In February of 2002 – just months after 9/11 – my then boyfriend and I went to a Brooklyn shelter to adopt a second cat. I went down the row of cages peering in to see which one I might want to hold for a test-run. When I got to Rocky’s cage, he looked into my eyes and slowly, gently put his paw out and touched my face. Needless to say, I was smitten. He chose me that day. And, last night after a brief but brutal battle of cancer, he chose to come lay next to me in bed to pass away.
It’s never easy saying goodbye to a pet. In June 2011, I came home to find my first cat, Samson, barely able to stand. I knew he’d been under the weather, but had no idea he was dying. I rushed him to the vet where they kept him overnight. The next day, they called me at work to tell me the news. I rushed to the animal hospital to spend a few last minutes and to say goodbye. While the vets did their best to make the sterile room hospitable, and while Samson still purred away just happy to have me there, it wasn’t the way I would have chosen it. And, once the process began, I stayed until he was unconscious but left as they administered the last drug. I had intended to stay until the end, but was doing it alone and simply couldn’t.
This go-round, I had several months to come to terms with letting go of Rocky. Early on, I knew the tomcat from Brooklyn who never met a lap he didn’t love would want to pass away at home, so I’d been talking with vets about coming to the house when the time came. Last night as I was busily tearing out a closet in our new house, he came and laid in the room with me – just to be near me. I knew then that today would be the day. I had no idea, though, that he’d choose to do it his own way.
In the middle of the night, I became aware he was curled up next to me. At 4:00 this morning when he could barely move, I knew he was dying. By 8:00 this morning we were calling vets trying to get an appointment first thing, but no one was available until this afternoon. By 8:30, since Rocky wasn’t in pain and was curled up in the flannel sheets, we decided to stay with him at the house and see him off. He passed away at about 10:30 this morning with Brett and me gently stroking his head.
The last moments watching a pet – or, I imagine a person – dying is heartbreaking. But, being there until the end, and helping him go on his terms, brings some comfort.
He was one of the last links to my life in New York City. He first became sick about a month before our wedding. Like the sweet boy he was, he waited until I was safe and happy in life before saying goodbye. Rest in peace, sweet boy. And say “hi” to Samson for me. I know he’s happy to see you.