The Price Of Love.

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My Beloved Mia Bella (March 13, 2018)
March 13, 2018.

It’s late in the evening now, and all my pets are quiet, as am I.  It’s been a long, tough, emotional day. I am drained.  And it’s going to take a good while to process.  We’re piled on the sofa together, sitting quietly with each other, already missing the one that isn’t there with us.

My little Mia Bella died this morning, at 7:30am, just as the sun came over the mountain. I was holding her in my arms as if protecting her, shielding her from the darkness of death. But it was her time, and the circle of life was going to take her, regardless my passionate prayers. Thankfully, it was the grace of God that Mia Bella’s passing was peaceful and serene–almost a beautiful gift in a very dark moment.  I thank God for that.  I thank God that she’s happily in His arms now, that He answered my prayer to take her gently when it was time. I had known for a short while that her heart and kidneys were failing her, and you’d think that knowing her life was ending would have prepared me. Still, when the final moment comes, it hits you in the chest like a bus.

Mia Bella had awakened me at 4:00am to go pottie. Even in her final hours, she was neat and fussy. But, after her pottie, when I lifted her from the litterbox, she gave me the look … the look I had been dreading. And I knew it was time. I wrapped her in my arms and buried my face in her long, silky fur and we crawled back into bed together. I sat holding her in the night, unconcerned with time passing or the sleep I was missing. This was Mia Bella’s moment, and I was not going to rush her. She was very much at ease, her breathing comfortable and even, and she was lying quietly, just looking up at me. We held that way for several hours. Sometimes I prayed, sometimes I talked to her, sometimes I cried, most of the time we were just quiet together.

When the light of morning started slipping through the window shades, I carried Mia Bella out to the back yard. She loved the sunrise, and to watch the birds flutter at the bird bath every day outside our kitchen window. We would make that a part of our last day together now. The morning breeze was soft and touched her fur lightly as if welcoming her to Heaven, and she looked up at the sky, blinking at the sunlight as she lay safely cradled in my arms … one of many very tender moments that I’ll hold fiercely onto forever.

My Mia Bella (Jan 25 2018) … CLICK FOR VIDEO

I offered her some water in an eye dropper to wet her lips, but she refused it this time. Her moment was very close now.  I stayed wrapped around her as close as I could be, knowing I had to let go soon, but not sure if I could.  And at 7:30, still cradled in my arms and with the morning sun lighting up her beautiful face, my precious little angel looked up at me again and took a couple of final gentle breaths, then relaxed. And just like that my Mia Bella was gone. And my heart was shredded. And I cried like a baby.

The Price Of Love.

I read somewhere that grief is the price of love. I know this to be true. I started Milagro Senior Pet Refuge in 1998.  Here, 20-some years later, many many seniors have died in my arms. I’ve been blessed and profoundly humbled to hand each one of them from my arms into God’s arms where they belong. What a gift … to be there with them at their final and most private moment. I have never taken that lightly nor have I ever shied away from it, even in the face of how dearly the loss of each life has cost me. I have given up a piece of myself to each little life as it passed through my hands. It never gets easier. I struggle with each loss very personally. They aren’t just rescues–they are my heart, my family, my loves. I grieve for each one, and I try to allow the passage of grief to take its course freely and fully without any shortcut.   

The End Of Your Pet’s Life.

Their passings aren’t always peaceful and gentle, tho, as Mia Bella’s was today. Oftentimes, they’re gut-wrenching and tragic and unfair. But still I resolve to be there for them at that moment–maybe even more so in this moment when they need to feel love the most.

This is a very personal issue–not everyone is able to stand in the gap for their pet between life’s final moments and death.  God happened to hard-wire me that way, so I ask no questions. I only embrace it, even tho every death tears me apart. For me, even though it’s a two-edged sword, it’s still a gift. But in no way do I judge anyone who can’t bring themselves to take part in their pet’s passing. Each of us must find our own way to navigate through losing our pets, and to make the hard choices free from pressure by anyone other than yourself. For me, I am there all the way. And for me, I believe without a doubt that I am able to continue rescuing after suffering loss because I’ve learned to allow the grief process to work without being afraid of it.  And, more importantly, I believe in God and Heaven, so I know that this isn’t really the end of love.  I will see all these little faces again, every last one of them. 🙂

Assisted Death Or Natural Passing.
Jordan and Genesis

For me, I am also not reconciled to euthanasia. I don’t believe I have any right to decide when another living being dies, and I cannot bear the thought of drugs running through my pet’s veins and stopping her heart against her will. I also see that, far too often, euthanasia is used prematurely, more for the comfort of the pet owner than for the pet. One important thing I’ve learned during my decades of rescuing senior animals is that it’s a rollercoaster–an emotional rollercoaster.  Because seniors can be humming along just great, happy and relatively healthy, and then out of the blue have a really bad day, so bad that you think “Uh-oh, this is it.”  And this is when many folks rush the pet off to the veterinarian and have it euthanized. But, had that pet owner watched and waited another day–just 24 hours more–most times the pet will bounce back on its own and be humming along all happy and well again. Rollercoaster.  It’s hard to get used to initially, because for certain it can be a real emotional drain. But once you learn to read your pet’s signs, you’ll know when to pause and when to panic.

People generally feel strongly one way or the other about euthanasia. For me personally, every fiber of my being is against it. I don’t believe for a moment that I have the right to decide that another living being should die.  Having said that, there have been a handful of times over my many years in rescue when I’ve elected euthanasia under pressure and with great anxiety when a pet was in extreme distress. And it remains a burden on my heart forever after that, even when folks encourage me and tell me I did the right thing. In my heart, I regret it desperately and would give anything to go back and choose differently.

How Can I Know For Sure When It’s Time?

Another thing I’ve learned in decades of pet rescue is that the pet will let you know when it’s time.  Until I get that clear message from my pets, I continue to support them, regardless the level of care needed.  If they need me round-the-clock for however long, I’m okay with that. This is my promise to all my rescues when I take them in — “I will always take care of you–always.”  This includes all the tough moments and sacrifices. Up to and including saying goodbye at the Rainbow Bridge. I don’t stop supporting them when it gets tough.

Genesis and Sammy

Old age brings aches and pains in animals, just as in people. That’s not reason enough to have your pet euthanized yet. Pets can live with a degree of pain and discomfort the same as people do. Sure, it sucks, but that’s the circle of life. The gauge should be watching for the pet to tell you he wants out. It can be in his eyes–when that’s the case, it’s unmistakable and if you’re paying attention, you will have no doubt that it’s his time. Other times, the pet is in bad enough distress that it’s apparent he’s not going to recover, and his imminent death is going to be torturous unless you intervene. Times like these, the answer is clear for you. Still, you probably will struggle with it after he’s gone.

Omigosh, Why Am I Feeling So Guilty?

One thing about the end of your pet’s life–you’re going to feel damned if you do and damned if you don’t regardless how it plays out. It’s our human nature to question ourselves and feel like we could have or should have done something more, or something differently. Should I have euthanized him sooner?  Later? Or at all?  Was I listening, paying attention to what he wanted? Should I have let him die at home where he wanted to be, peacefully and surrounded by the family he loves and trusts, instead of taking him from his home and running him off to a place that was noisy and scary, and letting some stranger take him from me and end his life on a cold metal table? That kind of ending, to me, would completely undo the beautiful life I had given him. These are the questions that I struggle with. Be prepared for those feelings yourself and know that probably they are unreasonable and unfair to you. Chances are you’re doing all you can to keep your pet healthy and comfortable and loved. And you want to do right for him, not just what’s comfortable for you. Beyond that, be gentle with yourself.  You are not God.  We’re all in this together–the animals and us both.  Just let your love guide you and everything will ultimately be ok.

How Do I Decide And Who Can Help Me?

If you want to prepare yourself beforehand, talk with your vet.  Or look online for discussions on the topic of euthanasia to help give you a comfortable perspective and help you decide to use it or not to use it for your pet. Also, there are now veterinarians who will come to your home for euthanasia, so the pet doesn’t have to be disturbed or frightened in his last moments. That way, your pet can be where he feels safe and loved and at peace.  And that will encourage you and help to minimize your own inevitable suffering.  Again, I am not encouraging or endorsing euthanasia–I am simply acknowledging that it is an option people feel comfortable with. And, whenever euthanasia is being chosen, then I definitely encourage a home visit for it.

I wish for you and your pets a long and healthy and beautiful life together.  🙂


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God Bless and Happy Pet Parenting!

With love and good wishes,
jeannie.   ?

About jeannie:  I’ve been pro-actively involved in pet rescue all of my life. I founded Milagro Senior Pet Refuge© (Phoenix) in 1998, and BareFootPets (TM) in 2008.  Animal welfare has always been and will always be my heart’s work. If my only legacy is that I save a handful of precious souls that would not survive otherwise, I’m good with that.