how Max had a long, wonderful life, and that he watched her and her siblings come into the world, and that we wouldn’t want him to stay alive in pain. 

We both agreed we were glad we followed our gut and took him to the vet before the trip, even though it was late and movie night was canceled; it was the right thing to do. 

I still couldn’t help but apologize to her about spending our last evening together this way. I felt so guilty, she’s a little kid, she ought to be home having fun, playing, watching a movie, not dealing with death and sadness. Spring Break is here-she shouldn’t be going through this!

But she just shook her head, and as tears spilled from her eyes and down her cheeks, she assured me it was okay and that I had to do what I had to do. 

The rest of our family arrived and we said our goodbyes. Rubbing each others’ arms, holding hands, hugging and kissing from time to time; we reached out to each another, and it seemed that everyone was trying real hard to support Max and Mommy the most.

I was grateful for that.

Max and I had been together since 1995. We had been together longer than anyone in that room had and my family knew that. So even though they were sad too, they’re hearts were breaking for Mom more.

It was time to let Max go.

The vet came in with the injections.

They asked if we wanted to stay while they did it... I knew I was, but I gave each family member the option. I hadn’t expected any takers.
My teenage daughter was the first to speak; she chose to leave. Everyone else decided to stay.
I was actually quite unsure about my 6 year old son. I questioned if I should let him make this decision himself.
Did he understand? He hadn’t really understood when our last pet died. He kept asking if I could bring her back. It bothered me that he didn’t, and this time I wondered if this time would be different.

I decided to let him to stay.

The vet carefully gave the kitty his shots. One after the other she pressed the liquids into the tiny little tube that was taped to his tiny little paw and as she did she announced softly what was happening.

My son, who had showed much emotion with any of our pet’s passing, but he was suddenly sensing the reality – Max was dead-he started to cry .

It was not the type of bonding that I was looking for that night, but it was definitely a moment of connection for our family.

We were all in pain and came together to support our family pet and each other, and it brought us closer together .

At about 11:45pm, after Max’s passing, we together walked outside into the dark windy, night air holding each others hands realizing that we’d just grown as a family…we had learned something…

We learned what a deep love we all had for Max no matter how long each of us had known him. 
We learned the amount of strength each one of us had within ourselves, and the support we could provide for one another in a time like this...

And that life is precious. And death is a process we don’t like talking much about and don’t like to experience, but which is a part of life...…
R.I.P. Max -You were a Sweet, Sweet Boy<3

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