The Youth in Asia

Zack is walking with a wobble now. He is skin and bones. He eats little, drinks little. However, he does not seem to be in pain and loves to be held in my lap while he purrs and stretches out.

But, I know, the end of his life is not far.

My question is, do I end things for him now? Or, wait to see if he dies on his own? This question is torturing me, especially on those hopeful days when Zack walks slow circles around the kitchen or grows excited at dinnertime.

This weekend I caught the tail end of this piece being read by David Sedaris on NPR. He talks about the death of his cat, Neil, and I found the text in an article published in Esquire. The story also appears in his book, Me Talk Pretty One Day. I’ve selected the few sections that hit me particularly hard.

“I took her for a second opinion. Vet number two tested her blood and phoned me a few days later suggesting I consider euthanasia.

I hadn’t heard that word since childhood, and immediately recalled a mismatched pair of Japanese schoolboys standing alone in a deserted schoolyard. . .

The doctor’s voice called me back from the Japanese schoolyard. “So. The euthanasia,” he said. “Are you giving it some thought?”

“Yes,” I said. “As a matter of fact, I am.”

In the end, I returned to the animal hospital and had her put to sleep. When the vet injected the sodium pentobarbital, Neil fluttered her eyes, assumed a nap position, and died. My then-boyfriend stayed to make arrangements, and I ran outside to blubber beside the parked and, unfortunately, locked car. Neil had gotten into the car believing she would live to experience the return trip, and that tore me up. Someone had finally been naive enough to trust me, and I’d rewarded her with death. Racked by guilt, the Youth in Asia sat at their desks and wept bitter tears.

A week after putting her to sleep, I received Neil’s ashes in a forest-green can. She’d never expressed any great interest in the outdoors, so I scattered her remains on the carpet and then vacuumed them up. The cat’s death struck me as the end of an era. The end of my safe college life, the last of my thirty-inch waist, my faltering relationship with my first real boyfriend–I cried for it all and spent the next several months wondering why so few songs were written about cats.”

“The end of an era”. I understand this. Zack is 15. I was 25 when he joined my life. I knew it wouldn’t last forever, but I sure would love a few more years.


  1. Ack. Oh, honey, my heart breaks for you. While I think ending a sick animal, in many cases, gives them relief, I also think it brings relief and closure to the owner. But you’ll always think about that last day. If you can stick it out and it’s not breaking you in two every day, it’s OK to let him hang out at home until he’s ready to go. Consider what you are doing hospice.

    This is why I can only bear to have fish anymore…

  2. AnotherMomCreation says

    Oh, that is such a sad little story. If Zack is suffering terribly I would say let him go with some help fromt he vet. But otherwise if you can hack it, let him stay at home with you cradling him.

  3. Blog Antagonist says

    Poor Zach! Poor you! Putting a pet down is so hard, but it is a great kindness, one I wish that we could extend to our loved ones. We had to euthanize our cat Betsy two years ago. She was the BEST cat I ever had and it was so hard, but she was suffering and afraid (she experienced choking episodes) and I wanted her to die peacefully in the arms of someone she loved rather than choking to death alone in the middle of the night.

    Whatever you decide, I’m sure Zach will know how much you loved him.


  4. nuttnbunny says

    Beaming vibes of lifelong love to you and your Z. Whatever you do will be the right thing, ya know. 🙂

  5. Oh, I’m SORRY. One of my cats has suddenly become very, very old and it breaks my heart a little every time I realize it.

  6. suburbancorrespondent says

    Whew! I started this post thinking, for some reason, that Zack was your kid. Took me a few sentences to shift gears.

    Good luck with your kitty. Dave Sedaris said it best. They trust you so much, it’s so hard to choose to end their lives, even if they are suffering.

  7. I’m so sorry.

    Here’s a song about a cat that always touched my heart.

  8. sandy shoes says

    I understand, too.

    You’ll know when the time comes.

  9. Mrs. Chicky says

    My position on euthanasia has always been this: If your pet’s quality of life is greatly diminished, meaning he can’t really eat or drink, he eliminates on himself, and if your gut is telling you he will never get any better, it’s time to let go. However, it’s so hard to think rationally about it when you’re in the position you are and my heart breaks for your little kitty and for you guys.


  10. Having experienced both scenario’s within 6 months of each other, I found my heart was broken evenly each time. However, having Boots die at home was much less upsetting for me (of course, I’m not the one she died in front of – so hubby may have a slightly different opinion). I truly feel for you!

  11. Alex Elliot says

    I am so so sorry. I’ve been in that position before. I think that as pet owners we are in the unique position where we can actually take away the pain. You have to be ready, though.

  12. Ophelia Rising says

    I’m sorry.

    I just lost my older cat to illness. It’s really terrible and hard. Animals love you so unconditionally, that anything you decide will be okay. They know, somehow, that it is done in love.

    Take care, hang in there.

  13. I’m so sorry.
    I usually tell people that if your pet can’t eat, is in pain or vomits then it is time to help them with euthansia.
    However; we had a dog, Cinnamon Bear, that my husband of 10 years gave to me when we were in high school and I couldn’t bear to do it. I now know that I waited too long. It’s a terrible decision to have to make.
    Sorry again,
    Amber (sympathetic vet in NE)

  14. What a difficult decision. I am so sorry. Goodbyes are so hard.

  15. Wendy Hawksley says

    I understand what you are going through, and I wish you the best. It is a tough decision. If Zack is not eating or is suffering in anyway, consult the vet.

    My familiar died unexpectedly this year, and I know what it is like to lose a pet, both with planned euthanasia and suddenly. Either way is tough.

    But know that the decision to euthanize comes out of love, and the desire to see an end to suffering.

    You are in my thoughts.

  16. tis a sad day. while Zack never went out with us to the clubs when we were dancing or banging our heads or whatever nonsense we were up to, Zack was a definite constant, wandering around the house and purring up a storm.

    whatever you choose to do, you’ll be doing right by him, just remember – like a child, his needs come before yours.

    thoughts and prayers with you and the family.

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