Miss you, buddy.

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Having pets is one of the best choices I’ve ever made. It’s also one of the hardest because quicker than any other relationship in your life, you experience a condensed version of all of the stages. The delight in meeting your new friend and incorporating them into your life, learning about their idiosyncrasies, becoming exasperated during their ‘teenage’ (kitten/puppy) years, settling into their patterns, and finally as they ease into old age. And in the latter stage is where it gets the hardest.

I’ve owned four pets as an adult. When I lived in Atlanta, I had hoped to get a dog, but alas, my travel (and my jerk roommate at the time who owned the apartment I lived in) prevented this from becoming a reality. I decided, then, to get Sebastian, a docile little stray that I got from the Atlanta Humane Society. He was a ball of fur, and a delight to have around; until, that is, he turned 6 months old. Something seemed to have snapped in his kitty brain; formerly docile, he would attack anyone who stepped foot in the house, latching onto their leg and refusing to let go. After a few successive trips to the vet trying to figure out not only what was wrong, but what we could do to fix it, we settled on the solution of getting him a friend. “He’s bored!” they said. So a few months later, along came Sullivan.

Sullivan was a teeny little kitten as well, but little did I know that he’d soon turn into a…well, a hoss. He was QUITE A CAT, pushing nearly 20 lbs. in his heyday, despite everyone’s best efforts to get him more exercise and decrease his (diet) food intake. Perhaps it was a thyroid or glandular problem; I prefer to say he just had more to love, this small-headed, big-bellied roly-poly ball of fur.

And he was the SWEETEST. Always wanting to be around you, he’s the only cat I’ve ever met who responded on command. Not sure how we came to know this, but with the right command, he would roll over on his back, not-so-subtly soliciting belly rubs. His favorite place to hang out was the bathroom sink; getting him to move out of it so I could brush my teeth was a daily occurrence. His eyes were big and alert, giving him a sort of perpetual ‘deer-in-headlight’ look about him. Loving to people but trepidatious in nature, I never worried about him running away, getting in a fight, and being anything other than a sweet, loving, semi-obese feline o’ love.

Last winter I noticed the hair on his back seemed to be thinning, and taking him to the vet revealed that he was actually biting the hair out. Not a skin-disease as originally thought, it was more of a warning sign; the visit prompted a full series of blood tests, where we learned he was actually in the midst of kidney failure, a result of kidney disease. After going through this exact diagnosis a few years earlier with my (now-deceased) cat Samantha, I knew what this entailed. Kidney disease – while not painful – is irreversible. You can enter into treatment – low-protein food, IV fluids to keep them hydrated – but at some day in the near future, you’re going to have to make a very hard decision.

That day was this past Sunday. And it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life.

I had been traveling for a few weeks, and while I was away he hadn’t been eating as much as normal, but upon my return on Saturday night, he was happy to see me and seemed to be in great spirits. Yet by the next morning, it was very clear that he wasn’t feeling like himself. We had found him hiding in the closet, something very uncharacteristic of his personality. The other signs were there, and while this may sound really contradictory, this made the whole decision easier. I think I was secretly worried that I wouldn’t know when it was his time to go, but seeing him so unlike his jovial self (in addition to a few other noticeable signs) helped prepare me for the most gut-wrenchingly painful decision I’ve ever made. As cheesy as it may be, I think he was holding out until I retuned to let me know that it was time to say goodbye.

It’s still too recent, too raw, too painful to write more than this – tears are actually streaming down my face as I write this – but Sunday afternoon we took him to the vet and said our final goodbyes. Sullivan was calm; peaceful, even.

It was a few hours later before I realized the significance of the date; Sullivan was exactly nine years old when we bid him a final farewell. So instead of choosing to grieve for his death, we instead chose to spend the rest of the afternoon walking around by the water, trying to enjoy the sunshine and quietly, hand-in-hand along the Bay, celebrate the nine years that he was in my life.

RIP, Sullivan. I know you’re up there somewhere, hangin’ out in the big bathroom sink in the sky.

9 thoughts on “Miss you, buddy.

  1. I truly feel your pain and am sorry to hear that you lost Sullivan. Pets are always the hardest things to lose in our life and I’m happy that you celebrated rather than grieve the loss of your prized cat.

  2. Aww, honey, I am so sorry to hear this. 😦 😦
    As a fellow kitty lover, you know my heart goes out to you.
    Sullivan was SUCH a sweetheart! As you know, I absolutely loved every inch of him and every time I saw him I couldn’t resist squeezing that big belly, and giving him all the attention – tummy rubs & all – he would butter me up for.
    Sending you a big hug, sweetie. My love to Sebastian & Lila, too, for losing their fuzzy brother. xoxo

  3. Awwwwwww Aubs… I’m so sorry I didn’t know. I truly had a special spot of love for him, and am very empathetic with you right now. He was a ridiculously cute, funny, sweet cat.

  4. Aubrey,
    I’m not sure how I found you, but I am so glad I just did! I read this story about your beloved Sullivan and want to say I am so sorry for your loss. And I am glad that you and Sullivan had such a great life together! We have 2 kitties we luckily found at Pets Unlimited, and they have truly changed our lives. I don’t have to tell you, a cat person extraordinaire, how enchanting (and occasionally annoying!) a kitty can be.
    So I thank you for writing about your pets; and if and when you’re looking for a new buddy, take a look at Pets Unlimited.
    You write with great style!

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