Why is it that, even when we know death is coming, we're still not ready to lose the one we love?
We had to make The Decision -- the one all pet owners are aware of and dread -- today, for Theodore. This boy has had a really interesting life (and we're sure we didn't know the half of it!). He was found, running the streets of Savannah, GA by a gal by the name of Melanie. Her friend Julie had a ferret that wasn't doing well after losing a companion ferret. Julie took this friendly, curious boy in and named him "Snaps". He was a great comfort to his new ferret friend, Ginger until she passed on and joined her ferret companion Fred.
Julie knew she couldn't adopt again, but he deserved a chance to play and have much more ferret fun. So she made a different tough decision: to give Snaps a home with more ferrets.
That's where we came into this amazing boy's life. I remember the day I met him -- he almost lept from Julie's hands, he was so excited to meet new people! And he's always been like that. What surprised us most was that he bonded with Maya, our first re-homed ferret who'd been brought to our vet's office, having been found wandering the streets of Savannah. It seemed they either knew each other or were able to communicate to each other about their free-range lives before us.
When we lost Maya so suddenly on my birthday in 2007, I thought for sure we'd lose Theo soon after that. We all spent a lot of time with him, cuddling him and making sure he knew how loved he was. He pulled through her loss.
Then, he started having seizures and my research told me he had insulinoma. This meant we had to make sure his blood sugar didn't drop too low and be ready to treat a seizure with a little Karo syrup rubbed on his gums. The seizures were terrifying. A couple of them were so bad, I wondered if The Decision was close at hand. But each time, he pulled out of it and was back to his bouncy, playful self.
Oh, he was older. And it showed in the less frequent playful periods, but when he played, he played. And when he slept, he was so sacked out, he'd sleep himself into a crash. So, our vet said to wake him and feed him "gushy food" (usually a mix of Gerber baby food and feline a/d) to prevent the crashes.
Then, earlier this year, I noticed a knot or a lump on his belly, near his penis. I was worried his "boy mechanics" were being tied up and causing problems, so we took him in to see Dr. Funk again. Without anesthesia and surgery, he said it would be hard to be sure, but he felt confident it wasn't interferring with the internals much. It grew rapidly -- I mean scary-fast. Today, after he was gone and there was just a body there, I felt around and it was about the size of a large walnut or bigger.
I think all pet owners question all their decisions when there's no clear-cut right or wrong to follow. We work from our hearts and from what we believe we can read in the eyes of our beloved pets. I chose, with Randy's agreement, those several months back, not to pursue removal of the tumor because it would require anesthesia. My reading and the knowledge of vets past and present has led me to believe that the older ferrets just don't do as well coming out of surgery. Something about the anesthesia just messes them up and some just fade away. So, we decided to pass on the surgery and give him as many love and treat filled months as we could.
That came to an end today. We're not sure exactly what changed, but Randy found him huddled up in a corner yesterday weaker than a new-born kit. With supportive care, he curled up for sleep. Sixteen hours later, he still had little to no mobility. Holding him, he was constantly shivering/shuddering. And his eyes, normally bright and attentive, seemed glassy with pain to me.
We scheduled with Dr. Funk and this tough street-smart ferret hung on, even in pain. When he was gone, it was just like a light had left the body and the shell was dark. We brought his body home to let all the ferrets say their good-byes. It's a step which is so important to our pets. Considering how social ferrets are, I believe it would have been cruel to not bring Theo's body home for this good-bye.
Once the good-byes were all said, we returned to the vet's to give over Theo's body for cremation. It's a private cremation, so we'll have his remains back with us soon.
Theodore will be joining his first companion, Ginger, his second companion Maya and other cage=mates Elijah, Octavia and Zoë. Theodore never knew Kittanning and Maxwell, but they'll be there to greet you. Remember Nana's Wheezy and Mousey and Huskers, too! You'll have so many friends -- remember Heinlein-kitty? -- just have fun and we'll see each other again, someday.