Someone said that to me on Facebook – “over the rainbow bridge” – and it is a lovely phrase; all my FB friends have been lovely and said kind things about Diesel and how I feel about having to let him go.
As you might have guessed, he was weighed on Monday last week, 21st March and, despite having eaten for England all through the previous week, he had not put on a single ounce. He was exactly the same as the Monday before. The vet looked back at his record and said that he was half the weight that he was this time last year.
So, we had to make the decision. I was not brave about it but knew that it had to be done. The worst part was that the vet said we could bring him home for another day or so to say goodbye properly. And I so wanted to, just to have him with me for a bit longer. But he was truly not well; he’d gone into the carry box without a fight, and didn’t miaow once on the trip to the vet, and that was a first for both. He just sat there hunched on the scales without trying to leap back into the carry box; another first. It was time, and it would have been selfish of me to have taken him home and then made him come back again. Besides which I’d had such a terrible week knowing that this would be the result I didn’t feel I could get through another day and night knowing that we had signed his death warrant (R did that for me because I couldn’t).
Sunday was a nightmare. R’s Mum came for the day, as is usual on Sundays now. It was our 23rd wedding anniversary, but R and I didn’t feel like celebrating. Oh, and the night before my friend’s husband had died – he had been given months to live, but died within three weeks of his diagnosis of liver cancer and just over a week after coming home. We made the day as normal as possible, mainly for K’s sake. I didn’t want to talk to anybody about Diesel having to go to the vet. I slept downstairs on the sofa on Sunday night so that he wasn’t alone. I clung on to the hope that he’d put weight on, and could have his thyroid tumour removed, just to get me through the week and that last night.
Some months ago I’d asked K if, when the vet decided that it was kindest to help our cats end their lives instead of suffering, she wanted to know about it or be there. She said that she wouldn’t want to know about it until afterwards, so we didn’t tell her about it in advance. In hindsight I should maybe have warned her, but on Monday morning we took him along, still hoping. During the previous week he’d had all his pills and all his favourite food, so had had every possible chance. But it was not to be.
When, many years ago, we’d taken MIL’s elderly cat Squiggles to be put to sleep, the vet shaved her front paw, injected her and she cried, and stayed standing on the table, wobbling on her thin legs. I asked if I could pick her up and he said yes; I cuddled her, stroked and talked to her and R stroked her too. I’d been ok up until the point where R said “goodbye, you’ve been a good friend”. Squiggles then went to sleep, the vet checked her heart and said she’d gone. Apart from the initial crying, which broke my heart and I never forgot, as the needle went in, it was all very peaceful and we had several seconds to say goodbye gently.
So that’s what I expected to happen this time. But it didn’t. The vet asked if we wanted to stay with Diesel and we said yes. She said that she’d need another nurse to help with the injection. She went out, and I did get to cuddle Diesel then, at least. She came back with two nurses. I thought one might be new and just going to observe, but they both held him onto the table (well, the woolly mat I’d taken) while the vet clipped his fur and prepared the injection. As she injected him he cried, and I stepped forward to pick him up but four hands were holding him down, then the vet held him too. I got there just as a nurse turned her head and nodded at me, and as I went to stroke him his head nodded into her hand.
The two nurses then stood back as the vet moved in with the stethoscope as I stroked his head; I said “has he gone?” and she said “yes, I’ll leave you with him for a while” and they all went.
We stayed with him for a while stroking and talking to him, and I closed his eyes, then came away.
I am of course upset that he’s gone. But what makes it worse is two things – one is that I let him down; I should have realised what was going on and asked to hold him during the procedure. I wanted him to know that I was cuddling him while he went to sleep. I wanted him to hear my heartbeat and our voices at the end; feel our hands on him, not those of strangers, one of which had hurt him after I’d handed him over to them. I had him close, and gave him to them. Why did I do that? I betrayed him and his trust. I was there but not close enough. I wanted his head to loll into MY hand as he breathed his last, not anyone else’s.
I know he knew that we were in the room, but I hate that I’d handed him over instead of keeping him in my arms – I thought I’d get him back, but he had literally gone as the needle came back out of his leg, and I didn’t get the chance to pick him up again.
So not only was he cheated, I feel cheated, too. The only comfort is that it was quick, and he was on his mat that I’d knitted for him when he was new to us – he used to sit on it on the back of the conservatory sofa to look out of the window – and I’d scattered some of his favourite catnip on it. But not much consolation, really. I’m left wishing that we’d brought him home and taken him back yesterday, because then we might have seen a different vet and it would have been different.
But the end result would of course have been the same.
I am lucky that R has been really supportive of my feelings since then and has been really good, letting me talk about it. We .told K when we got home, and her reaction was angry first, then very sad, then philosophical.
This is Diesel (on the left) and Bubbles having their first meal with us, on 14th April 2005, when we brought them home from the rescue centre – the staff at the centre gave them each a green plastic ball to bring with them, one of which you can see in the picture:
And I took this one just before we took Diesel to the vet on Monday, just before Katy came to stroke him on the head before going to school, not knowing that it would be for the last time:
They’d eaten side by side like this for almost 12 years.
Everything seems so trivial now. I still have a broken dishwasher in place of an indoor freezer after 6 years of trying to get a new one to fit into the space. (The kitchen was originally built around small appliances). Do I care? No. The allotment needs doing and the back lawn needs mowing, the carpet needs a professional clean and the windows need cleaning.
I don’t care about any of it. I’ve gone into a bit of a decline, and one minute I’m all bright and cheerful with Katy playing with her Ever After High dolls and the next I’m standing outside with tears running down my face because the sun is shining and Diesel ought to be sleeping in it, and never will be again. And I’m so cold all the time. I’m wearing a thermal vest, jumper and two cardigans and the heating’s on, and I just want to huddle under a blanket.
Bubbles is searching the house and scratching at cupboards and closed doors looking for him, and hardly leaves our sides now unless it’s to sleep on the bed in the place where he used to sleep on my legs.
Everywhere I go in the house there’s a memory of him there, and I look at the back lawn and remember him running across it, tail up and miaowing because I’m holding the door open for him and he doesn’t have to come through the catflap.
I suppose that what I feel now is overwhelming sadness coupled with guilt. Did we make the right decision but too soon? Should I have brought Diesel home and tried for another week? He hadn’t gained weight, that’s true, but at least he hadn’t lost any more. Maybe another week of giving him his favourite food would have started him on the upward track again. I’d been told that his liver and kidneys were in great condition only a couple of weeks before. Should we have taken that into account?
I was fairly sure that I was taking him to his doom and although it was R who did the signing and paying, I was the one who picked him up off the sofa in the conservatory where he was happily asleep and put him in the carrying box. I was the one who took that last photo knowing, pretty much, that he and Bubbles would never be side by side again on this earth, and she’d never see him again. The other day we had lovely warm sunshine, and Bubbles found a patch of sunlight to sleep in. He should have been there too.
I shan’t keep on here; you don’t want to suffer all this angst with me! But so much reminds me of him. When we first had him he attached himself to me and wanted to be carried everywhere. Neither cat would sit on our laps for about two years; we think that they’d not had much reaason to trust humans, but we’d only had them a few weeks when Diesel started asking me to pick him up and would sit happily on my left shoulder while I held him with one hand and we walked about (just like Katy did, when she was born 🙂 ). I was the one he came to when he was hurt; I only had to sit down anywhere and he’d jump up on my lap. It was my bed he’d come to in the night and settle himself on my legs, and me he’d wake up in the morning asking for food by batting me round the face with his paws. If anyone brought me flowers he was ecstatic if there was a fern in it, and would jump all over the work surface while I was cutting them to put into a vase.
When I worked in the garden he and Bubbles would venture out and sit on the grass, companionably close. This year I’ll be doing the same things but he won’t be there. It’s just so unfair for him; I deprived him of his life, in what seemed to be a cruel way (because he cried in pain and I wasn’t holding him to give him comfort), and I wish I had given him another week now, but I didn’t and now I can’t.
I promise to talk about my ‘normal’ day to day inanities again soon, but one day, when I can bear to look at them again, I shall tell you some of the things that Katy wrote when we broke the news to her last Monday after school. She was so upset – angry, first – that she couldn’t speak, and filled four sides of A4 paper with questions in big scrawl and tiny bunched-up writing. Some of those broke my heart all over again.
But whatever doubts I had about doing the right thing, it’s done and can’t be undone. I know that we’ll probably have to face the same with Bubbles before much longer (that’s another thing – because she’s older I assumed that she’d go first and I’ve been semi-prepared for that for the last couple of years, but Diesel was so fit and active that I expected to have him for at least three or four years more).
As R said when his Dad died, “now we must take care of the living”, and I suppose that’s what keeps any of us going after someone we love dies. I must somehow break out of this tearful fog and follow that advice. I just don’t know how.