I have had the most awful day. There are many things I still loathe about being a grown up and may possibly never successfully adjust to, and close to top of that list is making decisions about the lives and deaths of pets. Today we had my mother’s cat put to sleep. Now, I know many people will say, ‘It’s only a cat, get over it.’ or comments of a similar level of understanding and helpfulness. But the point is that this loyal and fiercely independent little animal has been my mother’s constant and adoring companion since the death of my father, from cancer, a few years ago.
Don’t get me wrong, Pickle was no lap cat. In fact, he was the terror of the neighbourhood, and has been known to see dogs and foxes off the premises, as well as holding trespassing cats ‘hostage’ up the trees they have climbed in order to escape him. Whilst handsome, he was not a classic beauty. He was so strong and lithely muscular that if you picked him up when he was not in the mood for a cuddle, it was rather like trying to deal with a hairy python, he could writhe and slither out of any grip you could manage, and all without leaving a scratch on your skin. He was something of a gourmet too, and could tell whether the prawns came from Sainsbury or Tesco (he preferred Sainsbury). But to my mother, he was Pickle, the gentle animal who curled up at her back at night and kept her warm, who came to meet her at the door when she got home, and who liked nothing better than to share the armchair with her whilst she watched TV or read in the evening.
Over Easter weekend he lost weight very suddenly and seemed to have trouble eating. We took him to the emergency vet yesterday, and then to his usual vet today, to be X-rayed. The X-ray showed that he had a large tumour which was pressing on his intestine and stomach, and so it’s not likely that he would have lasted much more than a week or so had we tried to keep him going, and he wouldn’t have understood why he felt so crappy, or why he couldn’t lead his normal wild and bossy life.
So Mum and I did the grown up thing, and made the sensible decision, putting his interests before our own, because if we had put our own first, we could never have parted with him.
And that’s what I hate about being a grown up. We learn to make the hard decisions. We know they are right, and we tell ourselves that really there is no choice, and we are carried through events by the fact that the right decision has been made. And then we find ourselves on the other side, without them, and we wonder how we will ever fill the huge space that such little creatures leave behind.