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Goodbye, Old Friend

Goodbye, Old Friend

Ryan giving Mr. Right-Click one last kiss.

Ryan giving Mr. Right-Click one last kiss.

Thursday morning, the cat I’ve had since I was 20 lost her battle with old age and kidney failure. She was 16. It’s never easy to lose a pet, or a friend. You think that when you get older you won’t take things as hard, but the truth is that you just take it a little different.

She went down swinging.

She went down swinging.

About six months after I got Ryan as a kitten, my basset hound, Chelsea, died from stomach cancer, and it was devastating. I put her old nametag from her collar on my keychain and carried it around with me for years, as I went from school to school, party to party, apartment to apartment. My therapist gave me this great book called, That Dog! so that I could try to get in tune with the cycle of life. I was pretty sure that no other pet dying would hit me like Chelsea’s death did.

Ryan giving Mr. Right-Click one last kiss.

Ryan giving Mr. Right-Click one last kiss.

It turns out that Ryan’s death was just as tough to take, but different. More . . . adult. This time, I had to be the one to make the final decision to put her down. We tried to save her with subcutaneous fluids and hospitalization, appetite stimulants and anti-nausea shots, but this last time when she came back from the hospital, I could tell she wasn’t herself. Two weeks ago, she killed a lizard and brought it to my bedside. But now, she was doing things like sitting in the planter outside and stumbling around, nearly falling down as she tried to navigate the bed, and just . . . just not acting like a cat. So we took her in.

Goodbye, my old friend.

Goodbye, my old friend.

And I held her in my arms this time, while they gave her the shots. I did not want her to be alone. And for myself, I’m glad that I did, because the gravity of it all didn’t really hit me until I felt her body relax in my arms, for the last time. First with the sedative, and then, a softer, gentler relaxation, and I knew she was gone.

Ryan found love late in life with Coast, Mr. Right-Click's cat.

Ryan found love late in life with Coast, Mr. Right-Click's cat.

Before that moment, I was in that mode where you have decided you are going to do what is right, regardless of how difficult it is. You are all business, just focusing on the task at hand. It is that same mode in which you spend much of parenthood, particularly in those first few days when breastfeeding feels like a white hot staple gun of pain radiating through your whole body, but you grit your teeth and swallow hard, way in the back of your throat, and you can hear and feel the pain even in your ear canal.

Because you would rather die than let your baby know how much it hurts.

And then it hits you that, somehow — without realizing it — you have been readying yourself for that moment your whole life, growing strong enough to endure that pain without flinching so that your child can get what he needs from you. And that you never knew until that moment how strong you were, or what it meant to go through great pain, without showing it, all because of love.

Ryan Viele-Right-Click, ca. July 1993 - November 12, 2009

Ryan Viele-Right-Click, ca. July 1993 - November 12, 2009

I will miss you, my old friend. And I will keep sleeping with your pillow placed right above my head, because after all of these years, I’m not sure I can get to sleep with it any other way.

Comments (41)

  1. surcey
    Nov 13, 2009

    I just wanted to say I am sorry. I held our elderly dog as he was put down a few years ago. It was a final gift you gave to your buddy.

  2. Nov 13, 2009

    Oh, Anna. I’m so sorry. I’ve had to put down several animals and each time it was one of the worst days of my life. I’m glad you got pictures of her at the very end – you’ll be so glad you have those later on. Thinking of all of you because I know it will be a tough weekend.

  3. Nov 13, 2009

    I’m sorry.

    There’s all kinds of things people say when this stuff happens, but none of them help much, so never mind.

  4. weezy
    Nov 13, 2009

    I’m so sorry. A lovely tribute to Ryan.

  5. Nov 13, 2009

    I’m so sorry, Anna. I sympathize. I cried with you while reading this. My thoughts are with you.

  6. Nov 13, 2009

    Thanks, surcey. I figured it’s got to be better than having some vet tech do it.

  7. Nov 13, 2009

    Thanks, Elizabeth. Yes, it was weird when I was editing these pictures because I was thinking, “Oh shoot, this one is out-of-focus, I’ll take another one — oh wait, no I won’t.” It’s sad.

  8. Nov 13, 2009

    LOL. Thanks, Kerry.

  9. Nov 13, 2009

    Thanks, Weez.

  10. Nov 13, 2009

    Thanks, Chris.

  11. Nov 13, 2009

    Oh Anna, I’m sorry as well. What a sweet face Ryan had and such lovely coloring.

    My hubs and I recently adopted a cat from a litter that had been tossed in a dumpster (Aaah!). Hubs really wanted a cat. I have a dog that is now Our dog and I wasn’t too much in the mood for a kitty, but I love hubs so we did. Enter Calvin.

    Now that damn cat has crept totally into my heart as pets do. Love for our pets is so crazy isn’t it?

    Thanks for sharing this – I had a good cry reading it.

  12. Tish
    Nov 13, 2009

    Anna, that was beautiful. **sniffle**

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  13. I’m sorry. So very sorry. Gah, how this made me cry! Several years ago, in the beginning stages of their “I’ll show you!” divorce, my Dad took our dog – who was old and blind and adored beyond words – to the vet without telling anyone and had the vet put him down. I was an adult, married and living in the next town, and didn’t learn of this until the following day. There’s a chunk of my heart that still makes me cry thinking I didn’t get to be with my beloved dog at the end.

    So, yeah, pet stories always do me in. Glad you got to be there with Ryan.

  14. Nov 13, 2009

    This broke my heart. I’m so sorry. After my cat died, fifteen years ago, I was sure that I’d never have another pet. And I do think that I closed my heart a little.
    I think one our responsibilities to our pets is to know when to ease their suffering, even though it hurts us. And you did that.

  15. Nov 13, 2009

    I’m so sorry. Know that you gave her an excellent send off. I went through almost the exact same experience a couple of months ago when our 23 year old cat, Imogene, also succumbed to kidney failure (and, well…old age). Thanks for sharing her life with us.

  16. Nov 13, 2009

    I am so sorry for your loss! You will meet again at the “Rainbow Bridge”

  17. I am very sorry Anna. I was there when one of my pets, my cat Angel had her last moments. It was so hard but having had other pets pass away alone that I wasn’t able to hold or comfort since then has made me realize how important it was to me that she wasn’t alone.

  18. Mr. Right-Click
    Nov 13, 2009

    The first night I ever spent at Anna’s place is marked in my memory by her cat Ryan. I woke up in the middle of that night dripping in sweat with a giant 15 pound hat on my head. Was I dreaming? No, it was Ryan who for the first and only time decided the top of my dome was the perfect spot for her. As the years went by and the nights piled up, Ryan never again graced me with her bonnet treatment. Anna called it a “try-out”, so I guess I passed, thank goodness. Perhaps Ryan’s greatest skill was her ability to bite your nose just to the point where it did not break the skin but certainly brought tears to your eyes. Her breath…let’s just say it smelled like angels walking through a sewer with decomposing corpses floating in crap. The cutest thing, though, that I loved about this cat, was her love of my geriatric kitty, Coast. They had a forbidden love they simply could not fight nor ignore. When they thought we were not watching they would snuggle and lick each other like they were pumping a hand cart down the feline railroad of life. Then, when night fell and we all hit the bed, they each had their spot: Ryan above her mom on her own pillow and Coast down on my feet, a purring, fluffy uni-sock.
    The love of a marriage brings many, many things for which to be grateful. My friend Ryan, and our years together, is certainly one. Thank you Ryan and thank you Anna. I love you both and always will! –MRC

  19. Nov 13, 2009

    Oh Anna, I’m so sorry! It’s always hard to lose a pet–they’re members of the family after so long with us. You did right by her, but that doesn’t make it easy.

  20. Nov 13, 2009

    Anna, so sorry to hear it. Mr. Right Click – lovely send off as well.

  21. Nov 13, 2009

    It is such a diificult decision to end a friend’s pain. I am so sorry for your loss. We had to put my soul-dog, Larry, down in February and it completely sucked. While I totally knew that it was the right thing to do and that he would be at peace, it seemed so arbitrary that I would make this decision for him. That said, no one else could have. Your pictures of Ryan made me tear up – she was a beautiful kitty.

  22. Nov 13, 2009

    Yeah, Ryan was actually my first cat. My family never had cats, and now everybody does, post-Ryan.

  23. Nov 13, 2009

    Thanks, Tish. 🙂

  24. Nov 13, 2009

    Uggh. That is awful. Awful. It’s really hard to be away when a pet has to be put down, too, because it makes it feel unreal. For me, that is harder.

  25. Nov 13, 2009

    I think that people get caught up on what pets can cost in terms of money, but in my mind the price you pay for having them there all the time, supporting you, is that you know you will have to let them go. But that doesn’t make it much easier when you actually have to do it.

  26. Nov 13, 2009

    Wow, 23?! That’s amazing. Cats are crazy and amazing animals, aren’t they?

  27. Nov 13, 2009

    Oh, yeah, I forgot about the Rainbow Bridge. That’s such a cool idea.

  28. Nov 13, 2009

    You know what, Beth, I would never do it another way again. It’s the best thing for the pet and the best thing for me, I think. It’s very hard, but it’s so much more befitting the relationship, I think, to help them with it.

  29. Nov 13, 2009

    Yes, Ryan knew you were “the One,” honey, and that you were a Cat Lover. I think she ended up loving you more than she loved me, at least until we had to have the dog move to my Mom’s house. She was really pissed at me about that dog. And she held onto the grudge for years. Impressive, really.

  30. Nov 13, 2009

    Thanks, Ginger.

  31. Nov 13, 2009

    Thanks, Jenni.

  32. Nov 13, 2009

    Thanks, Diana. Yes, she was pretty. Mr. Right-Click talks about how Ryan and I were the same, we both can be very sweet and loyal but if you pet us the wrong way, we will bite, and bite HARD. It’s true: our personalities did mirror each other in a lot of ways. And it never occurred to me until now that we had the same asymmetry in our faces, she has that mark on her mouth that we used to call her “lipstick” that she put on crooked, and I have a mole on the right side of my nose. Kinda poetic. Except that I had my mole removed. So, yeah, I don’t like where this metaphor is going . . . LOL

  33. This post made me cry. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  34. Nov 13, 2009

    Thanks, Jennifer.

  35. Delurker
    Nov 13, 2009

    I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  36. Nov 13, 2009

    Anna, I’m sorry about your sweet kitty. That was a really beautiful post.

  37. Snakey
    Nov 14, 2009

    So sorry 🙁

  38. Nov 14, 2009

    We lost 2 pets this year, one just a few weeks ago. We call them pets, but they’re really children, and friends. Peace to you and your family.

  39. jana
    Nov 16, 2009

    So sorry for your loss, but happy you could be with Ryan at the end.

  40. Jul 23, 2010

    I’ve seen that photo of you and Ryan and Mr. Right-Click in your sidebar, and I’ve always wondered at the beauty I saw in it. So I finally clicked over. And now I see in writing precisely what I saw in that picture. Love.

  41. Dec 15, 2010

    I just clicked over from the sidebar also. Geeze, this moved me to tears. I haven’t had to do the adult good-bye yet, and I’m not looking forward to the day it comes.

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