When you have a pet you love, itís hard to accept that theyíll never live as long as you will. Thatís a tough fact Gideon and I had to face last week when we put our sweet kitty BJ to sleep. Iím writing this on a Sunday ó four days after we said goodbye ó and tears keep falling down my cheeks.
BJ came into my life when I needed him most. I was 12 and my grandfather had just committed suicide after years of battling cancer. We all remember the first major loss in our lives. Iíll never forget trying and failing to cope with his death that summer, hoping Iíd eventually be back to normal. I canít say that kind of normal exists ó you canít unring the bell ó but BJ certainly helped me feel comfortable and loved when I was down.
He did that for 17 years, through high school and college and the beginning stage of my career. He lived in four cities, two states and more houses than I can count. He adjusted so well, as if he had always lived there. He had a way of taming everyone he ever came in contact with ó humans, dogs, other cats, you name it. In fact, he trained one of my momís dogs to carry him around on her back like he was royalty or something.
He knew Gideon for the last seven years of his life, and they were best friends. I remember coming home from my first day of work at Carroll County News and seeing Gideon carrying BJ around on his shoulders. BJ jumped from Gideonís shoulders to the kitchen table. When I pet him, he stood on his hind legs and hugged my neck.
For many years, thatís exactly how he greeted me when I got home. Gideon told me that BJ would wait by the door around 5:30 p.m. every day, sometimes sitting in the windowsill to watch my car pull up. The nights I covered late meetings, BJ would roam the house and cry out for me. He missed me when I was only two hours late. Iím sure you can imagine how much I miss him now.
He slept next to me every night, curled up against my chest. In his early years, he tried to eat as much human food as he could get his paws on. Popcorn was one of his favorites. I finally started to set aside unseasoned popcorn with all the soft bits pulled off. He would eat those bits of popcorn in a bowl next to me, as if he needed a snack for movie night too.
Two years ago, we noticed he was thinner than usual. It was easy to notice ó BJ had always been on the larger side. The vet diagnosed him with hyperthyroidism and told us he would need to take two pills a day with his wet food. Just a few months of the regimen brought BJ back to life. His fur was vibrant again and he gained some weight back. On his penultimate checkup at the vet, his blood levels were exactly where they needed to be. We were so thankful. We thought we had bought a few more years with him.
But over the past few months, he started to lose weight again. He walked really carefully and seemed to have trouble getting comfortable. We worried that his medicine wasnít working anymore. Gideon hoped all BJ would need was stronger medication. I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that BJís next vet visit would be his last.
Donít you wish those bad gut feelings were wrong sometimes? This wasnít one of those times. BJ spent the whole day at the vet last Wednesday before we learned he had leukemia. The vet said there was nothing they could do for him besides manage his pain.
Fortunately, Gideon and I had discussed this scenario beforehand and we knew we didnít want him to live in pain. Gideon gave the go-ahead to euthanize our sweet boy.
I left work early to be there with him. In those last moments of his life, I hugged BJ and told him how much he meant to me.
ďYou were my greatest gift,Ē I whispered through tears.
When the vet came to relieve BJís pain, I wasnít ready to let go. But I could tell BJ was. I could tell he just wanted to sleep ó one of his favorite things in the whole world ó and I would be giving him a gift by letting him go. Leaving the vetís office, I felt so empty. I took solace in knowing we did the most loving thing we could for our sweet boy.
The day before we took him to the vet, I knew it would be his last day. I asked Gideon to take him outside and let him run around and investigate anything he wanted to. Gideon went to bed around 10 p.m. that night, but I stayed up until 3 a.m. cuddling with BJ on the couch. He purred and drooled and curled his little head into the crook of my arm.
He hadnít been sleeping next to me for a while, but he did that night. I
have a feeling he knew it was his last night and that was his way to say goodbye. Even in pain, he made sure to comfort me. He was the best kitty in the world, and Iím not sure weíll ever find another like him.
As I write this, the house feels empty and quiet. It will probably be that way for a while. I read somewhere that grief
is the price of love, and thatís so true. If BJ werenít the best, most loving kitty, I wouldnít be so sad now.
Itís worth it. Itís worth all of it.