Losing a family pet causes a sadness for which you may not be prepared. At least, this was true for me. For us. I am about a month behind on this post, but given the timing of events, I chose to postpone the inevitable. I feel that since I shared with you the story of having to find our beloved cat, Bailey, a new home after concluding that my son was allergic to him, I should share with you the moment of his unexpected passing.
The Phone Call
On the eve of my twins’ fourth birthday, I received a call at home from my manager (as it was her elderly mother whom was now Bailey’s caretaker). The call was unusual as it was after banking hours so I knew in my heart it was not work-related. Instead, she broke the news to me that Bailey had passed the day before, June 12th (polite speak for ‘had to be put down’).
A hundred thoughts flooded my brain and I could not hold back tears. How could this happen? He was perfectly healthy! Why wasn’t I there? How do I tell the kids? We should have just kept him!
Any professional etiquette went out the window as I hiccuped my way through the rest of the conversation. Losing a family pet not once, but twice? That’s how it felt. I was awash with guilt. Our cat (and yes, I still considered him ‘ours’) had only been gone two months. We had promised to visit but didn’t. I should tell you, if you’ve never had a pet then you may not understand the bond you create; different than that which you share with a child, but no less significant. Having had Bailey with us for over twelve years, I knew him pretty well; which is perhaps why I felt like I should have known something was wrong. But even the vet didn’t notice anything unusual on his last visit.
We Missed the Signs
It turned out that Bailey had a large, fast-growing abdominal tumor which was preventing him from both eating and excreting his waste. There were no other telltale signs that he was ill as he was affectionate and playful until the end. Surgery was an option, but would have reduced his quality of life. There was no telling how long the tumor had been there or been growing but in the dark recesses of my mind I can’t help but wonder if the stress of the move to a new home and new owner triggered it in some way.
I also can’t help but wonder at the complete irony of the timing of our decision. Had he stayed would it have changed the outcome? Was it somehow meant to be that we not be the ones to have to make that heartbreaking decision?
Animals Get Stressed, Too
Bailey was never one for change. He endured four moves — five if you count this last change to a new owner — and each move stressed him out. When we moved into our house in Montreal, we couldn’t find him the whole first day. I was so upset I sent my husband to troll the neighbourhood. We found him INSIDE the sofa bed, mewling, after we took a pizza break. And when we moved around his litter box during our renovations recently, he showed his distaste by peeing all over the house.
Otherwise, Bailey was a kind soul. I explained his death as best as I could to my older children, ages 6 and 8, glossing over the specifics. We cried together and I answered their questions, sometimes vaguely. I decided that the four-year-olds could be spared that confusion since to them, Bailey was already gone and they’d only just stopped asking when he was coming home. For me, it was like saying good-bye all over again. And though I wish I could have been with him in those final moments, I can rest easy knowing that he was cared for and loved until the end.
Good-bye, our sweet, gentle, furry companion. We will miss you.