The Most Difficult Thing About Pets

poppiesI was debating whether or not to write this post.  It is rather personal.  It’s also Mother’s Day, so I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate.  But it’s what I’ve thinking about, so I thought I would write it.

As you may know, I lost my cat Oliver to small cell lymphoma and pancreatitis about six weeks ago.  I wrote a blog post about it here.  In the blog post, I mentioned Oliver’s sister Emily, who also had cancer.

Emily developed a growth on her side last September.  The lump grew extremely rapidly, then ruptured and started to bleed.  The vet removed the growth at the end of October 2013, and it was determined that she had an aggressive cancer.  We weren’t exactly sure what the cancer was, but it seemed to be some kind of a mast cell tumor, which is extremely rare in cats.  At the beginning of December, I found out about Oliver.  At the end of December, I realized Emily had another growth developing on her side.  I took her to the vet immediately and he operated and removed the growth. The biopsy confirmed that the cancer had come back.

Emily came home after her second operation on December 31st.  Oliver went to the vet on January 1st, which is when he got his feeding tube.

The next few months were all about Oliver, until I lost him in the middle of March.  The following week I realized Emily had a lump under her front leg and another growth on her back hip.

I took her to the vet at the beginning of April.  He confirmed what I pretty much already knew. The cancer was back and was in her lymphatic system this time.  She did not have a good prognosis.

First, I cried.  Then I decided I would not take drastic measures.  Emily was a skittish cat, and going to the vet was very traumatic for her.  Taking her to the vet every week for chemotherapy, or to an oncologist for radiation treatments would have made her life a living hell.  If I tried to hand-feed her as I did with Oliver, she would have been living under my dresser to avoid me.  What kind of life was that?  Then there was the cost.  I had already added on a pile of  debt dealing with what we’d been through already – I couldn’t handle much more.

I decided we were in a hospice situation. The vet agreed.  Although he had to tell me about possible alternatives, he didn’t believe they would be effective against this cancer and would, ultimately, be worth nothing.

So we waited.

About two weeks ago, Emily stopped eating.  I thought she was eating a little bit, but now I don’t think that was the case.  Last Saturday, she started throwing up bright yellow bile, which meant her liver was failing or had failed.  She stopped drinking water.  Finally, on Monday the cancerous lesion on her hip ruptured and began bleeding.

I said goodbye to my sweet, sassy Emily on Tuesday night.

I love all of the pets with whom I’ve been fortunate enough to share my life.  But this is the part of owning a pet I hate.  This part is absolutely devastating.  It’s not even the fact that I had to say goodbye to two of my dear little friends, although I have an empty, aching, pain in my stomach right now when I think about them.

No, I think the hardest part is the utter sense of responsibility you feel when you’re faced with this kind of a situation.  How do I know if I’m doing the right thing?  Who the hell am I to be making these kinds of decisions?  Is it right that I put a feeding tube in Oliver when he stopped eating, but didn’t do the same for Emily?  Is it right that I took them to the vet to make their final transition instead of letting them go at home?  Did I make decisions based on my own needs or convenience?  Should I have waited?  Did I wait too long?

I don’t know.  I tried to read what they were telling me, I tried to do the best I could.  But I was playing God.  I was deciding when a life should end – down to the minute.  What right do I have to do that?

All I can say is that, for better or worse, I am the one who loved them and who loves them still.  I am the one who was called upon to end their suffering.  And they were suffering.  They were in pain.  So, right or wrong, I made a decision.

I’ll tell you that some of the hardest things I’ve ever done have been making phone calls to the vet to vocalize the decision that it was time to end the pain of another creature.  Some of the bravest things I’ve ever done have been following through with those appointments because a creature I loved needed me to do so.  Even when everything inside me didn’t want to make that trip.

And I’ll tell you that the only thing I’m certain of in this whole situation is that all of the decisions I made – right or wrong – were made out of love.

I guess that’s the best anyone can do.

But BOY!  I sure hope the two cats I still have don’t put me through this for a long, long, LONG time.



 Emily and Oliver



  1. Thank you for posting this. Our almost 11-year old labrador retriever has been struggling lately and while I hope I’m wrong, I just feel like we’ll be making decisions at some point this year. We’d been married less than a year when we brought home our 7week old puppy and to think that time has flown by and we may have to make that end of life decision is terrifying. It’s not something we’ve been faced with before. I appreciate your honesty and I’m so sorry you had to say goodbye to two of your furbabies this year.

    • Betsy Horvath says

      @EmilyD: Thank you so much for your kind thoughts, Emily. I’m so, so sorry to hear about your labrador. It’s just such a wrenching thing – you want to do the right thing for them, and you can’t ask them what they want you to do. All we can do is love them, and do our best. Whenever the time comes to make the most difficult decision, you usually know. But then, if you’re anything like me, you doubt yourself and second guess and wonder. In the end all you can do is make your decisions out of love for them. But good gravy, it’s hard.

  2. It hurts so much to lose our pets. They’re so loved. (((hugs)))

    • Betsy Horvath says

      @Jenny Schwartz: Thank you so much, Jenny. It has been a very difficult couple of months – losing Emily so soon after Oliver just made it worse. But she was very much loved – and so was I.

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