Today I took him to the vet to let him go.
He’d been driving us insane for the last few years, meow-screaming at us all day long, peeing in clean laundry baskets, barfing on the dinner table, pooping in the bathtub or on the landing. The cat equivalent of “GET OFF MY LAWN!” I always assumed he was still just pissed off that we got a dog three years ago, and I didn’t feel too much compassion for his plight. ‘Goddammit cat, WHY must you torture me so much after all the years of care I have given you?’ That was pretty much my cat-titude. (Wretched, irresistible pun. Apologies.)
He’d already ruined many comforters, pillows, carpets and - the worst of all - my husband’s gorgeous Italian leather briefcase. We even sent it to some specialty leather cleaning company in Kansas, and nothing could be done.
This week was just the last straw. I had inherited some lovely new rugs from my aunt and the first night we rolled one out, Tycho clawed up one corner. How much more misery would we take? What misery was he expressing, for that matter?
I have a cousin who is a veterinarian in Oregon who helped me see that his behaviors (the screaming, puking, pooping, weight loss) were indicators of a declining painful state of existence. I had all this guilt that I didn’t want to pay to medicate him and pay for blood work or surgery. Lots of people do that, does it mean that I am a heartless wench? (Please don’t answer that.) I finally decided that it just wasn’t for me. I don’t have the resources - financial, emotional, physical - to keep it up.
It is such a personal choice, deciding when you are ready to let go of a pet. Or any loved one, really. Just because we finally knew it was the right time for us did not make it easy. I’ve cried for much of the past 24 hours, thinking about finality. Death is something with which I have very little experience. It brought up the deaths of my grandparents for me, and all sorts of fears about losing loved ones who are still here.
My dear, kind friend offered to accompany me and let me tell you this: if you are facing something difficult and potentially torturous, and a friend offers to walk through that particular fire with you, say YES. A younger, more-obstinate me would have insisted that the journey was mine alone, but current-day me accepted the help. And lordy, what a fucking difference. I could have easily made it the World’s Most Macabre Thursday, but instead we laughed (gallows humor!), cried, hugged, breathed and shared. She carried the empty cat carrier out for me, which I admitted to not wanting to do AT ALL. I bought her beer and we debriefed.
She was the one who made it so clear to me that after Tycho had finally received the sedative (step 1 of 2), it was the calmest, happiest and most peaceful he’d been in years. I am so grateful for seeing that. He had some sort of feline grin on his muzzle as he slowly drifted off into a peaceful stillness. You could argue that I am anthropomorphizing a bit much, but his expression clearly spoke to me, “Thank god I don’t hurt anymore.”
Telling my boys about the decision yesterday was almost as tough. My sensitive 7-year-old animal lover bawled for an hour, but mostly because I wasn’t going to instantly replace Tycho with another cat. Or, per his immediate request, a hamster. He asked us several times last night to “stop reminding me!” when we would inquire about his feelings. And then he woke up at 4 am with constipation (sorry, TMI). Talk about having a hard time letting go! I just can’t ignore the obvious connections between physical and emotional states.
What I told my children about it, which felt awkward at first, turned out to be completely true. Tycho was suffering, and trying every which way to tell us about it. The kind but difficult thing to do was to let him go.
It’s been a tough week. (Hello, Mercury!) But there are guiding principles running through everything I do lately. Let it go. Simplify. And be filled with gratitude.
Thank you, Tycho, for 17 years of companionship.