Writing Prompt: Good Night Sweetheart

My beloved cat died on Friday 11th March 2016.

I came home at around 5pm on the evening before and found her sluggish. She had been ill for months. The first diagnosis of liver failure was in early August 2015 and after three overnight stays in the hospital over a 6 month period, no one, not even the vet, expected her to last that long. Every day I had her I wondered if it would be the last. I had a feeling, as the weeks went by, that sooner or later, when she declined one final time, that I would have to put her to sleep. How soon would it be before the final push, the last decline? On that day, I knew I had my answer.

She wobbled into the kitchen and flopped down on the floor near where I was cooking. I could see she was struggling. The weight of fluid that had gathered in her abdomen made it uncomfortable for her to walk and even as she lay on the kitchen floor, she rolled herself over from side to side, trying to make her bulk cooperate with her.

I decided that opening the back door to the garden might help get her to her feet, so I opened the glass doors and waited. She wandered to the open door and sat just inside peering out into the garden. After a few minutes, she jumped up onto a wicker chair that contained her cat bed and nestled in. I closed the door to the garden and went to the sitting room to watch tv. A couple of hours later, she came in and jumped on the coffee table where a glass of water was waiting for her. She had ceased to drink from her water bowl months before and was, by that time, only content to take her drink from a pint glass on the coffee table. I suspect it had something to do with the strain on her neck from leaning down.

She settled in beside me and looking a bit miserable, tried to get comfortable. I went to my office to check something on my computer when I saw it. There was a small pool of vomit on my purple yoga mat, which she had in recent months taken to sleeping on whenever I was working in there and she wanted to be near me. With a shudder of concern, I went to get some cleaning products to tidy the mess. That’s when I discovered another, small trail of vomit along the conservatory floor, where she had been sleeping a few hours before. I cleaned that too, then went back to her in the living room. She was still, but when I put my head to her side, I could hear her breathing laboured. I placed a hand on her wee head and tried to stroke her. A wheezing purr came from her, but was quickly replaced by the shallow rhythm of her struggle for breath. Then, without warning, she sat up in attention again and leaped to the floor and was once more, violently ill. I left her to finish, cleaned up again and waited to see what she would do. She seemed to want to drink more water, but after a couple of gulps, she was back in her place on the sofa.

This went on for about an hour before she was ill again. This time, she wandered into the hallway, as if to try to get to the kitchen, but she stopped after a few steps and flopped over again. She sat there, her paws folded under her as though all she wanted was to get comfortable.

She had always, since she was a kitten, loved the feel of my dressing gown. It was white and fluffy and smelled of me. I found it and made a nest out of it on the end of the sofa next to my spot, then placed her in it. There she stayed for a few minutes, but once again, she struggled to find a comfortable position, I moved next to her, placing my head beside hers until she decided she wanted to be left alone, and turned her back to me, dangling the front half of her body over the arm of the sofa.

By this time I was in a state of such panic and fear and sadness that I didn’t know what else to do. The evening had given into night and it was nearly 11pm. I made on final attempt to make her comfortable, positioning her back onto the dressing gown nest and there I left her. She seemed at last to calm down and when midnight came, I gave her a final pat of the head, a kiss and went upstairs to bed. I knew that if I found her in the same miserable state the next morning, it would be time for me to make that hard, but necessary decision to put her out of her misery. However, when I came down at 8am the next morning, before I reached the stairs and she came into full view, I knew she was gone.

Her small body was stretched along the sofa with her head and front paws dangling slightly over the edge. There was no movement, and when I got close to her, I could see her eyes were half open and a thin string of spittle dangled from her closed mouth, leading to one final pool of vomit on the floor where she had coughed out her life.

I cuddled her and tried to closed her eyes, but was unsuccessful. She had already begun to stiffen, which led me to believe that she had died four or five hours before.

I found a box of the right size, a white towel and all of her toys. I carefully placed her in the towel lined box and covered her, positioned her toys around her, her favourite, just at her front paws, then closed the box.

After a few unsuccessful attempts to find a patch of soft ground in the back of the garden, I settled on one near the front of the garden near the house and within view of the conservatory she has known so well. When at last I buried her in her final resting place, I placed a pot of opened daffodils over the grave to mark the spot and to keep the foxes out.

There she is now, within view of my office window and under the trees, surrounded by snowdrops. I thank whatever forces are out there that the end was quick, that only a few hours passed of discomfort before she died and that I had stayed home from a trip to be with her until the end. I have 13 years worth of memories to keep me going. She’s resting now and someday, when time time is right, I’ll rescue more cats and make this their home, but no cat, however wonderful will replace the affection I had for Titch. The best cat that ever lived. Good night sweetheart.

If you’ve reached the end of this narrative and want an exercise, write about a pet you’ve had or have. Describe them and what they mean to you. Pets have a way of taking over your life, adding stress, inconveniencing you, but you don’t mid because you love them. I, for one, hope I get to feel this awful again.

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