Yesterday morning, after I returned from taking the kids to daycare, Timmy was laid out on his back on the back patio, mouth wide open, panting, crying out in pain, pupils fully dilated even in the morning sun, and he was dirtier than he's ever been. I didn't understand why until he started trying to crawl and his entire back end was dead weight. He was not like that yesterday evening when I fed them. Coco was standing watch nearby, meowing nervously, with a look of terror on his face--I'm not kidding. The look on his face when Timmy cried out was one of fear and confusion. After calming down my self-talking repetitive chorus of "this is bad; this is not good, oh crap" I called Eli, who I knew was about to go into court, because I didn't know what to do (or didn't want to be the one to do it, maybe), and he said he would be home at lunch and we could figure out what to do then. I knew that I had not accurately communicated the severity and urgency of the situation. Timmy could not wait four hours. I could not make him suffer for four hours more. I made a snap decision to take him to the vet. I went outside, and he automatically, without me even making known my intentions, dragged himself into the cat carrier that sits outside for shelter from the sun/rain. He knew it was time to go.
About a year ago, I had to take Timmy to the vet because he lost a lot of weight and was really sick. It had built up and I was ready for the vet to tell me he needed to be put to sleep. Turns out it was just a bladder infection. Today, I was unprepared. I mean, when I saw Timmy, I'm pretty sure I knew, but I didn't have any time to get used to the idea. It's a much different thing to have a pet die of natural causes than to have to make the call to euthanize, even when they are in pain, and the prognosis is slim. It was the right thing, but that didn't make it easier.
When I went to go get the carrier and pay the bill, the girl at the desk chirped at me, "Are you here to pick up?" How morbid would that have been if I had been there to retrieve his body? I just said to her flatly, "No. He was euthanized. I'm here to pay the bill." She had that look of a person who realized that there was a foot in the mouth. Sorry--I had to rain on somebody's parade. But honestly, when I brought him in, she was talking about him meowing because he didn't like the carrier, and I corrected her that he was crying because he was in pain. She wanted to know if he needed his boosters today. "No, not if he's going to be euthanized." I said that to her, in those exact words. And she still greeted me that way when I returned. Not her fault, really, since it's a good customer-oriented attitude 99% of the time, but still. As I left, she did tell me that she was sorry for my loss, and then put on a fake pouty-lipped sad face that I wanted to punch.
I've had hamsters die, but I've never been around for the death of an animal that I cared about. I had no feelings for my mom's dog (sad, but true) though I was there when she died. My cat, Jasper, just disappeared from my parents' house after I graduated from college; that is, she just stopped showing up to eat. Her sister, Secret, was died tragically and had to be euthanized, but I was living away from home and it wasn't as personal from three hours away.
I'm trying not to beat myself up over the fact that I didn't go see him before it all ended, that I didn't even bother to tell him goodbye to his contorted face, or look him in the eyes and tell him that we loved him. And that we didn't bring the body home to bury him, and that he died dirty, not fluffy and white. But he was a cat. A loved cat, but just a cat.
So, Timmy was essentially our first child. And he'll be the first one who will leave a tangible absence in our home. And though it was mixed relief to see him go, he will be missed by the entire family, including Coco.