Saying Farewell to a Beloved Friend

After reading Kelly Lytle’s blog about her aging dachshund, Kirby Lou, I pause over my keyboard … it was just a two months ago that we faced that same predicament and a terrible choice. Would our beloved but aged tabby, Bob, slip away quietly in his sleep, or would I be faced with the decision of euthanasia?

Bob was 16 and we knew he was slowing down. His daily exercise consisted of trips to the food bowl and the cat box, and “asking” to be held on our laps. He also followed a strict regimen of pursuing sunbeams throughout the house, moving from one warm carpet patch to the next.

Kidney failure is a common ailment among older cats, and Bob was certainly experiencing problems, drinking more and more water and using the cat box more and more often. His weight decreased.

I kept a watchful eye. He eagerly accepted cat treats and fresh catnip, and, although he moved more slowly and carefully, he still felt spunky enough to box his housemate’s ears or pounce on BK’s (Bad Kitty’s) tail.

“He’s eating. He’s drinking. He’s getting around, and he isn’t showing signs of pain,” I told our daughter. “But I don’t know how much longer he will be with us.”

Bob was her cat since the day we found the six-month-old kitten, abandoned along a country road. When our daughter moved out into her own apartment, she agonized over leaving him behind. I convinced her the move would be too stressful on the old boy (although, perhaps, I truly didn’t want to lose him, too.)

But suddenly, in the space of just 24 hours, he took a turn for the worse.

I came home from work and took one look at Bob and realized the end was near. His eyes were sunken and he moved slowly through the  house. He sat by the water bowl, but refused to drink. Cat treats were of no interest. We took him outside (a long sought-after but forbidden treat) where he carefully smelled the grass and a few plants, then stretched out on a warm stepping stone. After a few minutes, he pulled himself upright, and cautiously climbed the back stairs, wanting back indoors.

I called our daughter, explained the situation, and told her that in the morning, we would have to take him to the vet. And so it was that, early that Saturday, she came home to spend a few final hours with Bob, stroking the soft fur of her beloved friend.

My husband, daughter, her fiancée and I cushioned Bob in a towel and drove to the veterinarian’s office. When I approached the receptionist, I found myself unable to speak through the tears, so my husband explained our situation. Although I know they encounter this regularly, the staff members’ faces clearly showed their empathy and concern.

The procedure was quiet and calm. Bob laid quietly on a towel, and the vet shaved a patch on his leg. She talked softly to both Bob and to us. I wept harder at the sight of the hypodermic needle, and we all stroked our cat as he finally, quietly, stopped breathing.

“You did the right thing,” said our vet. As we filed out, my husband looked over his shoulder. The vet, he told me later, tenderly patted the still body, then carefully wrapped Bob in the towel.

Much as I wanted to bury our friend at home, we could not. I carried his well-worn collar and tags home, clenched in my hand. A day later, an envelope arrived in the mail with a condolence card from our vet and a parchment paper with Bob’s paw prints, and a memorial poem. They would be our last physical reminders of our pet.

People grieve differently, as do our pets. Bob’s longtime buddy wanders through the house, meowing for his friend. I find myself glancing at sunlit patches of carpet, or in the corner of the bedroom where he often slept.

A vet once told me (about another beloved pet) that those of us who love our companion animals take such good care of them that they often live far belong their normal lifespan. That leaves us, as owners, with having to make that awful, terrible but ultimately humane choice. In the end, Bob clearly showed to me that it was time.

Collar, tags, pawprints, photos…and memories. That will have to suffice for me.

But I wonder: how have you remembered your beloved pets?


-Photo is not meant to represent a real feline living now or in the past. Photo Credit: from flickr by Rising Damp

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