Almost 21 years ago, I was at our local Humane Society — which back then was a really run down, scary place. I was in the cat section, walking by the rows of cats when a tiny paw reached through the cage and touched my shoulder.
I looked in and saw a tiny little ball of brown fluff, with the sweetest pleading eyes you have ever seen.
I hadn’t stopped by there to adopt a furbaby. I was actually there with my boyfriend at the time, killing a few minutes before we went to a movie.
Being the animal lover that I am, I should have known better. I stayed and pet her through the cage, with her nudging her head up against my fingers. I walked on and looked at the other animals, but kept being drawn back to her cage and that sweet little face.
She had picked me.
As a college student I had very little extra income but decided I could not leave there without her, not knowing what was going to happen to her.
So I filled out the adoption papers, and she was mine.
I have had cats in the past, but she was different. The other cats I had only offered affection on their terms. Kitten was not that way. If you called her name, she would stop what she was doing and come to you every time. She would greet you at the door and would let you pet her until your arm got tired.
The other weird thing was that she would fetch — Christmas bows were her favorite thing. She would fetch over and over, and when any holiday rolled around where someone was getting a gift with a bow on it, she would be frantic with anticipation, waiting for that bow to come off. Not that she always waited until the bow was off … most Christmas gatherings meant me showing up with gifts with no bows as they mysteriously disappeared, or they would have little teeth marks on them from her gnawing on the wrapping.
She also would only drink out of the sink. We always had to leave the faucet on a slow drip; otherwise, she would let us know she had gone too long without a drink. At one point, we tried one of those fountain water bowls, but our other cat would bat at the stream until it ran dry. And that created a horrible, horrible mess.
She was with me through everything: college, new jobs, my first broken heart, a marriage, a toddler, slumber parties, another cat, 3 dogs, and a house full of teenagers. She never asked for anything except affection and the occasional bow that would last her for months.
Two years ago (at 18 years old), she started losing weight and was incredibly hungry and thirsty all the time. After a few tests, we found out she had hyperthyroidism, which would require a special diet and a pill.
That worked and she began to gain some of her weight back, but we noticed she was starting to move a bit slower. We kept her food up on the counter, otherwise the dogs would eat it, and she started to not always be able to jump up all the way, and we had to start lifting her up anytime she needed her drink from the sink.
Then the pills and special food began to stop working, and her frantic hunger and thirst returned. We then had to start giving her a syringe of medication every night — not an easy task as anyone who has had a pet can imagine.
The medication helped, but each month that went by, she started to decline. Stairs began getting harder for her to climb, her coat wasn’t as shiny, and she was losing the sparkle in her eyes.
I knew the end was drawing near, but I kept pushing it out of my mind because I couldn’t bare the thought of losing someone I had spent more years of my life with, than without.
Finally, she started bawling all throughout the night, and I didn’t know if it was from pain or confusion or boredom, but I knew she was over 100 in cat years, was struggling to move, had grown resistant to her medicine, and she wasn’t going to get better. I needed to do something.
On Monday last week, I made an appointment to have her put to sleep on Saturday so the whole family could be there.
I can not tell you how many times I nearly cancelled that appointment. How could I lose my oldest friend? The one that looked up in my eyes with understanding while I cried, who snuggled in my lap in front of the fire, who tolerated a clumsy toddler while she patted her head, and let a little girl dress her in doll clothes. The one that loved my hubby as much as I did and didn’t even mind sharing my lap when the pups came into the picture.
She was an indoor cat that occasionally would sit out on the deck with you a few times a year, but she hadn’t wanted to do that in a long time.
The night before the appointment, she sat at the back door and cried. She wanted to go outdoors. It was like she knew what was going to happen and wanted to sit under the stars one last time before the end.
Topher and I sat out there for a long time, petting her as she purred and our tears fell.
I got up early Saturday morning and brushed her (her favorite thing) for hours, and she rubbed her boney little body up against me, letting me know that she loved me.
Usually she would got really upset on car rides and would cry, but not that day. She just sat on my lap looking out the window.
Taking her into that exam room was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. How could I lose my sweet furbaby? I knew that I couldn’t let my selfishness of wanting her with me outweigh her suffering.
They gave her some Valium which made her lay down, and watching my husband and child sob looking down at her nearly broke my heart.
The vet wanted me to let him know when I was ready for the final injection, and I pet her sweet body one more time and kissed her little face and nodded.
I know she will be greeted in Heaven by my Grandma and my aunt who were both huge cat lovers. I can see her sitting on their laps in their rocking chairs and watching down upon us.
I was so blessed by the amount of time I was granted with her, but at the same time it was just not enough.
Going home and putting away all of her toys and food dish killed me. The past few days, every time I walk around the corner and expect to see her laying there my heart aches.
God gives us these wonderful gifts called pets, but He can’t prepare us for the hurt we will feel when they are forced to leave us.
The same Humane Society that adopted her now has a cremation service, and I am going to get her ashes in a little bronze urn, and they are making me a little clay paw print to keep.
I am happy to have these, but am also dreading the day they arrive.
I know in time it will get better, but for now I have a hole in my heart where my best friend should be.