Zach and I made the decision on Monday that it was time to let Squirt go. Everyone kept saying that I would just know, as though Squirt look at me with his big blue eyes and silently communicate his desire to leave whatever pain he was in behind.
The point had arrived where I felt like I would not be making the wrong decision but I was not sure it was the right one exactly, either. He was still walking, though he stumbled every few steps. He was still eating, just a little less excitedly. He was never going to look at me with those bright blue eyes ever again because his liver was shutting down and his eyes had become a green color of blue mixed with jaundice. He was less than 4.5 pounds of a cat who should be 10+.
I was writing blog posts in my head about how you all told me I would know but I didn’t know.
Looking back, that probably seems obvious. I just couldn’t come to a place of peace about it.
So Squirt decided to give me that peace
The night we made the decision he took a sudden downward turn. He still moved around some but if I wrapped him in a towel and snuggled him, he would just lay his head on my chest and stare into space. Squirt has never been a cuddly kitty but it felt like he was soaking in every last chance to be near us.
Last night, I slept in the hammock (that is still in my living room) for a few hours with him snuggled into my shoulder. I really wondered if he was going to stop breathing right then. I don’t think there was a lot of Squirt left by that point.
He couldn’t make it to the litter box anymore, though bless his heart he tried so hard. He began having diarrhea. His urine was neon yellow. His breathing became shallow.
It was definitely time
We did a lot of snuggling. Lorelei kissed him. Rowan gave him bits of everything he ate and told him “night night” and tucked him in his sheet.
This morning Squirt would barely lift his head. Occasionally, he would manage to pull himself into a sitting position but would fall over quickly. We took turns holding him, running our fingers through his soft fur, and kissing his head. He smelled terrible but nobody cared.
I found myself in the limbo of wanting him to be out of pain and desperately wanting to keep him with me forever. I watched the clock, simultaneously wishing it forward and back.
At 10am the vet from Lap of Love arrived. I cannot speak highly enough of them. She explained everything to all of us but in a way that was clearly made to help Lorelei understand what was going to happen.
Lorelei chose to leave the room after giving Squirt a kiss goodbye.
The doctor gave him a sedative, followed by an overdose of anesthesia. He passed absolutely peacefully. He was already so close to gone that there really wasn’t a huge difference, other than the knowledge of finality.
I let Lorelei know that it was over and she threw herself at me in tears. Then she said, “my Kindle died.” That is basically how it has gone for all of us today. An overall sadness, with moments of normalcy and moments of intense grief. Lorelei is learning lots of lessons about the nature of grief and how it comes in waves.
We cried and held him for another hour or so while we waited for the cremation person to arrive.
And now the house feels empty.
I realized that I’ve never had to deal with the loss of a pet in this way. This constant way. Even my beloved dog from college, Aspen, died two days after Steven and I moved into separate houses and he had gone to live with Steven. My childhood pets all died after I was in college. I was Lorelei’s age the last time a pet currently living with me died. I have been on the other side of the exam table for many euthanasias while working as a veterinary assistant but never had to experience it first hand with an animal I love so much.
It’s going to take a while before I stop expecting him to come through the cat door, or meow that horrible siamese-cousin meow in the middle of the night, or headbutt my leg while I pee.
The bathroom had been his hospice and was covered in pee pads and soaked towels and a litter box that he could no longer get into. As I cleaned everything – sweeping the litter, mopping the floor – I thought about how I would gladly clean that cat’s pee off my floor for eternity if I could have him back.
Instead, I walk into the bathroom and am momentarily disoriented by the clean floor. The space where the food bowls were. The bathroom door that doesn’t have to be closed to keep the dog out.
I don’t know how to be an adult without this cat. I’ve never had to before. He is as much a part of my adult identity as anything. He was more than half my age.
The month he was born, I turned 17.
In 1998 Seinfeld and Friends were still broadcasting. Bill Clinton was not having sexual relations with that woman. Viagra was approved by the FDA. Google was founded. The Battle of Hogwarts raged, though Harry Potter was just in its infancy as a book series.
He had a good life. A life full of adventure and crazy antics. He stalked pieces of ribbon as we dragged them on the floor and he slept against my chest under the covers after being shaved. There will never be another cat like Squirt.
I know this will feel less sharp, later. My other feline love of my life, Kokomo, is still an ache in my memory but I can talk about her without tears. She’s been gone for a decade. So maybe I’ll be able to talk about Squirt without crying by the time I’m 50 or so.
Goodbye, old friend