Is there any sadder sight than a carrier that goes into a vet’s office with a kitty inside, and comes out empty? I have written before of the horror of taking something you love and killing it. Last week it was 12-year-old Gus, one of the sweetest cats who ever owned a human.
Like many cats, he was a mystery. He was born feral, but never manifested their skittish tendencies. He was loving and affectionate, always happy to lay in a kitty bed on my desk (or, too often, between me and the keyboard). In the mornings, I often woke up in bed and found him nestled against my leg, as if the best place in the world was always next to Daddy.
Not so much recently. He’s had multiple bouts of illness since the spring, the most recent being several tumors in his lungs that had spread from some other unknown place in his body. He never figured out how to use the cat stairs I had built into my office desk, and now no longer had the energy to jump up on it. He moved slower, ate less, purred less.
It’s times like this that I can understand the decision one of our neighbors made many years ago. The slow death of their beloved Thumper made them swear off pets. I understand it, but I can’t abide by it. Sure, taking that carrier in never gets any easier, nor does taking it out again empty. Nor will it be any easier when it comes time for the four cats still left in the house. Yet I love and cherish those purring little wonders.
As always, for Gus, and for his brothers before him, we faced a Hobson’s choice: we didn’t want to give him up, and we didn’t want him to suffer. Sometimes it’s hard to be the adult in a relationship.
I made the appointment for his passing, and waited for the designated time. I went out into the backyard to check on him. In the past few weeks, he’d been hiding under a lavender bush; I wonder if the fragrance was somehow medicinal for him. It’s summer, so work has been slow. No appointments in the morning, no looming deadlines. Nothing to take my mind off the horrible task at hand. I emptied the dishwasher of clean dishes and filled it with dirty ones. Mundane things.
When the time came, I gathered him up, carefully, cognizant that he was in pain, and put him in his carrier for his last visit to the vet’s office. When we got there, I cradled him and told him how much I loved him. I sobbed uncontrollably. I said good-bye. I chose the little statue for his ashes.
And then I came back home, feeling emptier than the carrier.