Dear Cooper, I Failed You

Dear Cooper,

I failed you.

I met you the day you ended up in a kennel at animal control on January 14, 2020. Your owner had died and no one in the family wanted you, so behind bars you went. I committed to rescuing you on the spot and sat in my car in the parking lot, plastering your face and information all over social media and begging for a foster home.

You were small, old, slow. An innocent and goofy 14-year old. You would have gotten along with anyone and anything. The only thing you wanted was to nuzzle your fuzzy head and body against someone so they would pet you and never stop. I don’t know why I couldn’t find someone for you. I came to visit you two more times, promising that you would be going home any day now. You didn’t.

January 22, 2020 came after taking 8 days to find a foster home. I got a frantic call at 11am from animal control that they went to get you out of the kennel for my foster and found you close to paralyzed. The foster wasn’t able to take you in your condition and they had to leave. Animal control told me that they wouldn’t provide vet care and would euthanize you. So, I scrambled to find you a last minute vet appointment and a ride to it.

I met you at the vet and watched them poke and prod and test you as you looked at me with terrified eyes. I knew that you’d come home with me. I would figure out where you’d eat and sleep when I got home and we’d learn together how you’d manage life and recover as a paraplegic. I wasn’t prepared for the prognosis to be fatal: you most likely suffered a fibrocartilaginous embolism – a spinal stroke – that left 3 out of 4 of your legs completely useless. You showed no pain response which meant that pain medications and steroids would be useless. You’d have no quality of life. I tried searching for ways to keep you with me. Asked about X-rays, tests, medications, recovery, therapy. I asked if I should take you home at least for the night so you got to experience love for a few hours. But the answer was no – you’d suffer.

I failed you. I couldn’t find a place for you to call home. I had to leave you in a kennel confused, heartbroken, scared, for 8 whole days. The kennel staff told me you got more and more stressed as each day passed. I promise that you didn’t leave my mind for a second.

Strokes aren’t rare in senior animals and can happen at random, I understand that. But, could your growing stress have triggered it? Maybe. If you had gotten into a home and into a vet days sooner, could they have uncovered and started treating an underlying medical condition that could have contributed to the event? Maybe. If you were in a home and still had that stroke, would you be completely alone with no one to hear you scream in pain as it happened? No. Would you be waiting for someone to find you or notice you’d been paralyzed from 5pm at night until 11am the next day? Absolutely not.

I should have figured out a way to take you home myself when my pleas for help went unanswered. I should have planned to make you mine before you were dying in my arms. I wish that so many things went the slightest bit differently so that maybe you’d be here with me. But I have to live with the fact that you’re not. And that I feel like it’s my fault.

I will continue fighting for you and keeping your memory alive, Cooper. I will do so through the other senior cats and dogs languishing at shelters. I will share how just 8 days can ruin a fragile senior pet and leave them without even a minute or two to experience a home with love. I will tell owners over and over again to make a plan for their pets if they or their loved ones die so they don’t end up in a pound like you. I will stress the importance of foster homes and how they truly do save lives. I will never stop fighting to prove that senior pets deserve to be saved, cherished, and given a death with dignity whenever that may come.

I will love you forever.

Learn how to make a plan for your pet if you become unable to care for them.

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