This shadow dwells in our home. It came a few months ago. It landed on you, my dear.
It steals. It started by eating your flesh, slowly. It made you nervous. You didn't like me leaving you upstairs. You'd cry in the hall so the sound would echo down to the kitchen. If I didn't come back soon enough then you'd come down to get me. You're rotund body looked so funny going up and down the stairs, like a roly-poly. You've made me laugh so many times.
But not these days. You've wasted away before my eyes. You tried to get better. A few days ago it stole your purr. When did it steal your restful sleep? You only lie restless, agitated. That's when you stopped eating, I think. Leaving you to lust the food and drink as you sit beside them on the floor. Your sad eyes are tinged yellow with jaundice.
I can't believe my beautiful, dignified friend is inside that pitiful body. Shaved patches mock you under your chin and belly and legs where the doctor took your blood. He left a little bruise. You've been very good at tolerating the weekly vet visits. I know it terrified you. The medicine I've struggled to feed you has caked on your cheeks, chin and feet. It won't wash off even though I have tried.
Death won't wash off either. His hands hold your frail skeletal frame, squeezing. It was too hard to see the inevitable. Because you stopped lying in the closet all day I thought you were getting better. But your bones got more and more pronounced through your dehydrated skin. Even though you sat with me in the living room and purred on the couch. And last week you woke me up in the morning. I'm sorry to have dragged this out and put you through this. I thought there was hope. I know you tried. Thank you.
Friday morning when I saw you drooling like that I panicked. We went to the vet again. He gave you some fluids and told me to make you comfortable. I decided to start giving you the extra antibiotics I hadn't been. And to force-feed you. The vet told me to do it last week but you were eating on your own so I couldn't. Friday after we got home, you didn't leave the carrier because you couldn't walk. I put your favorite blanket under the chair and made myself comfortable to sit with you. I knew that you were dying. I wanted to stay with you.
I told you then that you could leave, you didn't have to stay here for me. But I lied, didn't I? I fed you late at night when you started shivering. Then, when your breathing grew ragged at 3 am, I took you to the hospital. They wanted to put you to sleep. I couldn't do it. I couldn't leave you in a cold hospital with your last memories being forced into a cab, urinating on yourself and having these strangers poke you. I took you there so they could give you something for pain, to make it more comfortable. They told me they couldn't, I should end it instead. I considered it seriously. At 5 am, crying in that little room, I wished I wasn't alone. I couldn't think straight.
I hadn't slept in two days and neither had you. I wasn't prepared to make that decision like that. It felt like throwing you away. Not like that. She tried to talk me into it. She showed me the 'waiting' room. She gave me pamphlets called, 'Goodbye my friend'. I cried and cried and tried to process what she told me. Too many choices: euthanasia, more tests, put you in the oxygen tank, steroids or chemotherapy. Wha? She told me they couldn't fix you. And all I knew for sure was that I didn't want you to die there, like that. I wanted to take you home and get someone to make a housecall.
So they gave you some shots and I brought you home. "Against her medical opinion." You were glad to be here. I knew it was right when you started kneading your afghan. I made a place for you to sleep under the bed but you hopped on top and curled up with me. We slept for the first time in two days. You went back under the bed later. When I woke up that afternoon, I was afraid to look for you. But there you were, still breathing, without struggle. The shot must have helped you.
But now you can barely walk. Your eyes look so sad. Despite it all, Death hasn't stolen your dignity. You still sit with your head proudly displayed, as you should. But you can't do it for long. It's been months and you are still fighting. You poor girl. I wasn't as good to you as I should have been. I couldn't see how bad you were getting because I couldn't bear to face it. I thought you could beat it. You rallied and seemed to improve. But, not this time.
I called your doctor today. I asked him if he thought it was time to put you to sleep because you had gotten worse. He said that was the kindest thing to do. I asked if he was sure you weren't getting better. He said he knew it the first time he saw you, he's just been trying to prolong your life. If I had known that I wouldn't have put you through all this. I'm so sorry I've been forcing you to take the medicine. It made me sick to do it. Twice a day, I have chased you and held you down and forced your mouth open and pushed the pink liquid down your throat. You tried to spit it out. It broke my heart over and over to put you through that torture. But I wanted you to get better.
I'm going to the vet's office today to pick it up. I asked him if we could do it at home and he said he could give me the pills to do it myself. I'm going to put you to sleep, put you out of your wretched misery. Because I love you.
This has been one of the hardest things I've ever done. It must be hell for you. Watching you wither away hurt so much. And then the hope that you were getting better, then the disappointment that you weren't . . . I didn't know if I should keep treating you or let you be. The overwhelming guilt that I wasn't doing enough or I was negligent. And you loved me through it all, your pain and my torture. You've been the best cat ever.
This is the right thing.
Goodbye, my beloved friend.