Saying Goodbye is Hard: Coping with Pet Loss

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Misty Cockrell, June 22, 2013.

We had to say goodbye to our cat Misty this weekend. She would have been 23 years old in October. Her little body could not take any more of what life had to offer. We had taken her in for her annual checkup last Monday. She was blind from cataracts but could still nail jumping from a chair to our bed every night. She had arthritis in her back legs which made it painful to walk and had a broken collarbone, which gave her a sideways gait when she walked, almost like a snake making its way across the sand. In the end, her will to live was way stronger than her body, and her will was fading fast. Her decline between last Monday and Saturday was increasingly noticeable. By Friday night, she wasn’t holding down food, which was not unusual, but she also went into a diarrhea phase. At that point, we had no idea what she could eat that she could contain. We had a long discussion Friday night about what to do, and I still could not resign myself to the inevitable. Saturday morning I woke up and she was by her bowl, as usual. I brought her to bed and she just laid with the two of us. I knew then it was time.

We had most of the day with her. She enjoyed being in the sun one last time, and she ate her last meal and drank her water with such fervor it was like she knew it was her last meal. She was a fighter to the end. Coming home, the house was so empty, the floors so bare. The silence was oppressive, even though she’d lost her ability to meow some months ago from a tumor in her throat.

Nearly 23 years with anyone is a rarity. Many marriages, friendships, certainly automobiles don’t last that long. It’s hard to imagine a cat living that long. But she did. She’d been with us for all but six months of our marriage. I know my blog is typically focused on plant-based living, but this post is in honor of the one solitary carnivore that resided with us. She is greatly missed.

This page brought us great comfort the first day after her death. Reading through the part about knowing when it is time to say goodbye helped me reconcile her fighting spirit with our decision. If you read my blog and have a pet but have not faced something like this, know that at the time it seems unbearably hard. The grief comes in waves and you will have OK moments and terrible moments. It has helped to remember her total life, not just her incapacitated years. Old photos remind us of her former healthy size, strength and ability to chase rabbits and other cats. Always a fighter.

Living plant-based won’t fix everything in your life. But it does a great deal to keep you healthy and to give you rituals that bring order to unspeakably sad days. I’m grateful I had my health as we went through this process. She comforted me many times when I was sick, and Jim and I had the strength and health to be with her in the end, which was priceless.

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10 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye is Hard: Coping with Pet Loss

  1. I’m so sorry. Misty was an amazing cat — I’ve been in awe of her longevity for years now. You’re very right about remembering the total life; that goes for people, too. Hang in there. The pain won’t go away entirely, but you’ll remember more and more of the good times as time goes on.

    1. Thanks Sarah. It took me awhile to write about it. Losing our other cat, Celia, was hard. But we had Misty to come home to. Each day is a little better, and it is no cliche that time heals. It is true.

  2. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your relation of your plant based lifestyle giving you health and helping you through such a sad time was really inspiring. Misty looks like a fantastic cat, I’m sure she was so happy with the life she got to share with you.

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