Monday, May 04, 2009

Torn To Pieces

I have not posted for the last month because I have been working like a mad man. It seemed like one shoot followed the other like a chain of elephants. This left me with so little time for anything other than producing and shooting with my new camera. First there was an effects heavy, green screen music video. Then several interview projects. Then the new national WebMD campaign.

I was so transfixed with working, that I started to forget what was really important to me.

For quite a while, I have been aware that my cat's health has been declining. She has a overactive thyroid condition and her kidney values have been slowly deteriorating. These two conditions are not unusual in a 16 year-old cat. In fact one of my last blog posts was a celebration of that impressive milestone.

However, as I concentrated on my own work issues, I did not clearly see what was happening to her. Out of sight, and somewhat in the background, the darkness seemed to creep in.

Last year, Manhattan was a solid 10 pound cat. In the past year, her thyroid condition caused her to drop a couple pounds. You can see from this picture, taken several weeks ago, that her normally wide face has narrowed slightly.

When I finally took a good look at her this past weekend she seemed alarmingly thin to me. I quickly packed her up in her carrier and headed off to he vet. When the doctor placed her on the scale, we were both shocked to see that she had lost another full pound in just the past month.

The veterinarian immediately gave Manhattan some electrolyte fluids and her thyroid pill. She then told me that she felt taking blood tests was unnecessary. The vet explained that the tests would undoubtedly show further kidney decline and thereby call for more pills. When a cat has failing kidneys, more pills is only going to worsen the problem.

It quickly became obvious that the vet was explaining to me that further treatment was not a very good idea.

Manhattan is not a lap cat, and you might even accuse her of not being very affectionate. Like a lot of cats, she loves you when she is hungry and quite content to do her own thing when she is not. I adopted her as a nine year old, but I often think about how nice it would have been to have known her as a tiny kitten. I wonder if she was as fiercely independent even then.

However, at this point in the grim conversation Manhattan walked across the examination table and buried her head between my arm and body as if to say "protect me". The vet saw this and slowly smiled at me. Instantly tears started to stream down my face.

Manhattan is part of my family, and I love her with all of my heart. When you love someone, it is your unspoken duty to protect them from harm. There is no amount of money that I would not give to save her. If I could, I would happily give years of my own life to extend hers. Obviously, this is not an option available to me.

What I am faced with, is a decision that is emotionally tearing me apart.

In order to protect Manhattan from future suffering, I am going to be asked to order the end of her life.

All I can think about is the last seven years.

*The day I first saw her in the shelter window. She looked up at me with her big soulful eyes and said "get me out of here".

*The day her picture was displayed in Times Square after winning a Yahoo photo contest.

*When I was very sick in 2005, she sensed it, and against her own rules slept by my side night after night.

*Last month, when I brought home her birthday present, she slept in it for several days straight.

How can I be the agent of her death?

On the other hand, if I do not make a clear decision, how can I let her waste away and stoically suffer?

There is no way I could ever be a veterinarian. I know that they must be faced with this difficult decision many times a year. When it the right time? How can you tell when the humane line has been crossed?

This week, I will spend as much time as I can with her. I will watch her and try to ascertain her overall condition. I can only hope that God will give me an unmistakable sign to tell me when the time has come. Even if I see that sign clearly, I know that it will tear me apart to have to hold my excellent friend while she quietly passes away.

“We never understand how little we need in this world until we know the loss of it”

~ James Matthew Barrie

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Blogger CJ said...

This post just brought tears to my eyes.

I had to face the same situation about 5 years ago with my childhood dog (cancer), and then with my wife's childhood dog (broken hip) a few years later. These moments were easily some of the most emotionally difficult experiences of my life. Fortunately, the endless stream of emotionally uplifting moments I shared with each dog was even more powerful and lasting.

I'll be hoping for the best for both you and Manhattan this week.

11:46 PM  
Blogger Peter Matthes said...

Thank you so much for your comment and your well wishes, CJ. I really appreciate it.

I think you are absolutely right.

As time passes, the bad moments slowly fade away. It is only the good times that remain behind in your mind.

I think that it is a clear indicator of how powerful and indelible love is.

10:32 AM  

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