Thank you to all the sweet and compassionate people who have posted to this thread. It would have been so hard for me to make this decision without your wise advice.
We put Maxie to sleep Wednesday afternoon. For the 5 days previous, I gave him a non-steroidal prescribed by my vet to ease the pain of his leg tumor (which seemed to grow bigger and nastier by the day). It seemed that as soon as I made the decision to put him to sleep, he felt released and started rapidly to decline. He had always been a very cuddly kitty, always in your lap, spooning with you when you slept, plopped down on your head to wake you up in the morning. But for the last week of his life he just wasn't the same. At first, he spent each night jumping off and up again onto the bed. I guess he just couldn't get comfortable. And the last few days he slept on the chair in the living room. He was wheezing. He was touchy. Didn't want to be held much. Strange, because before this illness you could do anything to him and he'd just purr...hold him like a baby in your arms for a half hour, carry him around the house like a sack of potatoes. He especially loved a game my boyfriend invented called "spin the cat on the linoleum".
Making the decision to put him down was terrible. But in the end, I know I exhausted every informational source available to me. I bombarded my vet with questions, requested the opinions of all my best, catloving friends and family members, scoured the internet for medical articles on amputation, and of course, got the good advice of so many of you on this site. I cried and cried and cried about the decision. Made the choice for amputation, then chose euthanasia, then back again. I always came back to euthanasia, though. It seemed, and still seems, like the best choice for Maxie.
The night before we put him down, we had a living wake for Max. Fed him an entire can of tuna (which he devoured) and a few goldfish crackers (a forbidden, but much loved treat). We had his favorite people come by and say their farewells. After they left, my boyfriend chanted a Zen Buddhist liturgy for the dead and we read him some poems about dying and sang him his favorite song, "You are my sunshine".
Wednesday was really tough. My vet was in surgery all day and had to find a free half hour to do the euthanasia. It turned out to be a very busy day for her, something I REALLY didn't want. But at that point, I felt like Max and I couldn't wait until tomorrow. So we scheduled an appointment for 4 pm. My boyfriend drove us into the city and one of my best friends met us at the clinic. While we petted Max in the car, my friend checked in for us upstairs and waited for the vet to get ready. Then she fetched us from the car.
We carried Max upstairs in a blanket and into the quiet, private room the vet had arranged for us. I signed the paper. I asked the vet if I could be with her while she shaved his leg and put the catheter in (she was going to do this in another room) and she said, "I can do it right here." The shaver was scary for Max, as was the catheter. I see why they do this in another room. It's hard to watch your kitty be afraid. The vet had brought this little clay paw print making kit into the room (she had checked with my friend to see if she thought I might want this and my friend had said yes). After Max was ready for the euthanasia the vet asked me if I wanted to do the paw print right then. I said no. I couldn't imagine putting Max through that while he was so scared. I told her we could do it afterwards, although now I wish I hadn't done it at all. Very weird pressing your dead cat's paw into clay. Not at all a good memory. Then the vet asked me if we wanted time with Max alone and again I said no. It felt cruel to delay things and we had spent the last week saying goodbye to him. So she started to administer the solution and we whispered loving thoughts to him
It was the strangest moment. Max just seemed to melt like butter and then he was gone.
My boyfriend, my dear friend, and I burst into tears. We'd all been holding it together for Max. It was so strange. I kept saying, "He's not moving! He's dead!" It was a very childlike feeling. My mind was trying to wrap itself around this bizarre experience.
We spent about a half hour with Maxie afterwards. Whispered to him. Told him what a good job he'd done and kissed him. My friend encouraged me to hold him. Very painful. He was so limp and heavy without life. And his face looked so strange.
Finally, we put him down on the table and put an envelope addressed to him in his paws. It was filled with the liturgy, poems, song, and parting thoughts to him from friends and family, a picture of me kissing him in my arms, a ribbon to play with and a piece of plastic to chew on in heaven (he was always in trouble for chewing on plastic).
He'll be cremated tomorrow and we'll spread his ashes in the garden in which he used to play.
Although I miss him terribly, I'm so grateful for this experience. I feel like a grownup (funny coming from a 38 year old woman!) because I had to make this decision for him and myself, albeit with the loving help of others. I'm also so glad I gave myself the space to grieve so much during the whole process of decision making and the euthanasia itself. It brought me much closer to my boyfriend and friend. And in the end, I'm comforted by the happy life Max had...first with my parents and then with me for the past 3 1/2 years. He was spoiled, but in the best way.
Be at peace, sweet baby! You were the best cat. We miss and love you!