Posts Tagged ‘grieving the loss of a pet’

Cat-Shaped Holes

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

First off, thank you all for your messages of support and understanding. I know I’m not always ready to say much in return, but every word from you guys is helping to make this easier. Knowing you’re out there means a lot to me, and there is also something really special in feeling like other people are moved by Morning, and that in some small way I’m able to share how special he was.

I have heard a lot of repeated, cliche stories about human grief. About how people who have lost someone close to them will wake up in the morning, and for one brief moment everything is happy, and then they remember and it all closes in on them again. About how they will go about their daily activities as if that person will be coming home, and then are suddenly reminded that they won’t. About how it all feels impossible, and part of them keeps expecting that their loved one will be walking back through the door at any minute. About how they have a brief glimmer of happiness about something, and then feel guilty that they are capable of it. About how everything that everyone else talks about seems so trite and frivolous and unimportant.

And they’re all true.

And the loved one doesn’t have to be human.

We got up on our own yesterday. There was nobody waiting patiently until the alarm clock went so that he could purr all over us to wake us up.

I put our leftovers on the kitchen island yesterday. I just left them there for a while. Right in on the edge. Because I knew no curious little furball be coming to investigate them. We could leave them there forever if we wanted to. No one wants to sniff them.

I threw out the eye drops on the counter. Nobody here needs them anymore.

I made tea, and nobody came running. No one thought it was the most exciting thing in the world to get to sniff the tea bag. Nobody wanted to stretch up and put his paws up on the counter to help me. I didn’t have to be careful pouring the water. There was no one there to splash.

I walked into our office yesterday to check the calendar. I didn’t need to close the door quickly behind me, but I did anyway. I didn’t need to feel guilty for not giving somebody some time to explore in there, in what was often our special place. I haven’t been in there much since getting my laptop. Somebody used to miss spending time on my desk. Nobody is missing it now. And when I came out, I didn’t need to keep one foot held out at the ready to discourage anyone from making a quick slip inside. But I did anyway.

I didn’t need to leave room on the couch last night so that someone could climb up there with me. I didn’t need to be careful when I shifted positions because there was nobody there to poke or prod. And because there wasn’t, I kept looking to the ottoman, where usually there would be a little brown furry body, making questioning eye contact with me and giving the special little murp that was a question whether I wanted to shift over a little and make room so that he could join me. The answer was always yes. Always.

A little pile of electronics out of the corner of my eye looked like my sweet boy, and I was going to reach over to pet him. I wondered why he was lying so far away. But it was only electronics. And I was forcefully reminded of that.

I keep calling our girl-cat a “good boy” by accident, and having to correct myself. And I keep comparing them. And feeling guilty that she can’t be what he was.

Nobody startled awake and turned an inquisitive eye on me when I turned on the sound on my laptop. Likewise there was nobody there to keep sleeping blissfully upon being petted, or snuggled, or kissed unexpectedly.

I took some melatonin last night to try to shut down my thinking and let me get some sleep, and I was so careful, like I always am with pills. But I realized it wouldn’t matter if I wasn’t. No one is curious about what they are, or likely is to accidentally sample one if I dropped it.

When I went to bed, I tried to sleep closer to the edge. We don’t need to leave a third of the bed empty anymore. But I moved back to the centre. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to be in his spot in case he wanted to climb up.

When I get up and move around the house to do anything, things keep catching my attention out of the corner of my eye. I keep waiting for the curious little inquiry into where I am going and what I am doing, and for somebody small and brown to come and join me in wherever and whatever it is. But I don’t hear anything.

When I go out today, there will be nobody to say goodbye to me, or to watch out the window as I leave. When I get home, no one will be waiting. Nobody will sit on the stairs until I get my shoes off, or want to sniff my face to say hello.

When I leave the shower, nobody is waiting on the toilet seat for me.

When I leave the bathroom, nobody is lounging on the floor just outside, waiting to see where we’ll go next.

I could wear a sweatshirt today without tucking up the hood strings. I could let them just dangle there. Even shake them around a little. Nobody cares. Nobody wants to play with them, or thinks they’d be great for a good chew. And nobody will be happy to be presented with a toy instead, or decide that a cuddle would be just as much fun.

I sobbed cleaning up the little patch of vomit he left on our floor. It was like wiping away the last traces of him from our home. My husband had to help me. I couldn’t see through the tears.

I can’t believe he’s really gone. That he is really never coming back. I had thought that first night was pretty awful, but it was actually easier than the days since. That night was so full of adrenaline, and shock, and exhaustion, that it was still all very surreal. Without that protection, there is just weight, and pain, and the occasional bout of numbness, and as much distraction as we can manage. At least my husband and I have each other to lean on, and are both going through the same loss. That’s a rare occurrence, I guess. Often when you lose somebody, other people can sympathize but they aren’t going through the same thing at the same time as you. We will get through it. This is only day three. And I recognize this feeling. My old friend depression. I have been here before, and will face it intelligently. I am actually still better off in this moment than I was when my medications were messing with me.

But still, if I could say one thing, I would wish that the image that came to mind when I think of him didn’t have to always be his unnatural still face, lying on that table, once he was dead.

He looked like road kill.

And that isn’t right.

Goodbye, my beautiful boy.

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

At first I thought they were playing too rough.

Boy-cat was in an unusual corner, between a wall and a chair, and girl-cat was looking on from a very short distance away, looking unsettled and making low growling noises. I thought maybe he had pounced on her and she wasn’t happy about it.

I checked on him. I said “what are you doing down there, silly?” Moments earlier, he had been curled up happily with us as we watched TV. Then he went for a snack. Coughed up a little vomit pile on the floor. I thought he’d eaten too fast. Now he looked up at me from behind the chair and began to meow in the way that told me he was confused and concerned. I know his meows. I know that probably sounds crazy, but I really do. I can tell when he’s asking a question, and when he wants something, and when he’s asking if I want to shift over so that he can come snuggle beside me. This meow was scared.

And as I came over, I noticed that his legs were stretched out behind him. Flat. But his upper body came crawling towards me. It was wrong. And he started panting. Panting, panting, panting. Very wrong. My husband responds to whatever it was I said and comes over to look. Something is very wrong, I say. I’m really scared, I say. But somehow I say it calmly.

I go into Efficiency Mode. I begin to direct Operation Immediate Departure. I know instantly that this is something serious. We need to leave for the 24 hour vet clinic NOW. We don’t hesitate. I send my husband to my laptop to get directions. I know there is one about a half hour away. I am prepared like that. I used to leave the number for people who fed our cats while we were away. He calls to ask if there’s anything we can do to help before we come. I put on socks. I calm my boy-cat. I get out his carrier. I grab a whole armful of purple towels. I’m not sure why.

In the entry way, while I’m putting on my coat, I lay my baby boy, my boy-cat, on the floor. I need faster shoes, I say, as I rush to the closet to find some slip on canvas ones (snow be damned). Boots will take too long. When I turn back, he has dragged his body into the carrier. He hates the carrier. Maybe he knows.

The ride passes quickly. I sit in the back seat with his carrier bag on my lap, while my husband drives, rigid and white-knuckled. I murmur to my sweet little guy. I tell my husband over and over that we’ve done well. That we’re doing everything we could for him. I tell myself. I’m not sure whether it’s better to pet my little one or leave him alone. I don’t like to be touched sometimes when I’m nauseous. He hates the car. He gets nauseous. He doesn’t seem to want my hand in his bag, but he tells me nicely. I cover the bag with a towel in case he wants to hide. Sometimes the bag jerks a little, like he’s trying to butt his way out. It’s too dark to see. I wish I could see what’s going on. He’s grabbing the mesh with his claws. He never uses his claws. There are more streetlights now. We’re getting closer. I can see his eyes flashing in the darkness, looking up at me. He is lying on his back. Why is he lying on his back? He is chewing at the part of the bag he can reach. I tell him he can eat the whole bag if he needs to.

The vet people are nice when we arrive at the clinic. My husband fills out part of the form. He has his work phone number wrong. We correct it. I take over with the name of the vet. I can’t seem to write legibly. My hand is shaking. I am writing too fast. Someone comes out to ask permission to give him pain medication. We say of course. They ask his name. I think it is good that they asked his name.

It is a short wait. It seems so short. My husband and I hold on to each other. The vet comes back so soon. She tells us that we should sit back down. She asks us when the last time he went to a vet was. I tell her last summer. They go for their check-up every year. She asks us if he has ever been diagnosed with heart problems, and I tell her that he has not. She tells us that he has developed a heart murmur, and that his heart is enlarged. She says that sometimes it can come on surprisingly quickly. She says it’s so sad that it’s happened when he is so young. He is only not quite five. It is sad that it’s happened when he is so young. She tells us that he is forming clots that have affected his heart and are now shooting out various places in his body. One has blocked off his feeling to the lower half of his body. I am not surprised. I knew his hind legs weren’t working anymore. That is okay. We can work with that. We will love him, and care for him, and he’ll be the happiest paralyzed kitty around.

Then she keeps talking. It takes me a minute to realize that she is saying he needs to be put down. I have to clarify. I make sure she knows that money wouldn’t be an issue when it comes to our boy, and ask her if there’s anything that could be done. She tells us that even with unlimited money, there are heroics that people sometimes try, but that it will just buy him a tiny amount of time, and probably put him through a lot more suffering. She tells us there are a lot more clots coming. She tells us again that the humane option is to euthanize him. We don’t want him to suffer. She tells us we don’t have to be there if we don’t want to. We tell her that of course we’ll be there. We tell her we want to have some time with him before he goes.

And we wait, for them to bring him to a room for us. I am crying. And then I am completely detached and have zen perspective. And then I am crying again. I think the perspective is defense. I think it is probably bullshit. I think I am likely to lose it sometime soon. I fumble with my cell phone. I suddenly want to take pictures of him when they let us see him. I know that it isn’t the right kind of event to commemorate, but I want to remember him. I am trying to remember the most recent picture I took. My cell phone won’t work. Why won’t it work? The battery is dead, it seems.

I ask my husband if it’s a strange statement that I wish I had internet access so that I could reach out to all of you. I have learned something. Apparently you are the people I trust to support me in crisis. We continue to wait.

When we see him, he is wrapped in a blanket. His pupils are dilated from the pain medication. They’re so black. He is frightened and confused. We pet him, and hold him, and tell him all the ways that he has been such a wonderful, special boy. We’re agnostic, but we tell him that he’s going somewhere good. If there is an afterlife for anybody, it would be for him. Surely such a beautiful spirit wouldn’t be wasted. He calms a little, and is happy that we’re rubbing and scratching him. I am crying, getting tears and runny nose all over him, nuzzling the top of his head and the back of his neck. I tell him that I hope he doesn’t mind. I don’t think he would like that very much normally. My husband is crying too, eyes red, tears pouring down onto the vet’s examination table. I have seen my husband cry only once in the ten years we’ve been together. We tell our boy how dearly much we love him, and how much he will be missed. We would like to have more time with him, but he is still frightened. We don’t want him to suffer so that we can feel better. I leave the room to get the vet, like she asked us to.

It happens so fast when she gives him the needle. I expected it to take longer. My husband and I are both petting his head, and telling him over and over what a good boy he is. He was a very good boy. Such a good boy. After she has confirmed that his heart has stopped, we have more time in the room alone with him. It looks so strange to see him like that, not moving. Something is off about the way he’s positioned. He wouldn’t lie quite like that naturally. We keep petting him, and telling him good things. I cuddle him one last time like I would when we’re sleeping, and bury my face in the fur on the back of his neck. I know that I will never get the chance again. It feels just like we’re just settling into bed for the night; like nothing is wrong. I breathe in as much as I can of the smell of his fur through my stuffy nose. I wish my nose wasn’t so stuffy so that I could smell him better. I love that warm smell of his fur. It occurs to me that I could finally check how his gum health is doing now. He hated having his lips pulled back to check. I want to laugh at how completely pointless that thought is. I feel guilty a little for wanting to laugh.

And we pay. And we leave. We decide to check of the box to get his ashes back and sprinkle them in the back yard or something. We’re not sure we really want them, but we’re both too messed up to make the decision and we figure it can’t hurt. We are content to be crazy cat people. This cat was special beyond words. My husband drives home with my hand clenched in his. Sometimes we talk about how glad we are that if he had to go, that he went this way. How at least it wasn’t a couple hours later when we were asleep and might not have noticed him. How he didn’t suffer any drawn-out illness. How we were there for him right away, and he didn’t have to be alone at all. Sometimes we talk about what a special little guy he was. Sometimes we talk about how surreal things are. Sometimes we cry.

It is difficult at home. Any calm I had breaks, and I wander around the house sobbing and cleaning, with my husband behind me, holding on to me. I put the carrier in the basement so we will not have to look at it later. I put back the chair we moved when we first noticed him in distress. I realize that I will have to clean up the vomit from earlier, and it breaks my heart. I realize that I will have to pick up all his toys. I cry over the fur on our sheets, beside my pillow. We don’t know what to do with ourselves. It’s really late, but we cannot yet go to sleep. We decide to have a drink. I also make some tea in an effort to calm me down. Tea is a fitting send off for our little boy. He loved making tea. We commiserate together. We talk about how next to each other, he is probably the hardest person for us to lose. Except not a person. But still an integral part of our lives. We watch a tv show to distract us, and our remaining cat sits in our laps for the first time in more than a month, and there are moments it seems like maybe everything will be okay. And there are moments it seems like my heart will break at the thought of never seeing him again. We get into bed, and I toss, and turn, and we hold each other close, and I try not to cry too much at the emptiness beside me. At the lonely third of the bed where our boy-cat normally sleeps. After far too long, oblivion claims us.

And now it is a new day. And things seem darker than they were before. And I don’t know how to explain to someone who has never been that close to an animal how terrible a loss this is. I have had cats before. And I was sad when they passed. We love our remaining cat very much. But he was different. He was my buddy. My helper. My companion. He was so smart, and so much a distinct and beautiful personality. He was so very much a part of our lives. So special, and so irreplaceable.

I am so sorry that you had to go, Morning. We loved you so very dearly. I am so very glad that you had a good life in the time you were with us, and I am so glad that you had to have known every day how dearly loved you were. But I will miss you. I will miss you so much it breaks my heart.

me and my cat

Be at peace, Morning. You were loved. Feb 14 2006 - Feb 1 2011