Monday, February 21, 2011

The Decision

Noelle had been living at our house for two months when we were confronted with the realization that a decision had to be made.
For two months, she was stuck in limbo at our house. She couldn't go up for adoption - too many special requirements, besides which, we couldn't spay her as we were sure she wouldn't survive the surgery. We couldn't have her free range, for fear of her having something contagious and contaminating our boys. Rabbit Rescue didn't take her. She was stuck in my storage room, situation unchanging - yes, getting love and treats, but going nowhere. She would improve in fits and bursts and then fall back to the way she was before - not worsening but never getting better.
We continued like that for two months before one day last week, when my mom called me into the room.
"Is she...dead?" She asked, and for a minute, I thought she was. Noelle was lying on her side, unmoving. As soon as she saw me, however, she flailed wildly, and it became apparent that she had fallen and simply couldn't get up.
I helped her up and she slid back down. After a few more tries, she regained her balance and got busily to eating, as she always did.
I looked at her for a moment, and then I made the decision. I called the shelter and scheduled her for euthanasia. 
It is strange to play god like that. I've never authorized a euthanasia (for pet or foster) that wasn't in the face of inevitable, impending death. Noelle probably could've lived months longer, maybe even more than that, in the state she was in. I, personally, never sentenced an animal to death that wasn't about to die anyway.
I was prepared for a moral quandry but to my surprise, it didn't bother me. I'm confident it was the right decision. 
She still had a will to live, and I don't think she was ready to let go herself - I think Noelle would've kept fighting tooth and nail until the moment of death. But that wouldn't have been fair, to me, to my animals, to other animals who might need foster and most importantly, to Noelle herself. She deserved a dignified death, while she could still stand and enjoy life at least. While she could still appreciate the finer things like extra treats and a good brushing and being scratched behind the ears.
If she could talk, would she agree? I don't know. Unfortunately for everyone, they can't talk, and so as their guardians we have to make these decisions and hope they turn out as well as possible. 
I don't know if Noelle would've agreed with my decision, but I do know this is one of the few times I have made a decision like this and felt no guilt. We gave Noelle a chance - more of a chance than she would normally get in the rescue world. For all we know, she was ancient. Or just beyond our help.
I went with her for the euthanization. I stayed with her and she leaned against me, and I stroked her, and that was all.
We went into this situation with a very faint hope. I knew from the beginning it might just be palliative care. I hope she is at peace now, and I hope she enjoyed her two months with us - I know we did.
We always talk at the shelter about upgrades - a new home doesn't have to be perfect, as long as it's an upgrade on their last situation.
This was an upgrade. Noelle did not die in a cardboard box. She didn't freeze to death on Bloor, lying in rotten food, as her last owners apparently intended. She died painlessly, cradled in loving hands, after two months of love and the best care we could give. For her last few days, she even got to eat whatever she wanted - potato chips, peanut butter, an entire salad.
This was a victory. It's not the prettiest or most glorious victory, not one to advertise, but in the end, it was a victory over the scum who dumped her. And sometimes in rescue, you take what you can get. 


Anonymous said...


gracerock said...

Oh Noelle... :(

You know that I loved Noelle, and we were all set to take her in when she needed help. I'm glad you stepped up to take her instead as it sounds like she got amazing care from you in her final months. I'm not sure we could have cared for her as well, nor would I have been able to let her go. Such a gorgeous bunny, and such a sad, sad end to her life. I'm oddly sad about her, even though we never met :(

RIP Noelle. I didn't know you, but I loved you anyway.

Anonymous said...

When I visited the shelter and saw Noelle, she could barely walk and seemed in pain. You were so kind and loving to take her in at Christmas time and give her a chance to live an extra two months. She was so happy to be with you that she started to hop and run around as best that she could, (the video you posted was touching.) I know that you cared about her very much. She was obviously elderly or sick, probably in pain. You did the right thing. RIP angel Noelle.

Kristin said...

I am so sorry to hear about Noelle. You did all you could. My 13 year old Jack had a stroke three weeks ago and we had no choice but to do what we had to do. Thank you for your post - I am heartbroken but don't feel any guilt, something I am completely grateful for. And it is something that I didn't realize until I read your words. So thank you. To have that to hold onto right now is everything.

Laura HP said...

Everyone's leaving such nice comments! I think that's really great, you know - she was left behind like garbage, but look, she got a dignified death and made an impact on people.
Grace, I know you would have given her a great foster home, but I am glad we didn't put you through that in the end!

Kristin - I am so sorry to hear about your Jack! I'm glad what I wrote helped, I know it can be devestating to lose an animal after sharing your life with them for so long. He was lucky to have had such a loving owner.

Roni said...

That is such a heroic deed... I am sure Noelle is very thankful. I am so weak too when it comes to my pets getting sick or ill... I have rabbit pets and it always makes me feel nervous checking the rabbit hutches every morning considering the short life span of rabbit. It is really a pain to set something special go so soon.