Never a Good Time for Goodbye

There are times that every pet owner dreads, and today was one of them. Precious was nearly 17, had thyroid issues and some form of kitty dementia on top of tummy issues and possibly kidney failure. His dementia was probably the worst of his issues, but he also suffered from arthritis due to his special-ness.  Today, we did the humane and the right and the appropriate thing – and said goodbye.

Today, tonight, my G and I will wrestle with doubt and guilt and questions because even if it was “time,” this is quite possibly the hardest and worst thing that can be asked of us.

Let me tell you a little bit about Precious, our sweet old man. He was born to a pure white Mama kitty who belonged to our across-the-street neighbors when Big G was just 6 years old. All of the kittens were white, and we saw them before their eyes even opened. Precious, a boy, was named by this family’s 9-year-old daughter. He had what the vets later called a “radial dysgenesis,” meaning his radial bone grew over his elbow and curved around his foreleg. His toes on that foot were merged, so he had fewer than the norm. Before we had him declawed (for medical purposes), his claws grew wildly, curling around those pink toes. His eyes were the purest mint green, and his fur was rabbit-soft and long. The tips of his ears were pink as the finest shell.  Precious ran like a rabbit, hopping and catching himself on that bad foot – he ran faster than any of our other cats have.  Visitors would always comment on him, both because of his limp and because of his beauty.

Precious has always been my husband’s cat. My G brought him to us the first time, having heard about the kittens after visiting with our neighbors. He carried Precious in  his Army soft cap, curled up tiny as could be and too small to be away from his Mama kitty for very long. We later brought him home to stay, trusted with his care by this sweet family, in that same cap.  Precious would sleep in my husband’s sandal, face scrunched under the top strap. He did this until he was too big to fit, but always had a special bond with the man who loved him first.

It had to be my G’s decision, this last trip. And for that reason, maybe it took a little longer than it would have for me to make this choice – I’ve been down that lonely road, bringing home an empty cat carrier or pet blanket. My G has not. This is a hard thing, to purposefully, deliberately, and finitely affect something in such a way. It is so final. We prayed he’d pass away peacefully in his sleep, but cats are not known for doing things the easy way. Despite knowing it was the right choice and the humane act, it is still an impossible decision and for that reason we have taken many months to come to this day.

Precious was always a noisy cat, meowing  his welcome and calling to us if he got lonely. Part of his illness included an inability to settle, and a confusion that would result in more cries, more yowls.  When his thyroid went bananas, he would cry like a newborn babe and wake even my half-deaf self from a full sleep.  The house is quiet now, despite my attempts to fill it with dishwasher noise and music and other things. It’s quiet, because no one is letting us know their deep hunger/confusion/loneliness/restlessness. Never has quiet been quite so loud.

As I’ve said, I’ve been down that road before and returned with my arms empty. My cat was the first to go, then Big G’s, then my mother’s dog. When hard times repeat themselves, such as deployments or death or decisions that hurt – they don’t get easier for the repetition. Each time builds on the one before, so the grief is huge and fresh inside us. The scars overlap, and reopen wounds we worked hard to close. Tonight’s pain is dark, and heavy.

Today we went down that road together, though, and we returned home together. Little G used her love language of acts of service, and helped take care of some of the cleaning details that come with having a pet who was ill. We came home to a fresh house, cookies that she saved for us, and the knowledge that we would get through this. One thing that is true about going through hard times, is that we learn how to manage our grief. We learn how to push through, how to hold tight, and how to keep fresh and dear the memories of those we’ve lost.

Tonight I am remembering Precious, of the noisy meow and the fierce insistence that he could do anything and go anywhere any other cat could go. I will remember his sweet soft fur, his funny messed-up foot, his surprisingly strong purr. I will laugh at how he used to bite My G’s toes under the covers, and I will think of his first night home with us when he could not sleep so I cuddled with him on the couch. I will remember his first purr that night, and the fat little kitten tummy he had. I will imagine him with my cat, whom he loved. I will picture him at peace.

 

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And it will both hurt and heal to remember it all.