I love animals. I always have. When I was young, I pored over flashcards with animals facts, I read about animals in the encyclopedia, and volunteered at the vet's office to learn more about them. Today, I still wave to animals and tell them hi--even the crazy goats in the trailer in front of me on the highway. I don't cry much, but I cry when an animal dies in a book or movie, and a pang of sadness hits me if I see an animal, lifeless, on the roadside.
I particularly love cats. From painting my cat's nails when I was a kid, to hanging posters, to subscribing to a newsletter all about cats--I learned everything I could about cats, and loved it.
When Friday came into our lives, it was a natural fit. Instead of the kid who doted on her pet, I became a responsible parental figure to this tiny creature. (And of course, I continued to dote on him.) We taught him how to eat, clean himself, and play with string. We saved his baby teeth and witnessed his first big jump from the floor to the window sill. Friday taught me how important discipline is, and he taught Jon what a wonderful thing it is to be a cat owner.
Our little kitty was always the underdog, which is why Jon loved him so much. He came to us so pitiful, and he stayed that way for the majority of his first year with us. Roundworm, ringworm, and ear mites was the first round, then a scare when we found out he had a heart murmur, then--of all things--visits to a feline ophthalmologist. With each round, we thought it might be the end, but each round, Friday pulled through. He was our miracle kitty.
Last Friday, I took Friday for his annual checkup and shots. I marveled that he had not been to the vet's office in so long. He had become a beautiful, pure white and soft adult cat. His pink nose and ears gave us reason to tease him some, but he was truly handsome. Besides the aspirin, the eye that would always water, and the occasional allergies, Friday seemed to have risen above the bedraggled kitten he once was. Friday morning, he was so playful--my wonderful wild child--I hated to drag him to the vet. He stood on the "cat tree" I made out of cardboard boxes while I dangled a string toy for him to catch. It was our favorite game of late, but we eventually had to stop and head to the vet. The vet techs, on seeing him, all reminisced about how pitiful he had been and complimented what he had become.
His checkup went well--his temp was good, his heart okay, a few questions about his breathing, but we determined he was just really nervous. His weight was good. His gums were red (though his teeth were fine), so the vet decided to put him on an antibiotic for a week. After his shots, we were done and headed back home. As he always does after vaccinations, Friday slept the rest of the day.
On Saturday he continued to sleep. Finally, on Sunday, he started eating and being a little more social, joining us in whatever room we were in. I spent Sunday evening on the computer, and Friday laid with half his body on the keyboard of my laptop, his chin resting on his paws, which were punching the "d" and "x" on the keyboard. We played a game of "How fast can Friday type letters and can Lydia keep up deleting them?" I'm not sure he knew he was playing, but at least it kept me entertained.
Monday morning, when Jon and I woke up, I commented to Jon how Friday never came up to sleep on the bed with us, like he normally does. Jon turned on the light, and Friday was laying by the closet, a favorite spot of his. As I looked closer, I realized his eyes weren't closed all the way, and his mouth was open slightly. "Oh my gosh, Jon, I think something's wrong...." Thinking he might be in pain, we didn't try to touch him. Instead, we called his name, clapped, did whatever we could to try to wake him. Finally, I ran my hand along his side. He felt like a specimen in a taxidermy shop--stiff and cool. The tears of fear became tears of loss. I thought of the fun playtime we had before heading to the vet, and the time over the weekend that I got to just love on him, and what a beautiful, wonderful cat he was.
And now he was gone.
Jon and I were in shock. We knew he wouldn't live as long as most cats, but neither of us expected it to be so soon. Our little baby....
We bundled him up in a towel in his pet carrier. The trip to the vet was quiet, and we were the first there that morning. Heather, who saw Friday the first day we brought him in over two years ago, could tell by our faces that something was wrong. When she saw Friday, she joined us in our tears, saying, "But I love this kitty...." Since we don't have a place to call our own, and we're not ones to keep urns with ashes, we asked that the vet take care of Friday. With that, we left, and it was done.
My mom came for the day, and she helped me put Friday's things away and make the house feel fresh. A florist came by with a rose from the vet's office, and Margie came at lunch with happy yellow flowers. (Margie had come to the house for Pilates early that morning, only minutes after we found out Friday died.) I'm an emotional shopper, and we stopped at Big Lots after lunch and came back with things for the house. Jon--an emotional eater--came home from the grocery store that afternoon with ice cream, a cake mix, and candy. (It's a good thing hard things don't hit us too often.)
Today has been better than yesterday. Today, I've only cried a few times: when I came out of the shower, and Friday is always at the door waiting to jump into the wet bathtub; when I sat down at the couch with my computer, and thought of our time on Sunday night; when Jon called and said he was having a tough day; and now, when I'm writing this.
We miss him so much. We'd rub his head, and he would lean back and purr, his mouth opening just enough for his purr to come out funny. He loved to play in the laundry while we folded clothes, lunging for each piece of clothing we picked up. He drank water by tapping his paw in his bowl and then licking his paw--a very messy way to drink, but it looked so dainty. He'd make us sleepy as we watched him bathe so methodically. He loved to get under the quilt Grandma made, and sleep in his bed on the windowsill that my mom gave him. If Jon and I were arguing, he'd always walk in and doing something silly, or demand petting. And who can stay angry when they're petting a kitty? He kept me company--more than I realized, as I've looked around for him so many times today, like a person looks at their wrist expecting to see a watch.
Many people have called or e-mailed. Ken wrote, "As we get older our love for our pets stays as strong as when we are young, so when we have to part with them it doesn't get any easier." And it's true. I kind of hoped it wouldn't be, and I felt a little silly yesterday because of how much it hurt. But our pets are our best friends, and while I won't say they have the same value as people, they do make us better. And they fill something in us that nothing else can.
I'm so thankful that Friday had a good life here, that he found a family that loved him so much. I'm thankful that he died peacefully, and that Jon and I weren't faced with a difficult decision at the end of his life. And I'm so thankful for Friday--for his soft fur, his quiet purr, his sweet nature, and his love of play. He was a great cat, and I miss him.
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