From Humans And Other Animals
On the third
or fourth date with Tripp, he informed me I needed to meet
his cat and, if the cat didnt like me, it was over:
the cat had good judgment regarding people. So, with trepidation,
I met the cat, Mitz. Thankfully, he liked me and settled himself
that night on my chest while I was reading on the couch.
Mitz has been
a constant in our lives, a continual thread in the ten years
we have been together and a fixture in Tripps life for
seventeen. He has been, without a doubt, an additional personality
in the household, quite clever in communicating his needs,
wants, pleasures and displeasures to us. Despite advancing
age, he has been quite spry if increasingly exhibiting a tendency
to choose sleep over other pleasures.
He has traveled
with us from D.C. to Oregon, Oregon to California, California
to New York, from the city to the upstate cottage.
When he arrived
to live in Claverack, we interviewed virtually everyone we
knew who had a pet to determine the best vet for geriatric
When we went
off recently to New Mexico we left him in the competent care
of Don Hoke, who watches our house for us when we are not
there. When we returned, he had taken a sudden downward turn,
having quickly lost a great deal of body weight while exhibiting
an unusual lethargy.
The long and
the short of it is that we have found he has a tumor on his
lung, about the size of a golf ball, potentially operable
though we will not go that route. The image of cracking open
the chest of Mitz, now profoundly frail, on the slim chance
he could survive such a surgery, does not seem worth the pain
it would cause him.
So we find ourselves
now in caring for him at the end of his life, suddenly and
unexpectedly the way life is with all its creatures,
great and small, human and not. We think we are prepared for
someone passing but were not. Not really.
A decade ago,
I thought I was prepared for my mother to pass away but I
was not and found myself submerged in an ocean of unexpected
Mitzs advancing age, we have discussed that he would
go one day. But neither of us was prepared for it to be NOW.
Life care and
end of life issues are very much in our minds right now, due
to the titanic struggle being waged over the removal of Terri
Schiavos feeding tube. It is a struggle which has engaged
her family, the President, the Congress, the Courts and the
hearts and minds of everyone who watches news or reads a newspaper.
We are, it seems,
as a result of one persons situation, individually and
collectively dealing with end of life issues and quality of
life at that stage. The New York state website has registered
a startling increase in traffic on its health pages, mostly
on the ones that deal with the process of creating a living
will. It is probably the same all over the country.
With our personal
situation, we do not wish to expose Mitz to heroic and perhaps
horrific surgery in a desperate attempt to extend his life
nor do we want prematurely to pull the plug on
him and we are absolutely determined to give him the best
palliative care we can at this stage. The care with which
I want to ease Mitzs departure mirrors, as best I can,
the care with which I would like my departure orchestrated.
At the end of
my life, I would want no heroics nor would I want to be maintained
physically if my brain were dead. All of which underscores
the importance of making sure you/we/us all have our living
wills executed and have designated someone to make health
decisions for us when we cant. So that we can be given
what we want and not what others might think we want.