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Bruised but not broken

Last Christmas I lost the grand dame of the Sies Petcare & Yoga family, Liselott. A feisty little ol’ lady with wavy hair who stole the hearts of many people and had the curious habit of turning into a puppy when approached by her boy toy Chumpie, in confrontation with a denta stick and while cuddling with her parents and me.

She was the first dog I walked on a regular basis in London and she grew to be one of my best friends and part of my collection of muses.

Every time I lose one of the animals close to me, my heart bruises badly. ​​So bad that it feels broken. Caring for Lise till the end made it all clear to me, finally, how my vision of pet care and yoga are connected.

In my daily life, I try to practise yoga according to the eight limbs of yoga.

One of the limbs consists of moral restraints, comprising non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation and generosity. These restraints are part of my being through nature and nurture. But it’s especially the non-violence that resonates with me, perhaps because it is also so very connected to my favourite chakra, the Heart (Anahata) chakra.

It took me years to change my omnivore diet to a vegetarian one and subsequently it has taken me years to change to a plant-based diet – something that now feels only natural to me. During all these stages, I could no longer talk myself into thinking it was okay for me to continue the way I was living. I had many discussions with carnivores trying to prove me wrong, but from my perspective, no sentient being would opt for being killed in order to end up on another being’s plate. There’s one conversation that remains very vivid in my memory.

They was the same carnivores (‘Oh but I only eat animal-friendly meat’) that were trying to shut each other up regarding the topic of meat eating, as it might upset the vegetarian on the table, me. They diminished me to some sort of emotional child, not wanting to eat her meat on her plate because she likes to cuddle with baby-animals instead of validating me as being completely rational, having watched most of the horrible slaughterhouse films and read the philosophical books in favour of vegetarianism and veganism. They thought it better not to discuss their preferred way of cooking their oncoming Christmas turkey. My reply was simply that even though I am against taking a life for our own pleasure such as taste (emotional), I had probably “killed” more animals in my life as a veterinary nurse out of compassion, than they would ever dare. The replies I received were blushes and stammering.

Having said that, there is nothing wrong with making a decision out of an emotion. There is also a fine balance between making a decision out of (scientific) knowledge and your gut feeling.

In many religions, taking a life is a no-go. Even if that would come from an enormous sense of compassion and kindness or non-violence (ahimsa). I have experienced people not wanting to euthanise their beloved pet, because they didn’t want to take that decision – out of love for that animal and not wanting to let go or out of religious reasons.

I am not a religious person, nor very scientific, and I believe that when we die, we should donate our organs to people in need and then give the leftovers back to nature. So, this means I am not afraid of the ramifications of euthanasia in the next- or after life and that we should live our present lives as fully as possible, not forgetting your fellow sentient beings. I respect people’s religious beliefs as long as it does not harm another being. But one could wonder, is it really loving and practising non-violence (which I believe is a big thing in most religions), when that means the (non-human) animal will be suffering till the end? And how loving is it to see your beloved pet (or family member) lie there, waiting till the end, in pain?

I have seen suffering in both terminally ill animals and humans. Every single time I am forced to watch the end crawl closer without any hurry, I am glad we can use the red liquid (to euthanise) in most cases. Perhaps I am very Dutch in that perspective, or perhaps I just want every sentient being to be freed from suffering in a humane and peaceful way.

The body is made to not give up too quickly. That’s why it’ll keep working, against all odds, no matter how much pain or how little consciousness you have left. The same goes for animals. Unfortunately, peacefully dying in our sleep won’t happen for most of us. Our bodies will fight until they can’t any longer, and that can take ages.

Euthanising a non-human animal is a process that can often be done in a non-clinical environment, such as at home or in a special soft-consultation room at the vet’s or at a hospice, depending on each individual case. Depending on the veterinary doctor, the animal will get a sedative injected either in the vein or in a muscle. (S)he will peacefully fall asleep with loved ones around him or her. After that, the animal won’t notice the second injection, which will slowly relax all the muscles in the body, including the heart muscles.

The pain of working up to that lethal injection as a pet parent and the emptiness you’ll feel afterwards, will shortly be followed by a feeling of lightness. You have shown your beloved your unconditional love by letting him or her go and ending the suffering. Initially, your heart feels broken, like it will never heal again. But it’s only bruised. The memories stay and after a while, the tears of sadness turn into funny narratives starting with “Remember when (s)he did the funniest thing ever…?’.

And who knows, after a while you might open up your bruised heart (chakra) and consider giving your unconditional love to another special someone.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu – May all sentient beings live free and happy.