Considering end-of-life decisions for pets

It's a moment that every pet owner dreads: facing the decision to end the life of your faithful companion.

In my own house we have made wrenching decisions to prolong the life of some pets that were - in hindsight - ill-advised. In one case, Ambrose, our eight-year-old tabby cat was stricken with what would turn out to be a fatal neurological disease. After costly brain surgery failed to improve the situation our vet urged us on: "He just needs to relearn the behaviors," he told us.

But Ambrose was permanently incapacitated, stumbling around the house disoriented for the remainder of his too-short life.

After our beloved Main Coon cat Katya was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma at age 10, the disease quickly made it impossible for her to eat. We took her to a pet oncologist. They suggested a feeding tube. We had it installed hoping to prolong her life. She was miserable. We were miserable.It was too much.

In a beautiful column in the Feb. 2 edition of The New York Times, Louise Aronson, a professor of medicine  who works with geriatric patients, considered the options when her 14-year-old Yorkie named Byron began the inevitable downhill slide.

Her thoughtful observations on life and death are a must-read for all pet owners.