Thoughts on Euthanasia — In a Cat.

August 14, 2009 at 2:15 am (By Amba) (, , , )

(an essay in thirteen tweets — first to last for easy reading)

  1. Thoughts on euthanasia–in a cat: more I think abt, more I don’t like this “sedate first” protocol. It’s not for the animal, it’s CYA 4 vet.
  2. Vet is worried abt havg trouble shaving/finding a vein on a sick, dehydrated animal, causing the animal & thus the owner visible distress.
  3. Understandable, but a lack of skill & confidence. I’ve seen good vets w/good touch simply inject euthanasia solution. Instantaneous painless
  4. Sedation shot defeats its own purpose: 1) it’s ketamine or another “dissociative” maybe plus valium. We don’t kno what animal experiences.
  5. Vet sd to me “he won’t experience anything.” oh yeah? then why some vets trip on ketamine?? cd be MORE scary exp., but OK ’cause paralyzed!
  6. In other words, if the owner can’t SEE the distress it doesn’t exist. Bullshit! 2) Sed.shot hurts like hell! Has “salts” in it that sting.
  7. Max’d been calm; at “sedative” shot he growled, tried to bite. Giving fluids under skin w/needle never hurt like that-kinda defeats purpose!
  8. Bottom line: really skilled & confident vet wd just DO it & animal wd respond to some vets’ trust-inspiring touch & phlebotomist-like skill.
  9. I’ve seen it! I had vet friends that good. One is dead & one is semiretired in SC They’d even shoot euthanasia sol. directly into heart-best
  10. I did that once myself, on a cat so emaciated I could feel her heart between her ribs & couldn’t miss.
  11. Discussion w/young vet: “We gotta go through it all the way to the end. They don’t.” We can understand & maybe must learn, right up to death
  12. Animals often die with a beautiful stoicism & appearance of understanding. But I’ve seen 2 struggle to run away as if death were a predator.
  13. Death just seems wrong. Very puzzling: how can something that always wins be wrong?? Are we wrong?


  1. Ron said,

    Isn’t it puzzling that nature created us as an entity that very actively does not want to die — but knows it will anyway! Design Flaw or Feature?

    If the argument from design is true, then whom do I sue?

  2. Maxwell said,

    Death is the New York Yankees of life.

  3. amba12 said,

    Yeah! With its huge budget and obnoxious attitude . . .

  4. realpc said,

    I am sorry if Max’s death was not peaceful. I actually have never seen a person or animal die, but I guess I’ve heard it can be peaceful.

  5. Ennui said,

    Animals often die with a beautiful stoicism & appearance of understanding. But I’ve seen 2 struggle to run away as if death were a predator.

    I tend towards the “struggle” theory. I’ve seen one cat die and one human being die (my grandmother). Both fought it like the devil. This (I know, it’s an N of 2) leads me to believe that nothing on this planet really wants to die. Even suicides don’t want to die. They want to be dead. Which is completely different.

    “One wants to live, of course, indeed one only stays alive by virtue of the fear of death, but I think now, as I thought then, that it’s better to die violently and not too old.”


  6. amba12 said,

    one only stays alive by virtue of the fear of death

    Don’t agree with him there; he must’ve been depressed. You can lie awake sometimes at night and feel every cell seething, exulting in being alive. A feeling that’s billions of years old.

  7. Ennui said,

    he must’ve been depressed He was English. But we repeat ourselves.*

    Gallows humor.

    * It’s from the essay “How the Poor Die,” which I may have seen alluded to here first (I can’t remember).

  8. Ennui said,

    I might also add: Orwell places death at home as a close second to a violent death. But, truth to tell, when I saw it happen (death at home), it was wrenching – the person dying suffered in a way I know I’ve never suffered.

    No getting around that in my little mind. No getting around it at all.

    I hope I’m wrong. Very much.

  9. amba12 said,

    For what it’s worth, I think deaths vary a lot. I’ve seen lots of cat deaths and only one human death (though I’ve seen other humans near death). I’m guessing, partly from hearsay and reading, that human deaths can range from peaceful to agonizing, from don’t-know-what-hit-you instantaneous to protracted struggle, and everything in between.

    Luck of the draw?

  10. Ennui said,

    Maybe so. I do remember reading that James Madison’s last words were “Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear” (as reported here, at least).

    These lists of last words are always interesting to me (with the obvious proviso that reports of “last words” would seem to be particularly subject to fudging for all kinds of reasons).

    My favorite at that site is James Thurbers’ – “God Bless … God Damn.” That pretty much covers it.

  11. amba12 said,

    I like those too — for whatever glimpse over the edge — and my all-time favorite is boxer Max Baer:

    “Oh God, here I go!”

  12. Ennui said,

    And for a six degrees of Kevin Bacon moment, my great-grandfather, who was a fight referee in the four corners area starting, I guess, from the twenties, was friends with Max Baer – as we discovered when my grandfather and dad reacted negatively to the portrayal of Max Baer in “Cinderella Man.” The old man also knew Jack Dempsey and, somehow or another, Clark Gable (I think Clark Gable was making a movie in Durango – Art probably met him in a bar, drinking being something more than a hobby with him, as I understand it). My dad tells me that his granddad introduced him to Dempsey and Clark Gable. This would have had to be the forties or fifties.

    On this score, it occurs to me that the world used to be smaller. I mean, on the one hand, you (one, I) can correspond directly with someone like you or R.F. Laird. On the other hand, we’re not likely to shoot the shit in a night of whiskey drinking in a Durango bar.

    To get back to the point … it almost seems as though the tougher you are, the harder death is. Dempsey’s last words were apparently “Don’t worry honey, I’m too mean to die.” Read his wikipedia entry (especially the account of the fight against Jess Willard) and you’d almost agree.

    In a very limited sense, I guess Larkin has the last word – death is no different whined at than withstood. Even as I typed that I was thinking, Larkin was a pansy. And I like Larkin.

  13. amba12 said,

    Larkin was one tough pansy.


    The Trees

    The trees are coming into leaf
    Like something almost being said;
    The recent buds relax and spread,
    Their greenness is a kind of grief.

    Is it that they are born again
    And we grow old? No, they die too.
    Their yearly trick of looking new
    Is written down in rings of grain.

    Yet still the unresting castles thresh
    In fullgrown thickness every May.
    Last year is dead, they seem to say,
    Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.


    And to close the circle, as a young boxer J fought in a Jack Dempsey tournament in Toronto. He met Dempsey — we have a picture of them together — and Dempsey gave him a pair of shoes, which were too small.

  14. amba12 said,

    We also have a picture of J on a drive through Colorado with my brother and me, standing by the sign that says “Manassa, Colorado, birthplace of Jack Dempsey” — the Manassa Mauler.

  15. Ennui said,

    Man, Amba, I had forgotten Jacques role in the fight game. He knew Dempsey! Wow! What was his impression? My dad’s main impression, as a little kid, was how big and gnarled his hands were. I’ll bet they were big and gnarled. One tough human being.

    Regarding Larkin, I’m thinking of Aubade. While I like that poem enough to have memorized it at one point – it’s still … there’s something sick about it. The bit about “Courage means not scaring others” and so forth. It may be that the poem nails the inexorable reality of death, but there are some things that man shouldn’t know – in order to be man, if you follow my drift (man in the old generic sense – my grandmother was the toughest human being I ever met and she would not have cottoned to the notion that death was “no different whined at than withstood”.

    I dunno. I’m probably all wet on this – but there’s too much of the comfortable librarian in Larkin. He’s above it all. He sees renewal in the process. But the process doesn’t live, triumph, suffer and die. Individual’s (of whatever kind) do. This is why he finds himself asking if it all meant anything

    And what’s the profit? Only that, in time,

    We half-identify the blind impress

    All our behavings bear, may trace it home.

    But to confess,

    On that green evening when our death begins,

    Just what it was, is hardly satisfying,

    Since it applied only to one man once,

    And that one dying.

    On the other hand, the poem you cited may answer one of your questions (or give the only possible answer for a non-theist). Question number 13, as it happens:

    Death just seems wrong. Very puzzling: how can something that always wins be wrong?? Are we wrong?

    We are not wrong to want to exist, Larkin (I think) would say, but we are wrong to think that we are final or complete.

  16. amba12 said,

    Wow! I just went to read “Aubade” again and the word “unresting” hit me between the eyes — the trees are unresting and death is unresting! The turnover and the renewal itself is unrelenting and inseparable from death. As in Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium,” biological renewal, as you age, just means you’re going to get pushed out of the game. I had some fun with that idea ten years or so ago.

    That death feels so wrong, like such an affront, is the reason why people become theists. Or strive for enlightenment. That biological life is not the only life really resonates with us. When you say “But death is wrong,” Christianity says, “You’re right!” Islam (at least the Khomeini version) says, “Life is death. Death is life.” Judaism says . . . what? “Oy vey!” Buddhism points out that reality is unsatisfactory (dukkha) and illusory (maya) and finds nonbiological life in a disidentification with any particular life, in pure consciousness.

    I must be Jewish. Oy vey!

  17. amba12 said,

    Larkin is a master of the delineation of dukkha; that’s why I call him a tough pansy — he faces up to bleakness. But he doesn’t face it down. That may be what’s bothering you about him. It makes no difference whether you whine or withstand? Oh yes it does! I know Dylan Thomas was young when he wrote “Do not go gentle.” Ironically, Larkin outlived him by, what? Thomas was 39, Larkin was . . . oh lovely! My age. 24 years.

  18. amba12 said,

    But he does face it down by nailing things in words:

    An only life can take so long to climb
    Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never:

    * * *
    Religion used to try,
    That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
    Created to pretend we never die,

  19. amba12 said,

    There’s a paradoxical exhilaration — and immortality — in how keenly he says these dreary and grisly things.

  20. Ennui said,

    I’ve never really read any scholarly criticism of Larkin (well, okay, I read the Richard Rorty book “Contigency, Irony and Solidarity,” which includes a reading of a Larkin poem – but he had his own fish to fry, so to speak). However, a couple of years ago I did a bit of googling re: Aubade and was surprised to find that a lot of regular people felt that the last lines,

    The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
    Work has to be done.
    Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

    were something of a letdown. I disagree. Setting aside the big picture of Larkin’s grappling with death (I think you’re right about the Buddhist flavor of his outlook), a major assertion of this poem is the capacity of “people or drink” to ameliorate, if not the problem of death, at least the problem of thinking about death.

    Larkin’s postmen are, on this score, the reverse compliment of Melville’s Dead Letter Office, applying mustard plasters and palliative care to the soul, which sounds a lot like what Buddhism aims at, in my understanding (or misunderstanding – what little I know about Buddhism I read in Nietzsche – probably not a solid source on the subject).

    Anyway, I think the poem ends perfectly.

    And, again, there’s always Churchgoing, itself not irrelevant to the discussion. Regular pansy or tough pansy, the man could write a poem.

  21. amba12 said,

    Anyway, I think the poem ends perfectly.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: