Friday, June 12, 2015

Goodbye My Friend

"Can I put you on hold for a minute?" the receptionist asked.

What came out of my mouth was,

"Sure"

but what my mind screamed was,

"NO! No, you can't put me on hold! It has taken me months to make this phone call and if you put me on hold now, I might hang up. Please just talk to me now. Please don't give me time to reconsider, please!"

"Hi? Christa? Sorry to keep you waiting. Yes, we have an appointment available on Friday at 4:20pm with Dr.______. Would that work for you and your family? We were also wondering if you had thought about aftercare? Would you like to take Ollie home with you after or have his body cremated?"


This post is different from all the rest; it's not about running or sobriety. It's about my beloved cat, Ollie.

Two days ago I made the decision that it was time to let my friend go. Ollie had been declining for the last year and I knew at nearly 18 years old, a dramatic recovery was not going to happen. He was simply aging and as such had fallen victim to its' afflictions. I reasoned that we don't just euthanize people because they grow frail and weary, why would I dismiss my pet's life in that way?
Ollie 4 weeks old
As we age we become less active, eat less, lose weight and have less interest in the things we once enjoyed. I saw the same things in my cat. It's natural.

The past couple months have been difficult. My rationale was losing ground to the compassion I hold in my heart against suffering. The natural aging process seemed to be gaining ground on him. He ate less and less, he slept even more than the usual 18 hours a day that cats sleep. He favored one spot in the living room and barely left it. He used to sleep on my pillow but it had been a long time since he found the stamina to make the journey to the second floor. Despite having litter boxes in the basement and on the first floor of the house, he began to soil his bed. I think that was the final sign that he needed me to lovingly intervene and decide his fate. Animals do not eliminate where they sleep. If he could have gotten even two feet from his bed to pee, he would have. I am certain he just couldn't hold his urine while he slept.
Ollie 6 months old

So today was the day that I picked for Ollie to die. Late on a Friday afternoon seemed like a good time so that we would have the weekend together as a family to grieve. The kids and I spent the day at home with him today. We cuddled him and told him loving things. We sat and watched a movie with him on our laps. We shared "remember whens". At 3:00 pm, with just a little over an hour left for him to live, I took him in my arms and climbed the stairs to my room. I laid him on my pillow and then joined him for our final nap together. As he fell asleep I thanked him for being with me for nearly half of my life and told him that I was grateful to have been there for his whole life.
Before the baby came home

In 1997 Ollie became a part of our family which was before my husband and I were married. Hi big beautiful blue eyes beheld the biggest, best and worst moments of my life. He watched me dress for my wedding day. I probably even scolded him to get away from me so as not to get cat hair on my dress. He made room in the house for our first dog and another cat, but never gave up his spot on my lap. He was the first to inspect and accept my son when I brought him home from the hospital and then took up sleeping quarters under the crib. He stood witness as we moved into our first house, watching as we moved boxes and furniture in hopes of engaging someone to scratch his head. He greeted a second child who was a kid that grew to be unimpressed by cats. He wandered around looking for the other cat when he died. He changed houses two more times in his life and said goodbye to the dog when she died. He watched me quit drinking and sat with me at all hours of the night as my sleep was thrown off. He loved being caressed even though my hands were tremulous. He was patient with my mood swings. As I got better and began to write he sat on my lap, desk or keyboard. If I moved, he followed. He took it all in and waited for my love in between life's moments. For being so faithful, he only asked for attention and affection in return.

Today I did the most loving thing I have ever done for him. Although it took me long to accept that it was time, I knew that to wait any longer was selfish. I cuddled him and told him over and over that I loved him, never breaking contact with those big, beautiful, blue Ragdoll eyes. Our gaze was only disrupted when he laid his head on his paws one last time to sleep, taking 18 years of love and companionship with him. As he went, I was sad but I did feel a sense of relief that I hadn't expected. It was the right thing to do for him. I had questioned myself for months, wondering "How could I do that to him?" but today my my thought was "how could I not do this for him?". I gave my friend the
great and humane gifts of peace and comfort.

We brought Ollie home wrapped in a receiving blanket that both the kids came home from the hospital in. He was so emaciated and frail that we used a shoe box for his casket. On his box my daughter had drawn pictures of all the other pets who had died during her life and wrote on the inside 'I love you'.  My husband and son dug a deep hole and we placed Ollie gently with love in the ground near the other pets who have left us. To answer the receptionist's question of two days ago, "Yes, we put much thought into aftercare".

As I write, alone, at my desk without my companion, my tears won't stop flowing. My heart physically hurts and  I feel nauseous. In the past I would have chosen to numb my emotions with alcohol but today that isn't an option. I will be with my grief as it washes over me and then I will begin to heal. Writing is the first step for me and running will be the second. On Sunday I will spend all 15 km of the inaugural Nike Women's 15k Toronto thinking about Ollie. A good run usually helps any cat-astrophe.
Enjoying his last day outside



Be at peace Ollie
Dec '97-Jun '15

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