Is It Silly To Cry Over A Pet? : LUSENET : Hedgehog Talk : One Thread

My dog has a lump the size of a hard baseball on his abdomen. The vet thinks it may be a hernia but she's not sure. She's going to call me after the surgery Monday to let me know what it is. I've been crying all day. What if it's cancer? How am I going to survive without my "baby"? The question: Honestly, am I being silly to be so emotional about this?

-- Amy T. (, June 17, 2000


Let me clarify....I have lost both my parents in the last two years so I've been through much worse than my dog possibly having cancer. I know I'll survive if worse came to worse but...

-- Amy T. (, June 17, 2000.

Of course it's not silly. I never understand when people give people a hard time, saying "It's only an animal." If it's an animal that you love, an animal that you have fed and cared for and yelled at and disciplined and hugged and petted and loved, why would you not also weep for him and dread his dying?

I haven't had an animal die awhile, but my cats are al getting older and older, and my little Milo has his kidney problems and he's getting skinny as hell and I can't even begin to think of his dying. Another cat of mine lived for several years with the problem, and I have decided that the same thing will happen with him. But sooner or later, he will die, as will the others, and the thought breaks my heart.

I hope so much for good news from the vet, Amy. Please let me know when you hear.

-- Kymm Zuckert (, June 17, 2000.

My little Rhubarb, the cat that I got when I was thirteen years old, died several days after my father's funeral in 1997, so I also understand the parent/pet thing. Mourning an animal doesn't negate mourning a person, it doesn't make it worth less.

-- Kymm Zuckert (, June 17, 2000.

Amy--It is never silly to cry over the possibility of losing someone or something you love. Pets become part of our lives and give us unconditional love. How can crying about the possible loss of that be silly? We lost our son in April and had to put one dog down in November and another in February (cancer for one and old age for the other). Just because it was a dog didn't mean it hurt.

(I don't know if you know, but UC Davis Vet School has a grief hotline for pet owners who have lost pets.)

I hope that it's something minor for your dog. They can do miraculous things nowadays. Don't give up hope.

-- Bev Sykes (, June 18, 2000.

Amy--I often said that it would kill me if something happened to my dog. That of course is a exaggeration, but not by much. I have fretted and worried over my "baby" like I would a child. I don't see how someone that you love, and that loves you, wouldn't worry you when they are ill. I wish the best for you and your dog.

-- Bill (, June 19, 2000.

absolutely not! it's not silly at all! you've got a very strong emotional attachment to your pet, as many people do, and now that something could be seriously wrong, you've got every right to be concerned and upset. i hope everything turns out well for you and your "baby"!

-- hez (, June 19, 2000.

Thank you all so, so much for your support. You don't know how much I really appreciate it. The vet just called, he didn't have a hernia it was his lymph nodes that were swollen that bad. We'll find out if it's cancer on Thursday. Thanks again everybody.

-- Amy T. (, June 19, 2000.

Fingers crossed for your dog there Amy. My spouse tries to get me to not stress to the crying stage until the news is actual, rather than during the waiting time. He says if it's bad news, then I'll feel bad enough then, I don't have to have to do it in advance, and if it's good news, then I wasted all that time feeling bad.

Of course, note I say "tries to get me".. I cry when I read journal entries about *other people's* sick animals! I don't think there's anything wrong with being concerned, not in the least, and again, double good luck and fingers crossed for you.


-- Amanda Page (, June 19, 2000.

Amy, hang in there, have been there a few times myself with our family members, Princess and Quintessa.Just find the strength to keep strong and whatever comes up, you will find the strength to handle it in the right way for your beloved pet. There is nothing like the love of your family friend, give him all your love and painful as it is if things don't work out, remember he will expect you to make the right choice for him. That's the true meaning of loving your family friend, we had to do that both times, but they know we did it out of love for them. But, this is the big part, don't give up, much can be done and more likely it will end up being nothing at all. Hang tight.

-- a.j.quinn (, June 19, 2000.

As everyone else has said: No, it's not silly. And I can empathize with the parent/pet thing too. First my dog and then my dad died on the weekend before Thanksgiving (in different years), so I always have a hard time around those days.

-- Stef (, June 19, 2000.

My thoughts to you, Amy. I lost my cat (as in, literally lost, he fell out the window and hasn't been seen since) last Tuesday, and I've been a wreck. All I can think is that he's my baby, and he's out there wandering around lost and hungry and scared.

And I'm moving in two weeks.

I hope your baby is okay.

-- Lisa Nichols (, June 20, 2000.

I'll chime in too and tell you it's not silly at all. I've got three dogs, aged 6, 4 and 1, and I can't even think about losing one of them without tearing up. They're our kids and I couldn't think of living without them.

I'll send good thoughts your doggies' way.


-- Colleen (, June 20, 2000.

Amy, there is nothing silly about crying for an ill pet. Last September I lost a kitten I had for only two weeks. She was a very sweet kitty and I fell in love with her instantly. I was looking forward to raising her and integrating her into my household. When she died from a freak accident, three weeks after my grandmother died, I couldn't stop the tears for days. Four days later my father was admitted to the hospital for an emergency angioplasty. The surgery went well, and he's fine now, but man, what a stressful time that was!

Currently I have four cats and I love them all, but the oldest, Noel, is especially dear to my heart. He'll be seven in October. I raised him from a 10-wk old kitten and while he looks tough and aloof, he's just a big ol' mama's boy. I don't want to even think about the (very far-off) day that he dies.

Amy, I'm sending out good thoughts for you and your dog.

-- Carol (, June 20, 2000.

Ditto to all the above replies, Amy.

We were at a friends house last night. The wife had just picked up their cat, Ernie, from the vet. She said 'Ernie's fine, but my wallet isn't looking so good'. She'd already had a whinge before collecting him. Geez, if it were a human, they wouldn't think twice about it...I can never understand these attitudes, and think that no matter how nice someone is, if they have that attitude toward animals, simply because they're "only" animals, that person cannot be trusted.

My best wishes to your doggie, Amy..I hope he'll come through with flying colors. Good luck.

-- jacqueline (, June 21, 2000.

This is very timely for me. As some of you know, I do foster care work for a local animal shelter ( and since April I'd been caring for a feral stray and her kittens. One of the kittens, Tux, began to fail at around five weeks: lethargic, bony all over except for a hugely bloated abdomen. I took her to my own vet at my own expense -- the shelter is staffed mostly with well-meaning volunteers and veterinary students, and I wanted to make sure Tux got the best care possible. At six weeks she still weighed less than a pound. She was wormed and put on Clavamox to fight off secondary infections; I took a lot of hope from the fact that she would battle me viciously every twelve hours while I tried to squirt antibiotics down her throat. At least she had the strength to kick me with her skinny black legs tipped with tiny white toes.

I also put her on Hill's a/h diet, since she didn't seem to be taking food and the mother's (Squeak's) milk flow was beginning to slack. Tux would only eat out of my hand, not out of the can, perhaps because it warmed the food up, perhaps because she wanted the companionship since she couldn't join in the rough-and-tumble play with her sisters. She spent a lot of time lying in her box on an electric hot pad heaped with a thick towel, but I also spied her occasionally batting a jingle bell (or my fresh navel piercing, if she were on my lap -- oh, the restraint I showed in not straight-arming her across the room), and she'd often come into the living room and cry until I picked her up. As Squeak nursed less often, Tux became more attached to me than her own mother.

Although she didn't seem to be getting any better, nor did she seem to be getting worse.

Last weekend, the kittens turned eight weeks old and I drove them up to Lynnwood two days ago to be spayed and placed in new homes. The vet there examined Tux and said that she almost certainly had FIP: Feline Infectious Peritonitis. There is no cure. It is invariably fatal. She showed me how Tux's gums were almost white with anemia, then explained that if it were worms plaguing her, her big tummy would feel firm, not sloshy, as it did.

I drove home and cried. I accientally left my pet carrier at the shelter and even forgot to say goodbye to Tux and the other kittens. I just walked out.

The next day I was away from my apartment in the early afternoon, and when I got home I had two messages. The first was from Ann, the foster care coordinator, saying that the vet had done a needle draw from Tux's belly fluid (although she called Tux "Turtle" because I had hung a silver sea turtle charm around her neck, for luck) and there was a good chance that it might not be FIP. (There is no definitive test for FIP, since the virus that causes it, coronavirus, is indistinguishable from its harmless form, carried by 25-40% of household cats. There are several symptoms associated with FIP that are usually enough for a vet to reliably diagnose it, though, one of which is examination of the abdominal fluid, which in FIP cats is "high in protein, yellow, viscous, froths when shaken and may clot when exposed to air", acc'ding to

I had approximately two seconds of hope. The very next message was Ann again, telling me she had just gone in to check on Tux and found her dead. "Mama was on top of her trying to keep her warm, but she was already gone," she said. "I have her little turtle charm here on my desk, and you can come pick it up."

Oh, but it gets so much worse.

Chances are the other kittens are all infected as well, since they shared litter boxes and food dishes with Tux, and nursed alongside her. The shelter is not going to adopt them out but keep them all under observation for the coming weeks. Or they may decide today in their staff meeting to simply euthanize the entire litter in order to keep the infection from spreading through the shelter.

So these tiny animals, who purred when I picked them up, slept in my bed, and liked to climb my flannel pajama pants and hang on as if by Velcro as I walked around the apartment, may all be dead next week. And I'm afraid to bring my own cat back here for the next 3-7 weeks, since that's how long the virus takes to completely leave the environment, so the place feels double empty. I thank god that Tova was such a bitch that I decided to lodge her temporarily at Wil's house so that she would stop beating on Squeak.

I spent Monday afternoon bleaching everything the kittens had slept on, sanitizing the boxes and bowls in the dishwasher, and throwing away all the ribbons and fur mice and things they used to play with. And you'd fucking better believe I cried the whole time. New tears for each mouse.

I'm sort of dispassionately viewing my stages of grief. Denial: this kitten's not really that sick. Anger: I kept her alive for two months and the shelter kills her in less than 24 hours? Did they keep her warm and feed her or just slam her in a fucking cage? And so forth.

What makes the loss of a pet different than that of a friend? Because animals are common? There's six billion human beings in the world. Because they can't speak and are incapable of higher reasoning? So are infants. Is weeping over the loss of a living thing that you fed and cared for and shared your home with something to be ashamed of? What is the alternative? Shrugging it off and going to the movies? What kind of an unfeeling asshole would you have to be?

The shrink I was seeing last year told me that I have a real problem with leaving myself open to be hurt: that I care for others over myself, that I put up with too much shit from people without pushing back, that I forgive too quickly. As gently as I could (because, you know, I'm so nice) I told him that this was a personality deficit that I didn't want to fix, because I would much rather err in this direction than in the opposite. Likewise, if sitting on the floor holding my head and crying "My poor little kitty," is a sign that I'm too emotional, well, I think that's far better than being incapable of love.

All the best to your little dog, Amy, and feel no shame in your tears.

-- Kim Rollins (, June 21, 2000.

Update: Harley has cancer of the blood vessels secondary to cancer in his heart or spleen. It's not good. It's already spread to his abdomen and who knows where else. Some of you asked for an update so here it is.

-- Amy T. (, June 26, 2000.

O dear, I'm so sorry Amy.

-- Kymm Zuckert (, June 26, 2000.

Amy, my heart goes out to you.

Last Friday I drove back to the shelter to visit with the remaining kittens and to see whether I could catch Ann, the foster care supervisor, in person, since she's been impossible to reach on the phone. I had her paged to the lobby and we talked about the babies' fate. She explained that they were under two pounds apiece when I'd brought them in, so they couldn't go under the spaying knife yet. The staff had decided not to euthanize the litter out of hand, but to instead let them gain weight until they were old enough to be anesthetized and then neuter them; apparently if a cat is destined to come down with FIP, the trauma of surgery will induce it. If they made it through the recovery period successfully, they would be adopted out.

I said more than once during this conversation, "If they're only being held here to gain weight, they could just as easily do that at my house," but she kept demurring and changing the subject. I wasn't sure if she were simply distracted or if there were some substantive reason why she couldn't or wouldn't entrust them to my care again. I didn't press the issue because I wasn't really certain if I wanted to take them back home and become increasingly attached only to risk losing them en masse. Finally I asked if I could see them and she said yes and directed me to the makeshift kitten sick ward.

It was a space about the size of a broom closet, with sixteen small cages closely stacked. In spite of the blazing sun outside, an electric heater was whirring away in the corner, emphasizing the stuffiness of the quarters and worsening the reek of feces and powerful disinfectant. In the cages were kittens with their back legs caked with diarrhea, kittens lying on their sides hyperventilating, kittens vomiting almost continuously. I knelt down to see my girls, unlatched the cage door to pet them, and Super Bon Bon, the silky black one, forced the gate open with skull-denting determination, fell out onto my lap, and purred hard enough to break bones. The others put their paws through the bars and cried. I kept having to stand up to let the vets and volunteers come through because there wasn't enough space on the floor for me to sit down when the door was opened. I held each of them for a bit and then left them behind me and drove off, blasting the stereo and trying not to think about them.

But I did think about them later, and finally on Saturday night I lay awake thinking of them in that cage, in that heat, in that stench. The following day I went to the Pride Parade on only a couple hours' sleep, had an okay time, but then drove straight up to Lynnwood, knowing that Ann wouldn't be in on a Sunday.

And I told the weekend shelter coordinator that Ann had asked me to take them home. Strolled out with a carrier full of stolen cats.

We got home around 3:30 and for the next five hours they did wind sprints across the living room floor and leapt into the air like trampoline artists, no trampoline required. Their pent-up energy was seemingly boundless. They all seem healthy and thrilled to be back, following me from room to room like goslings. Not sure what's going to happen now. Ann hasn't called me to find out what the hell's going on. I'm borrowing a postal scale from a friend and I'll probably call her when they're all chubby enough to get through the surgery. Then I may sneak in and swipe them again and hang on until my own vet is satisifed that they'll survive to adulthood.

It's not that I think the shelter is doing a bad job. The room is hot because it has to be -- the patients require warmth. The cats there aren't neglected and the cages are as clean as can be expected given the conditions that the animals they house are in -- a diarrhetic kitten's cage will look filthy an hour after it's been scrubbed white, I imagine. But if no one can authoratatively tell me that my kittens * have* to be there, then they won't be.

I almost never pull shit like this, this I-am-above-the-law shit. I don't know what's gotten into me.

-- Kim Rollins (, June 29, 2000.

I'm so glad that you stole them, Kim! Well, let's say "liberated". A home is always better than a hospital, if you're trying to get stronger.

-- Kymm Zuckert (, June 29, 2000.

OK I promise, one more post Kim and Kymm and then I'll shut the hell up. Harley had x-rays today and there is no sign of cancer anywhere! We have him in our lives for at least the next six months and possible the next 6 years. I'm so happy I'm bursting and just thought I'd share : )

-- Amy T. (, June 30, 2000.

Hooray! I can't even begin to tell you how pleased I am, Amy.

-- Kymm Zuckert (, June 30, 2000.

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