August 3rd 2023 Cherryle & I said goodbye to a beloved family member; Chester the cat. He’d been in declining health for several months, and we made the difficult decision to have him put to sleep. As my wife cuddled him in a blanket and I stroked his head, the vet administered the injections, and just like that he was gone. My wife has always been good at expressing her emotions and cried a river of tears. I’m not one to outwardly display emotions- I haven’t had a soul cleansing cry since age 11 when my cousin Ronnie was killed in a car accident, and I’m 65 now. Still, I was not prepared for how deeply the experience would affect me.
Chester came into our lives 9 years ago when our daughter Sarah rescued him from the SPCA. 3 cats had been brought in from a nearby town, beaten up badly, all 3 had a leg amputated, and Chester also had broken ribs and a broken nose. Sarah brought him home and when she moved in with us in 2016 he came along too, becoming a member of the household for the next 7 years. He shared ‘shedding duties’ with Sarah’s other cat George, our cat Mandu, and our dog Bugzi.
Even with his right rear leg gone, Chester could book it… if he was nearby when someone opened the front door he’d be off like a shot across the lawn and had no trouble getting around the house, even with the litterbox downstairs. As the years went on he slowed down of course, and then there came a time when, with a missing leg, using the stairs to the basement became too much… he sat at the bottom of the stairs crying, so we brought the litter box up to the landing by the back door to make using the biffy easier for him. That worked for quite a while, but then his age and the effects of his injuries began catching up with him. He began peeing in odd places, and if you left any clothes on the floor they were fair game. I used to leave my work shoes by the front door, but after he peed in them, I washed them and put them in the closet.
Despite it all though, Chester was one of the kindest, most loving souls I have ever known. When we were on the couch watching TV he’d scramble his way up, sit between Cherryle & I, nudging either of us in the arm to be scratched and petted. When we’d go to bed at night, often with Bugzi and Mandu on the bed with us, we’d hear Chester awkwardly thumping down the hall to join us. He’d get up on the box at the foot of the bed, come up to Cherryle’s pillow and purr loudly while he slept near (or on) her head.
In the couple of months leading up to August 3rd he’d lost an alarming amount of weight, going from the 21 pounds he was originally (his nickname was “Tubby”) down to just 12. In the last few weeks he stopped getting up on the couch- or the back of the Lazy boy chair, one of his favorite spots- and rarely came down the hall to sleep with us at night. He didn’t have much interest in eating, even the special food we had bought for his diabetes, and would just lie on the floor all day, often in the same spot. In the past he’d have spirited rows with Mandu with both hissing and swiping, but in his last couple of weeks as he lay under the table, Mandu would come up to him, sniff his nose, then go away. That’s when we knew the time had come.
Deciding to have a beloved pet put down is not easy, but Chester was suffering. As painful as we knew it would be we wanted to spend his final moments with him as he passed. Chester had given us many years of unconditional love and our family reciprocated too- he was (and still is) a well-loved cat. To have the vet take him in the back and just do the deed would’ve been cruel, the ultimate betrayal. To NOT be with him in his final moments would’ve been wrong; we couldn’t abandon him that way- you just don’t do that to a pet you love.
The emotional weight of that day is crushing but as with any death in the family the pain will eventually subside. You never get over it, but you do find a way to live with it- this I know from experience. Now that we won’t hear him gently thumping down the hallway for a good night’s sleep with us, I miss it. The house feels emptier, somehow less without him in it, and we look forward to a time when this overwhelming heartache and grief will be replaced by fond memories and stories of how he was such a great cat- faults, quirks and all.
As I’ve already said, Chester was one of the kindest, most loving souls, and he will continue to affect the lives of those of us that knew him. I told Cherryle I want to get his paw print tattooed above my heart, something our daughter and granddaughter plan to do too. My wife and I have also agreed that if/when the time comes for another cat, we’ll go to the shelter for a senior cat, possibly with disabilities, to give them the love and care that they need and so richly deserve. We like to think Chester would approve.
So, goodbye my friend… safe travels on the rainbow bridge, I’ll miss you forever.