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The Death of a (Furry) Loved One

Discussing treatment options and quality-of-life care; getting hugs from a social worker; regular check-ins from a medical expert: You'd hope this was the case when anyone you love is nearing the end of his or her life. But you might be shocked to hear that this particular patient has four legs and a penchant for purring. After all, it seems rather cushy for a cat to get more attentive care than most people.

In a recent blog for the NY Times, a writer explores why the death of her pet was handled with more compassion than when her mother died more than two decades before. From the overcrowded hospital where a curtain separated the the writer's dying mother from an unhinged, screaming patient, to a doctor coldly (yet accurately) warning her that a common aftereffect of spousal death is a heart attack in the husband, readers are reminded how emotionally disarming a visit to the (human) hospital can be.

Certainly the effort to improve health care in America is a hotly debated undertaking that crowds our national headlines, but how was it that the cat's death brought about the humanism that should accompany the end of a person's life?

The conclusion the blogger comes to is that people fight against the natural order of death to the point where one goes through the motions with a certain detachment, yet we allow ourselves to accept the passing of a pet as, quite simply, the circle of life.

"Humans spend so much time railing against the idea of dying, or pretending that it doesn't exist, or dreaming of eternal youth, or wishing to prolong our lives — and maybe it's that fighting that made the death of my parents feel unbearable and inhumane, and made the death of my cat seem exceptionally human," the blogger writes.

Image via Thinkstock.

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