The Beauty in Loss

One month ago, a relatively routine trip to the vet took a difficult turn. I dropped Tayo off for bloodwork and headed into the office.

That same evening, I said goodbye to him.

Exactly one year earlier, he’d gotten his tail kicked in what must’ve been the cat fight to end all cat fights. Ever the neighborhood badass, he likely defended his territory quite well, though came away with battle scars that landed him at the vet’s office. He donned the cone of shame for two weeks while an abscess drained and healed, and from that point forward, he was no longer an indoor/outdoor cat. While the grass and sky still called his name when the breeze drifted in and crossed his whiskers just right, he’d resigned himself to a life of leisure and developed a penchant for laying in patches of sunshine on the carpet and burrowing under bed comforters.

The bloodwork revealed some serious issues. I stopped by the vet on my way home to get the full scoop. It wasn’t good.

“He has Stage 4 kidney failure,” the doctor told me. “You could put him on a new diet and that may help, but it would only give him maybe a year or two if it was caught soon enough.”

“I’m guessing Stage 4 isn’t early enough, is it?” I asked.

“It isn’t,” he said.

Only recently did he exhibit any signs of sickness — hence the trip to the vet at the end of March. With him being 17, I knew it was probably time to say goodbye. Prolonging his life primarily for my benefit seemed inhumane and selfish, at best.

I sat in the exam room with the doctor for what seemed like a lifetime. Tayo purred in my lap, his characteristic low rumble sounding at peace because of the fluids he’d been on all day.

“I think it’s time,” I said. Tears came.

Then more tears.

“Do you want to take him home and have one more night with him?” the vet asked. Tears became sobbing. The IV was taped to one of his front legs, but it had been capped and he was able to walk relatively freely, more or less. I pictured sitting up with him all night, but for what purpose? Stressing him out by putting him in his carrier to get him home and doing it again the next morning — all while knowing the moments were ticking down until his last breath — wasn’t something that I could do.

I’d never been around when other pets in our family had passed. I was usually living out of state, but might have declined once or twice. Loss is hard, avoidance is comfortable. But this time there was no declining, not that I would have. To be there when a life that I’d cherished since 1997 passed from this world was heartbreakingly special. Holding him as his body relaxed in my arms was a moment seared into my heart forever.

Pet cremation hadn’t crossed my mind before, but it seemed like the right thing to do — at least then I could bring him home. His little box of ashes arrived earlier this month, along with a plaster imprint of his paw complete with little bits of his soft black fur stuck to it.

Shortly after he passed, I was in the garden one evening. A warm, gentle wind passed through the yard and the wrought iron gate rattled quietly, the same way it would have if Tayo slipped between its bars. Although the tears came once again, my memories of him are beautiful, and I’ll be forever thankful for our years together.

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