Life and death

This is Cosmo.

We adopted him from an animal rescue when Maya was 3 1/2 years old, while I was pregnant with Ben.   Ben was born at home and so, when he was only a few hours old, Cosmo spent a few minutes sniffing him, checking out this new creature who had entered his home.

For both kids he was their first pet.  Maya chose him and named him, but Cosmo chose Ben; it was like he thought that baby was somehow his – that he knew he was new and helpless.  Even when Ben grew into the pulling ears and tail stage, Cosmo would never scratch or bite him, but meow and gently pull himself away.    Once Maya was getting Cosmo to play by dangling a piece of yarn over his head, and Cosmo jumped too high, accidentally scratching Maya’s hand.   At her cry, he ran and hid under the table, afraid that he might be in trouble.

The kids loved him unconditionally, and he returned that love.

Almost 10 years after first taking him home, he got sick.  This February, he lost almost 4 pounds and over the last two weeks was so weak he could barely walk.  He’d gotten a bacterial infection in his kidneys, which along with a heart murmur meant he couldn’t fight it off, and he didn’t respond to any treatments.

For a few days we kept hoping.  We tried taking him to a homeopathic vet.   Nothing helped, and yesterday the awful, painful decision was made to put him to sleep.   When we came home afterward and started looking at all of our photos of him, I realized just how much he had declined in health over the last 6 weeks or so, and I knew we’d made the right decision.   No living creature should have to suffer like that, their quality of life gone, just because the rest of us will miss them.

As I told our friends and family about the loss of our Cosmo, I had two people tell me that our attitudes towards ending an animals suffering seem much more humane than the way we often treat humans.

One friend had visited an elderly and ailing grandmother yesterday afternoon and said that she exists in misery with barely any awareness of her surroundings; but her heart keeps beating, and so she lives, though she no longer has a life.

A few hours later another story came to me of a member of my family who can no longer care for himself, has periodic delusions and moments of rage, and insists that his life is not worth living.   Despite that, he breaths, he can eat and his heart beats; that’s about all that can be said.

Why do we see the utter humanity in putting an animal to sleep – of relieving them of their misery – but cannot see the same for people?   I know some would say it is “God’s will” but I cannot believe that.   If you believe that God created all living things, why is it ok to give an elderly animal who is suffering and in pain the relief of death, and not a human?   Especially a human who has said they want to die but cannot order their heart to stop beating?   Why do we insist they live on in agony?

I hope all the people I love live long happy lives and die peacefully in their sleep, because I cannot fathom watching them suffer for months or even years.

Much as I miss Cosmo, ending his suffering gave him the blessing of peace.

One of the last good photos of Ben & Cosmo - taken just before Christmas..

About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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One Response to Life and death

  1. M says:

    A great post with which I absolutely agree!!