June 5, 2009

Anyone who has ever owned an elderly pet knows the routine – the increasing visits to the vet, the mounting treatment bills, the frank discussions over courses of treatments and the options available, etc. It’s all part of being a pet owner, you have weigh all the good times with the not-so-good times that come towards the end, and that’s just part of the responsibility that goes with having a pet. You can’t avoid it – they’re under your care and they must rely on your own good judgment to make the right choices when the time comes.

We’re at that stage with Marble Junior, our oldest rabbit. She’s 9 1/2 – which for rabbits makes for a pretty damned fine life. Sure they can go as high as 12, but more often than not, you get 8-10 years from your rabbit that’s a pretty good life.

We found out today that the reason she hasn’t been eating for the past month is she was getting a fairly good-sized abscess behind her right cheek that had swollen the right side of her head pretty significantly and quickly over the past couple of days. A pretty common occurrence among older rabbits as their immune systems start to break down; infections can crop up anywhere. When I met with the vet today, we had a frank discussion about various options because at that point he wasn’t sure if it was an abscess or a tumor. If the former, there were some fairly expensive treatment options to consider, if it were the latter, the game was over.

Here, I think (and excuse me for turning this into a gender thing), there may be a difference in the way men and women look at things. I have to say that if it were me alone making the decison, I would have chosen to have her put down right then and there; I figure, she’s had a great life and has known nothing but love, attention, and care, and at some point you have to think in terms of quality of life and financial considerations. It’s sad, of course, but true.

Of course, that was not how Tracey saw it, and after insisting we have the vet run the tests (it turned out to be a non-cancerous abscess) I let her make the decision to have the vet do the procedure to shave the right side of her face and drain the abscess. In the days ahead, they’ll be lots of meds to give and stuff to do to prevent the abscess from reoccurring, but the truth is we’ve probably bought her time more in terms of weeks than months. But who knows?

Running some errands afterwards, I got to thinking: who the hell was I to play God with Marble Junior? Of course, I can’t know what’s going on inside her bunny brain, but maybe were it me in her place – and my time will come, that’s for sure – maybe I’d want those extra days or weeks or months left on this earth. Or maybe not – I mean, who knows? In this case, where an obvious decision wasn’t so clear, I felt guilty at the thought of giving up on her so easily.

I guess it’s a fine line: you want to do the right thing, you don’t want to make rash decisions, but you also don’t want the animal to suffer. And, truth be told, you don’t want to break the bank and spend hundreds of dollars keeping a pet alive for a relatively short period of time. You hate to even think of money entering into decisions involving life and death, but unless you have one of those new-fangled pet insurance policies (something I’d never consider), animal health care is expensive, and you can’t just ignore the cost factor.

Tonight Junior is vegging out. She’s had a hard day and she looks like hell, but she’s also eating a little bit and drinking water. I’m not sure whether she’d say life is good or not, but she’s still on the green side of the grass, as my grandfather would say.

And me? I’m left wondering whether or not we did the right thing after playing God today.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:05 | Comments (2)
  1. In my experience, the animal will let you when it is time…the look in their eyes, the cessation of nourishment, inability to “be themselves”, no more quality of life, or a terminal illness.
    I’d be doing exactly what is being done for Jr. It’s not terminal and it will make her feel better…it is usually a situation that makes us question if were are doing the right thing. This time, my judgement, you both have done the right thing.

    Comment by Jana — June 5, 2009 @ 3:52 am

  2. Thanks Jana – as it is, Marble Jr. passed away this morning, in Tracey’s arms. Kind of an amazing thing, when you think about it – Tracey witnessed her birth that night in December so long ago and was there when she passed quietly. We saw the end coming fast as was able to pray over her and bless her with holy water just as she died. A very poignant and holy experience…

    Comment by The Great White Shank — June 5, 2009 @ 10:08 am

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