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  • Part 1 of this story is titled "We call him Digit." Thanks for reading.

    Sitting on the cold hard bench in the waiting area of the animal hospital wishing the lady next to me would stop her inquisition, or take a hint.

    "How old is he?" she asked. "He's a pretty cat."

    I was holding that shit-eating grin on my face that I reserve for uncomfortable situations such as this one. Finally, I gave up and tried to ignore her questions. I was on the verge of tears and was about to explode.

    My husband, T, was beside me, spending time with Two-Tone in the carrier. I couldn't bear to say goodbye anymore. I had done it a thousand times in the past week or so. Since the vet called the week before to say that Two-Tone was struggling with chronic kidney failure (CRF), I had been on this bench two or three times. This would be the last time.

    The lady didn't take a hint. The polite questions and comments kept coming. Finally, the veterinary assistant came out to tell us they had a room open. Relief.

    *******

    We had been giving Two-Tone meds for hyperthyroidism for a month or so. The condition is common in older cats and he was struggling. He began eating, once again, after we started him on the meds, but a week before, he had quit eating. The vet wanted to keep him to flush out his kidneys after he was diagnosed with CRF, so I left him at the office on a Friday to be monitored over the weekend. This was my 15 year old cat. Some people do not understand the relationship, but this cat had seen my worst days and seen me at my worst as well. He had been there through two major moves, a divorce, another serious relationship, and all of life's transitions and struggles in between. He had seen the good as well - and had fallen in love with my boyfriend, who later became my husband. This cat had seen it all and was a constant, albeit curmudgeonly, companion. As one of my friends commented, he was a "magical cat," who had a voice like Tom Waits. I realized that I would never hear that loud raspy meow again.

    That morning, we knew the moment was coming. We got the carrier ready, let Two-Tone out on the screened-in porch one last time, and spent time with him. The other cats knew something was up and stayed out of the way. Jacob, our orange tabby, just sat on the other side of the sectional staring at Two. This old cat had seen other cats come and go. Always the forgiving alpha, he had been the leader of many a clowder, and seemingly preferred that position. He was also a lone feline for years until we decided to adopt a petite tuxedo female a few years ago.

    We pet his fur and talked to Two-Tone and each other on the couch. We cried about how we were going to ease the inevitable process. He lay calmly on a pillow, loving the attention. The other cats remained out of the way, but stayed just enough distance away to watch what was going on. Finally, the time came to take him to the clinic. We gave him some calming drops and prepared the carrier. This would be the last time he would have to be in one, which he always hated. However, this time he didn't fight it. I don't think it even occurred to him or he just didn't have the same fight he had in his younger and healthier days.

    *******

    So in the exam room we waited for the vet. We said more goodbyes, cried, and stroked Two-Tone's fur. He was calm, but there was concern in his meows. I think he knew something was up. He knew he wasn't doing well at all. For the last few weeks he had been miserable - having forced medications and food shoved into his mouth. The cat seemed ready to go. The vet entered the room and told us what the process entailed. I had been in many a room while a pet, or another animal, was being euthanized. T had never had this experience, so the explanation from the vet was calming information. We kissed and hugged Two-Tone one last time and let the doctor do his job - my hand on his side and T's petting his head. Right after the vet shot the lethal liquid into his vein, he calmly turned his head up to look at me. Out of his mouth came the highest and tiniest meow I had ever heard from him and then he laid his head back down. I began crying again. He was gone.

    The vet placed him back in the carrier and let us take our time before making the trek out to the lobby. T and I talked, cried, and laughed. We picked up the body in the carrier - the body that was really no longer Two-Tone - and made our way back home. There, we picked out a spot in our backyard, under some trees on top of the hill, to bury him. While we were digging the hole, it began to drizzle. We had to periodically stop to cry and hug one another. We placed the body in the deep hole on top of the fuzzy bed he always slept on. He looked like he was calmly sleeping. We covered him up with clay soil and said more goodbyes. The era of Two-Tone was over.
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