Hello! Spoiler alert: if you're full of holiday cheer and want to stay that way, then stop reading. But if you're an animal lover, pet owner, feline fanatic, etc, then you'll understand.
We had to have our beloved, nearly 14-year old calico cat, Beauty, put to sleep less than 48 hours ago. She developed a sudden medical emergency, and although it was after hours on a Saturday evening, our vet said she could meet us at her clinic in 20 minutes.
The vet's assessment revealed a condition with an uncertain recovery. We had to decide whether we wished to go ahead with treatments that might not help and watch Beauty suffer in the meantime (it might have taken up to 2-3 months before we'd even know if such efforts would have worked). She was clearly in great discomfort already and we did not wish to prolong her misery.
But it was a very hard decision to make, as pet owners who've been through this know. I'd already experienced some sorrow in beginning to watch Beauty's decline, but had blithely thought she'd still be around for another 2-3 years. To have her end come sooner than expected, and so suddenly, was devastating.
She had come into our lives nearly 14 years ago, a gift to our daughter, who was 7 at the time. But somehow, in rather short order, she became my cat.
Reflecting after her death on what she had meant to me, I realized that she had come at a very low point in my life. A number of upheavals that had begun more than a year prior to her arrival - and had kept on coming - had left me feeling very uncertain about the world and my place in it. Mid-life crisis? Dark night of the soul? Whatever you want to call it, it was pretty bad. I wouldn't have wished it on my worst enemy (and I don't even have any enemies).
But six-week-old Beauty arrived, clearly needing love (she was taken from her mother too soon, I think). She latched upon me as her mother substitute, to the point of sucking the tip of her tail while lying curled up next to me - an obvious nursing holdover. This became a habit she continued up to her very last day.
Perhaps because of this habit of hers, I showered her with love and affection, figuring she needed such attention. And she returned my devotion with love and affection that matched mine. She became a great source of comfort.
A few months after she joined our family, while petting her I suddenly had a deja vu moment: I realized I had dreamed about petting her, just as I was doing that very minute in waking life - and I had had this dream about her before she had even been born. I have had deja vu moments all my life. And somehow I know that these deja vu moments are because I'd dreamed about the event prior to its occurance. (Often I don't recall the dream until the deja vu moment happens.) So to me, that was a clear signal that she was meant to be in my family.
We have but one child, who of course grew up and has been off at college since the fall of 2013. In the years since then Beauty and I became even closer. I knew she couldn't take the place of our daughter, but I'd been in the habit of saying I had two girls, my "big girl" (my daughter) and my "little girl" (my cat). I missed our daughter when she went off to school, but at least I still had my little girl to mother.
And now I don't have my little girl, Beauty, anymore. I have to remember not to clean a litter pan at night, not to check food and water dishes, and no seeing her head peeking out from around the 2nd floor hallway as I begin to climb the stairs, waiting and hoping I'd join her on the bed for yet another tail-nursing session.
Will we get another cat? I know that Beauty can never be truly replaced, and I'm not ready to try to do so just yet. But last night we were at a neighborhood gathering, which took place in a house I'd never been to before. The owners have two cats, who were locked up in a bedroom when we first arrived. After things had calmed down and people were seated, the cats were let out.
One of them climbed up to the back of the chair one of his owners was sitting in and settled in for a nap there. The other kitty jumped up onto my lap and curled up to sleep there. The other owner said this cat didn't typically stay in strangers' laps that long, but this furry guy seemed as content as could be with me.
Perhaps this cat sensed I needed some comforting, or maybe Beauty's spirit was there, giving me some comfort through another feline. I don't know, but it was very nice. I hated to get up and leave when the party was breaking up.
I'd emailed my brother shortly after Beauty's death, for he was the one who had given her to our daughter. Within his reply were these words: "She lived a good long life and was well loved and that is pretty good for any animal."
And he was right. Rest in peace, dearly beloved Beauty. Thank you for your love and what you meant to me. I will never forget you.
(If you'd like to read a happier, earlier post about Beauty, go here.)