While I was observing all the cats in the room, considering colors and personalities, who would be a good fit, I realized I’d been holding this 6-month-old black and white cat for the longest time. He was quiet and sweet, with great markings. He picked me and I signed the papers. I realized later he totally tricked me into adopting him because he never really let me (or anyone) hold him again. Stinker.
He was a great friend for a college student living on her own for the first time. And he was hilarious. If I was in the bathroom, his arm would inevitably reach under the door looking for me. He’d curl up and sleep in the sink. When I’d walk past the bed, his razor claws would shoot out from underneath and attack my feet.
I got this macrame basket thing at a thrift store, and he loved to lay in it and let me swing him back and forth.
Simon was an expert at hiding. On at least 5 separate occasions, he’d convinced people he was missing, caused a panic, only to emerge later as though nothing happened. He only actually got outside twice: once out of an open window - I frantically plastered the neighborhood with flyers, and he eventually just crawled out from under the porch. He'd made it about 15 feet and decided the outside world was a little too scary. He's always curious about what's on the other side of the door though. This past autumn, he found his way into the backyard. As soon as I noticed the open door, I ran outside and he was calmly sniffing flowers, not a care in the world.
He loved to be comfortable. I’d often find him draped over the back of a chair, or over a banister, or straight-armed lounging off the couch.
He was fastidious in his self-care, and manicures and pedicures were his specialties. His whites were always white, his blacks gleaming. He was particularly fond of grooming me, as well. He’d cuddle up next to me on the couch to deliver a hand-bath nearly every night.
He was the best nap-partner.
He was long and sleek, and his eyeliner was on point.
His white fur was thicker and softer than his black fur, and he had the greenest eyes.
All of his toe-beans were pink except for one, which was black. We always said he had “a case of the black toe,” like a mysterious old-timey scourge.
He was purring constantly, and underfoot if I’d even think about going in the kitchen.
And he was just a sweet soul. Wouldn’t hurt a fly (except the occasional bugs he defended our home against.. and some plants he thought looked tasty), he was shy but still wanted to be your friend.
Last June, we took him to the University of MN with blood in his urine, but that ended up being the least of their concerns. Chronic kidney disease, anemia, arthritis, muscle wasting, grade 4 heart murmur, possible hyperthyroidism… it was later assumed that he likely had lymphoma as well.
He was such a trooper - even with all that going on, he was the same old Simon, jumping up on whatever he wanted, begging for ice cream (like, seriously-dude-get-out-of-my-face begging). It felt like he might live forever. But age and time got the better of him, and we said our tearful goodbyes on February 4th, 2019.
The night before, his front paw was being weird - folding under him a little - but he’d correct it and keep going. When we woke up the next day, that whole arm was folding under, and he was struggling to walk. His back legs were failing him now too, and a couple times he just laid down where he was, heart beating fast, panicked and confused.
I emailed my friends at Dr. Soucheray’s At Home Veterinary Care, thinking maybe we could do a hospice care assessment first, because it couldn’t possibly be “time” yet, right? But shortly after I sent the message it was clear that there was no getting better from this. Which, of course, is the point of hospice - making them comfortable while you’re planning to let go - but he couldn’t live like this. What if he fell while we weren’t home and broke his leg? He wouldn’t want to be cooped up, confined to a room just to struggle alone. Keeping him around would be for me, not for him.
Forcing myself to make the call to my vet was heartbreaking. It made everything real. It put a countdown clock on life with my buddy.
As the day went on, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I posted to Facebook, letting the notes of condolences roll in and give me something to read. I sat by Simon and pet his handsome old face. His pinks were pale, his eyes were weepy, and he didn’t even try grooming the food off his chin.
I realized later that he never even meowed that day. He always talked to me when it was time for food - his increasingly raspy, old man “waow.” He really was ready. It was time.
I’m so glad we made the decision when we did. It’s crazy how quickly he faded. I honestly don’t know if he would have made it through the night, but this way we could all be together. He was comfortable and loved, and didn’t have to go out scared and alone.
They say that when it’s time, “you’ll just know,” and I think for a lot of people, that’s not necessarily fair. You’re so close to it, it’s hard to see when things are going downhill. You wait too long because you can’t bear to be without them, or you’re worried you’ll do it too soon. With Simon, he made it abundantly clear, and I’m so grateful to him for that.
With about an hour to go, I sat on the couch watching him breathe. Gracie leaned up against me, and Chippy laid on the other side of the couch. We were all together.
Before the vet arrived, we looked over and Simon wasn’t in his chair anymore. Where did he go?? I found him using the litter box like a good boy. Then he was struggling to get his footing again, so I brought him back to his chair where he settled in for the last time.
When Dr. Knep came over, Gracie and Chippy stayed on the couch through the whole thing. Gracie wasn’t watching, but Chippy was observing intently, sniffing the air. It was quiet and peaceful, and couldn’t have gone any smoother. We were petting our sweet boy until he was gone, kissed him goodbye, and then pet him some more. I had cried so much throughout the day, I didn’t have much left, but definitely still needed some tissues at the end. They bundled him up and took him back to St. Francis, awaiting his final ride to Pets Remembered Cremation in the morning.
After they left, Gracie jumped off the couch and laid down on the floor, near the spot where it happened. She just laid there, chin down, for about 10 minutes. It’s not something she’s ever done before. I really think it was her way of grieving.
Our friends came over, and we toasted to my best boy. Did you know that Indeed’s “Old Friend” ale has a cat illustration on the can? We reminisced over old photos of Simon and cried a little more. We lit a candle and shared lots of hugs.
You wake up one morning expecting everything to be the same and go to bed without the friend who’s been there every day for the past 15+ years. There's a Simon-shaped hole in the house and in our lives.
I miss you, buddy.
You were the first pet that was truly “mine,” and you saw me through so many ups and downs. You were such a good boy, and it’s so strange that you’re not here anymore. 15 years is a long time; 40% of my life, in fact. Thank you for sticking it out with me. Maybe we’ll meet again someday.
Having a support system of friends and loved ones is priceless, and I’m so sad for the people who don’t have that in their lives. Last year I started a grief support group on Facebook, for anyone who might need a little help grieving their furry friends. You can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/joysessionsupport/