Today we put our cat to sleep. “Do you know what that means?” I asked Arlo. He was lying in his bed, reading a book. I hadn’t realized Eli had already told his brother that while he was at school, we put the cat to sleep. I have no idea how that conversation went down.
“No,” Arlo said.
“It means you give the animal an injection of medicine and then the animal dies.”
“So we don’t have Seamus anymore.”
“Is that a bit sad?”
His eyes were red. He hugged me hard.
When I was seven, my beloved and much cherished puppy went to the vet and never came back. So I kind of know how he feels, except he and Seamus were never really that close. Or maybe they were. Or maybe seven year olds just care more about things that die than five year olds do.
We adopted Seamus in 2003, when he was a few years old, so his age has always been an estimate. Recently when people asked me how old he was I shrugged and said fifteen? He had deteriorated in the past year; not doing well in the heat, not eating for days at a time, and recently being unable to pee. When I picked him up to put him in the carrier to take him to the vet, he didn’t run, or flinch, or meow.
Partly I’m justifying what I did. Partly it’s just the story.
While Eli and I sat in the vet’s office today, skinny, sick Seamus on my lap, I looked around at the posters on the wall. One was about canine tooth disease. One was about sick cats and how to tell if they’re sick. The one behind my head explained that cats and dogs need wellness check ups, just like humans. It listed animal ages in years with the human equivalent beside them.
Fifteen cat years is seventy-six human years, I thought. Seventy-six is pretty good.
It doesn’t make it easy to say yes, give this cat eternal sleep. But it helps.
(I wrote this for Seamus once, a few years ago. It still stands.)