Monday, October 26 2020


The emotional mayhem of watching your pets die

Update: July, 01/2018 - 09:00
Illustration by Trịnh Lập
Viet Nam News

Bảo Hoa

I recently came across some news pieces about sick pets abandoned by their owners.

Looking at dozens of animal rescue pages on Facebook, one can easily feel overwhelmed by the images of the poor creatures: small, injured, helpless and all by themselves. The photos are followed by hundreds of comments from the well-intentioned pet lovers, who rage at the irresponsible owners.

But then again, who wants to experience that awful moment when your pets die?

A year ago I would have sided with the pet-loving, kind-hearted people who insist on being with their pets until their last breath. But after one of my kittens died a few months ago from a fever, I started to think there is a plus side after all to releasing your ailing pets to oblivion. I started to see it as an option to avoid having painful emotions.

I am a cat person. There have always been at least two cats in my house at any point over the last 10 years. I clean, feed and play with them like they are members of our family. My sister names them and kisses them like they are her sisters.

My kitten was less than a month old when she got sick. I tried everything I could to save her – feeding her milk and medicine and vitamins, taking her to a vet for antibiotic injections, checking up on her every 30 minutes – but to no avail. She died in pain after having continuous convulsions, which lasted for I don’t know how long because I was too scared and sad to be around her. I was just told the sad news by my dad. I did not dare to ask where he left the kitten after she died, because I was scared the answer would be some dumpster near our house.  

Call me sensitive, but that was one of the most painful experiences I had ever had in my life at that point. And I am certain that I will never want such an experience again.

Come to think about it – and setting all talk of morality aside – getting rid of a sick, incurable pet might spare us a broken heart. Sure, the guilt of not knowing when he or she will die might eat us alive, but I have a sense that it is easier to overcome that than the nagging pain of standing helplessly by during the last moments of the pet’s life.

Some may agree with me. An acquaintance of mine released his sick cat and let her roam freely on the streets.

“She was incurable. There was nothing I could do for her at that moment,” he said.

“I’m not proud. But there was absolutely nothing I could do.”

Pro-animal people will absolutely disagree. With morality on the table, pet abandonment is considered a form of animal cruelty. And abandoning sick pets would be considered by some as the cruelest.

Hoàng Nguyễn, 20, a dog lover in Hà Nội, said: “If [the owners] can do that to animals, they can do worse things to humans.”

“They think of the animals just as animals, and that they have the power to do anything to them,” he said.

There is no easy way to deal with the death of our beloved pets. How we respond may depend on how much emotional endurance each of us has.

Well, not getting a pet in the first place would spare us all a lot of trouble. But that response would be like not living our lives to the fullest because we will all die eventually.

I would love not to see the last moments of my pets.

But as a softie at heart, I will never be able to just throw them out on the streets. Taking them to an animal centre and getting them euthanised, maybe.

I have the utmost respect and admiration for the young volunteers who seek out abandoned pets, taking them in and nurturing them – either back to health or until they die.

If there are any organisations out there that provide courses on keeping your wits while your pets are dying, give me a shout. I’ll sign up. — VNS

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