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November 3rd, 2017

The Day the Empty Carrier Came Home




Listen with pain. On my birthday, we discovered that Sif had lung cancer. It looked like it had metastasized from her belly. The doctors told us that we would decide when to let her go. 

The photo above was the very first picture I ever took of Sif nine years ago. She was a loving cat, who only wanted to be loved in return. She was also a difficult cat. When Seth adopted her, just a few months before we started dating, she had already been returned to the SPCA twice. Although we never found out exactly why she was returned, it was quickly apparent she was a very anxious cat. She hated being left alone --an unavoidable situation if as Seth did, you worked long hours away from home. Sif knew the moment Seth walked up to the front door of his building. She would cry at the apartment's door until he was inside. The plaintive crying only stopped after I fully moved in. One of the real benefits of working from home for me was the ability to walk away from my desk just to kiss a kitten behind her little petal ears. I am biased to think her presence was more calming to me than I ever was to her, but the warm, loving household we created together was a good thing in the lives of her two very damaged people. She had the best belly of any creature in all of existence. We spent many long hours with glazed expressions on our faces just rolling around soft surfaces while I rubbed her belly.

The world I'm living in now is the world the fluffy cat left behind. Sif died on Halloween. For the last two weeks of her life, we watched as she steadily got thinner and more frail. She stopped grooming completely. We did what we could with wet wipes, but her paws were blackened and ragged. The day she left us, she was having trouble breathing. She wasn't able to eat. She could no longer mew -- her chest was too tight. I remember that she slowly followed me around the back of the house. When I realised she wanted to be near me, I saw down against her to read, what was one of, and still is, the greatest pleasures in my life.

Because of that, I had some vague hope the trip to the hospital would be okay. She was in bad shape, but maybe she would still leave quietly in the night. Instead, she went immediately into ER. The doctor came in ten minutes later to tell us her quality of life would not improve. It was time. Seth and I spent the last hour of her life sobbing uncontrollably, while our confused and upset cat kept trying to leave our arms and hide under a sofa. I stayed with her till the end. It would have been unimaginably cruel to not be there for her. To be honest, I expected the sedation would happen slowly. That I would watch her go over the course of a few minutes. The two injections she got actually worked immediately. One minute she was there, the other she was gone. 

I remember the last time she purred. It was Tuesday morning, and she was hungry, so I would add a dab of food to her bowl, and she would purr to let me know I was doing the right thing. I remember the last time I rubbed her belly, on Tuesday night. She had flopped down in front of the telly to nap, as she liked to do, so I wandered over to skritch her tummy. She had a little kitten smile on her face while she slept. I still feel terrible we had to wake her up to give her meds. I should have let her sleep.

I remember the last time she visited me in the study to scold me for working late. That was Wednesday night. I couldn't sleep, and work was something I did when there was something left at my desk. When she comes to squeak at me, I usually pick her up so I can hug her on my lap and listen to her purr. Because she would have trouble breathing, we could no longer pick her up. But she was there, she wanted me to know.

Sif was one of the first people to make me feel loved and wanted when I didn't think I possibly could be loved or wanted. There is a fluffy, triangle-shaped hole missing in my life. I look up from my screen and see that fluffy triangle looking up at me, expecting kibble for supper, her most important meal of the day.

A few years ago, I bought an S-roller for the cats to play with. It's a set of interconnected tubes with a ball cats can reach in and chase. Dorian played with it for about a minute. Sif was unimpressed. In the spring, I noticed this toy under our dining table gathering dust and took it apart to wash. When I put it back together, I managed to snap it into a question mark shape and being too lazy to take it apart again, I added some treats and hoped a cat would find it. The next morning, the treats were gone and Sif was napping in the centre of the question mark -- now officially her personal ergonomic palanquin. When she felt too sick to move, we would find her there, and now her question mark still sits in a corner of our living room. It's her spot, it's not going anywhere. If I were to be cliched, it's like a question hanging in the air. In reality, it's more a string of regrets -- hours where I was too busy working to nap with her when she wanted, or stuck in complex and frustrating raids while she cried at me to stop and not stress out. She was a good, loving cat. I wished I was better to her.