On January 12, 2017 I held my Merlin wrapped up in a blanket. He was already woozy and out of it from the gas the vet had given him so they could put an IV in his tiny arm. He looked at me groggily and all I kept thinking about was how much I loved this tiny creature. How I didn’t want him to leave me. I didn’t want to live without him snuggled up beside my pillow at night. I didn’t want to work on my laptop without him settled on my lap purring. I didn’t want to hear the silence in the house of what used to be a crackly old man’s meow, strutting down the hallway announcing to the world he was coming to find food, water, or one of his humans to lay on. In a nutshell, I didn’t want to imagine my life without him.
And yet, here I was, standing in a room, with my husband by my side, holding my precious baby boy whom we had resuced from the Richmond SPCA in 2006 when he was 2 years old; and I was about to watch him die in my arms. I couldn’t help but think I was killing him. He had no idea what was happening. He didn’t ask for this. If he wanted to leave this earth and leave me, why wouldn’t he have just passed away in his sleep? He didn’t understand. How would I live with myself? How could I do this to him? I felt evil. I felt dirty. I could never forgive myself for doing this to him…
And as the vet started the injections, he just kept staring at me – not really there, but not gone either. His beautiful green eyes that I’ll always see looking at me when I close my eyes. I kept kissing his head, whispering to him that I loved him so much and that I was so sorry. My tears kept falling on his fur and I kept trying to smell him, but I couldn’t because I could barely breathe. I wanted someone to take me with him. But in a matter of seconds he was gone. His body completely limp. I’ve never felt that sensation before and in that moment it all became real. Too real.
It’s now been several days since he died. I’m still broken. I’m truly a fraction of the person I was before. At times I wish it were all a bad dream and someone was going to rescue me. Processing what has transpired over the past week has been so much harder than I ever thought possible. I had been preparing for this for months, close to a year. Merlin had battled a vicious cycle of IBD and sinusitis over and over again, each time weakening his system a little more. I knew this would be coming at some point, especially after getting a recent diagnosis of pancreatitis, kidney failure, and intestinal cancer. Through all of it, though, he never left my side.
HE never left MY side.
No matter what was going on inside his little body, he was always happiest on a lap. My lap, my husband’s lap, my daughter’s lap, anyone’s lap. He offered us unconditional love every single day of his life. It didn’t matter how bad he might have felt inside or how sick he was, he was always offering us his love. Comfort. Companionship.
I have always had a rather unique draw to animals. Anything furry. But especially cats because, well, I grew up with them. Toby was the handsome orange cat who always laid on my bed near my head until I fell asleep. My mom knew that when he came into the living room after I had gone to bed, that I was asleep. He always stayed with me until I drifted off. Gizmo and Little were our two black and white “cow” kitties, who came after Toby. Gizmo loved to play ping pong with my brother and I and was quite possibly the loudest purring cat I’ve known. Little was a runt (hence her nickname) and was the sweetest, most timid little thing. She trusted no one but her family. Maverick was my first cat I owned as an adult. He had “owl” eyes and loved me so much he wanted me all to himself. When I would leave town for work he let me know he wasn’t happy. But no matter what he did to my rugs, my furniture, or my future husband’s ankle (that’s a whole other story) – I loved him unconditionally. Because he loved me unconditionally.
This is why I am so drawn to furbabies. They cannot speak to us. They cannot express themselves in words. But they want to be loved just like any human does. They need someone to take care of them, feed them, and love them. What they have to offer us is simply one thing: unconditional love.
I know with time that my heart will mend itself, but there will always be a hole in my heart for Merlin. Just as there is with Toby, Gizmo, Little, & Maverick. A hole that cannot be filled or repaired. I am simply grateful for my memories. Grateful for the lessons Merlin taught me. Grateful for all the love he gave me. So much happiness. All the headbutts, all the “talks” we had, all the snuggles. I love you, Merman. May you rest in peace.