I have an old friend who’s dying. You won’t read his obituary in the paper when it happens. I’m the only one who’ll notice or care. But my world will feel a little bit empty when Thomas leaves me very soon.
Some of you who have dogs or cats know the incredible attachment that many of us feel for the furry friends in our lives. They’re not just animals. They’re family. We feel real love for them — and they they need us, many times in ways that make you certain they’re capable of feeling more than some people believe.
Thomas is about 18 years old. I told the story last August of how he came to live with me, so I won’t repeat it here. He wasn’t supposed to end up here. If a woman had done what she promised to do for him, he would have ended up spending his life on a farm not too far from here. But since she didn’t, I ended up scooping him up in my arms and carrying him half a mile or so home. He’s never left — and he’s spent a good deal of the time since then in my arms.
He’s been going downhill badly since January. He’s always been a jumper, and even in his old age, he still jumped to the top of the bookcases to sleep and be alone. One day in January, he apparently fell off the top of the bookcase. He had done that many times, but this time he fell behind it, jamming his body between the wall and the bookcase almost all the way to the ground.
I don’t know how long he had been there, but I found him when I came in from one of my many doctor visits before surgery this past January. I pulled him out and put him down. He seemed wobbly, but basically fine. For a couple of days, he kept to himself and was slow. But there was never anything visibly wrong. Maybe that didn’t even really do anything to him. I just know that it seems as though he’s declined a lot since then.
A couple of days ago, he quit eating. At first, I could get him to at least sniff food if I’d try something unusual that I knew he loved. Soon, though, he wasn’t even interested. He just wants to go off under the bed or crawl into an old piece of furniture where he can be alone. I’ve seen this with other cats before. He’s just a little old man who’s dying.
I weighed him late Sunday night and he’s down to just 6 pounds. He was never a huge cat, but he was probably 10 or 11 pounds in his prime. He’s slowly wasting away — and there’s not a thing in the world I can do about it.
I was looking at pictures of him a few minutes ago and I came across the one above on the left. It’s from last summer. When I posted it to Facebook, here’s what I said about it:
Thomas sat patiently next to my keyboard purring for a long time until I finally let him climb into my arms, where he’s now purring himself to sleep. It cuts my typing speed roughly in half to have him here, but which will I remember when he’s finally gone — the slower typing or the joy of holding a happy, purring cat as he sleeps?
In an odd way, that sums up a lot of what it’s like to love cats and dogs and live with them. They need us — and we come to count on that and it’s a mutual need. There are tradeoffs. They can get in the way or create problems we have to solve or demand attention when we’re not ready to give it.
But the tradeoffs are worth it. I’ve lost a number of cats and dogs over the years and I’m sure all of them made nuisances of themselves at one time or another. But for most of the time they’re here — and all of the time once they’re gone — all I can remember is the joy of spending time with a creature who needs me as much as I need him.
Thomas been a very good friend. I’m going to miss him very much.
Note: Here’s a short video of Thomas late Monday morning. He’s still getting weaker quickly, but I still think he’s regal and beautiful.
Update: Thomas died shortly before 5 p.m. on the day this story was published.