Little Mister, the cat who was my best little friend in the world, died in my arms the other day. One minute he was fine; running around, meowing and just generally being a cat, happy to see his “human” come home from work. The next minute he was keeled over on his side, eyes and tongue bulging out, making a strangled kind of gurgling sound, obviously in pain and distress. I yelled for my wife to call the emergency vet’s office, which is just a few minutes away from our house.
But by the time she had finished placing the call, Little Mister was dead.
I was holding him, feeling helpless and looking into his eyes. He was looking directly back into mine with that expression of pure love and trust I had grown to know and have my heart melted by over the course of his sixteen years on this Earth.
Only this time there was something else there in his eyes. I think it was fear but maybe it was just pain. Then I saw the life just leave his little body like a light being shut off. Just like that. He gave one last twitch but I knew he was already gone.
It was all so quick. Last year we had to have our cat Tuennes put down after he had been in declining health for several months. He was eighteen. That was hard but we had the time to come to grips with what we both knew we were going to have to do. This death was such a shock, so unexpected.
The last thing Little Mister saw in his life was my face; a face older and more careworn than when he first came to us, so frail and small he fit into the palm of my hand. He and I had a special bond and I hope my being there somehow helped in those last moments. I choose to believe it did.
Some may wonder how I could be so emotional and overwrought about this. Those who have had a special relationship with an animal companion know the answer. Little Mister was a beam of sunshine every day of his life. He was always so loving and uncomplicated, unlike the way some cats (and dogs) can be. No matter how bad a day I may have had, how stressed or pissed off or sad I may have been, Little Mister always cheered me up with his unconditional love.
I believe he had a good and comfortable and happy life, and sixteen years is also a fairly long life. We just expected to have a few more years with him and that his passing, when it finally came, would be at the end of a needle after a slow decline and an agonizing decision. This was so sudden, so unexpected.
But maybe, in a strange way, I should be thankful not to have to make that decision. Sometimes you can get to a point where an animal is being kept alive with surgery and medications, despite having no quality of life anymore, just to spare its human companions the heartbreaking choice when to end the life of a longtime friend. Maybe I should be thankful it happened the way it did. What if I had come home to find him dead? I would have beat myself up wondering if he had suffered for hours, meowing in pain, without a friendly face to see him off, a friendly voice to whisper to him in those last moments.
I’ll never know what could have been, but I do know this: I’m sad at his passing. I loved that little guy and I miss him. I’m also so glad to have had him in my life, I feel richer for it.