It didn’t really hit me until last weekend, that something was not right with our cat, Ashley. It was not out of the ordinary for her to spend a majority of her day in our bed in the winter and on some days to not eat as much food because she did not want to get out of the warm nest that she had made in our comforter. She was almost twelve years old and starting to act like an older cat over the last few years. Last weekend is when Ashley really got my attention, after she had an accident on the front room carpet, of a black tar consistency, that I suddenly realized something was up.
I realized that my cat hadn’t just lost a little bit of weight, she no longer had the roundness to her cheeks and her fur seemed to somewhat hang off of her. It happened so quickly or I just did not let myself believe it until last week. My 5-year-old son Jay was in charge of feeding the cat and the dog. He kept coming up to me the last few days and saying, “I didn’t have to feed the cat again because she already had food.” Suddenly it hit me that he was telling me this more than just every few days, something wasn’t right.
I took Ashley to the vet expecting the worst but hoping for the best. I was somewhat joking with the vet about Ashley being a stubborn cat, referencing on how last summer she was on anxiety medication for a month because she for some reason has an issue with me being pregnant. He cut me off right at the end of what I was saying and said, “She isn’t being stubborn this time. She has cancer.” The vet opened Ashley’s jaw and showed me how Ashley had a large cancerous mass that was so large that it was making it hard for her to eat and pushing her tongue over. He said that if we tried to do chemo on her that it likely wouldn’t extend her life longer than a few months, it would cost us about $10,000, and she wouldn’t be very comfortable while alive.
My husband and I had to make the difficult decision to have Ashley put to sleep. Ashley, the first cat that I ever had. Ashley was the first big responsibility that my husband and I had as a couple. Next month she was going to be 12. This cat has been with us through two apartments and a house. She used to travel from Bowling Green to Cincinnati and back when we would go to visit my in-laws. When she was a kitten, she would sit on the dashboard and hiss at the windshield wipers. She used to inspect every bag of groceries as we brought them into the house. She used to hide in my closet behind my clothes and she never met a Vera Bradley bag of mine that she did not jump into.
If someone did not like cats or they were allergic, I swear that Ashley figured it out and she would perch right next to the person the entire time that they were over our house. When we first moved into our house (that had not been lived in for three years), Ashley would kill the crickets in our basement and bring them upstairs and line them up in the hallway. When we would wake up in the morning, she would proudly stand by her neat line of mangled crickets in the hallways and meow for praise. Ashley had a carpeted teepee as a kitten and when she outgrew that we got her a carpeted castle- Ashley was our little princess. Ashley was my husband and I’s first adventure together, our first pet, our first furry kid. Ashley reminds me of all the excitement of first moving in with my husband, learning to make decent dinner, and having friends over.
When I came home from the vet, on the inside I was so sad and could have buried my head in a pillow and cried. A scene from “This is Us” came to mind. In the episode, Rebecca’s had just told Jack’s friend Miguel that his best friend (and her husband) Jack has died. When Miguel starts to get chocked up about the news, Rebecca tells him that he will not get choked up in front of her children, that he will go take a walk around the block if he needed to get a hold of himself. That is who I wanted to be for my children; I wanted to be their rock, someone that they could cry to and know that I would be there to hold them and tell that that I missed her, too, and that it was going to be ok. I think that it is good to show my kids that I am sad about losing Ashley, too, but I did not want to make them feel like they needed to console me.
Nothing is worse than seeing your kids hurt. My husband told Jay that Ashley was going to die on his way driving the kids home from my sister-in-law’s house. I’ll never forget how upset that he looked when I walked in the door. My usually happy-go-lucky five-year-old was now about to have his first experience with someone close to him dying. I saw that face and I knew that I had to be strong for him and his brothers.
Ashley was put to sleep today. For the last few days, we have prepared ourselves and my oldest son for today. We all spent a lot of time cuddling with Ashley. My oldest son took a picture with her this week that we printed out for him. We have looked at pictures of Ashley and talked about old memories. My husband and I took Ashley to be put to sleep while our neighbor watched the boys. I cried my eyes out on the way to the vet, at the vet’s office, and on the way home, but I did my best to pull myself together when I got home.
Losing a pet is hard, at any age, whether you are a child or parent. The struggle that I did not think too much about till I had children, is that in times of loss, it is my job to be strong for my children.