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Friday, March 20, 2009

Goodbye, Nigel.

Yesterday we had to say a final goodbye to our wonderful good old cat. 

Our friendly, smug, regal, doglike, affectionate, superior, smart, gentle, crooked-eared, beloved cat.

We knew it was inevitable.  He was at least 19 years old.  It's just not natural for a cat to live that long... he couldn't hear anymore, he creaked when he walked, he was easily startled and he no longer washed his fur or sharpened his claws.  His balance was off.  He really had become dependent on us (me) to care for him.  And he got all the care and love that we could possibly give him, unconditionally.

For the last year, I gently combed his fur,  changed the water in all the bowls regularly so he'd want to drink, and I picked the dirty litter out of his paws when he was too uncoordinated to avoid the wet stuff in the box.  I'd take a few minutes away from whatever I was doing to curl up on the couch beside him and pet him, slowly, whisper to him uselessly, listen for the creaky purr that I remember being so strong and vigorous.  I crushed down my disgust when I found litter critters in my bed. It was all worth it, just to have that cat in my life.  

But we knew.  As a family we talked about what would come next.  Nobody wanted to talk about it but we had to.

Yesterday afternoon it was obvious that his time was running out.  He waited for us to come home, but he was done.  We held him and cuddled him.  His breathing was so shallow.  He was weak.  The difficult decision was right there in front of us.  I had my doubts we'd even get there.  I could feel his life drifting out of him, no exaggeration.  He was leaving us.  

My husband and I took him to the vet, wrapped him a blanket.  Nigel curled up against my chest and stayed there.  The vet gave him a sedative, then assured us she'd be back in about ten minutes.  I know the routine.  Sedation, then the euthanization.  A very humane and peaceful way for the animal to go.  

I refused to set him down until it was all over.  He wheezed out his last breaths, and twitched his legs.  Under my fingers, I couldn't feel his heartbeat anymore.  

The vet came back, quietly, with the needle, but I whispered, "He's already gone."  For the last few minutes I wasn't really sure... but I could feel that what I was holding was just what was left.  We laid him down on the steel table, and I curled his tail around his hind legs, tucked his paw over his nose the way he'd like it.

It was a tough afternoon.

My kids don't know life without Nigel.  He sort of helped me raise them.  Even before they were born, he purred for them.  His passing has not been a shock at all, but it's still hard to let him go.  

Today we tried to get on with it.  I washed his food bowls, but I don't know where to put them now.  I have a litter box full of basically clean litter in the laundry room.  I have a basket full of brushes and a drawer full of canned food.  I feel kind of empty and lost. 

The kids thought they'd like to save his ashes but I didn't want to do that.  I don't need it.  I've got pictures of him, and all four of us will remember him forever.  Besides, there's a nearly $500 cost to save the ashes, and I couldn't justify the expense.  Wouldn't it be better to instead spend some money, some day in the future, to adopt another cat?  Wouldn't Nigel want it that way?  For another homeless cat to become a part of our family?

It won't happen for quite a while.  I can't face it yet.  Any cat would fall short compared to Nigel at this point.  We all have some grieving to do.  I think each of us has a big hollow spot in us now.  

But we can't be catless forever.  A cat is a necessity for me.  Who else will protect us from rodents and evil spirits?  

The dog spent a long time at the sliding doors today, in the sunspot that Nigel always took up. Otherwise  he seemed slightly agitated all day, either barking or clingy.  He'll sleep on my feet, curled up on top of the comforter.  But that spot on the pillow will be empty.

That cat was a good friend to me.  He got me through  the toughest times in my adult life, times when he was the only consistency I had.  He was a companion when my young husband was working for days straight; a healer when I was sick; doorman when I had company; entertainment and comedy when I needed cheering up; and a great teacher for my kids.  I really loved him.

I have been thankful for every minute of the nearly eighteen years I had with my beautiful black cat.



It was a good life.

22 comments:

Biddie said...

It was a good life. A great life, really.
I remember the 1st time that he met Kayla, which may have been the 1st wee one that he knew, for all that we know...He followed her around, very cautiously, giving her a gentle swat and now and then, trying to figure out what the heck she was...Lol.
He was a wonderful old cat. He was always ready for a cuddle and I will never forget that purrr...
We are all thinking of you, Heidi. I know how difficult the coming days will be. There will never be another Nigel, not even close.
Hugs.

natasha the exile on Mom Street said...

So sorry that your friend is gone.

You have written so eloquently about Nigel that I feel as if I know him and miss him too.

I'm sure he's happy in the catnip fields of kitty heaven.

dilling said...

so sorry, heidi. so very sorry.

Astaryth said...

My heart breaks for you. Nigel had a wonderful, long life and he loved you till the end, just as you loved him. I know your pain. We lost D.K. two years ago in January and I am just starting to think I can bring another kitty into the house. The Furkids really burrow into our hearts and take a piece of it with them when they leave.

CindyDianne said...

It sounds like you gave him a good life and that he gave you one as well! I am so sorry for your loss.

Olly said...

Oh Heidi, I am so sorry. There will a day when it doesn't hurt so much and you will be glad that you got home in time to comfort him in your arms as he passed.

Marni said...

I am so sorry he is gone. You gave him a wonderful, long life and he loved you very much.

Someone once said that the only mistake God ever made was that we outlive our pets. But he will be waiting for you when your time has come -- and then you'll hear that strong purr again.

Hugs, Heidi.

One Red Horse said...

Heidi, You already know that the loss of a beloved partner like Nigel can rip out your gut and blast a hole in your heart. Some folks, some animal beloveds, share a bone deep connection that weaves heart and soul together. You and Nigel were traveling partners for miles and miles on this life trail - you brought each other along. I am so sorry for his leaving and so happy that you had his care and company for so long. Heidi, you did him right, sticking with him to the end, giving him love and dignity in his senior sillies. When it was time for him to go, you held him while his spirit parted with his body. You and Nigel - what a love story. Thank you and bless you,

Cherie

Heidi said...

Oh how I know this feeling.

Sending you hugs.

Michael said...

Oh, I'm so sorry Heidi. I know that you'd been expecting this but it doesn't make it any easier does it?

Nigel sounds like he had such a long and happy life with you guys.

Hugs xxx

pseudosu said...

I'm sorry for your poor sad heart. You're right-- $500 would have been a waste. It's not him anyway. I'm sure, even though you don't feel ready, the universe is rushing to fill the cat shaped hole in your lives. There is never a shortage of vagabond furry people.
RIP Nigel.

terry said...

awww.... heidi, i'm so sorry.

rip, nigel.

Heidi the Hick said...

Thank you all... it really is comforting to read your comments. I'd cry if I wasn't all cried out and dried up.

I put the cat food bowls away and just felt defeated. But you know what? The kids and I have talked about "next cat" and I know that after we've had time to grieve and settle in, there will be another furry person needing a home.

I just think Nigel would have wanted it that way.

I wish I could reply to all of you, since you've left such meaningful words, but please know how much I appreciate it! Thank you so much for caring. It does help, it really does!

No regrets. I started in on that guilt trip, like maybe I left it too long, maybe there was more I could have done... but I do know I did everything I could. I do believe he knew that, in his catly way.

I'll always be thankful that we were together at the very end.

coffeypot said...

I'm sorry, Heidi. That was a good and touching eulogy.

millhousethecat said...

This was a difficult post to read but well put. I have much too much experience in this area of pet ownership.

It is the hardest part but worth it for all that they give us.

I, too, had a cat that my kids never knew life without. JC and I got her in college and she traveled from apartment to house to house to house with us, rarely complaining. She loved my kids, protecting them in their crib, she mothered other kittens we'd adopted, she even put up with the addition of puppies.

When Winona left us last year, I thought I'd never get over it. Time helps, but I still look for her Grinchy-face and skinny calico body wandering around the house.

It's good to have such complete memories.

JKB said...

Oh Heidi, I'm so sorry.

I know where you're at.

((hugs))

Nicole said...

Heidi, I saw the title of this post, and my heart just sank. What a blessed life Nigel had to own such awesome hoomans.

Big hugs to you, Jethro and the kids. I believe that hole in your heart will be filled by something wonderful someday soon.

:-(

C-ingspots said...

I'm so sorry. It's so very hard to let them go and then go on. That's just life though. None of us will get out of this alive. Just remember that what counts is the love and the quality of the life while it lasts. He sounds like a wonderful cat and a loyal friend to you and your family. I'll just bet that he was content and knew he was living the good life. Can't get much better than that.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Your horses are adorable!

Lynn Sinclair said...

He was a wonderful cat, Heidi, and I know he'll be missed.

Bunny said...

(hugs)

lexiloo said...

i'm so sorry!

jules said...

Oh Heidi, I am so sorry.