A Guardian’s Goodbye
When we think of being Guardians we usually focus on the advantages that the language has for our animal companions. We rarely consider that Guardianship is a two-way street and that it can also have a profound effect on our own lives as well.
This point cannot be made more clearly than when the time comes to say goodbye to our loving friends. Whether from illness or natural causes, the passing of our companions can be one of the most excruciating moments that we experience in our relationship with them. Remembering what it means to be a Guardian can be a great comfort during that challenging time. It was for me. [singlepic id=226 w=320 h=240 float=right]
Two weeks ago, I said goodbye to my cat and dear friend, Cody. Cody was beside me through twenty years of many of my life’s ups and downs: the passing of both my parents, my first marriage, the dissolution of that marriage, finding love again and raising two children.
I didn’t expect to say goodbye to Cody on that day. I didn’t realize it was the day that lung cancer had come to claim him. We thought we had six months to get used to the idea of “goodbye,” but six hours later my husband and I found ourselves back at the emergency hospital. As they were stabilizing Cody, I sat in the lobby feeling a suffocating vise-like sensation in my chest as we listened to the doctor tell us our options – the chance of prolonging Cody’s life through invasive measures or euthanizing him.
Stunned and saddened, the last thing we wanted in the world was to say good-bye. Twenty years was not enough but fifty years wouldn’t be either. The time had come to make a difficult decision. But how to decide what was best for him? It was in this moment that remembering I was Cody’s Guardian brought me clarity and provided me with much needed comfort.
As Guardians we are here to protect, watch over and to do what is best for our animal friends. And although our lives cross in friendship and in love, we also understand that animals have unique needs of their own and a purpose to fulfill that is independent of ours. I thought of the beautiful words in the Guardian Credo, “we have a responsibility, as guardians of our animal companions, to ensure that their physical and emotional needs are met, and that our commitment to them is a commitment for life,” and in remembering those words, it became very clear to me what we needed to do.
I turned to my husband and the look in his eye told me that the same tape had been playing in his head. We both wanted what was best for Cody and didn’t want to prolong his suffering needlessly. When we put Cody’s needs ahead of ours and allowed that criteria instead of our own pain to guide us, it became clear that it was time to say goodbye.
A few minutes later Ken and I held hands with each other and paws with Cody. We thanked him for all the love, joy and the many memories he gave us throughout his life. I took him in my arms, holding him close to my heart, as the doctor administered the injection and held him there until his spirit left his body.
He was our friend and we were his Guardians.
Carlyn Montes De Oca
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