Making 'Quality of Life' Decisions
When I was at my weakest moments in caring for a
terminally ill cat, I was continually confronted with
the term 'quality of life'. My first reaction in every
case was to be stunned, look at my boy and think 'What
are you seeing that I'm not?'. Well, in fact, it's more
about what I'm seeing that they're not.
Each of us looks through our own lens at the evidence
before our eyes. We then interpret the evidence as we
see it based on our own experience. When you think
about the different experiences of people who care for
animals, they vary considerably.
what it's like for someone who works in an animal
shelter where many animals don't have companion people
to care for them. To a shelter worker, an animal that
is suffering from a terminal illness has little hope of
good days, other than the brief moments of care and
affection that are afforded by the shelter staff. In
those cases, when considering the quality
of life, it would likely be that a quick end to it's
suffering is the only course that is humane.
And what of veterinary care providers? While they have
a somewhat less onerous task in that they are often helping
animal companions to care for sick and injured pets,
they are seeing these creatures in a production
capacity. They see many animals each day and in many
cases, animal companions are expecting the veterinary
staff to tell them the best course of action. That's a
pretty considerable responsibility. Although the
veterinary community will know likely outcomes of
various conditions as well as options for treatment and
resolution, they don't know the animal as well as the companion.
So, while coping with the challenges of caring for George, I also
struggled with my desire to prevent him suffering
unnecessarily. I found myself often trying to manage my own anxiety
that I would fail to see his suffering while observing
the pleasure he took in his days. It's a difficult
evaluation to make. When you're caring for a sick
animal, they love every bit of care and attention you
give. Because I didn't know George as a well cat, or as I had my previous
charges, I decided I'd be forced to make my
decisions based on his involvement in daily activities
he obviously enjoyed.
He had certain behaviors he initiated, such as his walks
in the garden or around the house. Also walking over to us to
greet us when we went into his room accompanied by talking or
rubbing his head on us. He had learned to ask for food
and that was another indicator I felt I could use to
gauge his interest. I knew I had to make decisions on
his behalf, and after considering my knowledge of him
along with the indications that he was having good days,
were the things I should use to evaluate his quality of life.
George had a good life with us, even though I know he
experienced greater pain and discomfort toward the end.
I believe we made the right choices for him and that he
had the full benefit of the best of what life could
offer him in those final days.
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A Lost Pet
If Your Pet Gets Lost
Quality of Life
When a Pet Dies
Sonoma County Shelters
Adopting a Pet
Pet Assisted Therapy