A couple of weeks ago I had to make the very difficult decision to say goodbye to my beautiful orange boy, Orange Julius (OJ). I was blessed to have many good years with him. I wanted to share my story to show you that it is 100% normal to have a range of feelings when we say goodbye to a beloved pet.
Around 16 or 17 years ago, Orange Julius came into my life when I was sitting on my front porch and saw this beautiful orange cat walking across the street. What I noticed almost immediately was that this young boy was not neutered. The veterinary technician in me thought who would have a one-ish year old unneutered male cat in their house as a pet…they stink! He must be a stray. Just to be sure though, I asked all the neighbors if he belonged to anyone. He did not, so when I saw him again, I asked him if he wanted me to find him a home. He happily came to me. I brought him in to my basement and kept him down there until I could take him to the veterinary clinic that I worked at for a clean bill of health and a neutering.
When we got home from the vet’s, I brought him into my house to see how he would react to other cats and dogs (as I had a few at the time). Next thing I knew, he was snuggling on the floor with Pattikins, the black lab. I thought “Oh no…he is here to stay”.
Throughout the years, he had been exposed to numerous cats that were mine and many cats and kittens that were fosters. He trained many puppies and dogs to respect cats. He never ran from them. He always stood his ground. He even trained his last puppy, Ace, the black lab, less than a week before we said goodbye to him.
OJ was big on grooming everyone…the other cats, the dogs, even me or any other human he loved. He was a snuggler and had no concept of personal space when he wanted to snuggle with other animals or people. No chest was safe from him climbing up and “making biscuits”. His rhythmic purr was easy to fall asleep to. He loved a good sunspot and was often found at the top of the stairs stretched out in the afternoon sun. He was an energy hog and loved being in the room when I was giving a Reiki treatment. He wasn’t “purrfect” though. He had to have emergency surgery once to remove a cat toy he had eaten. He picked fights with Lefty, a handicapable cat, that came to us, until they worked out the hierarchy among themselves in my house.
He was a lovebug with my grandkids even letting them dress him in sequined outfits or read storybooks to him.
About four years ago, OJ ended up very sick and in the emergency hospital on New Year’s Day. He received a poor prognosis, but with the help of a great vet who practices conventional and holistic medicine, I got those extra years of quality time with him feeling well.
He was my office mate during COVID and attended many Zoom meetings. He probably kept me sane as living alone during the pandemic was not easy.
He was always there for me…good days and bad days, through laughter and tears, through wins and losses, through my daughters’ high school years, through all kinds of life events. His love was my constant.
This is why I know that I made the right decision for him. Over the past four years, he had some ups and downs health-wise and I would be sobbing when I would ask him if it was time to say goodbye, but he would rally and show me it was not time.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed some subtle changes in his behavior, his weight was down, and his appetite was decreased even if I offered treats. We were snuggling on the couch and he was purring a loud strange purr and seemed uncomfortable. Once again crying, I asked him to give me a sign if it was time for me to make the decision to say goodbye. He snuggled a bit longer, then went to the litterbox and had diarrhea. I said to him “Buddy, that’s not enough of a sign for me”. We snuggled a bit longer, then he jumped down and urinated on the dog’s bed in the dog crate. I said to him (crying again), “I will make the appointment for tomorrow”. He jumped back up to snuggle with me, was purring his normal rhythmic purr, and seemed more comfortable than he had been in awhile.
I fed him breakfast the next morning and took him for the appointment (for once he didn’t even get car sick). The euthanasia went smoothly. My boy was ready. His body was tired. I have loved him with all my heart and told him it was ok to go and that I would be OK.
Now the thing is, our loved ones never really leave us. They are in our hearts and memories. They send us little clues that the are still with us. You may hear the jingle of their collar or feel the pressure of a cat body rubbing against your leg, or briefly see a tail rounding a corner. A cat toy might appear that you have not seen for years. One winter a year after my cat, Paws, had passed I found one of his furry mice in my winter boots. I may have almost had a heart attack when I felt it as I put my hand in to see what I had felt in the boot, but knew it was a sign from his mischievous self.
Signs from OJ have popped up a couple times since we said goodbye. Sometimes they make me cry, sometimes they make me smile, but they always remind me of how lucky I was to have this special creature walk into my life.
Orange Julius is a perfect example of how pets speak to us <3
Dora came into my life as an older foster kitty. She was such a beautiful soul. I believe she came to me as a foster to be able to rest and receive lots of love before her weary body gave out. She wasn't with me for more than a few days before I took her to the veterinarian to say goodbye to her. I held her and gave her lots of love the whole ride there crying the whole time. It was so hard for me not to be in the room with her and just be allowed to stand at the door during the procedure thanks to the pandemic. I kept talking to her from the door trying to have her feel my energy holding her paw and stroking her beautiful face. I was able to kiss her goodbye once the procedure was over and the vet and tech left the room. Dora was a special girl. I only wish was she found me sooner <3 Animals are just so amazing. Even in during these crazy COVID-19 times, their strength and willpower and ability to touch our hearts even for a short time prevails.
I saw this meme on Facebook the other day and realized how appropriate it is for our "new normal" life with the pandemic. I have had a few friends that have had to say goodbye to their beloved dogs during this time of social distancing. Some of them weren't able to actually be with their dog to say goodbye. Sometimes the loss can be a loss of physical ownership due to a relationship ending. Losing a pet can be hard at any given time, but not being able to say goodbye in person can make the loss feel even worse. I want to let you know that the love you feel for your animal and the love for you that they have never dies. This love will always be in your heart.
I also know the when an animal transitions, you will still feel them, see them, or hear them. You may see a tail rounded a corner out of the corner of your eye. You may feel like your animal has just snuggled up against you to sleep while you are trying to fall asleep and then put your hand out to pat it and the animal isn't physically there. Some people even hear the jingle of tags on a collar. You are not CRAZY!! This just shows you how strong the human-animal bond is.
With time, your pain or grief will lessen, but the love between you and your pet never will. The love of an animal is one of the greatest gifts we can receive.