As I slowly turn the key and press forward, a friendly face peeks through the crack in the door. She doesn’t run through but simply backs up so that I can step inside and say hello. I pick up the bundle of fur and prop her over my shoulder so she can sniff my nose as I pet under her chin. Such was the daily greeting routine that our cat, Charlie, enjoyed when I came home after work.
There is an emptiness in our home now since she passed away this week. I still hesitate at the door, expecting her to be there. The sound of a tiny bell from her collar and footprints washed away from the litter box are eerie reminders that she is truly gone. The death of a pet is an unusual loss to experience. One day our elderly friend was due for her annual physical and the next day she was withdrawn, lethargic, and visibly ill. One day there is a cat resting on our bed and the next there is no evidence left behind that she was ever there.
For fourteen years, Charlie was the family pet who later moved into our apartment to live with Derek and Ashley for five years as a trio. She became more than a pet who sought physical closeness and human affection. I fell in love with her all over again as I first had when she was a sweet kitten. Charlie was the most well-behaved cat who simply enjoyed being with us. She hated the vacuum cleaner and loved to soak in the sun on our porch. She stared down birds, played catch with her catnip ball, and sculpted art out of her scratching post. She didn’t like to travel, but she loved sitting on Aunt Jackie’s lap when we were away on trips. Charlie never missed a movie with us on the couch and liked to purr on top of clean clothes fresh out of the dryer. It was like befriending a wise, old Yoda who could read my emotions and instill a calming presence on the room.
I’ve heard people close to us say that we gave her a good life and loved her well but I think it may have been the other way around. Charlie gave us the gift of loving devotion for so many years that I treasure the time I had with her. To the end, the vet technicians of Maplecrest Animal Hospital and Dr. Jeff were thoroughly knowledgeable and tenderly compassionate as we accepted her time to go and allowed her to pass peacefully. Charlie was an old cat with a loving spirit who will be forever cherished.