Little Boy has been poorly the last couple of days so we went off to the vet this morning. The news wasn't good, so I've brought him home for the weekend with some medications to keep him comfortable, so we can say goodbye.
A friend often reminds me of the days before Little Boy arrived on the outskirts of my front lawn, looking beaten up and skinny, an obvious stray. She says that I was wanting a cat I could cuddle, because my other cat, Betsy, is a fractious tabby who doesn't like coddling of any sort.
'You were saying how much you'd like a lap cat," she says," and then this little stray appeared, and he turned out to be the cuddliest, sweetest cat you've ever had."
That is true. Little Boy and I have become inseparable. He waits for me to come home at night, sitting patiently at the bottom of the stairs, then walks up with me, telling me off all the way for being so late.
He pouts and ignores me when I leave him in the care of others, even for only a day or two.
If I'm down, or unwell, he knows. He comes and sits beside me, gently, just sits, being with me in that cat-ly way of his.
Every morning he sits out on the deck, or on the grass under my bedroom window, waiting for me to get up, greeting me with his customary meow.
How do you summon the strength to make that last trip up the hill to the vet, make the decision that must be made, because the last thing you want is to see your beloved pet suffering?
Most probably anyone who has owned a pet has faced this decision at some time. My Mother was always very good at it. She would dispatch sick cats and goldfish with a ruthlessness that I always found astonishing and rather upsetting. The only time I saw her devastated over the loss of a cat was when Critter died, a feisty and rather nutty marmalade cat. Critter was named after another marmalade cat my parents had in Texas, not long after they were married. Mom used to tell the story of how that Critter cat chased a big snake out of the house they were renting at the time, something that earned my Mom's enduring devotion and love.
So this weekend there will be lots of cuddles, brushes with the little red comb that he loves, plenty of time out in the garden, lying under his favourite lemon tree with the sun and the wind, birds hopping about in front of him.
How do you say goodbye to a beloved pet that has been with you for so many years, one that has been a constant and faithful companion, who has given you so much joy and fun, heartaches now and then, and of course more than a few vet bills?
With respect, time, humour, comfort, reassurance, memories, and so much love.