Sorry this is so long. We had a cat. More appropriately, though my family all loved her, I should say I had a cat. She was 14 years old. Her name was Willow. She was very small and fairly typical looking as cats go - gray with a white spot on her chest that seemed to get bigger and smaller for no apparent reason. My cat was killed 3 days ago. She was 10 feet in front of me as I watched a Husky split her spine and toss her in the air like a doll in front of our house. The dog ran and I went to Willow. She was still alive and would be for maybe 20 more minutes as we drove her to the emergency clinic. I think she died in shock and hopefully not in pain. Animals and humans have a way of shutting off the pain during extreme conditions. At least I like to think so.
We have, and have had, a lot of cats over the years. Far more than average - right now we have five. It used to be six. I've loved all our cats. I've loved some more than others. We've had cats who have lived to be 18 and have been family members in every way. I've cried when they've died and grieved for them and for our family. This is different. I'm writing this after zero sleep, but my semi-delirious hope is that it may somehow help me deal with what I can only describe as utter and complete emotional devastation that, at least at this point, I can't see my way out of anytime soon. It's as if a piece of me has been ripped out and I'll never be whole again - ever. I know - it's just a cat. Sounds overly emotional and dramatic and probably embarrassing for a grown man to talk about in front of people, but at this point despite how private I normally am, that's not a concern. Maybe later I'll delete this.
I met Willow when she found us. She just showed up at our door and figured we looked like a family who likes cats, and she never left. We put signs out looking for someone missing a cat but luckily she was now ours. I remember the first second I saw her in our front yard. I remember it like it was yesterday and not 14 years ago. I love all our cats but this was my cat. This was MY cat and I was HER person in every way.
Because I work mostly at home, I've spent probably an average of 20 hours a day, every day, with Willow near or on me. Everyday tasks were never done alone whether going to the bathroom, cooking meals, eating meals, taking a shower, working at the computer - she had her very specific routine for each of those events and they rarely varied. She'd follow me up to bed every night - without fail. She'd run up the first flight of stairs ahead of me, wait on the landing for me and then run to the top to get there ahead of me. I'd brush my teeth and she'd sit at the very edge of the counter to be as close to me as possible so she could lean her head forward and we could rub foreheads while I brushed my teeth. Her bedtime routine was always the same. If I was watching tv in bed she had to lean up against me on my right side - always the right side, and other than occasionally sitting on my chest so all I saw where bits and pieces of the tv screen between her ears she would stay there until I turned the tv off. At that point I'd situate the pillows so that one was next to me keeping her up at my body level while she laid half on the pillow and half on my shoulder, head and neck until I went to sleep. She would always wait patiently while I got the pillows ready and then curl up to sleep. Sometime during the night she would move to a different area of the room or the bed - I think I move too much in my sleep, but every morning, without fail, at a time she deemed appropriate I'd feel a scratching at the sheets next to my chin and she would come under the covers. She would then get up as close to me as possible - facing me, with her front paws on my neck and/or face, her back feet on my stomach, and lay her head on my outstretched arm tilted up towards my head so we were literally breathing each other's air. Sometimes she'd stare at me, but usually we'd both still be tired and just go back to sleep. I've been to some amazing locations and seen some beautiful things over 50+ years, but nothing comes even remotely close to how I felt and how beautiful she looked during those moments. And it happened every single day. This was my cat.
There's a possibility that this sounds bizarre to some people who haven't loved an animal and it should in no way diminish the love I feel for my family which always comes first - but it's different. It's hard to describe the relationship that developed - my little girlfriend, best friend and daughter, and we were always there for each other. Always. Without fail. She helped me through some rough patches in life which adults all have now and then, some worse than others and I watched out for her every moment. Everyone in my family knew about Willow and I and they all "got it" thankfully. This was my cat and I was 100% her person. She made every second of my life the last 14 years more beautiful and I know I made every second of hers the same. I did and would do anything for that cat and I always protected her until yesterday, when a loose dog, whose owners undoubtedly have no idea the pain it has caused our family, ended one of the most special relationships I have had and will ever have in my life. I will never have that with a cat again and I don't want to. There was something beyond "we just loved each other" - it was a true bond. I've loved a lot of cats and have grieved when they've died. I've never felt like this and I literally can't see an end to it right now. She was unbelievably special. I know I'm not the only one to feel this way about an animal and I know she's just a cat, but not to diminish the tragedies and struggles in my life, this is the single most heartbreaking moment in 56 years.
I would post a photo of her but I can't look at one. Maybe one day I will be able to look. Maybe not. I would like to erase the image I see, with my eyes shut or open, of her in the back of a cat carrier with a twisted back and blood covering her tongue. I would like to never see that again and only remember her in bed, curled up against me breathing the same air, but I think it will just take time. She was the most beautiful thing in the world to me - I know, just a cat.
I'm not a religious person but sometimes extreme emotions can do things to you and screw with your sensibilities. I don't know if there's a god or a supreme being but I admit, maybe for the first time, hoping that if there is, she, he or it, will see fit to let me spend eternity with Willow. I'm usually pretty tough emotionally and prefer to remain removed and stoic, but this is different. I've lost the greatest friend I've ever had and the best companion anyone could ever ask for. There is some solace in the fact that Willow knew, without question, that she was the most loved cat in the world. She knew I was her human and she was my cat and she had a great life. I often would think that if she could somehow gain the gift of language and understand what's asked of her, she would respond to "what's your name?" with "I love you Willow" because that's what she heard more than anything else every hour, every day for 14 years. I find myself saying it out loud even last night and today, and often, as if it somehow makes me close to her again. In every sense of the world that matters in the end, I love you Willow. You were my cat and I was your human.
Maybe this will help someone who feels the same way knowing they're not alone. Maybe this will prepare someone for the inevitable, but I don't think that's possible. While I knew this day would come, I wasn't prepared for it to be this way - and I don't think I was prepared for it any way. It's a scary thing to love something so much.
I'm posting this here because I am at a total loss. My best friend... I feel that some people don't understand. Luckily my wife does, but I need to know I'm not alone, that other people have felt like this and though I NEVER expect to get over it, I do hope that it gets better. It's unbearable. I told my wife I want to move and she is ok with that. Everywhere I look I just see Willow and places she was. When I look across the street out our front window I see the spot where she was taken and it's something I can't deal with. Unbelievable pain. I guess every post is depressing - that's the nature of this site, but I hope to gain some positive from someone who can tell me it gets better because I don't see how. I love that cat so much. I am a normal person - two grown kids, wonderful wife of 30 years, very rational and sane but I feel out of control. Thanks for reading if you've gotten this far. Sorry about the length.