I think its pretty safe to say that I am not suffering from Compassion Fatigue.
No, my emotions are well and truly on display and I often have no control over them.
Like now… when I am choosing to share the fact that we had to help another special member of the Fyfe family over the Rainbow Bridge a few days ago when a rapid type of cancer took over Mulder’s unsuspecting body.
The grief is raw and fresh and the tears are burning my eyes and I am totally okay with that.
Compassion fatigue is a term used for medical professionals who deal with emotional work routinely only their emotions don’t show.
It is often a veterinary team member who deals with terminal diagnoses, dropped-off or unwanted pets and euthanasias on a regular basis.
Many of these people bottle their emotions up inside with a “suck it up” attitude and they don’t have an outlet to let them back out.
No family, friend or colleague to share them with.
No journal or blog to give life to words and feelings.
No sports or hobbies to allow the emotions to ride along on physical or creative release.
A resident during my 4th year Small Animal Medicine rotation was like that.
I had gone in to see a client and realized I was being asked to perform my first-ever euthanasia.
On a lovely, older, long-haired ginger cat.
The cat’s name was Tanya.
I remember going back to the interns and residents with tears in my eyes, thinking of my own long-haired ginger buddy in Bismarck, telling them the owner’s wishes for that morning.
This particular resident looked me in the eye and said, poker-faced, that I had to “get over it.”
I still remember how I felt that day before, during and after the appointment and how I didn’t bother holding the tears back as I injected the terminal solution into Tanya’s intra-venous catheter.
The resident didn’t grade me very well after that rotation and I didn’t care.
I have always wanted to be a good vet.
Maybe not the smartest, most intuitive, amazing, intellectual vet. Just a good one whose clients would know I cared about them and their pets.
I never minded sharing many tears over many goodbyes in my clinic.
My feelings were right at the surface when I laid awake our final night in bed with Alistair, Mulder, UB and Loki.
I didn’t sleep a wink listening to Mulder’s sometimes-raspy breathing, knowing his cutaneous lymphoma had likely spread elsewhere.
I got up with him through the night when he got off the bed and helped him to the litter box where his kidneys spoke volumes.
Literally and figuratively.
I cried all night and in the morning when I told him all the things that needed to be said.
And I cried when I knew Alistair was off having his own time with our special friend.
Mulder was unique for so many reasons and anyone who visited the Fyfe Farm remembered him.
Maybe for his raspy, incessant “MRAWWWWL” that he shouted frequently.
Maybe for the way he sat at (or laid on) the kitchen table even when we were having supper.
Or maybe for his ‘kiss pieces’ of bacon he would happily take from Alistair’s mouth regardless of who was watching.
He was a character from the moment he moved inside, a torn-up, scarred, sassy ragamuffin who I only fed because I didn’t want this beat-up stray dying with an empty stomach in our barn.
He followed his big brother, Oscar around, he smacked at my stepkids for no apparent reason, he head-butted us with an intensity that knocked us off balance, he tried opening door knobs with his front paws, he hunted voraciously, he tolerated our Siamese, Sport, who followed him everywhere, he groomed our arms as he purred if you rubbed his head and routinely drew blood with his intense, brittle tongue and he knew how to give as much love back as we could give him.
He hid in boxes and was first in line for soft food and he actually had a sense of humor.
When he first moved in with us he would lay at the top of our split level stairs and whack at our dressing gowns as we walked past him, almost sending us down the stairs.
We would look down and he would be looking away, forepaws tucked neatly underneath his chest and then slowly look up at us as if to say, “What? You being clumsy again?”
Alistair didn’t believe a cat was capable of such coy plotting until the one time Mulder got his claw stuck in my robe and he was busted.
He never did it ever again and I’m smiling from the memory.
As he got older we would often find him snuggled in bed next to Loki, our blind Boston Terrier grand-dog who lives with us.
They both claim innocence but we know the affection was real.
We know it because even Loki has been grieving the loss of Mulder the past few days.
And Mulder was one of my main muses as I wrote my books, keeping me company on the green couch behind me.
And the house is quiet and the order of who gets soft food first has changed and I don’t find clumps of orange hair around and nobody is swatting at my hand when I’m on the toilet and UB isn’t sure whose hairy ears to lick and we haven’t had bacon yet because we don’t want to face the no-kiss-piece situation and the freezer is becoming alarmingly full and it wasn’t his time and it isn’t fair and sometimes I just stop and remember and it hurts.
And I miss him.
And I’ve got this emptiness.
And I’m crying again. Because I don’t have compassion fatigue.
And so, a few mornings ago, Special Agent Fox Mulder Fyfe laid in his dad’s lap and tears fell from my eyes as I sedated our magnificent little buddy.
His weight was down to just over 8 pounds, which was perhaps half of what Muldy in his prime had weighed.
His dignified, tough, amazing spirit deserved better and together, we gave it to him.
Like Harry. And Oscar. And Chorney before that.
And nothing is bottled up because that just isn’t healthy and I want to feel the pain because I know it means that I felt the love and joy that my relationships with these spirits gave me.
Rest in peace, Mulder.
You were so loved. And you are so missed.