My friend’s dog was just diagnosed with cancer. As you read that sentence, do you feel the dread and sadness well up within you? I do. Even though I work with animals in all stages of life, I still have that gut reaction.
Think about your animal’s reaction to the diagnosis
Lucky for our animals, they haven’t heard the diagnosis. They don’t know the prognosis, how long they’re likely to live. So they don’t feel the sadness.
They do know how they feel physically. And they probably aren’t thrilled with the veterinarian visit and won’t love treatments.
But that extra stuff about the awful diagnosis?
Nope, that’s strictly our baggage. And that’s not a bad thing.
If you haven’t seen The Farewell yet, I recommend it. A Chinese family knows their Grandmother has terminal cancer but hide that diagnosis from her. That way, Grandmother enjoys her life right up to the end. It’s the family’s burden to carry, not hers.
How can we apply this to our animals?
I’m not recommending we change how we deal with our human family members when they receive an awful diagnosis. Instead, I’m using this story as a parable for how we might relate our animals.
Remember, our animals aren’t living with the heaviness of that awful diagnosis. So we take responsibility for our emotions. We do whatever it takes to release our emotions so we can enjoy our animals and help them enjoy their life. We release our emotions as often as we need to.
A Day at a Time
Each day, we “SEE” our animals for who they are – not their diagnosis. And remember where they find joy. We create possibilities for their joy and join in. We consider whether treatments will increase their comfort and joy.
And when there’s no more joy in their life, we consider the next right decision.
We don’t know how long they’ve got
Veterinarians give us the best data they have on how long our animal will live. Yet each soul has their own end date, and it doesn’t always match the data.
Stay open minded about when they will depart. Look for signs that there’s still life left.
Maybe sing your version of, “Every day with [insert name] is a good day!” while spending time with your animal. Whatever it takes, give yourself and your animal quality time through this transition. Let them feel your love more often than your heavier emotions.