NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: Thank you so much for your answer to the reader who asked how animals feel about being euthanized. I read it the day before my 17-year-old cat Oliver died, and your vision of animals in an afterlife helped me through the next days.
I adopted Oliver from the Humane Society as an 8-month-old kitten as my husband was dealing with alcoholism. Oliver and my three other cats slept with me, keeping me warm and comforted through a very long winter.
Oliver stoically accepted my new husband and his two brother cats with only a few disagreements. Oliver was the king of the household, and even in such a lively environment, the house seems strangely empty without him.
I knew he was dying when I read your column. The next day, he hid in the basement and I couldn’t find him, though he called out a few times. When my husband and sons came home, they did a more careful search and found him.
We brought him upstairs, put him on a soft blanket on a warm radiator. We all had a chance to pet him and talk to him before he died 15 minutes later. When my husband petted him, Oliver’s back legs pumped a little and we told the boys he was already in another world chasing mice.
Thank you for letting me write about my cat. The day after he died, I talked to my pastor, who had recently lost his beloved dog, and we agreed that God certainly brings our animals into that “life after life” that you mentioned in your column.
— D.W., St. Louis
Dear D.W.: Thanks for sharing your story about your beloved Oliver. Animals often go off to hide when they are close to dying. That is why it is important to keep an eye on dogs and cats who are terminally ill and might slip outdoors, since I have received a few letters from people whose aged animals have “disappeared,” leaving the family to wonder about their fate and to have no real closure. It is a comfort to pets, I believe, to spend their last breath surrounded by their loved ones.