One Year

Exactly one year ago, I lost my best friend and the light of my life.

It seems impossible that it’s been a whole year, because not a day goes by where I don’t think of him and miss him and feel the ache from the hole in my heart that was left after he was gone. For sixteen years, my cat Boo taught me unconditional love and comfort, and brought peace to my soul even when it was the most troubled. And although I will never be able to resign myself to the fact that I had to lose him, I am amazed at how he continues to teach me how to grow as a human being even after he is gone.

I’ve spoken before about how after his death my life took a very dark turn and I struggled enormously with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. It’s not an experience that I would want anyone to have to go through, but as times of trial often will do, it helped me mature and gave me strength and wisdom that I might never have had otherwise. Some of the most important lessons I have ever learned came from my love of one chubby gray cat and I will never stop missing him. But I’ve learned that’s the comfort in loss– just because he is gone doesn’t mean I have to stop loving him. I truly believe that love really is greater than death, because what effect does death have on our love for others? The loss of Boo has not dimmed my love for him even the tiniest bit. It remains as strong and steady as ever. And I truly do find comfort in that; even though he is gone, no one can make me stop loving him.  

These realizations have been especially relevant to me lately. On Tuesday, my uncle VW passed away at the age of 73. It wasn’t a complete shock, but can we really ever fully prepare ourselves for death? The utter finality of it is unequaled to any other experience on earth, and I don’t know if that’s something we can ever truly be ready for. But lately I’ve begun to wonder if grief is something that you have to practice. Of course, that is not to say that you can get used to grief because every loss is different. But with every loss of a loved one, I have learned new lessons. And these lessons have helped me go through the process of grief with at least a little more understanding than the last time. 

I was terrified when we lost my uncle that I would be plunged right back into the same morass that overtook my life the last time something like that happened. And though I am utterly devastated by his loss, because he was a wonderful uncle and one of the kindest, most amazing people I have ever met, I can take the very, very hard-earned wisdom I’ve gained in the last year and comfort myself that, even though the pain is enormous, it was still worth it to have him as my uncle. And the comfort is that I never have to stop loving him.

But having experienced grief before can only do so much, and it in no way lessens my desire to have my uncle or my cat back. Sometimes at night, the spot against the back of my leg where Boo always used to sleep will feel so cold it’s like there is a block of ice pressed against me, burning my skin–and I recognize it’s the physical manifestation of how much I miss him. And, of course, there have been times when the pain of losing him was so great that I could almost wish that I’d never known him– but then I imagine my life without that cat and I know it was all worth it to have the privilege of loving him for sixteen years.

One of my favorites quotes of all time comes from one of my favorite books of all time–The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I read that book over and over after losing Boo, and a few months later after we so suddenly lost Cash. I have said before that I think it’s an amazing book to help deal with grief, and it has helped me come to terms with losing my baby boy.

In the story, a fox explains what will happen if the little prince tames him. He tells the little prince that, as he is now, he doesn’t know one human from the next, and they all look and sound the same to him– they mean nothing to him. But if the prince tames him, then he will be special to the fox, and when he looks on the wheat fields he will be reminded of the little prince’s bright golden hair. This quote follows:
“So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near– “Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”
“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you…”
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
“Then it has done you no good at all!”
“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”

I am crying as I write this, and I have cried more tears in the past year than I can ever remember crying before in my life. I’m probably going to be crying about losing my baby until the day I die. But when the pain seems too big for my heart to handle, I will think of sixteen perfect years of love and know it has done me immeasurable good. 

I planned to write a long post about this, but I honestly don’t know what else there is to say. A year’s distance from losing him has rather reduced things down to the simple truths of grief– the facts are that I will love him forever, I will never stop missing him, and the pain is not going to go away. There’s the old cliche that time heals all wounds, but really I think time just allows you to come to terms with things. The pain never actually leaves, but you learn to live with it. I told a friend that today is very bittersweet, but the strongest emotion that comes through is, and I think always will be, how much love he brought into my life. And I also comfort myself with the fact that no one could have loved that cat more and I believe he was well aware of it. Just as he gave me sixteen years of utter happiness, I like to think that we did the same for him. 

So to finish this post, I think I’ll leave you with another quote from The Little Prince that also helped me to deal with my grief. It’s beautiful and poignant, and worthy of a post about the love of my life, and in memory of the very best uncle anyone could ask for.

“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night… You–only you–will have stars that can laugh!”

And he laughed again.

“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure . . . And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky!”

 

I miss you so much already, Uncle V.

uncle v

And I’ll love you forever and for always, my precious Boo baby.

boooodie

 

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Cash

Grief is the strangest thing.
Currently my ears are hot and I’m a little bit sick to my stomach, and I don’t want to write this. I’m not crying, but perhaps that will change shortly.
When I wrote about my beloved cat Boo dying in September, I had to wait a few weeks before I could even get back on this blog and put words down. But what comforted me often during the period after I lost him was thinking about all the words I was going to write down when I inevitably blogged about it. When I finally did post, I sat down and just let all the words I wanted to say flow out, along with my tears. My grief for him was a storm– it was wild and often out of control, and descended upon me suddenly, often without warning, and sometimes when triggered by specific conditions.
On Friday evening my sister and I were at Target when my mom called me to tell us they were rushing our dog to the vet because he had collapsed. We found out he had an auto-immune disorder, where his immune system attacked his red blood cells and caused him to become dangerously anemic. He had possibly suffered a stroke when he had collapsed, and his spleen was enormously swollen. The doctor gave him injections, prescribed medicines for us to give him, and told us that he had a very good chance of being fine.
We took him home– we had to carry him because he was too weak to walk– and we settled him in our living room to watch. The vet had told us he would hopefully be up and around by tomorrow even. Throughout the night, he was able to lift himself and drink water numerous times, which our vet told us was a great sign. I sat up all night with him, and around seven in the morning, I realized he could no longer sit up. I thought he might have worn himself out, and so I hesitated to wake my mom up. After a little bit, however, I checked his eyes and realized they were rolled up into his head, and his breathing was becoming labored. I flew into my mom’s room and told her, begging her to call the vet. He told us to meet him at the vet office in thirty minutes.
We only live about five minutes from the vet’s office. It’s incredibly difficult to stall for time when you think your pet might be dying. We lifted my dog into the backseat of our car, with his head on my lap so I could hold him in place, and rushed over to the vet’s office. We arrived about fifteen minutes before he did. Or maybe that estimate was completely wrong; all I know was that my dog was not responsive and I was in something of a daze. We sat waiting in the car, desperately watching for our vet, while I ran my hand over and over my dog’s laboring sides, muttering soothing nonsense words to him.
Suddenly he jerked, and his breathing became erratic, and he started thrashing. He jerked so hard his back end fell off the seat. I was holding his upper body and desperately blowing air into his mouth, imploring my sister to push on his chest and doing it myself before she had a chance. I kept shouting his name, over and over, and telling him to wake up, to stop, to hold on.
It was so surreal. It felt like a moment in a bad movie, when one person dies and the other hovers over them, dramatically pleading with them to hang on even when they know they can’t. My sister and my mom had gotten out of the front seat of the car and were standing at the door, and they were crying and crying. And I just… I couldn’t cry. Because this moment couldn’t be real. It was like my brain simply could not comprehend what was happening. My dog was dying in my lap, and there was literally nothing I could do. Nothing. I was irrelevant. I didn’t matter.
I’m starting to tear up now as I write this. But I wasn’t at the time. I think someone finally said, “He’s gone.” And I just sat there, holding him in my lap and not crying, and in the back of my mind I distantly could hear a voice say, why aren’t you crying? but all I could do was just look at my boy, all I could feel was the way his body had gone slack in my arms, all I could hear was the absence of those deep, hard breaths he’d been taking.
What I’ve learned in the past few months is that one of the worst, most confusing moments of death is that moment right after they’ve gone. Literally seconds before, this body I was holding in my lap had contained my dog, Cash. It had just been the puppy we’d raised from birth, the one who had a white spot on his chest, even though he was an AKC registered Labrador, and they weren’t really supposed to have white on them. This was the dog my parents were going to sell because we already had three. He was the last of the second litter that we’d raised to sell to still be at our house (we had a boy dog named Riley and a girl dog named Sadie, and we’d already had a litter of puppies from them the year before that we’d sold, except for one named Johnny, who we kept).
This memory is so crystal clear to me. Cash was a few months old, and he was sprawled sleeping on the floor of our living room, right by the couch (because it was in a different place in our living room at that time) and next to the step up to the entry way. He was sleeping away, that hard, committed sleep of a puppy that’s worn itself out, a sprawl of black limbs, and I could just see that white spot on his chest. And they were talking about giving him to this sheriff who was interested in him, and how he could be a sheriff’s dog, and ride around with him, and I just started crying. And I laid my head against him and he looked up at me with these melting ambery-brown eyes and I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t bear for him to go. He was my Cash puppy; a strange name for a dog, but I was the one who had chosen it, because I was reading some ridiculous Diana Palmer romance novel when we were naming the puppies, and the hero was named Cash (the heroine was named Tippy, so the naming thing went better than it could have). And we already had a one year old dog we’d kept from our first litter named Johnny, so how cute to name a puppy in the next litter Cash! And now, how cute if we had dogs named Johnny and Cash! And I cried and I cried and I cried, and even after my parents agreed to let us keep him, I couldn’t stop crying for a while, because I was so scared at the thought of him going.
So come Saturday morning, I’m sitting here holding the body of this dog in my lap. And I’m so bewildered, because I’m staring at that little white spot on his chest, where the fur grew upwards for some strange reason, and I can’t understand how that white patch of hair means nothing anymore. This sudden absence, this disappearance to a place we simply cannot follow, is one of the worst things I’ve ever been forced to experience when losing someone I love. A few hours before, we were doing everything we could to care for that body, to make it better. And now, it was meaningless.
The vet arrived probably five or ten minutes after Cash was gone; again, I might be a little hazy on the details. My mom got out to speak with him; I couldn’t move because I was holding my dog on my lap. And my sister was sitting in the car crying and crying, and my sister never cries, and she kept saying, “Why can’t he just stop talking, we just want to go home!” and it was so strange because she is always the calm one, the reasonable one. And I remember thinking in this very distant way how I felt bad for the vet, because he’d had to drive from a long way out to meet us specially on a Saturday when the vet was closed and he was making an exception for us, and now he’d come all this way for nothing, and perhaps the least we could do was have our mom speak to him to tell him what happened.
Finally my mom came back and told us that the vet was pretty sure that Cashy must have suffered another stroke that morning. It seemed strangely irrelevant to me at that point. I was already bewildered with the rapidity of what had happened, the shock of finding out that our eternally healthy Cash had collapsed, to finding out he had some bizarre disease we had never heard of and knew nothing about, to thinking that he was improving ahead of schedule, to his sudden and abrupt decline.
My dad had had to work that day, and I realized I needed to tell him what had happened. I called, but he didn’t answer, and so my mom started the car. As we were pulling out, my dad called back, and all I could say was, “Daddy,” before I collapsed into sobs. As painfully dry as my eyes had been before, belatedly the truth struck me like a fist and I couldn’t even speak. I cried on the phone incoherently as we drove home, Cash’s body still in my lap, and I couldn’t seem to stop myself from still running my hand over him, like somehow that would soothe him from the trauma of dying. My dad just kept saying he was sorry over and over again, and again, somewhere in the back of my mind, I was so sorry for my dad, who feeds and waters and takes care of our dogs practically every day, and who had to go through an entire day of work before he could even come home and try and deal with what was waiting.
There was nothing to say when I finally could stop sobbing about how Cash died in my lap, and so I hung up the phone after telling my dad I loved him. We got home and parked in the yard, close to the gate to our side yard where we have an old pen that we kept the puppies in when we were raising them. We lifted Cash out in the sheet we’d put over the seat, and laid him down under one of the trees. It was cold outside, and my shoes had fallen off while we were trying to move him, but I couldn’t care enough to go get them and put them on.
Death is rarely a clean process, and I was determined to clean Cash up as best as I could. My mom brought me wipes and paper towels and I sat outside alone in my front yard, crying and snotting all over my sleeves, and doing the last thing I could think to do for my little black puppy with the white spot. The sheet Cash was on was very dirty by this point, and I was determined he would not be buried in it. I took the bright green sheet that I’d slept on my first year of college, and when I was finally done cleaning up Cash, my mom came outside with me and helped me move him onto it, and into the old dog pen. I wanted desperately to bury him, and it seemed impossible to wait the hours and hours for my dad to come home from work (it was barely eight, and my dad wouldn’t be home until around four or four thirty that afternoon). It was cold outside, and I just didn’t want to leave Cash laying in the yard in the cold. It was so wrong; I didn’t care if his body was empty of him, it was the closest thing I had left. I was ready to dig the hole and lift him into it myself at the point, until my mother quietly pointed out that my father would probably like to be there when we buried him. I thought of the hours and hours and hours my father had devoted to our dogs, and there was no more talk of burying him then.
I went inside to take a shower, as I was fairly cold by this point, especially since I hadn’t been wearing shoes. But when I went in the bathroom, I was suddenly overcome by the finality of it. It seemed like if I took a shower, I washed off the last traces of Cash’s life, and I just couldn’t take it another second. I kept repeating over and over that I couldn’t bear it, I just couldn’t bear it. My insides drew up so tight that it felt like I’d been punched in the stomach, and I kept doubling over in a fruitless effort to alleviate the pain. I kept flashing through parallels of my beloved Boo dying before my eyes and not even three full months later my precious Cash doing the same. And I was suddenly overwhelmed with the crippling, paralyzing recognition that there are so, so very many I love that can die, and it just didn’t seem possible to live with the knowledge.
I put my clothes back on and put on a bigger jacket, one which I always wear when I go outside to play with the dogs. I went into the pen where we’d put Cash, and I laid down in the leaves next to him and cried as I stared up at a beautiful blue sky, and ran my hand across his silky black ear.
I’ve no idea how long I stayed like that, but when I finally got up to go inside, I took my jacket off and spread it over him, so he wouldn’t get cold.
I slept until my father got home, and when I woke there was that brief, cruel moment where I didn’t remember what had happened, and the crushing, agonizing recollection that followed it. We buried Cash in the pen where he was raised, and I saw my father cry for one of the very few times in my life. We wrapped him in my sheet and tucked a tennis ball in with him and buried him.
I don’t know why I shared all of this. I didn’t want to start writing this post, unlike with Boo’s, and I in no way wanted to recount what was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. But these words have just come out, with no prior planning and intent. I couldn’t stand to post what the actual end of Boo’s life was like, because I physically cannot type those words. But for some reason, as I’ve written this, I couldn’t stop myself from speaking of Cash’s death. I am constantly perplexed by the infinite types of grief that exist, and the endless array of ways we deal with it. I’m sitting here and I cannot make sense of why I’ve done this. I still want to speak of Cash’s life, too.
He was barely seven years old, and I’m still stunned by the injustice of his death. He was the youngest of our four dogs, and he’d never been sick a day in his life. His favorite thing to do was chase tennis balls with his mom, Sadie, and they would play endlessly. Anytime Cash got the ball from Sadie, he would tease her with it, and jerk it away the second she got close to him. Then he would chew messily on the ball, drool flying, chomp chomp chomp, until I took the ball out of his mouth or Sadie managed to. If you scratched above his tail, he was physically incapable of stopping himself from lifting his back leg and scratching. He loved to roll around in the grass and half the time he didn’t even eat the little dog bones we give our dogs, because he was picky. He was ornery, and he loved to rile up his brother and dad, and you couldn’t have him in the house too long because he would usually try and pee on something.  He wasn’t a small dog, but compared to his 120 pound father and 100 pound brother, he always looked so slim and young darting around everywhere. When it snowed a few weeks ago, I remember looking out our bay window, and he was the only one out, rolling gleefully around in the snow. Cash was the most expert jumper I’ve ever seen. There was not a single fence or gate in our yard he couldn’t get over, if he wanted. But Cash loved us and loved his pack fiercely, and he never once tried to get out, even on a couple memorable occasions when certain naughty other dogs did and left the gate open. Cash always was a happy dog, and he always looked like he had a little grin on his face. We don’t have very many pictures of Cash when he’s older, because he was always running and moving and playing. It seems impossible to me, sitting here in my living room typing this, that he’s not outside in the backyard now, curled up with the other dogs. For seven years, every time I’ve looked outside my mind automatically looks for four, and for the past couple of days I’ve literally felt a stab in my heart when I count one missing.
I once read in a book that heaven is a place where every animal you’ve ever loved comes to greet you when you arrive. That’s certainly the most beautiful idea of heaven I’ve ever heard of, and that’s what I’m hoping for.

I love you so, so very much my sweet Cashy boy, and I promise you that will never, ever stop. And if I could go back this very second to that moment six years ago, when you were laying on the floor and I was sitting a few feet away looking at you and thinking about giving you to someone else, it wouldn’t even take a heartbeat for me to lay my head down on you again and cry until my parents let me keep you.

Cash

My precious Cash when he  was a puppy and my sweet Boo baby not being too pleased about his presence.

My precious Cash when he was a puppy and my sweet Boo baby not being too pleased about his presence.

Boo

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.

boo

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