It's lonely up here in the loft today.
No trilling tortoise-point cat lifted her head to greet me as I came up the stairs this morning. No kitty to annoy me by walking (of late, stumbling) all over the desk, finally deciding that the top of the monitor looked just right for a nap. No blue eyes following me.
We had come to the decision that every pet "owner" dreads: the decision that Alice had to be euthanized. She was nineteen years old--not bad for a cat who spent much of her life outdoors. She'd suffered kidney disease for some time, was growing increasingly unable to control bodily functions, and moved about stiffly and slowly. Then a few days ago, a tooth abscess gave her little face ("she's got a goofy face," one of my friends once said upon meeting her) a huge swelling. There were other problems I won't go into here. We had known the time was coming fast, but it's never easy.
So yesterday I made the call to the vet. I wept for hours. My son, who was six when Alice came into the world, said his goodbye before he left for class, petting her and murmuring to her one last time. My spouse agreed to take Alice by himself, an act of selfless kindness toward me. Alice was so thin that she weighed almost nothing as I carried her down the stairs. Usually she hated to be carried and struggled to free herself, but yesterday, she lay compliant in my arms and purred. She went into the cat carrier without protest, and according to James, except for a few meows at the beginning of the trip, she didn't even yowl on the way.
Jim stayed with her, as I had done with our cat Isis several years ago. One second they are alive, and then with a startling suddenness, they are not.
Alice was a shy cat, fearful of strangers, unassuming and quiet. She loved to go outdoors, but when we moved here, the only time she was allowed outside the house was to go onto the balcony. The first time she went out there, she promptly jumped to the ground. She was pretty fearless when it came to that kind of thing. She liked to watch the birds outside, making a strange clucking sound as she watched them through a window. She was by no means a lap cat or a cuddler, but demonstrated her affection in dignified, restrained ways. She was ... Alice.
The loft will seem empty again tomorrow, and the next day, and until time works its magic. Even then--do we ever forget a deeply loved companion?