About a decade ago I found myself in a no-kill animal shelter. I had no plans of bringing home another kitty - we had one who had been feral and she was NOT friendly towards other animals. I just liked to go and visit the doggies and kitties and play with them a bit.
But this one particular trip I found a cat who I couldn't ignore. They had named her Nina (which I always thought was a poor cat name) and she was in a ball in the back of her cage on the bottom row in a corner. She was FAT. And when she finally looked at me, I gasped. Her jaw was crooked, her tongue partially sticking out, her lower lip mangled. Her leg was all bent and weird. One eye was totally gone - in its place a milky-blue cataract - the other eye had a geometric, crooked pupil that didn't change size and was beginning to turn white as well. And instead of meowing, she sort of croaked in a raspy cat voice. Her cage was marked with warnings that she was a nasty old cat and hated people, she had "cattitude" and had attacked several people through the bars. She had been run over by a car and had her life spared, but she had been in the shelter four or five months at that point and was not likely to be going home with anyone. Based on her overall health, teeth, fur, and saggy kitty belly that nearly dragged on the floor, they estimated she was 13 or older, and not long for this world.
I decided I couldn't possibly let her die in a cage and that I'd take her home to pass away quietly under my bed. I adopted her and being a theater nerd I renamed her Dolly.
Another lifetime later, 3,000 miles from where I got her, she has outlived my husband, several close friends, and all catly expectations. A few years ago she developed a hyperactive thyroid - she'd stand in the hallway at odd hours (usually when I was deep asleep) and HOWL. The cat who couldn't meow when I got her had found a rather large, alarming voice that would terrify a banshee. Turns out the midnight yowling sessions were related to senility and her thyroid. Thyroid medication doesn't cost much, so I attempted to dose her. She had a very bad reaction to the medication and I had to stop giving it to her after two weeks. Based on her age, with the help of my vet we decided to leave her alone, let her continue to do her thing (which was playing with foil balls, sleeping 22 hours a day, yowling at odd hours, and cuddling before bedtime). I decided I'd know when she was ready - and the last few days it's become clear to me that it's time. She has stopped using the litter box, she has stopped jumping on the bed for attention at night, she has stopped following me into the bathroom in the morning to hang out when I get ready, and she hasn't played with anything in days. She is so frighteningly skinny I'm almost afraid to touch her - and she's been losing hair. I picked her up last night and she felt cold, and she purred for me, and snuggled on the bed, but this morning she was back in her hiding spot half under the bed, and didn't come to the bathroom or say hi to me like she normally would.
I made the call.
Today at 4:30 I will go see my friend and veterinarian to say goodbye to my silly old cat. I've had a love/hate relationship with her since she came home, I won't lie about that - she could switch between sweet and vicious in an instant! But she has shared a great deal with me and it has seemed like she'd just always be a part of my life. I won't miss the 2 am yowling sessions, I won't miss her hairballs. I will miss the silly old kitty though who was there for me for several major life changes. The last pet I owned with my husband. The cat who gave me all sorts of kitty kisses despite her fowl breath and occasional fowl temper. The cat who slept next to me and was so under my feet I nearly broke my neck hundreds of times trying to avoid crushing her. I secretly loved her more than I let on, she was just easy to make fun of.
I will miss Dolly, Miss Muffin, Fluffyuppagus, I will miss her seal imitations, her purring, and her love of all things shiny and crinkly. Goodbye, silly old cat.