One Monday Night


“Honey,” came the IM on that gray, December afternoon. “Grim doesn’t look so good.”

The message was from my boyfriend, and it was about my oldest cat, Grimalkyn, a black cat about 20 years of age.

“Well, he’s an old cat, and he’s diabetic. Did you check his blood? Did he eat anything today?” I responded, not overly concerned…

Until, that is, he came back with, “No, I mean he’s bright yellow, and he’s having trouble standing up.”

My boyfriend went on to tell me that Grim had wandered into the kitchen a little bit before. Thinking he was hungry, my boyfriend gave him some food, and that was when he noticed Grim’s unusual color. He said Grim ate a little bit, but then when he walked away from the bowl, he staggered.

Armed with that information, I called my vet immediately. She told me the possible causes and said Grim should be seen as soon as possible. That night when I got home from work, we grabbed Grim and his diabetic supplies and took him to the emergency clinic. As Grim was a very old, sick, cat, I had made peace with the fact that his time would come soon. I knew it was very possible that this night would be his last. (Make no mistake: His quality of life was very good — the best I could give him. He was, however, diabetic, had kidney failure, and was visibly slowing down each day.)

After about an hour’s wait, we were called in to see the doctor, and that’s when she gave us the sad news: Grim’s liver was shutting down. She told us that even with the most aggressive treatment, there would not be much-if any-improvement. “He’s a very sick kitty,” she told us sympathetically. The best outcome was clear, but she left us alone a while to mull it over and make our peace with the inevitable.

I took Grim in my arms, and I said, “Honey, you can’t go home with us tonight. Mama Bast is taking you home now, and I know She will take very good care of you.” I told him he might see some of our recently departed loved ones at the Rainbow Bridge, and I closed by telling him, “I love you. I’ll see you on the other side, old boy.”

Grimalkyn is the first cat I’ve had for his entire life cycle. I got him as a kitten, when some friends found him, and except for a period of about a year and a half, we have been together ever since. He was truly a special kitty, and he was always, always happy and affectionate, even at the end. (Not to mention spoiled, doted on, and generally worshiped!) He purred as I spoke to him and held him.

I have seen my share of death over the course of my life; however, I was not yet ready to stay all the way until the end with a pet. I just could not make myself do it. I think that would have been all right with Grim. He had let me know he was ready, and I stayed a little while after they gave him the anesthetic.

I had him cremated and picked out a very pretty box for him, which now sits on my bookshelf in a very quiet room. I lit a candle for him back at home on that fateful night, and I said some prayers of peace for him. Sometimes, I swear I still see him running around the house. I know he is never far from my side.

Pet loss is a very deep and personal kind of loss. While the death of humans should not be devalued, the pain of the loss of a pet is a very different kind of situation which requires (and often elicits) a very different approach to coping. We pet companions know we are completely responsible for these furry, little creatures. We question if we did enough, if we waited too long to end our pets’ suffering, if we missed something. We feel guilty and sad at their absence.

Death is a sacred time, and everyone — human and animal — deserves to pass with dignity. The difference is that our human family expects of us things our animal companions do not. Regardless, it can be helpful to the bereaved to in some way honor the passing of a beloved pet. Such ceremonies allow us the time and space to remember and to let go. Prolonged and disruptive grief or sadness should be addressed with a professional, whether that is a therapist, a clergy member, or a grief counselor.

(Photo: Damien Moody)

20 Responses to “One Monday Night”

  1. sb says:

    A wonderful and moving post, losing an animal companion is so painful and many of us are at sea with how to respond to the loss and pain.
    The ashes of my animal friends sit in urns beneath my Kuan Yin statue and I light candles, leave flowers etc. It’s a comforting ritual and a way to honor the love we share.

  2. Radcliff, Allie, Luna, & Ozzie says:

    Rest in peace, Grimalkyn.

  3. MLO says:

    Not fair! I’m at work and nearly burst into tears! I miss my previous two pekes and clownfish every day. And, there is always the guilt that maybe we could have been better than we were.



  4. mb says:

    Thanks so much for sharing Grim’s story, Jennifer.

    My beloved cat, Pia, was also 20 years old when she passed away from the same complications. Like you, I miss her EVERY day and sometimes think I see her sleeping in her favorite place or cavorting about.

    I, too, look forward to the day when I see her again.

    Blessings, mb

  5. The Lioness says:

    I lost a dog back in the early 90s–my first dog, actually–and I went all out and did a funeral (in my religious tradition) for her. I then buried some of her things in the yard of the apartment building in which we lived.

    I still miss Charlie. :( (She was a boxer.)

    ~The Lioness

  6. Damien says:

    Congrats on your first article for Itchmo, hon!

    I miss Grim a lot every time I see his photo. He was a real pal.

  7. Carol says:

    Thank you for sharing your very special story about your Grim. Having been a reader and poster here I have often told others that this hollow hurt we have after our loss is that we are truly lucky to have that special connection with our 4 legged friends that not all ever have! Having just lost my beloved Jessica, I had to repeat that to myself! It is very helpful and healing to be able to talk about this and having Itchmo has made it possible for me.
    Also best wishes on your future articles here!

  8. mittens says:

    i had 4 cats die this year-all from complications of old age. you dont think about it at the time you bring them into your life- all of them were rescues obtained from various people over the course of a year- but all my cats were about the same age. so they all ended up dying about the same time thankfully all close to 20 years old or older. still, i just about lost all contact with human emotion when the second one died- i numbed out from necessity i suppose. then i turned it into a comic routine- bring one cat to be cremated, pick up the last one brought there. i think i horrified a lot of people but it was clearly a coping mechanism for such a lot of loss at one time of my dearest companions- the only constants in what had been previously a very turbulent life.

    they all knew when it was time to go- each one sat on my chest for about a half hour before going off to hide and die which is their want. i funneled my grief into rescuing my new cat friends and they have made all the difference in the world for me during the past pretty sad year. saving a life can be about the best remedy for losing one. my girls always accepted each new stray or abused cat i brought home- i know they’d approve.

  9. Cheryl says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with you Jennifer during this time of grief…when you have a pet for it’s full lifetime, it really hits home, as it is a major thread in your life.
    I currently have a 21 year old cat as well, who has been in my life longer than any man, (lol). I almost lost her to kidney failure from the petfood recall, but due to alternative measures, all symptoms are at bay. I try to share my information with other pet lovers, so that both pet and owner can have a happy and healthy life, and learn some old secrets about how to keep certain illnesses away.
    My heart feels your pain, and know in time another little furry friend will find a great place in your heart.

  10. DMA says:

    I totally agree with MLO only I did burst into tears at work! I lost my wonderful girl, Cheli in ‘06 and I still miss her EVERY DAY! Thank you for your touching story.

  11. Jennife Moore says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I’m glad that my very first article for Itchmo was such a help to so many people.

    Damien, your beautiful photo was the very best tribute you coule have paid Grim, as was the help you gave me in caring for him when he was still around. You are wonderful!

    Mittens, I cannot imagine losing more than one at once! Wow. My heart goes out to you, and I honor your work for the animals. We have 9 other cats, and the biggest thing with which I came away from this was a deepened affection for those who are still with us.

    Cheryl, good for you for continuing to share information with other animal lovers. I try to do the same. Luckily, my family was not affected by the pet foods that were eventually recalled. We feed Purina, a brand my family has trusted for generations, along with a brand which my wonderful boyfriend introduced me to, Flint River Ranch.

    To all of you, thank you for making this new writer feel welcome! This is very humbling!

    ~Jennifer Moore

  12. CarolPW says:

    Jennifer, this reminded me so much of Tweezer (diabetic cat, 21) it had me crying too. The main difference is that with Tweezer it was congestive heart failure that got her in the end. It was also obvious she was ready to leave, a stark contrast to the times she fought back from insulin shock and diabetic comas (her thyroid alternated between hypo and hyperactivity the last 2 years, making the diabetes hard to control).

    I find it comforting to be there when they are euthanized, because I feel a great deal of peace (when they are ready to go) seeing that they have been given the blessing of relief. It’s also nice if you have a vet who hands you a box of Kleenex and leaves you alone when you loose it afterwards, and a staff who will bill you later.

  13. Margaret says:

    I know exactly how this woman feels although I have always stayed till the very end with all of my pets when they have had to be put to sleep. I just couldn’t bear the thought of their last few moments spent with no family members there to hold and comfort them. I also have their ashes in urns and redwood boxes and when I die, it is my wish that all of our ashes be scattered together.

  14. Elderta says:

    Thank you very much for this article. Your Grimalkyn reminds me of my Zanzibar. From birth to death, June 5, 1994 - January 26, 2006. The anniversaries are the hardest.
    Here’s my baby girl:
    I miss her.

  15. Janet says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. Your words touched my heart in such a personal way and have helped me come to grips with so many of the thoughts and feelings I’ve been having.
    I hope you find peace in the knowledge that you provided a good and loving home for Grimalkyn. I’m sure he knew how much he was loved.

  16. G in INdiana says:

    Having had many species die in my arms, I can tell you once they are knocked out, they do not know you are there. You don’t have to stay until they draw their last breath if you can’t. Just doing the right thing by being there and making sure they don’t suffer anymore is enough. I do stay but I can readily understand why others cannot it. It is very hard.
    RIP Grimalkyn, I hope the catnip is fresh and the sun shines brightly on your path.

  17. Sheltie Mom says:

    I lost my heart dog on June 13, 2006. It was one of the worst days of my life. I had no idea how sick my girl was when I took her in to a new vet. (My old vet had retired). The treatment from the new vet killed her even though I questioned what she was doing. When the clinic was closing at the end of the day, I was told I would have to take my sweet Chloe to the emergency. This vet would not stay over closing time. She died at the emergency clinic 2 hours after I got her there from pulmonary edema, from the IV the vet should never have given her, with her heart problem. I was not beside her when she passed. She was alone in a cold, lonely cage while I was in the next room. I will never forgive myself for trusting the incompetent vet with my baby. I still cry all the time a year and a half later. It was so traumatic and this is hard for me to write about my sweet Sheltie who was always by me and supporting me.
    ~Sheltie Mom

  18. Nora and Rufus says:

    Oh, Dear Sheltie mom. I completely understand. If Rufus (my awesome Aussie) goes before I do, I will cry forever and a day. I will be destroyed. I want to outlive him because I would never want to leave him alone in this world and I am afraid that no one will take care of him as he should be taken care of. Your Chloe must have been a wonderful girl.

  19. JJ72 says:

    Sheltie Mom, you did nothing wrong, and couldn’t have known that the vet was incompetent…I’m positive your Chloe knew you were right there in the next room, and was comforted by that.

    Jennifer, thank you for this special story…I had to make the difficult decision for my sweet cat a few days ago due to her rapid decline from renal failure…she’s been battling it in the end stage for a year. It was the first time I was with a pet during the euthanization process and it’s very difficult though I know it was painless for her.

  20. Jennifer Moore says:

    SheltieMom, I’m with JJ72. It’s hard to know when a vet is bad and when not. Sometimes, people just make mistakes. Sometimes, they are just plain bad at what they do. Sometimes they just don’t care. You just can’t know ahead of time, so don’t beat yourself up. I’m sure your Chloe knew how very much you loved her.

    ~Jennifer Moore

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