Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

The Put-Down From Which There’s No Pick-Up

Posted by Neal on December 15, 2007

Today was a sad day for us. After two years of steady weight loss (and one month of precipitous weight loss), and having more or less constant kidney problems, our 18-year-old cat Barney finally reached the point where his prognosis was a matter of days. We decided earlier in the week that we would kill him today. Or to be more accurate, have the vet kill him.

Ugh. All I’m doing is avoiding the euphemisms for this kind of thing — put him down/to sleep/out of his misery, euthanize him — and all of a sudden it sounds so heartless. It was a tough decision, since Barney hadn’t reached the point yet where we could say, “He’s obviously in constant pain, and we need to end it”; but he had clearly declined enough that we didn’t want to wait for him to die during a frightening, painful crisis, the way his brother did a few years ago. And in the midst of questioning ourselves about our decision, we had to explain it confidently to Doug and Adam. They cried about it off and on for the past three days as they got in their last Barney-petting, and Doug continually pointed out how he thought Barney had gained a little bit of weight (his spine didn’t stick out quite as much as before), that he seemed like he was feeling OK today, and if we somehow got up to, say, eight pounds, would they put him to sleep then?

During one of these discussions, Doug told me about the time a couple of years back when he learned what it meant to put someone to sleep. His neighborhood friend’s dog had had to be euthanized, and his friend tearfully told him, “They had to put Rocky to sleep.”

Trying to cheer up his friend, Doug offered, “It’s OK, I’m sure he’ll wake up soon.” It didn’t work, and Doug said it a few more times, figuring his friend just hadn’t heard him clearly. Finally another friend who was there couldn’t stand it anymore, and clued Doug in.

Ah, Doug, you have so many euphemisms yet to learn!

2 Responses to “The Put-Down From Which There’s No Pick-Up”

  1. Bridget said

    I’m very sorry about Barney. 😦 Our 18-year-old cat went much the same way a few months ago.

  2. […] I remember his excitement when he was finally able to pet our cat Barney. Barney, you may recall, we put to sleep last year, but now we have a new addition, a white, blue-eyed, polydactyl cat named Sinatra, whose owner was […]

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