Sunday, March 27, 2005


We’ve known for a couple of months that our cat’s days have been numbered. Shadow was diagnosed with diabetes in January, and it’s been all downhill since then.

Long story short, he hasn’t responded to anything we’ve thrown at it. Between diet and meds, he falls into the majority of felines who simply won’t get better. His reaction to being at the vet – namely, enough hissing and howling to permanently disqualify him from cat-of-the-month honors – dictates the absolute uselessness of even considering insulin injections.

During his most recent checkup last week, I brought up the dreaded topic of euthanasia when it became painfully clear he was getting much worse. Our vet, Dr. Tom, explained it all to me as we scheduled him to be put down the following Monday (tomorrow). I didn’t have the heart to do it any sooner, and I wanted the kids to have a chance to say goodbye. I swear when he looked at me when I let him out of his carrier back at the house, he knew.

I know, he’s a cat. In the overall scheme of things – a phrase I use a lot these days – a cat’s fate doesn’t amount to a huge impact on the celestial plane. But he’s been a part of our own little world since just after we got married, and he’s the only pet our kids have ever known.

We broke the news to them Saturday morning, trying to balance the wish to keep them in the blissful ignorance of childhood with the eventual and necessary intrusion of the real world of loss. We thought giving them the weekend would be enough.

Zach, our eldest, is having the roughest time. Just over ten years ago, Shadow sniffed the car seat after we brought our first munchkin home from the hospital. The cat seemed unimpressed at the time, but he became a furry friend to the first kid he had ever really known. Zach grew, and grew to love his aloof animal with the extra thumbs on his front paws.

Earlier tonight, Zach said goodnight to his now-much-smaller-than-him pet for the last time. He’s been negotiating for a dog, and the edge in his voice as he asks is enough to break a parent’s heart. He has spontaneously broken into tears through the weekend. Nothing hurts more than to see your child hurting. I wish I knew what to do to make his pain go away (beyond bringing home another furry friend, of course.)

Tomorrow morning, the kids will say a final goodbye before we take them to school. In the afternoon, my wife and I will bring him to the vet one last time. When we come home, the house will be silent.

Time will heal this, as it always does. Soon, they’ll be able to look back at their life with Shadow and smile at all the kooky things he did. They will, unfortunately, learn of losses far more profound than a mere pet. And as they do, I’d like to think that just having had Shadow in their lives will have given them an additional perspective, a few more tools to handle whatever challenges life throws their way.

All from a black cat who, despite never having uttered a word, had more of an impact on three young lives than he ever could have imagined.


Thumper said...

I can't even imagine having to tell your kids what's happening and then watch them try to say their goodbyes... We were spared dealing with it until our son was almost 18, and that was hard enough. He understood, and he had 13 mobths to say his goodbyes, but in the end, it was still hard.

Don't gorget to give yourself those moments of feeling like complete crap and anger and loss. Shadow was never "just a cat." He made a HUGE impact on the celestial word: he touched your lives, your kids lives, your wife's life, and all those little moments add up to a big impact.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I'm really sorry to hear about Shadow. But I think it's great that you've included your children in this whole thing with such honesty and compassion. I come across many people in my work who try to hide the facts of death from children, and I don't think it helps at all - in fact, I often feel that it's not designed to benefit the children, it's because the adults can't handle managing the children's pain as well as their own. Which you, clearly, can. So kudos to you.

Amelia said...

For a child, the very first pet always holds such a dear place in their heart, and I'm saddened to read of Shadows illenss.

It must have been awful having to tell your children about Monday. Unfortunately, this is one of those awful life lessons our children must learn.

Having read your blog for some time now,I have no doubt you and your wife will guide your children through this with love and care.

Anonymous said...

I never had a pet. I was deprived so Have no idea what it is like. Hey, what happened to your Team Administrator?

Anonymous said...

Carmi...thank you so much for your very kind and compassionate words on the recent loss of our Holly.
And thank you for directing me to this link. It was so poignant and all so true. Many people never truly get attached to their pets who are family members, but for those of us that do...the loss is very devastating. 3 weeks tomorrow and what I'd give if I could hug that beautiful head of hers just one more time and kiss her snout.