Weathering the storm - Albuquerque Journal

Weathering the storm

Second in a series.

Cheryl contacted me as soon as she and Michael were hit by the first wave of bad news. I learned long ago that what people in this fragile state need most is a brief sympathetic remark like, “Oh, gee.” They don’t need assurances that life will go on, platitudes like “It’s better to have loved and lost,” or even “Tell me how you’re feeling?” They need us to shut up and listen – with kindness and empathy. My job was to support these folks as the bottom fell out of their life with Poupon, the pet who’d brought them so much joy and love.

Cheryl and Michael tried desperately to understand the cancer that was stealing Poupon from them. They wanted to comprehend the how and why. They also knew they had to plan for the inevitable. How, where and when was it best to put their beloved cat to rest? Bury him or have him cremated? We talked about all of it, plus how their lives would change after Poupon was gone.

I explained their options and listened to Cheryl’s escalating sadness. Remembering that difficult time, she has said that, “after two weeks of exams and tests, we made the heartbreaking decision to put Poupon to rest. We realized it was the most loving thing we could do – before he started to really suffer.” She and Michael had the courage to briefly set aside their own emotions so they could shortcut their special pet’s impending misery.

Poupon’s fear of veterinary clinics had started years previously. Restraining him for a blood draw, an assistant had unintentionally scared him badly. Like all cats, he was a master of “one-event learning.” No way was he going near a doctor’s office again. Euthanasia would happen at home, where it’s often best done, anyway. But how could Poupon’s final moments be free of fear?

People are well meaning. A whole lot of friends weighed in with advice. Many urged Cheryl to replace Poupon ASAP. Good idea?

Next week: There is life on the other side.

HELP IS ONLINE: For help with behavior problems, you can sign up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com


Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in person and in groups via Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week, he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.

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