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Jul 8, 2010


“She looks just like the day we picked her up.”

What Patrick meant when he said that was that she was glaring at him through cage bars and that she looked underfed and overly spiteful. She was poorly groomed and not moving very much. Both days, the day we picked her up from the Humane Society and the day I took her to the vet for the last time, she looked at us through those cage bars and we knew she was scared.

That’s the worst part, of course. The fact that you can’t explain what’s happening to them. As much as I told Emma that it was her kidneys that were failing her, that they were to blame for her feeling so bad and for not being able to walk, that she might even have cancer somewhere but we’ll never know for sure, she never understood. She never knew why she felt so bad or why her back legs didn’t work anymore. Her little gray body was failing her and she didn’t even know it.

I decided to get a cat when I was 19 years old because I didn’t think I was mature enough to handle a dog. Patrick and I went to the Humane Society in Louisville to pick out a cat. Emma was the oldest one there. I don’t know why I picked her. I’m pretty sure she growled at me through the cage when I tried to pet her. Something about her seemed to fit in the little space I had in my life where an animal should go. So I filled out the application and waited for several days until I was approved.

Upon bringing her home, she stopped eating. My low maintenance pet had turned into a Skipping Class to Syringe Feed My Cat Project. She got better, started eating on her own, but never really warmed up to me. Or anyone. I guess she liked me more than anyone else, but she would only allow me to touch her at night when the lights were out and she was perched on my chest. And even then it was only for a minute.

When friends or family would come over and ask after her, I liked to joke that Emma could usually be found under my bed, spewing curses and brewing potions. Truly, she was a feisty, antisocial, cantankerous little critter. But she was my cat. My first pet. My first responsibility. My first little one. And now she is gone.

People say that “they will tell you” when they are ready to go. I waited to be told. I watched for signs but had no idea what I was looking for. Would she die in front of me? That would be a pretty obvious sign. What would I do? Did I need to call someone if that happened? What if she just looked like she might die? Was that too late?

Saturday night, she told me. She told me, without any doubt, that she was ready. She came to my side of the bed several times and moaned. She used to cry a lot to get attention, but those were high pitched sounds like a child might use to call you. These were deep, pleading moans that roused me from the deepest sleep. She moaned until I got up and she led me into the bathroom. She refused food and water and fell anytime I tried to get her to move. She looked at me with eyes glazed over and swayed where she stood. I felt as if she’d called me in to get me alone and to show me how sick she was. I saw.

Our vet is an old friend of mine and she came in to work on Sunday, July 4, to be with me. Patrick and Colin stayed home and I took Emma alone. I sat with her in the room, her beside me on the bench, and we waited. I wonder if she knew what was happening, what was coming. She didn’t squirm or cry any more, she just sat. She was barely there at all by the time they were ready for us. I looked in her eyes for the last time, but she was not in there. There were only toxins and poisons there, not my little feisty girl.

I wept unabashedly into her fur as it happened. What else was there to do? I told her that we would always remember her, that I would always love her. And then she was gone. So fast. So quietly.

I keep thinking that I hear her crying for me. Not the horrible moaning but the young Emma who demanded attention from the other room. I know she’s gone but I miss her, my potion brewing antisocial kitty who was the first to teach me how to care for others. A lesson in love, in faith, and in sacrifice, she was one not easily forgotten.



7 Readers rock!:

Anonymous said...

I went through this exact same thing - though with a cat I'd had for far less time - a couple of years ago. I understand how painful it is, and my thoughts will be with you. It is okay to cry.

Brit said...

You made me tear up, and reminded me of my dog, that is also gone now.
I agree with Anon. It's okay to cry. And I'm sorry you had to let your cat go.

Pennsy said...

God bless you all.

mary martha said...

Katy, my heart aches for you. I know the pain of losing my first cat as well. And the frustration and helpless feeling when you can't save them. Bodies wear out, but love lasts forever.

I know you know this poem, but its always a comfort to me. I love you and grieve with you.

From Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver:

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

barrie said...

I lost Fancy last fall and I STILL expect to see her sitting in her spot on the bed if I get up for a very late snack as I turn the corner from the kitchen into my bedroom :-(

Thinking of you!

Leonore said...

it's the price we pay, these tears, for the too-short time we love.

Alex said...

The Last Battle

"If it should be that I grow frail and weak,
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
then you must do what must be done
For this, the last battle, can't be won.

You will be sad, I understand,
Don't let the grief then stay your hand,
For this day more than all the rest
Your love and friendship stand the test.

We've had so many happy years,
What is to come can hold no fears.
You'd not want me to suffer so;
When the time comes, please let me go.

Take me where my needs they'll tend
And stay with me, to the end.
Hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time, you will see,
It is a kindness you do for me.
Although my tail its last was waved,
From pain and suffering I've been saved.

Don't grieve that it should be you,
Who must decide this thing to do,
We've been so close, we two, these years;
Don't let your heart hold any tears.

Smile, for we walked together for a little while."

- Author Unknown

I know your heart must be broken right now; I know mine would be. Sending love and thoughts your way.