I had to put my 16 year old cat down today. The vet said she was too sick to even treat: her body had started shutting down and she was basically starving to death. They didn't even want to do tests, saying it was pointless since even if the pinpointed the cause, there was nothing they could do. So I made the decision to let her go.
Dale was with me. He had really wanted to come to the vet with me: "But you always take me to the vet, Mommy!" I didn't expect that we'd be putting Raven down so I said he could come along.
So I ended up having to give him an impromptu lesson on euthanasia. Dale knows that when you die, you don't come back: we had that conversation when he was in his "running across the street without looking" stage. And he knows what killing is, as we've had the "what is war?" conversation. But I didn't want him to think they (the vet and her staff) were "killing" Raven. I explained that they was giving Raven something to ease her pain and that she wasn't coming home. He asked when she would be able to come home. I had to say that she was never coming home, that hey were helping her to go to Heaven so she'd never suffer again. He thought about this and asked "Is Raven dying?"
"Yes," I told him. "She's too sick, there's nothing they can give her to make her better."
He was quiet for a moment, then asked "Can we get another cat and call her Raven too?"
"One day, not right now," I told him.
I wanted to be with Raven until the end, so the vet tech got some coloring stuff for Dale and he drew a picture while they gave Raven the injection. She went peacefully. I bawled the entire time. This cat has been my buddy for 15 years.
We're getting her cremated so she can come home. "Can we bury her in a cemetery like in Halloween?" Dale asked. I told him when we get Raven's ashes, we will have a little celebration for her and put her in the yard. Then Dale asked about Heaven...and I explained that to him. I stressed that Raven is happy and not suffering and has all the food she could want and is in a better place and we would see her again one day...but that we never rush to get to Heaven--we take our time and live our whole lives first. I told him Raven was really old in cat years and she's lived for two cats.
Dale took it all rather well...I wish he hadn't been there though, because I didn't want his first pet loss to be like this. But it was just a matter of time, I guess...our other cat Sushi (a.k.a. the Holstein) is also 16. She's in better shape than Raven was but she's also living on borrowed time.
I feel pretty miserable right now. I'm going to miss the old girl.