Death In The Afternoon

I had to put the cat down on Saturday afternoon. It was a sad thing, of course, as it always is when you have to say goodbye to a pet. The cat was diagnosed as a diabetic a few weeks back, which is not unusual with dogs and cats these days. It is a treatable condition, that is easier to manage in animals than humans. Your animal is not going to cheat on its diet or forget to take its insulin. With a little discipline and the willingness to master a few medical skills, you can manage a diabetic pet with little trouble.

On Friday night, the cat took a turn for the worse, so I went into the vet not entirely sure what to expect. They took blood and sent me home with some instructions. I figured they were humoring me, so I spent the night making my peace with what I expected was coming. The next day I learned, after further examination, that the cat had a rare type of cancer that was the real cause of the diabetes. They found tumors on his pancreas, which is not treatable, so I made the decision to put the poor thing out of his suffering.

While waiting to see the vet on Saturday, a woman I know came into the office. She was there to say goodbye to her dog. Apparently they called her with the bad news and she came into to complete the process. That was my guess anyway. The girl at the desk seemed to know what to do, despite the fact the woman was sobbing uncontrollably. She sat down on the bench next to me. Out of instinct, I guess, I don’t know, I slid over and put my arm around her. She collapsed against me into a mess of tears and wailing.

I don’t know what it is, but the sound of a woman crying touches some unexamined part of my being. It’s crazy, I’m sure, but that sound reminds me why a man is willing to fight another man to the death or leave his lands to sack the city of some bastard who insulted his people. My grandfather always said that a man protects those who need protection and defends those who need defending. Maybe that’s all there is to it and the sound of a woman crying just triggers those lessons I heard a million times as a kid.

There was nothing I could do for her, obviously, other than to be a shoulder to cry on, as she waited to say goodbye to her dog. Sitting there, being kind to a neighbor, my burden felt a bit lighter. There are always others worse off than you. That’s something I always try to keep in the front of mind. My life is not a walk in the park, but it is not an endless stream of misery either. Most people, it seems, carry around a lot more baggage than me, or they are less able to carry the load than me. Either way, I’m a pretty lucky guy.

Coming home, alone with my thoughts, I thought about how serendipity had intervened to make a tough situation a bit less difficult. My first pet, as an adult, was a cat. Growing up, we had dogs, so I had a bias against cats. The women I was dating at the time thought I needed a pet and she suggested a cat. I was skeptical about the whole thing, but a man does what he must at that age, so I got a cat. It turned out that cats are just like dogs, in that they are what you make of them. Me and the cat went on great adventures together.

At the end of his time, he got sick and I did the back and forth with the vet as you do with pets. It was new to me as an adult, so I got caught up in the process, thinking that there was a potentially good result. When it was time to put an end to it all, I struggled with the decision. I just couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye. Then one night the cat staggered down the hall with his old toy in his mouth. He could barely walk, but to the very end he was going to be all the cat he was ever going to be. I was quite touching.

That night, I could not help but think that maybe I just learned a great truth. That cat was just a cat, but he was never cheated. Who knows what goes on in the head of a pet, but they are here to be our pets. It is literally what they are made for and they are that fully and completely. We lose sight of that as people. Our point in life is to use all of our time completely. There are no do overs or restarts. You just have the time you have and you better use all of it being all the you possible. Life is for living. Don’t cheat yourself.

Perhaps that’s why we keep pets. Long ago, domesticating dogs for work or allowing cats to live among us to keep down the rodent population made practical sense. Keeping animals solely as pets has no obvious purpose, other than to make the time we have more enjoyable. Maybe seeing these little critters come into the world and become their purpose fully and completely makes understanding our own purpose easier. It’s a lot easier to grasp the purpose of a dog or cat than the purpose of that crazy relative in the family.

I will say, that this time was a bit more difficult than other last trips to the vet. I’ve had a lot of animals over the years. Some were better than others. This was a good one. Just about every post I’ve written was done with him lying behind the keyboard. Every podcast was done with him lying next to the microphone. For over a dozen years he was a comforting fixture in my life. He was there at the door when I got home and at the door when I went off to work every day. As pets go, he was a good one and I will miss him.

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Nick
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Nick

Sorry for your loss. It is a painfull thing to lose a good companion. My wife and I are going through this same process at the moment. We’ve been lucky, our cat has been with us nearly 20 years. At this moment I think I never want to do this again. But I know in a year or so I will have a new one.

Member

By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill, Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still. Where the friends of man and woman do run, When their time on earth is over and done. For here, between this world and the next, Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest. On this golden land, they wait and they play, Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day. No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness, For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness. Their limbs are restored, their health… Read more »

Severian
Guest

It’s a Hallmark card sentiment, but it’s true for all that — I know pets go to heaven, because if I get there and my dog’s not there, it’s not really heaven. Sorry for your loss.

Member

Twilight Zone “The Hunt” is about an old man and his dog after an accident kills them both. They are walking down the road and he first encounters a “Heaven” which will not allow his dog in. He and the dog keep walking. Try watching it without tearing up.

Member

Amen, brother, God blesses us with our little buddies. RIP, old kitty.

Drake
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Drake

Sorry man – and good job being a good neighbor.

I’ve learned over the years that there is no fixing that kind of grief in the moment. Just being there and not cringing away from the situation is the best you can do for your family and friends.

Ace Rimmer
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Ace Rimmer

I hear you, Z. Critters help us be all the human we can be too.

Sorry about your loss. There’s another cat out there looking for a chance to be all he can be.

The time will come.

Kirk Forlatt
Guest

As someone once observed, we take pets into our lives knowing in advance that they’re going to break our hearts. May your mourning be brief, brother. And may another little companion come your way.

jaqship
Guest
jaqship

Yeah, Kirk, if you live as long as I have, you go thru a number of these sorts of experiences, and each more recent one reminds you of some of the prior ones. It goes with the territory.
Sorry for your loss Zman, and I know that you’ll be good, when the next companion shows up.

Member

The human capacity for love is astounding. Sorry for your loss

Michaeloh59
Guest
Michaeloh59

Oh, I have been there too many times. When my Pomeranian’s heart gave out 5 years ago I cried like a baby. ………………..and yet there is always a puppy or a kitten who knows nothing of our sorrow and needs a good home. Sorry for your loss Zman.

jwm
Guest

Your getting close to Vanderleun, Zman. That put a lump in my throat the size of a golf ball. My bestest Ol’ Buddy the Cat does the same thing when I’m at the computer. I have a little tortoise shell. She was a feral at the school where I worked. When I retired I trapped the little cat and took her with me. It took 3 months of being patient and gentle, but now she’s my little pal. Follows Ol’ Buddy around like a couple of characters in a Tex Avery cartoon. Anyway, Thank you for this. It is a… Read more »

Screwtape
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Screwtape

The feral-to-domestic is one of the most rewarding and bonding experiences. Challenging for sure, but the beauty that unfolds is unmatched. I’ve had two cats over the years. Both were mostly feral and both would eventually become two of the most amazing animals i’ve ever been blessed to know. My first, in my 20’s as a busy finance guy on the career upswing, came to my via the dumpsters in the alley behind my apartment. Long work days meant i would only see her late at night before bed and early AM before my commute. A bit of lunchmeat at… Read more »

Glenfilthie
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Glenfilthie

If I don’t miss my guess, the cat was probably the real owner and proprietor of The Z Blog and you were just the front-man. 🙂

You gave him a good cat life so you two did well. I think it is a symbiotic thing: we make our lives better by making theirs better and vice versa. When they go a piece of us goes with them and that is good too. It is my belief that euthanizing a pet out of love is one of the purest and noblest things a man can do.

Godspeed you guys.

Robert Pinkerton
Member

That heart-breaking final courtesy of the Master: To guarantee that one’s little companion’s exit, when the pains of old age become visibly insuppotrable, is soft and surrounded by love. Condolence from one who has been there.

Meier
Guest
Meier

So sorry, Z-Man. Often when I leave for work in the morning I walk past the laundry room where our long-dead dog used to sleep on her bed. I turn and look at the closed door, wanting to greet and feed her, then … emptiness. Mr. Bojangles grieved for 20 years they say.

RWnova
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RWnova

Sorry to hear that, zman. I had to do the same thing a few months ago. Fortunately, my daughter was able to make it to the vet to say goodbye to our cat.

Toast your chum’s life and, when the time is right, acquire another pet.

MikeCLT
Guest
MikeCLT

I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your cat. Losing pets is very difficult but the good times are worth it. Although they are only with us a part of our lives, we are their whole world. We owe it to them and to ourselves to be good owners. I try to remember that when I have to walk my GSD on cold or rainy mornings and nights.

My condolences Zman.

AHfOH
Guest
AHfOH

Sorry for that. When it was time for our 15 yo cat we found a vet who did housecalls. Highly recomended. The cat was chill but not good in cars, and this saved her and us the stress. Even the (female) vet choked up a little. Wish we had done it for the chihuahua.

Not sure how little kids would view that approach.

Mike
Guest
Mike

I’m sorry for your loss

Hank Curmudgeon
Guest
Hank Curmudgeon

(I originally wrote this on Thursday, August 9, 2007. As I reread it today once again I find myself crying. Z-Man, you have my deepest sympathies.) Smudge, our Schnocker (Schnauzer-Cocker Spaniel mix) had to be put to sleep today due to complications from old age. I have been crying like a baby all day. I can’t seem to stop. Tears come in waves…I’ve had to stop while I am writing this at least five times. This is one of the hardest things I have ever written. — I Remember Smudge… I remember when we brought her home from the nasty… Read more »

Lester Fewer
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Lester Fewer

Sorry for your loss, Z. Glad, though, that you had so much happy times together. Care to share the little fella’s name? (If not we all respect privacy.)

(Also, well done with the lady in the waiting room.)

“it’s no use worrying about Time
though we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners”

Frank O’Hara, “Animals”

Pursuvant
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Pursuvant

I’ll play amateur philosopher. Consider the alternative using a human life as example – can you imagine the amount of suffering you would experience if you lived forever? Every human who has ever lived suffers. It’s endemic to human life, that sense “something is just not quite right”. That’s why we look forward to sleeping at night, because lugging around this ego all day is so heavy. I’m going with your cat never had an ego, dogs just the same, no ego. That’s why no matter how long they’ve been in the kennel today, when you get home and let… Read more »

Chaotic Neutral
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Chaotic Neutral

That’s what my aunt says, don’t get a pet because you get attached and they are too much trouble. Idk, I don’t really have the impulse to want one. I think it has to do with having them when you were little. We have all these neighborhood cats around. I have this big long driveway in back and I find them all gathered sprawled out on the pavement in the evening. They like the warmth! One of the victims of the Js is a cat hoarder or something. Which one is that? What is his alleged crime?

Member

For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth? — Ecclesiastes 3:19 I prefer to think that the breath of the beast ascends upward. The passage is quite careful… Read more »

Saml Adams
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Saml Adams

Sorry about that. It never gets easier. Grew up same around dogs. Wife (then fiancé) impulsively picked a stray up off the sidewalk. Found if you raise them right can be as loyal and social as dogs. There are always two or three around the house and my wife still will impulse adopt new ones from the shelter on the island during summer vacation. Godspeed to your little friend. It is clear he did his job well.

Cerulean
Guest
Cerulean

Sorry for your loss, Z. Hope the next one is a good one too.

We lost a sweet and shy lady cat a few months ago. It always hurts. Right after that we nursed a bachelor cat back to health. They all have their own personalities, don’t they.

Dutch
Guest
Dutch

Our cat was locked in an abandoned house and half dead from starvation when she was found, according to the shelter. She is our little companion, and always stays close by. If left alone for an hour or two, she waits at the door and treats us like the Second Coming when we get home. She will happily go on a leash to stay with us, when we go outside. She is old now, and the writing is on the wall, but it is going to be so very, very hard to say goodbye to her. Animals have a purity… Read more »

Bruce
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Bruce

Sorry for your lose Z. We also had to put our 16 year old cat down this past Saturday afternoon, and the pain of it still hurts. Your post about your experience made us feel a little bit better about it.

Maus
Guest
Maus

Wisdom is perfected in the love of small creatures. I am sorry for your loss, but gladdened to read this testament to the depths of your humanity. Thank you for your willingness to share deeply the fruits of your contemplation, whether bitter or sweet.

Member

I wrote this back in 2007, when a favorite dog of mine died. I know our own private losses aren’t as interesting to others as they are to ourselves, but I hope you all won’t mind if I share it again: I had to put my old dog Spazz to sleep yesterday. I got a call after I left the event that he wasn’t able to stand anymore and I realized then I was finally going to have to do it. I kept breaking into tears on the 2.5-hour drive home. I’ve known it was coming for nearly two years… Read more »

Matt
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Matt

“The women I was dating at the time thought I needed a pet and she suggested a cat”

How many personalities did she have?

FellowDissident
Guest
FellowDissident

Sorry about the loss of your furry friend, Z, you’ll be reunited in time. I would love to share life with fur kids of my own but my extreme workstyle/lifestyle would make that a cruel existence for them. They need us to engage them, too. I wish your pain will dissipate soon and you’ll be introduced to a new four-legged friend. Good luck.

Blessthebeastsandchildren
Guest
Blessthebeastsandchildren

Old commie wrote a nice farewell. A Dog Has Died By Pablo Neruda “My dog has died. I buried him in the garden next to a rusted old machine. Some day I’ll join him right there, but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat, his bad manners and his cold nose, and I, the materialist, who never believed in any promised heaven in the sky for any human being, I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter. Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom where my dog waits for my arrival waving his fan-like tail in friendship. Ai,… Read more »

Adolf
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Adolf
Member

I had a cocker who looked like a brown bear. At about 5 years old he started moving slow, then could barely walk. I spent thousands of dollars to figure out the issue, but even specialized vets couldn’t understand it. When he stopped eating his food I knew his time was near. So for dinner I brought him a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s. I hand fed it to him piece by piece and for those moments he was eager as a puppy. I’m glad I have that memory, and he had the thrill of a his favorite cheat meal. I… Read more »

Member

When we lose a pet we lose a part of ourselves. He can never be replaced. That’s OK. There is another cat out there looking for you. You can bet on it. How lucky you are to have had time with him. He is in your pet hall of fame.

Ursula
Guest
Ursula

Dear Z Man, I’m so sorry for your loss. It sounds like the two of you had a terrific run together, though. The joy these sweet creatures bring us!

And thank you for being such a man, Z Man, comforting the grieving woman at the vet’s. Mark my words, she will never forget your kindness and the comfort only a man can provide a crying woman. You are a real man, with a noble heart, and every time she thinks of you it will be like a prayer. God bless you.

Clayton Bigsby
Guest
Clayton Bigsby

Well, this was a pleasant surprise….in a morbid kinda way I guess…

I had a similar experience with the ONLY cat ever in my life…You handled the subject with aplomb…and I hope for your speedy recovery…

I must say though (in a vain attempt to mimic your honesty) I started reading with the cynical anticipation that I KNEW where this was going….and that this was going to turn into a sexual harassment or public reprimand debacle for taking such obvious stereotypical liberties with a stranger of the opposite sex ….(if there is such a thing nowadays)

There is hope for us after all…..

Thanks.

Tax Slave
Guest

Wow, Zman. Thank you for opening your heart to your readers. We’re connected even more to you now.

MBlanc46
Guest

Condolences on the loss of your friend.

Joachim
Guest
Joachim

I’m very sorry for your loss, Zman. I enjoy both dogs and cats as well, but it’s been cats, stray and feral, and many, many of them, who’ve continually crossed my path in need of aid these last 10 years or so. Between their possession of unique personalities, their straightforwardness, honesty, and loyalty, and their inability to care for themselves off the land like truly wild animals, I feel duty bound to to see that they’re properly cared for. Almost nothing has drawn me closer to our fellow men like shared empathy toward animals, and almost nothing draws my fury… Read more »

Moran ya Simba
Guest
Moran ya Simba

Putting down a pet is very painful, no question

Member

Z did a podcast a while ago with a segment on animal intelligence, and cats and dogs. It was unintentionally comical. I listened with a cat person and she got a kick out of it. Episode 28. At 42:00 min mark. He talked about how much smarter humans are than animals. I appreciated that because ever since I can remember the common cliche is that “chimpanzees, dolphins, (pick any animal) are a lot smarter than we think they are.” Well, since we’ve all been hearing that for so long, surely we’re now greatly overrating their intelligence. So it’s high time… Read more »

Auntie Analogue
Guest
Auntie Analogue

Pray you will take comfort in knowing that as you and your cat lived as friends, you also parted as friends. ‘Tis a pity that can’t be said about all relations between or among us humans.

BestGuest
Guest
BestGuest

I’m so sorry ZMan, you did the right thing in not letting your buddy suffer unnecessarily. Many of us have been in that same position and wish you comfort while you mourn the loss of your friend.

Ris Eruwaedhiel
Guest
Ris Eruwaedhiel

I am so sorry for your loss. I’ve gone through the same pain over the years with many cats. Down to one now and don’t plan to get another one when she goes. Take care. I am hugely grateful that I found your blog because you are the best one on the blogosphere today.

TomA
Guest
TomA

Once upon a time, women were genuinely fond of men, enjoyed their company, and would willing and routinely engage in tactile affection. Those days are gone, but pets have stepped into the breech to provide that stimulus for us. Both dogs and cats innately love giving and receiving tactile affection, and its a win-win as they say. Soon modern feminist women will completely abdicate tactile interaction with men; but fear not, technology in the form of sex robots is now a reality. God help us if they improve the point where they’re better than the organic version.

Jason
Guest
Jason

I grew up with dogs, but do to my job I went with a cat as a pet for the first time. I had her for 20 years and had to put her down this morning.She was a great pet and Im going to miss her. I’m sorry you had to put your cat down as well. Thank you for writing this article.

Lester Fewer
Guest
Lester Fewer

On the sunny side, you can always count your blessings. I love dogs (merely tolerant of cats), but many members of my family, both in childhood and adulthood, are severely allergic to animal dander. So, no pets for us, ever. I always wanted a couple of dogs, still do, but we can’t have everything. On to other satisfactions.

As Don van Vliet put it,

In this lifetime,
You got my Human-gets-me Blues.

LoveTheDonald
Guest
LoveTheDonald

So sorry, Zman. Losing a pet is always a heartbreak. Funny, when I was a kid cats were the one animal I didn’t like, and now I can’t imagine life without them. Wonderful creatures. God bless.

LoveTheDonald
Guest
LoveTheDonald

P.S. When the time comes for another cat, if you have any interest in either the Abyssinian breed or Egyptian Mau, I know excellent breeders for both. My Egyptian Mau was the most intelligent pet I’ve ever had, and my Aby had more personality even than many dogs I’ve had. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of them both. Be well.

Jrod
Guest
Jrod

BENEDICTION

Two hours prior, on a warm spring day,
the vet arrived for the last house call.
We held our golden, Buckley, as
the phenobarb flowed to
release us all from pain.

A few hours later,
a drive to fetch food.
At a red light wait,
a guy pulls up
windows down
in the adjacent lane,
a golden in his front seat
and another in the back.

I said through our windows,
“Very poignant, my golden died today.”
As the light changed and we had to move on,
the man revealed perfect understanding
as he gave the perfect reply, “Peace”

Ripple
Guest
Ripple

So sorry to hear of the passing of your sweet kitty, Z Man. I grew up with a big dog and only later in life, thanks to my “crazy cat lady”, have I learned to appreciate cats. Which is why I could never get onboard the fashion in “our thing” to use their love of cats to insult liberal women. Cats are wonderful friends and my kitties are an important part of my emotional well-being.

Member

Sorry for your loss. the loss of anything is harder on conservatives, we wish the best of life can continue, but it cannot.
Listened to Death in the Afternoon by Hemingway.
Did he do anything other than attend bullfighting matches?
Went to a bullfight in Spain, glorious, horrifying and wondrous as man dominates the animal world.
Love of a pet is wondrous as well, connection made with another species!
Like a spaceman! Connected to another world. Affection is a virtue!
God bless and keep you.

Mike@Mike.Mike
Guest
Mike@Mike.Mike

I’ve had a quite a few cats over the years. Some were eaten by coyotes, some got run over, some just disappeared. It’s always hardest to take one to be put down. My mom’s first cat lived until I was about 6. It was diagnosed with feline leukemia and there was no treatment at the time. She couldn’t bring herself to put it down. I remember listening to it die as it lay in a cardboard box, crying out in agony for some time before he finally went, my mom crying hysterically the entire time. Always put your pets down… Read more »

Member

Beautiful piece Z. I had a cat I found on a carpentry job sealing up a former dope house. He was a kitten but never stopped being feral and straight up streets. He was a character and gave us a lot of joy until a car took him out. Still have a wonderful 14 year old mutt who still has some game. I’ll be the one crying at the vet when she goes.