Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Emotional Catharsis Of Putting A Pet Down

It's been a week and half or so since we had to put one of our cats down. In case you don't know the terminology there, putting them down means putting them to sleep, or having the vet give them a sedative, then ending their life in a peaceful way.

Of course it's much more costly and sanitary than the way Grandpa used to put them down, which involved a gunny sack and a body of water. But that's OK, because we love our cats and other animals a lot more these days than the unsentimental (and more detached) people of the past loved theirs.

That'd be a good sociological study right there, what some of the reasons are for our increased sentimentality and attachment to pets, when back in the old days, if you had a wild animal carrying off one of your pets, that was their problem. Or if they got run over it wasn't any big deal. I knew people with barns who didn't know how many cats they had, and also didn't know how many were carried off by coyotes on any given day.

But it's definitely a big deal to me. We had the cat around 15 years, then suddenly we had to put her down. I was crying, it was a real sad day. In fact, it was so sad that the emotional catharsis really was something. I hadn't had anything to cry over like that in quite a while. But that day it was really something. Like the dark night of the soul -- bitter tears that led to ascent.

Which makes me think, I hope I don't start longing for it. You know, finding myself wanting to have a pet put down just to give me something to cry over, since it really was an emotional experience. When it all wears off, what if I think, The other cat would be good for that too. He does seem a little sick, doesn't he? And it was only 40 bucks.

So I could be out there with the other cat, getting him put down too. Then in a few weeks, my beloved dog, since by then my addiction to an ever deepening emotional catharsis would be real. Then I'd be hitting rescue leagues, adopting every animal I see, especially the sick ones, just to be with them in their hour of crisis. Because crying like that is such a powerful experience. You're suddenly helpless as a child to the emotions of the moment.

I remember carrying a dog one time that had died from worms. I must have been a pathetic figure -- like someone from the movies -- carrying that dog to his grave. I was crying ear to ear.*

Then let's say I'd run out of big animals, I'd be checking out my 10 gallon jobbie -- my aquarium -- for sick and dragging fish. I'd have to really work at that one, though, because it's tough to get emotional over a fish. Maybe the vet could take three or four fish at a time. That'd bring up a tear or two, maybe.

*I heard someone say this the other day. I'm not giving a specific attribution, I just want to acknowledge that someone else said it.

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