Life after Zeus

This post contains a lot of personal thoughts and feelings and details about putting down a pet. Probably not recommended reading material for anyone, but it’s how I cope. I blog.

Sigh… It doesn’t get easier.

So many things I told myself.. So many lies… It’ll be easier, he lived a long, good life, or… we had 3 extra bonus years together, or… he’s just a cat, it won’t be like losing a dog was.

Truth is, saying goodbye to a pet really sucks.

Everyone always says you’ll know *when*… and I guess it is true. I so badly wanted Zeus to pass away in peace at our home, mostly because he absolutely hates hated car rides. He would get so stressed, and sick (in every way). I didn’t want to have a traumatic last hour to his life.

As the days wore on after we returned from vacation, it was pretty clear that he wasn’t going to bounce back. He started going downhill before we left, although I didn’t want to recognize it at the time. He was eating less and his weight was down when he saw the vet before we left. By the time we were home from the Yukon, he was quite skinny, despite having a neighbour stop by to feed him regularly. Over his last two weeks, since our vacation, I didn’t see him eat at all. He still would come to visit us downstairs from time to time, but mostly he sat quietly upstairs in the front bedroom. He drank water, but nothing more. He’d purr when I visited and he’d let me take him outside so we could sit on the patio in the sun together.

Every day he turned more and more into a skeleton, and one of his eyes and a nostril had to be cleared of mucous often. By Sunday night I knew what had to be done. Although he didn’t seem to be in acute pain, he had to be miserable, his body was eating itself, and it wasn’t fair to risk him going out by seizure as his organs shut down.

One of the hardest steps to saying goodbye to a pet, is the act of calling the vet clinic, and verbally saying the words, requesting an appointment to put your pet down. Three times now, and I haven’t done it once without choking up and pinching off my voice. It is so hard to verbalize. It’s so final.

Luckily they understood what I was requesting and booked us an afternoon appointment. I worked during the morning hours because I knew Zeus just wanted to be left alone and didn’t want my constant attention. Mostly I just needed a distraction.

The drive to town was hard. Luckily he hadn’t eaten anything, so he wasn’t sick, and didn’t have a horrible ride. He walked right to the back of my hatchback, by the back window, stretched out and meowed from time to time. I tried to focus on driving the 30 minutes to the vet clinic, but did move my rear view mirror so it just looked at him.

I went in first, alone, to sign the consent form, and pay the bill in advance. I asked to have him cremated, with his ashes returned. I’ll likely spread them somewhere on our property here.

Then I had to go get him from the car, where he was waiting for me. So hard, so very hard.  He was so awake, so alert. He was all there, Zeus was there, his soul, his mind, it was just his old body that was failing him now.

They put a blanket on the table in one of the exam rooms and said we could wait for the vet in there. I had Zeus in a blanket from home. He was so boney. Like a skeleton with fur. I didn’t want to hurt him and wrapped him up tight. I hugged him and kissed him so many times as we stood in the room, waiting for the vet. He was purring and licked me back a few times. The vet who originally diagnosed Zeus saw his name on the appointment sheet for the afternoon, so he took the appointment. He pet Zeus and Zeus purred. So strange for Zeus to purr for a stranger!

We talked for a bit. He said Zeus did so good, so very good, so much longer than any other cat with such a tumor in their chest. He asked if Zeus would let them shave a bit of his front leg. I said I’d keep holding him in case. Then Zeus gave the vet a typical-Zeus snarly growl. It made us all smile.

It was over so quick. I held Zeus on the table and he slowly slumped and was gone. The assistant left the room. The vet stayed a bit longer, checked for a heart beat, and confirmed he was gone. He felt his legs then and said his muscles were completely wasted away. He seemed surprised he had still been so mobile. He left then, and said I could take as long as I want, and told me how to leave through the side door so I didn’t have to go out through the waiting room.

I kissed Zeus a bunch more times, and pet him. I told him how much I loved him and thanked him for being such a great buddy for so many years.  Similar to Winger’s passing, there was a sense of calm and peacefulness, that he was finally released from his cancer, and from all that ailed him.

But it was so hard to leave. How do I just leave Zeus there lying on the table? How do I switch from caregiver to just leaving? What if he isn’t really gone? Did his side just move?

A couple minutes later I slipped out the side door. I wailed when I got in the car. It was a rainy day and I made it even wetter as I cried all the way home.

Now, 3 days later, I’m doing okay. The only really tough part has been the moments between closing my eyes, and sleep. In fact I didn’t sleep much the first two nights, and watched tv until 2am or so when I could fall asleep on the couch without thinking.

Yesterday I went in the basement for the first time, where Zeus’s litter boxes are (he has two because he’s so picky… was so picky…). That’s where his pills are, and all the soft cat foods we’ve been buying for over 3 years, soft foods to hide his prednisone pill in, and gravy coated foods to coax him into eating. I cried. How could he not be here anymore?

After you lose a pet, for the first few days you can still picture them everywhere. Lying by the door, stretched out on the footstool, paws crossed. I think about how I’ll never panic, looking all over the house for him, thinking he must have gotten out, just to find him sleeping soundly in my armoir on my sweaters. I watched him go in there once and pull the door shut behind him. Funny cat.

I think about how I’ll never hear him purr, or hear him meow at the back door. I find his fur on my sweatshirt, and pause, not wanting to wipe it off.

I think about how strange it is to be here, but he’s not here. How it almost doesn’t feel fair. How come I’m here, but he can’t be. Why did he have to go? Why is this so hard when we know what the deal is when we adopt our pets. We know this day will come. I’m kinda done with this deal to be honest.

Sally, our other cat, is doing okay. She gained every pound Zeus lost in the last few weeks, and probably more. I think she just sat idly upstairs because he did lately, and ate all the food he didn’t. She’s looked around for him a few times, and now seems to be picking up her activity again.

It’s a real transition period now. Every time I see Sally out of the corner of my eye come into the room, my heart leaps because I think it is Zeus.

I don’t predict any prolonged period of grieving here, it isn’t like losing my dogs, Winger and Surf, within a couple months of each other. I just need to be sad for a bit. He might have been a real pain in the ass cat for everyone else, but I loved him. I think he just saved all his love for me, instead of spreading it around. He was a real good friend.

Here are some pictures I pulled from my archives. Here’s Zeus:

Lisa

Lisa (Verkley) Schuyler is a blogger reporting live from her new home in Canada's Yukon Territory. Often found wearing a hoodie, covered in pet hair, Lisa is a mis-placed forester who now spends her days engineering happiness for WordPress users. Lisa loves nature, animals, and most importantly, her handsome husband Jeff.

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