Over these first 23 years of what will hopefully be a long, happy life my family have owned a total of six pets. This is five cats and one dog. If I was to list these in order of death it would go something like this; Otis, Maisie, Sadie, Mittens, Molly and Nicola. We are now currently a home without the small creatures that make it complete.
Otis was the third cat to be adopted into our family, he was male and according to my parents a total shit. Stories they tell are of themselves sat on their bed sorting out tax forms or something equally important to adults with two children and three cats to take care of when one day Otis (the shit) decided to walk into their bedroom and jump up onto the bed. He circled around on top of the tax forms or other such important paperwork as if ready to sleep in for the night before he stopped, looked my mother dead in the eye and bent his hind legs before proceeded to defecate all over the paper. He ended this with a leap off the bed and a majestic strut from the room.
See while these are the stories I love of my pets from former years the sad reality I always come to when thinking about them is that one day they died. When growing up Otis was our first death and overall was probably the most tragic too. Otis and Maisie (our only other Male pet of the eventual six) used to be like brothers, they would play together so much that even I (who was very, very young at the time) still recall them running up the slanted tree in front of our home.
Otis saw his end when one day he went missing, I will skip the weeks we spent searching for him and cut to the end, what actually happened to him. Otis had wandered off too far one day exploring and found himself at a main road, being the total shit that he is he probably bravely decided he could conquer this and take a shit on it in the process.
What happened was he got run over, not fully run over, just his tail. This left him alive enough and in shock enough to run into a bush across the road, where he slowly bled to death. I don’t entirely know how animals think and feel but from my years with them I do know that they experience fear. My one thought of that cats end is that he probably ran into a bush in pain with a flat tail and was scared, just wanted to come home and be safe and he probably didn’t really understand the situation he was in. Sadly nobody would ever come to save him, he would die in that bush. His body was found days later and we discovered how the first of our pets was to die.
Maisie was also essentially a shit, a lazy one (unless it involved food.) Despite me reaching a good age before he eventually died, enough to form my own complete memories of him, I also go back to the stories told when remembering Maisie. Apparently when I was little, still living in the block of flats that Otis considered his home, Maisie one day climbed onto our balcony and worked his way onto the neighbours before wandered into their kitchen to eat an entire roast chicken.
Other than this Maisie would lounge around on the sofa sleeping or attack the food in our hands in hopes of snagging a piece on his claw that he can run off with. I cannot tell you how many slices of chicken I have seen this cat snatch from the middle of a sandwich you might be holding but if I was to place a bet it would be well beyond a hundred, he was a master chicken snatching ninja of a cat.
Regular medical things is what stole Maisie from us. He developed a clot between his lungs that stopped them from being able to expand fully, this lead to horrible breathing patterns and general weakness. We discovered the only time he felt and seemed well was if he had a fan in front of him, we had a tall rotating fan that we gave him to sleep with and for what I believe was a couple of weeks, he was okay. Sadly short term fixes are no good for long term issues and we eventually had to put him down.
Years later after the death of our forth cat Mittens, me and my sister were sat watching Halloween discussing the passing of our past cats and we touched upon Maisie. Honestly I do not remember how true this story ended up being, I’m sure my mother came home and said it was misunderstood and much better than first thought but either way this is the story that stuck in my mind.
My sister believed that when Maisie was taken to the vet to be put down, he wasn’t ready to go. My parents have mentioned a few times that “they were ready to go” with pets but one they always took that back from was Maisie for nobody really believed he was ready, nor would he ever be, he was stubborn. What my sister told me that was new is that apparently he struggled too much with the magic injection that would take his life. The vet then recommended injecting it into his belly, a way to skip to the end instead of dealing with his constant struggle.
What the vet failed to tell my parents was that this way takes longer and is more painful. My sisters telling is that he thrashed around in my mother’s arms before finally giving in and passing away. The news of this was heart breaking to me and it constantly bounces around in my head when I think of him. This cat was also the victim of fear and pain in his final moments.
Sadie was Maisie’s sister, she was very lady like and gentle. She used to have a specific spot on the sofa she would sleep in, my spot. I used to sit down and watch a film and she would wedge herself up on the back of the sofa and slowly slide herself down, pushing against my back until eventually I was on the edge of the sofa and she was fast asleep back in her spot. Again like the others I am haunted by her passing.
Sadie in her later years developed a knack for sleeping very, very deeply. She developed a new spot on the living room radiator that she just loved to lay on and for years this was an ideal spot for her, my mother cushioned it and made it a luxury five star cat hotel if I ever saw one. Eventually though these deep sleeps became too much for her, she would dangle from the edge and sometimes fall off onto the floor.
For the most part we would check her over to make sure she was okay then let her go to wander around or jump back up and sleep all day. What this eventually ended up with was the horrible image of our first female to lose the function of her back legs. Again, as with Otis and Maisie all I imagine is that first time she tried to get up from the fall that stopped her functioning. The fear, the misunderstanding as new concepts of reality rushed into her mind, something she never thought could happen was now happening and all she could do was be scared and hope we as her owners would have a solution. We didn’t.
Sadie was put down soon after.
Mittens was my older sisters cat, named for the fact she had fur patterns that made it appear as if she had tiny cat mittens on her paws. She was the dumb one of the group, the ditsy cute one that would get herself into all kinds of trouble by just existing.
I have a specific memory of our dog Molly chasing her through the house and Mittens being Mittens saw the washing machine as a deep hole she could dive into and escape. It was a smart move now that I think about it, the dog couldn’t have fit through the mouth of the door and Mittens would have been safe to squish up against the back wall until help arrived. Sadly when Mittens saw the washing machine and came up with this ingenious plan in a split second she had not realised she was looking at the glass coating of the door and that she could not pass through it.
One of the most hilarious things I have ever seen is that cat diving head first into the door of the washing machine, bouncing off confused and walking off as if she hadn’t just messed that up completely. The dog was so confused she just gave up the chase and looked at me with a slight head tilt.
When Mittens eventually passed it was due to cancer, something I never really thought cats could get, I guess it just never occurred to me. She seemed well, my sister came back from her new home to visit and look after her, she took her to the vets and got her started on some meds and when she was meant to go back for X-Rays everyone was in high hopes except for me, I made sure to say bye and I suggested that they do to just in case.
I don’t really remember if they did have a proper goodbye or not but the X-Ray result was that the cancer had spread everywhere and was far worse than first thought. My sister had to make the choice over the phone to put her down now while still unconscious or wake her up and have her live a few more weeks or months slowly deteriorating. Mittens would be another cat that wasn’t ready to go, unaware of her surroundings and the danger she was in.
Thankfully my memories of Mittens are good ones, she never really had the chance to see what was becoming of her and experience the fear that haunts me with the others. It was a horrible choice for my sister to make but I think it was right, the only fear Mittens experienced was that of the bath tub or the dog or the cage before going to the vets. She lived well but I can’t help but picture the dumb ditzy cat in her cage before the vet visit with no real idea that she wouldn’t return, she looked healthy and fine.
I didn’t kill my dog, this isn’t some sick disgusting story of my eventual turn to the dark side. I loved that dog and she was fantastic and such a bitch. I don’t mean in the fact that she was a female dog I mean she was a total bitch. After my sister moved out this dog essentially became my new sister. My mum still tells stories of me and the dog arguing via my shouting at her and her barking right back until she either got off my bed and left the room or I gave up and slept with her hogging most of the space.
If I was to say I had one best friend in my life that really did help me through some tough times it would be her. She had the biggest personality I’ve ever seen and opening Christmas presents without her sat there waiting for us to throw her one to unwrap just isn’t the same, I miss her company every single day.
My memories are my own though and ones of her are deeply personal to me so how about I move on. In her later years (like Sadie before her) Molly would go into deep sleeps. Thankfully Molly didn’t fit on the radiator and slept on the sofa next to us. What this resulted in was a very sensitive dog that if you was to so much as lightly tap her while she slept next to you she would snap awake and bare her teeth to you. She wasn’t vicious she would go straight back to loving us and wanting strokes instantly, it was a reactionary thing.
Her death was a surprise and I don’t know if this is true for a majority of dogs but it was certainly true of Molly, she went from young and happy to dying in the space of two weeks. Molly never really aged in a personality sense, the snapping was clearly a sign but she was running around 24/7, she had a specific lap she would run around the back garden when we open the door, she would still have snow fights with me at Christmas, age never seemed to hit her.
When we took her to the vet we was told she was sick but everything would be okay. We left her overnight to have a course of meds and when returned to us we was given little pills to drop into her food. I remember her refusal of meals because she just somehow knew there was a pill in there. My parents were saying if she doesn’t want to take it we can’t make her but I was adamant, we need to give her these meds. I remember taking a custard cream and jamming a pill in there and giving it to her, she only ate half of the biscuit before deciding she was full and refused to eat any more for the rest of the week. She was deteriorating fast.
When we took her to the vets next me and my mother were heartbroken, she no longer ran laps in the garden like last week and she barely made an effort to stand or show affection. We sat in the waiting room with tears in our eyes expecting the worst when Molly slowly stood up and wobbled over to an old lady sat the other side of us. She sat in front of this lady and put her paw onto the woman’s knee. My mother and I cried at her attempt to connect with new people despite her weak state and we also could have punched the old lady for doing nothing but say hello to Molly before looking at us with a smile and no attempt to stroke her. This affection that my mother and I would have loved was wasted on the one person in the room that wouldn’t just lean out and stroke the damn dog in her final hours. At least, what we thought was her final hours.
After speaking to the vet she said everything would be okay and to carry on with the meds. We took Molly home and kept trying our best to keep her going. We eventually got a call from the vet saying to stop giving her the meds and come back next week, we never made it to next week. One day we woke up and Molly was yelping in pain, barely able to stand. We would sit down and she would slowly work her way over and lay her head on our knees and sleep for most of the day until another sting of pain would come and she yelped out loud for what seemed like eternity.
My parents called a night vet, we spoke of it as just a quick emergency check-up but we all knew she wouldn’t be returning. I wasn’t strong back then, my parents got the car ready to take her while I lay on the living room floor next to her crying. When they walked her out to the car and drove off I said out loud that I was never seeing my dog again and cried until they came home without her.
Again, fear is the worst of all things here, all of her pained yelps came with looks at us to help, to find a way to save her and we couldn’t. The only slightly redeeming thing we can say is that apparently when my mother was there stroking her head as the vet put her down Molly had one last glint of life in her, she closed her eyes as if gone and as my mum moved her hand to stroke her one last time Molly span her head around and snapped before going back to sleep. This was reactionary and just so very much Molly. If there was any more life in Molly to escape before her passing it would be that moment, despite how dark it sounds.
I killed my dog, or believe I killed my dog because of words that passed around after her death. The vet called the next morning to apologize, saying sorry for our loss and that she was so sorry for what happened as she was so sure Molly was going to be okay when we last visited. My mother thinks that the reason for this call was in relation to the one that had come previously that said to stop giving Molly the meds. My family thinks that the meds were a mistake, something came back from test results long after we had been giving them to her that essentially said she shouldn’t be on them and it would make her much worse.
I killed my dog because I was the only family member to be forceful on the idea that Molly needed those meds to get better. I was the only one to stuff them in to biscuits and try my best to get her to eat them and if the belief that they are what killed her is true then I am at fault and it breaks my heart.
She went from young to old in two weeks and it is one of the most haunting moments of my adult life.
The way that I treated the passing of Nicola is a result of all of our past failures, my past failures. Nicola was my cat, the sister of Mittens gifted to me and my older sister on the same day. That first night, young and dumb as children are we tried to force these new kittens to sleep with us. If you ever wondered who was more stubborn; a child or a kitten, it’s a child. We was up until six in the morning trying to snuggle with these damn kittens before they eventually gave in and just stayed in the bed with us until we fell asleep.
Nicola was the follow up to Sadie in spirit, she was lady like and graceful but also had the ability to kick your ass. Mittens being ditzy would often find herself outmatched by neighbour cats and Nicola was the one to fight them back. If a cat entered our garden that she didn’t like they were gone pretty quick, to the point where we had begun to forget that the neighbours even had cats.
After the passing of Mittens my sister and I spent the night watching Halloween and discussing our past cats, Nicola was asleep in my lap and clutched her tiny paw around my finger, the closest we have ever been.
Soon after the whole cancer thing I was determined to get Nicola checked up, to make sure she was okay. We took her to the vet and they had discovered some issues with her glands that made them block up and cause her great pain. We soon got that fixed and for a week we had a cone head cat walking around like she was drunk but eventually she returned to normal and all was good until about a year after the passing of Molly.
Her issues came back strong, we returned her to the vet and heard the news, it was coming back fast and we didn’t have many options. My cat, my choices, my responsibility, I wasn’t going to take a back seat to the death of this cat, my cat. I had to be the one to make the right choices. We got to keep Nicola for a few months after the news before she began to deteriorate.
I had never done it before but I needed to be there when they put Nicola down, I needed to be with her and make sure she made it through this with no issues, no worries. She was scared, I was scared, I cried the whole time. She was let out of the cage and she walked over and rested her head on my belly and just let me stroke her. My mother and I kept stroking her until she was gone.
The fear my pets have felt through the years is something that scares me and haunts me, it’s horrible to think about and it keeps me up at night, it’s why I’m writing this at four in the morning. I think pets have a slight understanding of their end but never enough that they can really know and feel okay with it. They always have the dough eyes as if hopeful you will be there to fix them. The passing of Otis in that bush, Maisie writhing in pain, Sadie losing her back legs, Mittens not having a clue anything was really wrong with her to warrant a vet visit and Molly screaming in agony while all we could do was wait for it to pass was all built up in the passing of Nicola and how I dealt with it. All of my fears had to be quelled by being present for this, really being there for a creature that doesn’t understand things on the same level that you do, you need to be there understanding it for them. I’ll never really know how much it helped me or her to finally be there for one of them but it would have been a lot worse if I hadn’t attended.