This evening Leo and I said a tearful farewell to our sweet little calico cat, Kate. She was twenty years old and suffered from a variety of maladies, including a thyroid problem, heart murmur, and most lately, a tumor in her jaw.
We didn't know we were taking Kate to the vet to say goodbye today. We thought we were taking her in for her regular bi-weekly antibiotic shot. The tumor in her jaw caused some infection, and these shots tended to keep the infection at bay. We had noticed that she'd been losing some energy and strength, and she was having trouble with the stairs and had all but stopped using her litterbox. We knew the time was coming, when we'd have to let her go, but I don't think you're ever really ready to say goodbye. But once the vet told us the tumor had caused so much damage that Kate was in real pain, we made the decision that it was time to let her go.
Kate came into my life as a rambunctious kitten twenty years ago. She was with me when I went to college and grad school, when I had my first apartment, got my first job, started my first company, when I was recovering from gall bladder surgery...she was with me through good times and bad. And she most certainly approved of Leo. One of her favorite things was to lay on Leo's chest, patting his face with her paws while he scratched her back.
What was most unique about Kate was that she was, as Leo dubbed her, a "cat-dog." She loved to fetch and would chase after a sponge ball for as long as you'd throw it. She had a stuffed animal all her own, a sheep named "Ewe" that would appear randomly throughout the house, wherever she left it after she'd dragged it around for awhile. She greeted us at the door when we came home and was extraordinarily affectionate. She never tired of playing and being cuddled. Kate was the softest cat I'd ever held- her coat was as soft as a rabbit's.
In the last few weeks, Kate wore a pretty pink-and-white striped sweater, which we gave her because we had to shave off quite a bit of her fur, as she'd lost the ability to clean herself and developed some mats in her fur. Yesterday, she changed into a pink sweatshirt with "Princess" across the back in rhinestones, which she really seemed to like.
Kate was around for so long that I honestly can't remember a single day of my adult life without her. I know Leo and I made the right decision in letting her go, but it feels strange to walk forward into my life without her by my side, weaving her way around my feet, leaving copious amounts of hair on the bottoms of my jeans. I can't quite wrap my mind around the fact that tomorrow morning, Kate and I won't have the same conversation we've had every morning for the last twenty years as I prepared her breakfast:
Me: Good morning, Kate. Did you sleep well?
Me: Ah, yes, well, what did you eat before you fell asleep?
Me: Hm. Maybe we should change your diet a little. What else happened last night?
Me: I guess we'll have to tell Leo to bait the traps with peanut butter again. Were there a lot of them?
Me: Well, that's not so bad. At least they didn't eat much of your food, right?
....and so on. How is it even possible that tomorrow morning, I won't trip over her a hundred times while cooking breakfast and demand that she stop trying to murder me in the cutest possible way? How is it possible that I'll never again push her away, complaining about her terrible breath? How is it possible that my oldest friend is gone? But saying goodbye this evening was the only choice that was fair to Kate, and the one thing that eases my hurt, even though just a little bit, is knowing that she's no longer in terrible pain and her end was quiet, gentle, peaceful, and very loving.
Losing a pet is similar to losing a family member in many ways, but having lost my mother, I can say without doubt that it's not the same as losing a family member. It is, however, a substantial loss. And having had Kate in my life for so long and enjoying her as much as I did, I will really, really miss her a lot and I know Leo will, too. That's all I've got for tonight, folks.