Yesterday CoolCat did what I had asked and hoped that he would do, and that was to let me know when it was time to say goodbye. We spent most of the day together, and in middle afternoon, we let him go. I have been in welfare work for nearly half my life, accustomed to every person & animal issue and circumstance imaginable, but when it was time to follow through on my promise to always do the best for him, to pay attention to his spoken and unspoken needs, and to embrace euthanasia as the final and loving gift that I could offer, I experienced everything that any pet owner does on that last visit to the clinic.
I have had the same veterinarians for forty years, so making that call yesterday was fine from the time that B answered the phone there. There is B and L and a few other old babes like me that have been there since our first appointment when we moved here. In many ways it like an extension of family, the kind of family you actually like and who do not drive you insane or stupid. Chosen family, hand-picked for wisdom and beauty and love. I cannot count the many times we met outside the clinic, worked on animal-related projects, fundraisers and educational programs and events. There was a time when they wanted to offer me a job there, but I knew that being there several days each week was not a good fit for me and my schedule.
When I would appear without an appointment, someone would welcome me by saying, "Are you hungry?" That meant there was an excellent chance that I came to buy food for our cats and/or dogs. Sometimes I would be driving past and if I had a little extra time, I would stop to simply say hello and chat if they were not busy, although anything, any work involving pets and their people is never without tons of stuff on which you are constantly trying to manage. When I was clearing the house last year in preparation for selling, B stopped by to just talk. I left the house and rummage sale to my daughter and friends and the two of us went out to the road, leaned on her car and talked about the whole messy issue, but about other things as well, something I really needed to do. I needed to disconnect from that mess and she knew it and took me there.
Saying goodbye to anyone we love is never easy. It seems disrespectful of the process to even try to define just how difficult it is. For someone like me, CoolCat was the familiar, the constant presence in my life. He and my daughter are the only connection to the other life that was worth bringing along to my new life.
After CoolCat was gone, I took his body out to my friend G's, where he will be cremated and honored alongside L who died last year. I filled the rest of the afternoon with errands that could have waited, with shopping that probably should not have been delayed, so I was just so grateful for reasons to not come home alone. When home, I realized how much of the activity here revolves around him. Welcomes. Checking dishes to refresh food and water. Sitting and sharing our day. Some play, relaxing for both of us. Laughing and petting and just grooving together until I could get it together enough to rustle up some dinner.
Dinner. Meals of any kinds. If it was healthy for a cat to eat, CoolCat got his share. Asparagus, watermelon and cantaloupe, bits of beef/chicken/turkey, and any kind of greens. He loved everything from iceberg lettuce, to spinach, to collards, chards and kale. I think the only greens he did not like were mustard and beet tops. Oh, he also loved, like insanely loved the leaves and silk of fresh corn, which he did not get because I discovered he loved them after he had snagged some from the trash and vomited the whole mess up. Poor guy, to love something so much and have it not be good for you. I guess many of us can relate in regards to liking or loving something or someone that is not in our best interest.
I could not fall asleep, not unusual for me, and when I finally went to bed to read there was some of his bunny-soft white fur on the edge of the brown sheet. I left it. It is still there, just like his dishes and litter box are going to stay exactly where they are for a while. Probably just a few days, sooner for the litter box though, I guess.
There were two times that I felt some movement on the mattress, and I looked up both times, expecting to see him walking towards me. He was light as a feather when he jumped up on something, so I never knew he was on his way to cuddle until I felt his little feet displacing the sheets, pressing into the bed. When it happened the first time I forgot that he was dead and had a moment of confusion. The second time was almost immediately, as I was looking for him. My best guess is that it was some kind of muscle memory on my part, because, like many cats, bedtime was highly ritualized for him. My brain and my legs expected the usual sensations.
Now life goes on without him, save for all of the wonderful, heartfelt and often hilarious memories that I carry. We had an excellent relationship, even though I will always feel that I caused their hardship, CoolCat and L, during the time I was in hiding last year. My ex lavished love and attention and gifts on our cats and I never dreamed that he would neglect them. Nothing I can do about any of that now, so I have done my best to release that sadness. I shared a really great life with him this past year and a half. Together we found ourselves, healed from some of our fears and relaxed into our very own home, governed by our very own rules, of which there are few, and our very own choices and decisions, of which there were too many to count.
I know, without any reservation that CoolCat and I made the right decisions yesterday. I will always have sorrow about losing him, I will always miss his sweet and complicated presence and comfort myself with all of those memories.
Rest in peace, my dear, sweet boy, my puddin' boy, my Precious. Thank you for the amazing blessing you have been for me.