It was Sunday morning in 2011 and we woke up to the first snow of the season in Richmond, Virginia. Peyton had a special Christmas event at church that morning with her preschool class. We went about our regular morning – making breakfast, playing with toys, then getting dressed and ready to leave for church. We fed the indoor cats that morning, but our outdoor cat, Maverick, was nowhere to be found. He had his own little cat house on our back deck, with a heating disc under his blankets. I called and called for him, but…nothing. I was getting worried because of the snow, and because he had never been gone for this long (a few hours). I know it’s not a long time, but he always hung by close to the house and as his mom, I knew his typical behavior.
Jim told me not to worry about it and that he would probably show up by the time we got back from church. We bundled up and climbed into the car. I backed out of the driveway and as I turned back to face forward so I could turn the wheel, something caught my eye in our front side yard. I blurted, “Jim, what is that? Tell me it’s not what I think it is.” I frantically put the car back into drive and sped up the driveway, shoved the gear in park and Jim got out, telling me to stay there.
From the driver’s seat, I watched as he picked up my frozen grey and white bundle of fluff. He shook his head at me and carried Maverick into the garage. All I remember at that point was me screaming hysterically and shouting “no, no, no!!” My worst fears were confirmed – he was gone.
I didn’t go to church that day. Jim took Peyton to her class event while I literally curled up into the fetal position and bawled. Did he suffer? Did he freeze to death? Did an animal attack him? What had happened to my first baby?
I picked Maverick out in 2003 from a small litter of kittens in Northern Virginia. It was my last semester of graduate school and I was living in a tiny house with my roommate, Anna. I drove all the way from Charlottesville to pick him up. I was so excited to finally have my own cat. He was the cutest little nugget and I couldn’t imagine loving anything any more.
In the end, Maverick proved to be a one-woman cat. I really don’t think he adjusted well at all to life after we left Charlottesville that July. He slept with me, guarded me, loved me with all he had. We moved another 3 times after that and by the last time we moved, he was an outdoor cat because he wouldn’t use the litter box anymore. His behavioral issues were tough to deal with, but as a mom you look past all that and still see your baby for the kitten he once was.
The autopsy revealed he’d had a “kitty heart attack.” The vet told me it probably happened so fast he didn’t suffer. He didn’t think the cold or the snow had anything to do with it. We never would have been able to prevent it. To this day, I still wish I could have done more for him. I think of him often. In fact, my friend Anna gave me a framed picture of Maverick as a kitten after he died. He’s been by my bedside ever since.
I lost him 5 years ago today.
Soon, I’ll be losing Merlin, his brother. Not only have I been thinking about Maverick lately, I’ve been thinking about how he and Merlin were great buddies. We rescued Merlin from the animal shelter when he was 2. We wanted Mav to have a friend to play with while we were gone for 2 weeks during our wedding and honeymoon. Merlin came into our lives in 2006.
Some of you may know that Merlin was diagnosed with IBD (irritable bowel disorder) years ago. He’s been fighting a chronic sinitus issue the past few years as well, which must be treated with antibiotics. Well, the antibiotics disrupt his bowels and he needs medicine to calm his IBD down afterward. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s been happening for probably almost 2 years now. He never lost weight either – until recently.
Not only is old age slowing him down – he stopped grooming awhile ago & he’s got arthritis – but his IBD has escalated. A recent ultrasound also showed his pancreas to be incredibly enlarged and his kidneys angry at the world. There was also a possible small lymphoma seen on the ultrasound, but we’ll never know, because he’s too fragile to undergo any procedure to find out. We wouldn’t treat the cancer anyway because he’s 13. He’s lived a good life.
I’m still waiting to talk to our veterinarian about everything. I only got to briefly talk to her Friday as she was headed into surgery. She said he’s likely in some pain. We got him pain meds, but I don’t want him living in pain. I honestly would never have guessed he was in pain – he’s just slowed down a lot. He still picks fight with his brother, Vader. He still eats, drinks, and uses the litter box. He curls up with me every time I sit down and sleeps between my pillow and Jim’s at night. He usually sleeps with Peyton until she falls asleep, too. I’m really hoping that he still has some time left.
Maybe I’m just telling myself that he’s okay. I don’t want him to suffer. I’ve known this day was coming for months now. But that doesn’t make the pain any easier. Especially on the five-year anniversary of his brother’s death…
I don’t know how or when I’m going to make one of the hardest decisions of my life. After I touch base with the doctor this week, I guess it’ll be time to figure it out. My worst fear is that he thinks I killed him. I know it sounds crazy, but I feel like he’d let me know when he’s ready and I’m not sure he’s done that yet. I just hope he knows how much I love him. It’s going to be really hard without him around, especially at Christmas.
My sweet, sweet boy, how I love you so…