by Kimberly Wade
Forgive me in advance because this is extremely personal—but I felt it was something all of us can relate to. So many amazing people adopt senior pets from Nevada Humane Society, and we all know that many of them live long into their teens. Some of us raise them as newborns with them by our side for years. Inevitably, the end will always come, but my recent struggle was how do you know when to say goodbye?
My Bailey was nearly 17—a beautiful, blue-eyed, Siamese tabby. He, along with his Calico sister Cali, who I lost a little over a year ago at 16, was with me for half of my lifetime. They saw me through my adult years. The two of them have been through more with me than anyone. Travel (seriously—they would take road trips with me), multiple homes, jobs, roommates, dogs (this didn’t always go over well but they tolerated them), a cross country move and my husband. Over the last year, since we also lost Arwyn unexpectedly, a 4 year old Siamese, Bailey began to age. We joked he was senile—he was normally a shy, independent guy but began hanging out with my husband and I, along with our other pets. He would stop in the middle of the room and stare at us, as if he forgot where he was going. He became—dare I say—social, and wanted to—gasp—cuddle. He had not done this since he was young. We joke but we also knew it was the first sign.
Over the last few weeks, he started aging even more. There were a couple of signs that something was off, but overall he was normal (for him). Then my husband said we should get him checked out. His back end seemed to be hurting him and his appetite was decreasing (and he’s a big boy). X-rays were fine, blood work showed early stages of kidney failure. He was old. I got this. We could manage this as long as he had a quality of life. We left the vet with hope.
Within two days it went downhill. He appeared to be in pain but put up a good front. He still ate his treats, my only hope, but I knew something was wrong. I struggled. My husband struggled. I asked him to give me a sign. I didn’t want him to be in pain, but he did still have some quality of life. I asked again for a sign. He meowed.
I went to the vet with my husband (we go to every vet appointment together, as a family) with crummy expectations. I had a feeling. I struggled so hard because I felt Bailey was giving me mixed emotions. With Cali and Arwyn, unexpected illness took over so we knew the right thing to do was to let them go. That was hard. They were social, in our face daily. For some reason with Bailey, it was harder. And he was the recluse—who knew this would be the case?
The vet confirmed what I needed to hear. She felt a mass in his abdomen—one that wasn’t there two days ago. That said a lot. We spent over an hour talking, weighing options, but I knew in my heart it was time. I finally saw it in his eyes and we had a moment. I told him it was okay and that we would set him free. The vet agreed it was the right thing. My husband and I held him together and we let him go.
As I write this I can’t even see the page—my eyes are blurred with tears for our three cats we lost in a year—two of which spent half my lifetime with me. But I find comfort knowing we did the right thing when it was their time, and comfort knowing that others have been through this. But I still ask… how do you know when to say goodbye? Our furry friends are conditioned to hide any pain or injury—just as their wild predecessors would do. As their people, we have to look closely to see that something is wrong. But we have the ability to give them a gift. We can set them free. Goodbyes are never easy, old or young, but we have to be the bigger being and say goodbye when we know they are ready—regardless of if we are ready.
I let you into my personal thoughts because I know you understand. I am not seeking sympathy, but rather want you to know that we’re in this together. I want to thank you for being amazing pet parents. And I especially want to thank those that adopt senior pets. They deserve a family, no matter how long or how short their time may be. And you are the ones that are their heroes.
Today, I still don’t know when it’s time to say goodbye, but I do know it’s important to let them go when they are ready—when it is their time. Thank you for letting me share this experience, and more than anything, thank you for joining me by being there for the animals.