“I know you hate being in that damn cage, but I can’t let you out. I really wish you would stop crying; this is hard enough without you making all that racket.” Normally, I’m an aggressive and impatient driver, but today I’m driving slower than usual. I figure if I can stretch out the drive, it will prolong Tiger’s life by a few more minutes.
I wipe away some tears. “This is your last day on this planet, and you’re spending it in a cage. I am so sorry. You should be in my daughter’s arms, purring and rubbing your head against her face.” The light turns red, and I place a finger inside the carrier and rub his fur, hoping to ease his anxiety. Tiger has never liked car rides. It usually means a trip to the vet for medication or boarding.
“I can never thank you enough, buddy, for the way you watched over my little girl. Remember that summer when you both lived on that ranch? She stayed in this crappy motorhome they had on the grounds, and you kept her company day and night. I stopped worrying about her because I knew you were there for her.”
“When she brought you home last year, we had to put you in quarantine for six months because we thought you had ringworm and you might infect our other, kitty. It was the first time we actually met, remember? It was the first impression you had of us, and we put you in a big cage outside where you put up with heavy winds, rain, and bitter cold. I often wondered what you thought of us. Here you were in a new city, in a new house, and you had to live outdoors while our other kitty was indoors safe and warm. Oh, we explained to you why you had to be in that cage, but we knew you didn’t understand. I remember how you huddled in the corner of that cage, where we put a blanket so you could stay warm at night while we all slept inside.
“I remember Nicole sitting outside with you as you both got soaked. I remember telling her you were both going to catch a cold, but she wouldn’t leave your side just as you never left hers. She would have slept in that cage if we would have let her. We wasted six months of your life, and it turned out you never had ringworm. You were so happy when we finally let you in the house. You played with Felix, and you chased toys, and you slept with Nicole.
“Three more miles to go, bud. I wish it were three hundred miles. That would give us a couple of more hours together. Did you like your breakfast this morning? You’ve never had tuna fish before, have you? I watched you struggle to eat it, but you were a clean plater. Good job. I wish I had given you tuna when you could have enjoyed it more. I’m sorry it took so long, but at least you got a chance to taste it. I never knew kitties could get cancer. It isn’t fair. You’re only twelve years old. I don’t know how old that is in cat years, but it’s too short, whatever it is.
“I know Nicole would be here with you if she could, but you already know she’s away to college. You were so depressed when she left, and I thought you might run away. But you stayed with me and Marie, and you were kind to us and the love you showed Nicole you shared with us. I remember when she came home on break. You were beside yourself with joy. It was so unexpected for a cat. I gotta’ be honest with you, most cats are aloof, but you – you’ve never been a typical cat. Nicole’s studying to be a vet, you know. She wants to be able to help other kitties like you and help other families like us.
“Marie is away on a retreat with some of her friends. I thought today would be the best day to do – to do what must be done.” Tiger looks at me through the car carrier and gives me that “It’s okay, I understand’ kind of look.
“I don’t know if you really understand what’s going to happen today, buddy, but it’s going to be okay. You’re just going to go to sleep. That’s all. There’s nothing to worry about. It’s just going to be a long peaceful sleep. We’re doing this today because I don’t want my girls to have to do this. You wouldn’t want that either, would you? This is a man’s job. Men are tough and unemotional – we never express our feelings, and we never get attached to anyone or anything. Right?
“Who am I kidding? I hate it today. I hate these final minutes. I know you can’t see out the window. I wish you could so you can get one final look at the birds and everything. What you don’t know is that I’ve circled the block three times already. One more time around the block won’t hurt. Right, pal?
“You were so good when we gave you those saline injections. You just sat there and you let me and Marie pump that liquid into your skinny little body. It gave you life and energy for a brief time, but it was so short-lived, and it wasn’t a cure.
“Look, I’m not really good at this, but there’s no one else around. It’s just you and me so – let me tell you one more time how much I love you and the joy you brought to my daughter and my wife. I know they are both saying prayers for you right now. None of us know if there’s a heaven for good kitties, but we hope there is. You’d be the top dog if you’ll pardon my pun.” I pull into the driveway and turn off the car. Tiger meows.
“I know, bud. I know. It’s been a good life though – hasn’t it? Look, we only have a couple of minutes left. Is there anything you want to say to me before we go inside?” Tiger lays his chin on his paws. “Please – I need to hear your voice one more time.” Tiger turns and looks at me. “Please, buddy. This is so – hard.” I swallow a baseball lump of emotion. “Please. I can’t do this knowing you hate me.” Tiger’s body shakes and he struggles to his feet. He looks me square in the eyes and offers me a final meow.
“Thank you. Thank you – so much. I love you too, buddy. I love you too.”