I have read countless posts and have experienced it myself for the first time in pet ownership with regards to not knowing how sick my pet was and how it seemed to come out of nowhere. And had felt the guilt of not being more in tuned to him and his symptoms. By the time Beau got his diagnosis of a mets cancer, it took one week from that diagnosis for me to decide it was time to set him free. The crazy part of it all is that he had been running off leash a week prior. But it went that quickly in the end. So it was an incomprehensible experience, to say the least. I also made the decision to free him before the worst of the cancer took hold. Cancer is very painful in the end and I did not want that for him. He was declining no doubt, but he wasn't on death door and I personally just didn't want him to be. Defining quality of life or lack of it, I believe, is different for every owner and their pet. And when "it's time" is a very personal and unique decision for each owner and each pet as well. I read up on a lot while grieving and came across some good articles about how and why our pets hide their pain. It gave me some new perspective. I though I'd share a few highlights of what I learned.

Animals in the wild instinctively hide their pain, so as not to look susceptible to becoming prey or to possibly endangering the pack. This has been passed down through generations and also onto our domesticated animals. We are, in essence, our pet's pack, they instinctively will and do hide what's going on from us, until they no longer can. It's unfortunately too late when the more obvious symptoms appear in some cases, as with Beau. But it is still an instinctual trait passed down. 

Beau showed "excitement" when driving to the Vet our last time and to set him free. It made me just sick to watch, as it made me question my decision, but what I was not seeing was a rally. What I was seeing was that he was operating on adrenaline at that point in time and if I had turned around and gone back home, he would of fell back into his cancer eating funk.

Pain does not mean the same to animals as it does to us. They feel it just like we do, but they learn to adapt to it, they modify their behavior, they aren't consumed with it, they learn to live with it, until they can no longer. Beau knew he didn't feel well, but he didn't know he had terminal cancer. That part was a blessing and I was happy to take on that agony for him.

In looking back, there were subtle changes in Beau, but I attributed them to him getting a little older. It never crossed my mind that he had an aggressive and widespread cancer. I was blown away by the diagnosis when first received. I had been taught over the years to look for the more obvious symptoms when assessing pain and never really taught to look for subtle changes and what they might mean.  I didn't take action until those obvious symptoms appeared and unfortunately for the both of us, it was too late. Whether it would have changed the outcome by knowing what those subtle changes meant, I'll never know. It was the way it was, he was acting on instinct, being his stoic self and I did the best I could for him with what was presented to us and what I knew at that time. We all do. 

Hope this helps some of you as it did me. 

Some other great resources I have found are and and many of Dr. Wallace Sife's articles. 

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I too have read many of these same ideas and understandings about our pets and how they face pain and death.  It is so true, each one of them lives within the moment, and therefore copes with pain, illness and discomfort differently than the two legged animals.  To them, it just is the way it is. . .  there is no attempt to 'compare' how I feel today with how I felt yesterday. . . 
 I can empathize and understand so well your experiences with Beau.  I too made the decision to release my girl before her disease[s] left her ravaged and not the personality she was.  
And I think this is perhaps one of the reasons why I still carry around a lot of second-guesses and guilt.  She may have rebounded this last time with some fluid therapy and a week within the vet hospital to monitor the fluid intake and tolerance, and then at least a month to have her back to her 'old self' but until when  . . .  the next time in another year? another 6 months? or perhaps the next month?  She had two very serious conditions that were ultimately terminal, as you and Beau faced with his cancer diagnosis.  I too as you, put down many of her 'changes' as becoming an 'older dog' who I knew had lived for 6 years on drugs and dealing with her condition. . . I don't think she had pain, but I think she was weary  . . .  her body inside was 'not healthy' and would never be . . . plus the multiple years of drugs also took its toll. . . 
I think like you as well, I try to take some comfort [not always succeeding though!] in sparing her from a further loss of her dignity and increased discomfort in life as her conditions worsened over time . . .
Thanks so much for all the good reminders and thoughts about grieving, and reminders about how our fur companions look at life so differently than we do. . . Perhaps that is one of the lessons they are destined to bring to us . . . Take care

I have looked at Beau's photos - and know I have mentioned before, but what a regal presence and stature!
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Hi Silvermini3,
This is so very true and so much like what I experienced with Bailey. I thought he was just getting old (slowing down) until he became so ill quite quickly and, like you, we had to let him go before he suffered any more.
Thanks for posting this!
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CKMP and Bailey15 - could I have bought some more time? Palliatively, maybe. But it would have required more subdural fluids, more nasty tasting meds, more abdominal fluid drainages, more trips to the vet, more being put under for an Ultrasound. I sat down and thought about what Beau would want, based on who he was. He got to the point where he hated going to the vet. When I picked him up from the US visit, he was completely out of it, urinating as he walked and would just crash til the next day. He was regurgitating and I could tell it tasted awful to him, he was having terrible diarrhea (meds no longer were working) that drove him nuts, vomiting water on occasion. It was time, based on who he was. He was worn out from it all. It became about him and not me. I have come to learn in my "old age" and based on many experiences throughout it, that life is not perfect. And there's a whole bunch we never planned for and have no control over. It was freeing to gain that insight. Do the best we can and find peace with that. Not saying I don't still grieve, I had a teary moment just today. But it was Beau's and my journey, although different than what was anticipated. He got really good care throughout his life and he was very unconditionally loved back. I'm glad it was me he chose. I loved him dearly and with my entire heart. 
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Here, again, is my poem I wrote for him. Read it as we spread some of his ashes around a tree at the farm he was born on. With some of his relatives on either side of me. 

From the first time I met you and had begun to love you,                            

I knew we both made the right choice.

We gave each other love; we gave each other care,

And never ending feelings of rejoice.


Our love grew in understanding over the years,

You placed your trust in me.

Our joys were each others, as were our struggles,

We served each other faithfully.                                                


Then I accepted my pain, to free you from yours,

When we bid each other farewell that day.

I freed you and with my last gift I could give you,

I sent you on your way.


You had fought hard, rest your body now,

My companion and my true friend.

This time of suffering you came to experience,

Has come to a peaceful end.


What you meant, what you taught me, each moment we shared,

Will always be cherished by me.

Life measures quality, not always length of time,

And you’re now a part of my history.


Your friendship spans the years behind,

Now your memory the years ahead.

And I know in my heart there will be that one day,

We shall walk side by side once again.


One day the smiles will replace the tears,

And I will no longer grieve.

For you’ll live in my memories, forever in my heart,

And I’ll accept it was your time to leave.

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CKMP, one of my biggest worries was Beau dying at home alone while I was at work. Death can come quick sometimes and I didn't want him being alone in that moment and moments leading up to it. So maybe you saved your girl from that experience too.
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Beautiful poem Silvermini!! I'm sure Beau is very proud.
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I agree with MJ - what a wonderful tribute to Beau.  

I had retired so I cannot say I saved my girl from being on her own with her sister .  . . I think I did save her as you did Beau, those moments of extreme discomfort and the struggle to keep the insides of her working. . . Her mind was so sharp, and she was so interested in everything and living life, that I just could not have her in the hospital, on IVs, taking drugs and losing control over herself which would have been inevitable with her diseases. . .  I almost lost her a year ago in March [2015] and am so so grateful for the year we had together - It was almost a year to the day in March that her body failed again . . . Maybe that year from March to March was the final gift she could give - we had a great one after she recovered. . .I just had hoped we had a few more of course we all do. . . 
I'd love to share her picture, but am still a bit 'hesitant' to - don't really know why . . . 
Thanks so much for thinking of her and her sister Silvermini.
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Thank you for your post. I think that the regret that in the end I could do nothing for my cat Myshkin--that in fact, until the last 48 hours, I couldn't even tell that anything was wrong--has made it so much worse. He hid his pain and sickness well enough that I thought that what I was seeing was normal variation in appetite, and that he had a hairball. Now, I realize he was feeling sick and perhaps in pain. Although I know that getting him to the vet's a week earlier would probably just have meant losing him a week earlier (because the damage would have been too great) I feel like such a failure as a pet parent not to have recognized what was going on and to have allowed him to suffer at all. He brought nothing but joy to me, and I let him hurt.

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Silvermini~  Thank you for your words of true knowing & love. Your poem is beautiful. Your words of understanding brought tears. Surprised myself. But it's because you've captured how I/we feel. Rationally we didn't want them to suffer anymore. But sometimes the pain of missing them is fierce.  Your love saved Beau from more pain. Hugs & Healing, Kasey
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I had to put my cat, Kate, to sleep about three and half weeks ago, just a week after learning that she was seriously ill. I keep blaming myself for not picking up on the small clues. I noticed that she only nibbled at her breakfast, but I thought she was just being picky, since she was still trying to steal the food that I gave to the foster kittens. I also noticed that her fur seemed matt, but I thought I had simply been too eager with the furminator. And of course, she might have seemed a little less herself, but I put that down to her being sad because my roomie had moved out and I was just sad myself, that I couldn't tell her that I was planning to get a new one in just a few months.
Now, after the fact, it just screams at me, that something was wrong, but I was oblivious at the time. Maybe I was distracted by the fosterkittens or maybe it was just that I never imagined that my beloved and always strong and healthy kitty could be ill.

I called and talked to the vet today. I was hoping that maybe he could give me some assurance. When it all happened, I didn't want to hear the word cancer, but now it would be easier if I could round it up to that. He was honest with me and told me that there were certainly signs pointing that way, but we couldn't be sure. He couldn't even be 100% sure that nothing could have been done for her. But he was absolutely sure that it had been the right decision to spare Kate more tests and being hospitalized and feed through a tube and sedated every day.
He was very kind and patient with me and told me that he understood how hard it was to make a decision without having an answer, something to point to as a reason. But that she had already been put through a lot, trying to find a way to help her and if we continued it wouldn't have been for her sake.
He also said that I knew I had loved had loved her and taken good care of her and that was why it was so difficult. I had lost a member of my family. He finished by saying that I should take good care of myself and that I could always call if I had more questions or thought of something else.
I suppose in the end, talking to him helped remove a little of my doubt. But I still miss her so much.
“I meant," said Ipslore bitterly, "what is there in this world that truly makes living worthwhile?"
Death thought about it. CATS, he said eventually. CATS ARE NICE.”
― Terry Pratchett, Sourcery
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BXV221 - if we had known different, we would have done different as far as seeing the subtle symptoms. We're not physicians and even they don't know about everything medically. Sometimes they have to rule out or based on experience, go on a hunch. But Beau's was also a terminal situation, prolonging a life without much quality would have been the only choice. Who wants that. This forum consists of some of the most compassionate humans "I've ever met". But we are so hard on ourselves with the doubted care we gave. We all went beyond though. Your Vet sounds very compassionate and reassuring that you did the right thing. My Vet, sensing my guilt and uncertainty about an unconfirmed diagnosis, sent me a heartfelt and sincere card to confirm her thoughts and my decision being the right thing for him.  And what I saw in Beau told me that it wasn't a good situation at all and was getting worse, even without a confirmed diagnosis. We did the right thing, BXV221. We did the right thing.
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Absolutely beautiful story and tribute to your beloved Beau. I know exactly how you feel. My Kipper was so sick but he hid his pain and suffering from me. He tried to show me subtle signs that he was going, though I was too foolish to see. Like you, I thought it was age. Too soon, God took him home while I was asleep one night. The next morning I woke to find my precious and so loved little baby dead. I cried, I screamed, I became mad, I was lost. I still am. Though, God and Kipper both speak to my heart and reassure me that everything is okay. I hear my Kipper's bark in my heart as if he is telling me he loves and misses me. God knows I love and miss him. I know in my heart someday we will be reunited in happiness together forever in God's eternal kingdom. My heart, love, and prayers are with you.
In lobing memory of your Beau and my Kipper.

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