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Last month, I was faced with a life-changing decision. Many of you reading this have likely experienced something very similar, and it gives me some comfort to know that you may share in my feelings of loss.

Very unexpectedly, my cat Madison became critically ill. For a week prior to this I noticed she seemed a little lethargic and was lying around quite a bit. I didn’t think much of it. I thought perhaps it was a side effect of some medicine she’d been given for ulcers—a problem she had fairly frequently.

I hadn’t seen her for most of the day, so I went to look for her. She was sitting at the top of the stairs with our other cat. I picked her up and brought her to the living room, where I noticed her breathing very deeply and with some difficulty. Each time I picked her up she uncharacteristically lay where she was. I started to panic. It wasn’t because she wasn’t acting like herself. It was because she was acting like my cat Smokey, who died while I was in college from organ failure after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

I called the vet and made her an appointment. After we arrived, they took x-rays, and the vet said her lungs were very “hazy.” We were referred to an emergency veterinarian hospital where I learned what I suspected. She had congestive heart failure. As soon as the vet told me her diagnosis I knew what it meant for her. I couldn’t contain my tears, but the vet told me that many pets can live with this disease for years before it becomes a real problem.

She was hospitalized. I spent the next hour driving back home, scared and upset. As the day went on the vet called me to update me on her condition and her blood tests showed she was doing even worse than I had previously imagined. But I still hoped maybe she would get well.

I went to bed and woke up the next day hearing from the vet in the morning. She wasn’t getting better. She also seemed to have some type of diabetic problem going on at the same time, and we expected she would need to see a cardiologist. My husband, son, and I drove the hour to see her.

As we visited with her, I knew that the chance she would get well was very low. The vet told me it wasn’t impossible, but unlikely as she was dehydrated, and he felt she would go into organ failure as she had gone downhill so quickly. She was even worse despite being hospitalized with round-the-clock care the next time I saw her.

So, I made the life-changing decision to have her euthanized.

I won’t go into details of what happened during the last moments of her life because it is too difficult to think about. But in that moment, I lost my baby. She was there for me during a deployment and my husband’s tour in Korea. She was my comfort when I felt alone. She would lie on my belly while I was pregnant, and it was so sweet to see her show me her love during a time that despite being joyous, was also difficult because my husband was gone and I was far away from my family.

For some people, pets are just animals. But she was a member of my family, and it’s been very hard without her around. I miss her sweet little meow and bothering me when I am making dinner. But I hope that she is in a better place, no longer feeling the pain she felt. And I hope I made the right decision for her in the end.

And for any of you going through something similar, I feel for you deeply.


  • Mary Spangler

    Mary was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. She currently lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, SFC Spangler, their two sons, and one cat. Previous duty stations include Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, Rivanna Station, Virginia, and Fort Shafter, Hawaii.


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The Days Are Long as a Milspouse

The Days Are Long as a Milspouse

If you’ve read any of my blog submissions on Mission Milspouse lately, you’ll likely see a pattern where I have been mostly writing about what I’ve learned being a military spouse for the past twenty years but in presented in slightly different ways. In addition to...

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