Its 11:30 pm. our family is together, but soon this is all about to change. My child was hurt today. She had a procedure by a plastic surgeon that put her back together, hopefully with minimal scarring into the future.
The purpetrator to her injuries? Our family pet. He can’t stay in our home now. He must go. I know it seems simple to some but let me give you some background.
For years, my partner and I lived in apartments. I was desperate for a cat but it wasn’t to be. I grew up in a family with pets. We waited. We moved a long way to be closer to our families.
We got jobs, bought a house and four weeks later I went to the animal shelter for a look. As I walked along the rows of cages, there were so many tiny kittens and adult cats waiting to be rescued. Some sleeping, some laying, some crying. There was one that was climbing a cat stand, playing, jumping, miowing. I kept walking. The adopton facilitator showed me some kittens. “These are very cute. Maybe one of those?” I looked. They were very sweet, curled up in a warm, furry pile. We went back to the climber. “I’d like to meet him please”.
I entered the cage and sat down close to the exit. He looked at me. “Hello” I said. He jumped down from the cat stand, walked over to me, climbed onto my lap and cuddled in. “Would you like to come home with me?” I asked. He miowed and curled into me. The adoption facilitator was training someone that day. She said to the trainee “This is how adoption is meant to be. You won’t see a better meeting than this”. I took him home. He was 8 months old. His shelter name was spike. We named him Henry. He’s been my baby since that day. He has my last name!
We soon realised that he was scared of men and workboots. You can probably imagine why he has those fears.
We built a back deck. He hurt his back the day we signed the construction contracts. He couldn’t walk without crying out in pain. I flew out for work the next morning after a night of hand feeding him cat food and water. My partner took him to the vet. He had hurt his back.
Fast forward to the death of my grandmother. He sat with me while I grieved. As I lay on the floor crying, he snuggled against me. When our friend came to stay and look after him while we went to the funeral, I wrote a three page letter about how to look after him. I grieved. He was always there, even in the weeks that followed as life went on but I had sadness creep through the everyday.
Later my first child was born. We did all the things the pet experts suggested. My partner brought home a singlet of the baby’s so he could smell her before she arrived. We put aluminium foil on the cot mattress (hilarious in retrospect but we were first time parents hehe). We did it all. He was so gentle and sweet. He cuddled up in between my shins while I spent what felt like endless hours breastfeeding.
Then my second child was born. I birthed her at 1:30 pm. I arrived home at 9pm with a newborn in my arms. The next morning my toddler came into our bedroom and discovered Mummy with a flatter stomach, her new sister in her arms and Henry curled up in between her thighs. Again he was always in close proximity, although this time around, navigating around an enthusiastic, almost two year old toddler. He managed beautifully.
The children grew. He did too. My dad had an accident at a hardware store. I tried my best to look after my father during his immediate recovery from his shoulder operation and the weeks that followed. For the first week after my Dad’s operation, I slept (badly) on the couch upstairs in between my unwell baby’s bedroom and the stairs downstairs to where Dad was staying. It was very rough. Dad was suffering badly. I was very worried. I also worked during this period on a major project at work.
Who slept next to me on the couch? Henry. Who visited my Dad during his convalenscence and really brightened his day? Henry.
All those days working from home, all those all nighters rewriting reports so they would meet client deadlines. Henry lay in his cat napper next to my work desk. So many days we would intermittently smooch. He made the stress manageable.
Henry has a beautiful soul. When my partner worked night shifts, we would play quiet games for hours. He would play fetch with mouse toys. When we had chidren he snuggled with me.
Through all the colds, flus, period pains, celebrations, family time, challenges Henry has been there. Just two weeks ago I went to bed feeling horribly ill. He lay on my chest with face next to mine. I slept better.
Today he made a mistake. He has scratched my eldest before because he was cornered and frightened. Today though, she could have lost her eye. He has to leave our home. My child isn’t safe if he is frightened.
We took Henry for a walk in the back garden. He got frightened by a neighbour who is loud and speaks unkindly to his wife. So we took him down to the front garden instead. His tail was still puffed up. All my daughter did was lean down and innocently pat his back. He turned and hurt her.
I watched as my baby was repaired. I saw it all. I was there for her fear, anxiety, sedation, procedure and I will be there for her recovery.
This time Henry won’t be with me. He won’t be a comfort. He will be put away. In exile. While we decide what his fate will be. While our daughter recovers from her injuries with me by her side.
I am well versed in animal welfare issues. I understand the complexity and vulnerability of rescue animals’ lives. I know how much love they need to heal from their bad experiences.
So what about Henry? What will become of him? We could rehome him to a childless person/couple. In two years time they get a great job overseas and have to move. Henry gets handed on to a friend/cousin/coworker. They don’t really love him. His history is forgotten. He makes another mistake. He is abused because of it, or neglected. He leads a miserable life. Maybe remembering our family, maybe me. Or worse. He’s given away for free and ends up as live bait for some greyhound or dog fighting ring. He could die a horrible death within view of heartless scumbags.
I believe pets are for life. Our responsibility to them is a serious, lifelong committment. Henry’s care is written into my last will and testament. I am heartbroken.
So to kill or not to kill. That is the question. We could have a vet come to the house and he could be euthanised in my arms at home. Or he could face an uncertain life and death.
Should he die in the arms of his favourite person or should he be tossed aside, not understanding where his home and family is? Why he has been abandoned.
So now it’s 1am the next day. I sit here listening to him snoring, crying, about to check on my injured child.
I am heartbroken because I can no longer fulfill my promise to him. To always care for him and keep him safe and loved. I am heartbroken because my child is badly hurt. No parent wants this.
As I sit here with pain in my heartspace, where he has always put warm, fuzzy feelings, the question remains.
To kill. Or not to kill.