It’s two in the morning, and as I have so often lately, I am finding it very hard to sleep.
Today’s post, let me just warn you, is not funny. There’s no gifs or memes or silly jokes. Today’s post is about one of the hardest things I have ever experienced in my life. If you are one of those people who thinks pets are just animals, who don’t really have souls or real thoughts or connections with people, then I would like to politely ask that you stop here. This post is not for you, and I hope you will respect how hard this is for me and keep all that to yourself.
Now, if you have ever read my blog at all, you know I am a dedicated, passionate crazy cat lady. The reason I became a crazy cat lady, is because for sixteen years, I have had the best, most perfect cat anyone could ever ask for. From the time I was six when we first brought him home, my cat Boo-Boo has been my baby, my best friend, and the love of my life. He has been the sweetest, most loving cat imaginable, and we have long been inseparable. To be honest, I can’t even remember my life before Boo; there were actually very few of my total years on this earth that I spent without him, so that’s probably not surprising. In both the very lowest and the very best times of my life, he has been there for me– to cry on, to laugh at, to dance around, to spoil, to tease, to cuddle, to nap with, to watch tv with, to read books with, to tell about soccer and boys and my friends and family and my dreams and my favorite foods and how much I hated math and how one day I was going to hold him in my wedding dress and take the cutest cat lady pictures imaginable.
Boo has been perhaps the most constant thing in my entire life; he has been wholly mine, in a way that other people can never truly be, because they have goals and dreams and aspirations separate from every other person. We all share and yet are divided by that inescapable, unbridgeable, alien quality where we can never, ever truly know one another totally and understand each other perfectly. But my cat– his only aspirations have ever been to eat, sleep, and love and be loved in return. I understood and connected with him better than almost any other person I have ever met, and what has been amazing me lately to think about is the blatantly obvious but still astonishing fact that we accomplished this without him ever saying word. I mean, of course cats don’t talk, but think about trying to becomes friends with or fall in love with someone who never, ever says a single word to you in 16 years. That’s one of the best, most mystical parts about pets, I think– you build a closer relationship with them than with most people you know, without them saying a thing.
But one of the hardest, most terrible things about pets is this- they are going to break your heart. Unless you die freakishly young, or have a pet at the very end of your life, almost without fail, you’re going to lose your pet long before you die. When I was six years old, and we brought two scared little kittens home, I didn’t really understand this lesson. All I knew was that one of my nana’s cats had kittens, and then got hit by a car when they were still very small. One kitten, a girl, went to a nice family, but we still had two little boy kittens left. One of the kittens was white, with a big black spot right over his face, so I dubbed him Patch. You might be wondering where a slightly strange name like Boo-Boo came from, and let me just state right now– my mom came up with that one. It came about because when he was a little kitten (so long ago I can’t even really remember what he looked like as a kitten) he had such big eyes that he looked scared all the time, like someone was trying to frighten him. Thus, came Boo-Boo. (I repeat, my mom thought this up, not me.)
One night, while we were all having dinner at my nana’s, a lady rang the doorbell, and produced the two kittens, who she had found in the busy street my nana lived on. It was decided the kittens could not stay there. So we took them to our house, where my dad sternly told us they were to stay a week at the most while we found homes for them. As the months passed, it was finally accepted that home was with us.
Funnily enough, Boo did not start out as my kitty. His very crazed brother, Patch, was my cat, and Boo was my sister Rachel’s. A year after we got them, however, Patch simply slipped out of the house one day and never came back. My sister, who has always been more of a dog person and was a little tired of having her own cat, “graciously” allowed me to have Boo for my own. I never looked back.
When he was about six, and I was about twelve, Boo became very, very sick. He was going to the bathroom all over the house, and there was blood in his litter. Terrified, we took him to the vet, who informed us that his urinary tract had formed crystals, and he needed a very expensive surgery to even have a chance at surviving, if he even was able to survive the very dangerous, risky surgery. I don’t know where my parents got the money, but my mother has always loved Boo as much as I do, and there was never a question that we wouldn’t get him the surgery. He was sick for months and months; my mom and I had to force feed him watery, wet cat food from a syringe. He stayed at the vet for weeks. I had their number memorized, and I called every day to see if I could take him home yet. Everyone eventually knew who I was, and they were all so kind to me. Amazingly, he made it through the surgery, and little by little he got better. Finally, one day, I was allowed to take my baby kitty home.
As often happens, nearly losing him made me even closer to Boo. I can remember spending hours playing this silly game I made up, where I would sit in my entryway and bounce a little bouncy ball against the walls while he chased it, and I awarded him points for different things. Boo has always loved laser pointers, and I was such a little punk I used to make him chase it around in a circle until he would get dizzy and fall over, and I would laugh and laugh because his fat tummy would be swinging around everywhere. I went through a phase where I couldn’t go to sleep without the tv being on and I refused to sleep anywhere but on the couch, and Boo slept with me.
At one point, Boo escaped off our back porch somehow, and I thought he was lost forever, just like his brother. I was completely broken-hearted. But the next day, we suddenly heard meowing at the back door. Boo had come slinking back, completely beat up but alive, and knowing where his home was. He never tried to leave again after that.
When I started middle school, completely terrified and desperately trying to get used to the change, I leaned on my kitty. I was worried about meeting new people and making new friends, and I was so upset because I was no longer “popular.” At the sixth grade Valentine’s dance, however, I was crowned “Duchess of Hearts.” They gave a me a plastic crown and a pink teddy bear. I came home in triumph and took a picture in my fancy dress and hair and makeup, holding my fat kitty in my arms as he looked terribly irritated.
When we got a puppy and moved into our new house around seventh or eighth grade, I was worried Boo might get upset, but he took the move with aplomb, and ignored the puppy with regal disdain. When I randomly decided I wanted a bird, the intense hatred between Boo and Pete the Parakeet was legendary. Boo, who was by far too fat and lazy to ever successfully launch any sort of attack on Pete, would sit patiently for hours, his tail twitching as he hungrily watched Pete, who hopped around and chirped as loudly as possible to taunt him. When Pete– who was already a very old bird when we got him from a family who couldn’t take him when they moved– died after a year, Boo mourned with me (though not, I think, for the same reasons).
Like most of humankind, I was a moody, restless teenager. Sometimes I felt so restless it was like I was going to explode out of my skin if I couldn’t do something. When things got really bad, Boo would always somehow know, and come curl up next to me. When I was devastated about something that happened in soccer, or when a guy I liked didn’t like me back, or I was mad at my parents or my sister, I would cry my eyes out about it on Boo’s fur, and he never minded. When I discovered that I wanted to be a writer, and spent hours writing bad stories and angsty poetry on the desktop in our dining room, Boo would come and sit on the computer tower. It was warm, and I always put my feet on it and he would snuggle up to them. It was always so funny because he was so fat that he kind of just melted over the sides, but he always seemed so content.
When my sister graduated high school and went away to college, I remember laying in our room together and turning my back to her and just crying the night before she left for school for the first time. After she went to sleep, I came out into the living room and just held my Boo kitty. I was convinced my sister was going to forget about me, but I was soothed by the knowledge that my Boo never would. The four years she was gone were incredibly difficult for me, because she was my best friend. I became ever closer to Boo in that time, because he filled in for her to some degree.
When I was in high school, we got this floor heater that looked like a fake mini fireplace, and whenever it got cold I would spend hours just laying in front of it with my feet propped up on the tiny grate, and Boo would sprawl out beside me to roast his fat little tummy. My senior year I finally got my license and could drive myself to school in the mornings. I would wake up just a little bit after everyone else had already left, and I would sit in front of the heater and Boo and I would share a bowl of cereal, every single morning. Sometimes I would be late to class, just because I would be so perfectly happy in those moments that I couldn’t make myself leave.
When, to my utter excitement, my prom nights came around, we laughingly recreated the pictures from the Valentine’s dance in sixth grade, with me holding my grumpy kitty upside down in my arms in my prom dress.
My grandma died on Christmas Eve my junior year of high school. My dad woke me up to tell me, then we sat on my bed and cried together. My heart was breaking doubly seeing my dad really cry for the first time ever. The rest of the day I just carried Boo around with me, holding him tight.
I don’t remember exactly when I started sleeping in the living room at my house, but I’ve been doing it for a few years now. I told my family I was just too old to share a room with my sister anymore, but the truth? I just wanted to be able to sleep with Boo cuddled up next to me. And as he started getting older, I admit that I spent more nights than I can count crying on his fur and imagining what it would be like if I lost him. But he always was in such great health, just a fat, happy little kitty who loved his family.
My family talked a few times about getting another kitten, but the very idea made me angry. What could we possibly need another kitten for when we already had the best cat in the world? When I went away to college, someone suggested that Boo might get lonely since I would be gone and enjoy another cat’s company, but I scorned that idea. The first month I was at school, I usually cried before I fell asleep because I missed my sweet little boy curled up next to me. I never stayed a weekend at school the entire four years I was in college, and if I am being completely honest, it’s because I couldn’t stand to be away from my baby that long.
My sophomore year, however, in May right after we gotten out of school, we went to Ross to go shopping on Mother’s Day. My dad and I decided to walk next door to Petsmart, just to look at the cats for adoption. I took one look at Finn, and I was a goner. I just knew I had to have him. His eyes were such a bright green, and he had little black tufts of fur on the tips of his ears, and the most adorable little snaggletooth. My mom stringently objected, especially since Finn was no little kitten for Boo to get used to. But I simply knew he was meant to be my cat, and to my shock I found myself with another cat. It was a very confusing experience; I honestly felt like I was cheating on Boo. And Boo’s reaction ended up being the worst case scenario.
I can’t blame him; he’d been the only cat in our family (and the only real inside pet) for fourteen years. I’m not even sure Boo knew he was a cat, so the shock of another one must have been crazy. Then, we went away on vacation for a week and left them alone together.
Boo just stopped eating.
I don’t know how to convey to you how alarming that was. Boo has always been a very fat cat, because he just adores eating more than almost anything. He began wasting away, and the only thing that kept him alive was us force feeding three times a day. My mother drove him to the vets almost every morning so they could give him fluid from an IV. It was one of the darkest points in my life; my cat was slowly starving himself to death, and it was entirely my fault for bringing some stupid new cat home. I was dying of guilt as I was watching my baby dying. At the same time we were running all these tests, trying to make sure that there wasn’t something wrong with him, some illness or disease doing this to him. He wasn’t interested in anything anymore, and my heart broke to pieces every time he fought me so violently when I tried to feed him, and moved somewhere else anytime I tried to sit with him. For three months I was terrified the love of my life was going to die, and it was going to be entirely my fault.
Finally, the vet gave him some medicine that was supposed to treat depression in cats. A few days later, we were all eating lunch. Boo was over with my dad, whom he spent a lot of time with during those months. Suddenly, my dad says, “He’s eating.” My dad had given Boo a piece of smothered steak, and Boo had decided to live again. I sat down on the floor of my living room and bawled tears of joy. My baby gained back his weight and went back to his normal self, and suddenly he and Finn were the best of friends. Life was right again.
Finn is a very special cat, and he’s kind of insane, in the best way. It was so entertaining to have him around, and I felt reassured again that he was meant to be with us. But there was never any doubt who was my baby, who was the love of my life.
When my papa had to have an outpatient procedure done in July 2012, it went suddenly wrong and he went into a coma. For two days we waited at the hospital while the doctors told our numbed minds that his chances of surviving were very, very slim. And when he passed away, my baby was there for me, letting me cry on him as always.
College was an eye-opening, life-changing experience. I made a fool out of myself so many times; I made mistakes and trusted the wrong people and made new friends and rethought my entire mindset and had my heart broken and basically, just grew up. Every weekend I would come home, though, and no matter what had happened, I would rush through the door and Boo would be waiting there for me, curled up on the loveseat or the couch. I would sit down next to him, and just pet his little purring body, and no matter how awful life had seemed, suddenly it couldn’t possibly as bad as I thought it was. My favorite picture I took the day I graduated college Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0 was the one that I took holding my Boo kitty before I left for the graduation ceremony, holding him upside down in my arms in my dress, exactly like I had in sixth grade.
This summer has been the laziest I have ever been in my life, and that’s saying something. But I had graduated college, by god, and I was going to have to work the rest of my life. I had money saved up, and so I basically just took the summer off. I stayed up late writing, and then slept in as late as I wanted. I lazed around, played soccer, read books, and did very little else. I spent this entire summer cuddling with my cats, and blogging about how much I loved them. It was idyllic, and I will be grateful for it for the rest of my life.
Then, about a month and a half ago, I started getting very sick after I ate, and then started having problems with my digestion. I lost my appetite, and I’ve lost like ten pounds because some days I just couldn’t eat. We finally established that I needed to see a specialist. This whole time I’ve been sick, Boo has been there for me. He’s comforted me and loved me and helped me deal with being desperately ill and almost constantly nauseous. A little over a week ago, I was the sickest I had been during the whole duration of this mysterious illness. I was sitting on my bathroom floor crying, because I couldn’t stop dry heaving. Boo just came right into the bathroom and nuzzled up against me, and I picked him up and held him and stopped feeling so sick. He was there for me, as always.
A month or so ago, Boo’s eye started running. We weren’t too concerned about it, because it had happened before. He has always been a very sniffly cat, who had colds regularly, complete with runny nose and sneezing. But one day, his runny nose had a little bit of blood in it. We still weren’t that worried, but didn’t want to take any chances. He was getting older, after all. We took him to the vet, who prescribed him some antibiotics to clear things up. We gave them to him, but it didn’t seem to get better. His nose got a little bloodier, so I took him back. This time, our vet said that it seemed like his face was a little swollen on the right, and she thought something must be blocking the tear ducts that run between his eye and nose, and that’s why his eye was watering. She gave us eyedrops for him. Boo did NOT like those, I can tell you. I started giving them to him regularly, and for a while, it seemed to help. His eye stopped watering for a few days. But then he started sneezing blood. Pure blood. His nose started running blood. We got very worried. Then, late on the Thursday before last, blood started leaking out of his tear ducts into his eyes. Both sides of his nose and eyes started having blood. I panicked, and didn’t sleep at all before rushing him to the vet as soon as they opened. The vet came in, I told her what was happening, and she said, “We need to keep him for x-rays. I’m afraid he might have a tumor.”
I was blind-sided. Utterly blind-sided.
Of course, Boo was an older cat, and I always knew in the back of my mind that cancer was a possibility. But he wasn’t that old, he was only sixteen. Truthfully, I more tortured myself with the idea that he might get so old that the vet would want to put him down, and I didn’t know how I could ever possibly do that. But a tumor? Where did this come from? We’d had him to the vet twice, and they’d said nothing about this. He had seemed perfectly fine, except for the blood, but he never acted like he was in pain or acted any differently. He was his sweet, precious, perfect self, as usual.
In utter shock, I had to face both the idea that he might have a tumor, and the fact that I had to leave him at the vet. What if he got scared? What if he stopped eating? What if the other animals scared him? Numbly, I gave the most precious thing I owned to the vet and got into my car. As soon as I drove away, I started bawling. Ugly, nasty, painful sobs. I hadn’t slept all night, and I hadn’t eaten anything either. That day, I got so sick my family almost took me to the emergency room. Finally late in the afternoon they let Boo come home, saying they hadn’t been able to see anything on the x-rays, and they would need to try and arrange for an MRI on Monday for him to see for sure what we were dealing with.
By five o’clock on Sunday, September 8th, my baby was gone. I can’t talk about what it was like over that weekend; those last few memories with him are both too painful and too precious to try and put into words. I’m still so in shock over it happening that it’s hard for me to really comprehend. His condition deteriorated almost blindingly fast, but I truly don’t think he was really in pain except for the very last few minutes, before that eased. He died curled against my leg, as we had spent so, so many hours together.
We’re not even completely sure what happened, but a vet told us that he suspected that Boo had an advanced tumor that didn’t show any signs until the very end. That’s just like my sweet boy; he managed it so that we didn’t have to agonize over him being sick for more than a couple of days. I held him in my arms for however long; I don’t even know because I wasn’t aware of time passing. All I could think was this was the last time I would ever have to cuddle my baby. We buried him right by our front door, in a flowerbed under the big bay window in the front of our house. The loveseat he loved to lay on is right by the window that looks out over where he’s at. My mom had an old, sturdy drawer for god knows whatever reason. It was the perfect size for him, and we wrapped him in a soft green blanket that was almost the same color as his eyes. Then my dad cut a piece of wood to go over it, and dug the hole for him even though it hurt his back incredibly bad to do it. I put the drawer into the hole, and buried my baby.
I know this post has been too long. I know it’s been ugly and rambling and you might not have even made it this far. I wouldn’t blame you. I’ve always hated reading about animals dying, because it broke my heart thinking about the pets I love dying. But truthfully, this is the flimsiest, most inadequate thing I’ve ever written. Boo gave me sixteen years of devotion. Sixteen years. How do you fit sixteen years of unconditional love into a blog post? I debated about if I would even write anything, because I haven’t even been able to stand the idea. I’ve had to stop so many times as I’ve been writing this, because I couldn’t see through my tears to write. Blogging and this blog seemed so stupid, so pointless since my baby got sick. Since I lost him. How could I possibly put into words the depth of my grief, the measure of my loss? How could I make people understand that he wasn’t just a silly animal, just some cat? And honestly, I don’t know if I managed to make you understand.
But, as he always did, Boo is still giving me things. The first night after I lost him, when I thought I was going to literally lose my mind, it soothed me to lay still and just write down things about him in my head. I just mentally wrote down all my favorite memories of him. I have always hoped that my inclination to write my emotions down meant that I really was suited to be a writer. Losing Boo has convinced me of it, and I have decided I’m going to write an illustrated book about him. I have felt lost, truthfully, since I graduated, and suddenly I have a purpose. Even when he’s gone, my baby is still comforting me.
Maybe this whole post has been a big, ugly mess, but I am fiercely glad I’ve written it. How else to celebrate my baby than sharing just how special he was in the best way I know how? Boo truly was my best friend, and the love of my life. Maybe you think I’m crazy, maybe you think I’m being just a little overdramatic, maybe you think I’m plain ridiculous. But I loved that cat more than almost anything in the entire world. He was a better friend to me than almost any human I’ve ever met, and I shared more with him than almost anybody.
Sixteen years. The majority of my life. From six years old to twenty-two years old. Every important thing that has ever happened to me, and all the stupid, insignificant, pedestrian things, too. He’s been there for all of it. For sixteen years, he was teaching me the most important lesson I think you can ever learn– how to love someone unconditionally. It doesn’t matter how many words I write or which ones they were. There’s simply no way to sum up or convey to someone a relationship that special. So all I can say is, I hope you have someone as good to you as Boo was to me, and then you’ll understand it without a word being spoken.