Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Remembering my friend

For most people, the loss of a pet is no different than feeling the loss of a family member. For most of us, our childhood was the first time we would experience death...with the loss of our family pet.

When I was a little girl, it was my dog Buckwheat. I remember he died on a Wednesday. He was hit by a car and my family was devastated. My mom was sad like I had never seen her sad before. I would find her crying, days, weeks, even months later. When I would ask her why she was crying, she would tell me she was thinking of Buckwheat.

Oh he was so cute. He was a cockapoo. A wirery bundle of scraggly, shaggy brown fur. His eyes were set far back in his face,  and he had the cutest brown nose I have ever seen. I would often lay my head on his belly and feel the soft rhythm of the rise and fall of his breath. We always shared our food with him and he was always most grateful for the ice cream. I can still feel his fur on my fingers if I think long and hard. Buckwheat with all his tender, loving ways and his fierce loyalty to us, was my first experience with death. His love is embedded into my memory forever.

Then it was Wylie's turn. I was nineteen living in Calgary with friends, and I missed the loyalty, comfort and unconditional love that only a faithful pet can bring. I found some kittens for sale, picked one out, and brought him home, to the somewhat dismay of my roommates!

When I moved back home to Winnipeg, I was taking a bus and could not take Wylie with me. I had no money to bring him home with me. I loved him so much already though, and it certainly didn't occur to me to leave him behind. So, being that I worked at a truck stop, I was able to find him a ride home with a trucker, a few weeks before I was scheduled to leave.

I know I am pathetic, I still have my name tag from that Truck Stop (Shifters). I am sappy that way.

Wylie when he came home to Winnipeg!

Wylie was so tiny when I got him. He was way too young to be taken away from his momma. I am quite certain he thought I was his mom, the way he would wrap himself in the warmth of my neck and if I let him, he would suck on my earlobe to fall asleep. Gross I know!

My Wylie was my best friend for nearly nine years before I became pregnant. He was with me during every move I made, every relationship I had. He slept with me every single night either near my neck, above my head, or in the crook of my arm like a baby. He accepted another cat brought into the home, like a brother.

His "brother" Ceasar

 Then came the nearly nine months of trying to train him to stay off the bed, so that when the baby came, he would know that the bed was off limits. He learned his new place gracefully. He accepted the baby, and would sleep under her crib often, just like a faithful dog.

Wylie was with me through a lot. For nearly three years, he was not allowed to sleep on my bed any longer. When my husband and I were splitting up, I remember clearly the first night I would spend at home alone, my new life as a single parent. Wylie, a bit hesitant at first, jumped on my bed and assumed his position. He came up to me and proceeded to give me numerous head butts and rubs, as I cried myself to sleep that night, wondering what my new life would be like. He never left my side again.

Head butting was Wylie's thing to do to show his love for you. As my daughter grew up and I re married, he would pass the head butting love on to them!

And boy did he love me! It may seem crazy to some people, if they have never known the love of a pet in that special way. I am sure Wylie loved me more than I knew and I am sure Wylie thought I was his momma!

Wylie was my comfort and my friend through many hardships, a divorce, the worst times of my life. I always had him. He always knew when I was sad, and he would let me bury my face into his side whenever I needed a good cry. Oh and always, he was there with the head butts.

In his old age, Wylie became quite annoying. My daughter was always sure to correct me if I yelled at him or said something I did not mean.

This is the 3 of them trying to lay in the cat bed. Duke the dog won, and he is 3 times the size of the bed!
I guess it was the heat register they were loving more than the bed itself!

One September, not so long ago, I had a miscarriage. Again, Wylie let me cry into his fur and like always, took my pain away into himself, like some kind of magic. I noticed as I cried into him, his nearly nothing self, of bones and horrible fur. That made me sad.

The next month, we got a call from my husbands family and his mom was in poor health. The doctors found cancer and she was in the hospital. Within 10 hours, we were packed for a long drive to B.C to be at her side. Thankfully I had a friend who was able to look after the animals for me.

When we came back a week later, we were tired from the long drive, my husband was sick and we were all emotionally drained. My mother in law made it through the surgery, and we were hopeful.

Normally, I would come home and pick up Wylie for comfort. But not this day. I took one look at Wylie, sitting on the chair, he jumped off, stumbled and fell. I knew something was wrong right away. They say things happen in three's. I thought there was no way I could take it, the last few months had just been too much already.

This was Wylie's last time outside in the garden, where he loved to be.

It was a Sunday when we arrived home. I can tell you that Sunday is a night I will never forget. I kept Wylie with me that whole day. All I did was sit with him on my lap. If I needed to get up, I took him with me or I laid him on the bed. He was in so much distress. I just cried all day because I knew his time was up. At night, I could not sleep. He was above my head, but he would not let me stop touching him. If I did take my hand away, he would move his body as best he could to be close to me. It was so sad, he was dying and there was nothing I could do. We had already decided that in the morning my husband would call the vet and make an appointment to have him euthanized.

My daughter woke up in the middle of the night, worried about him and wanting to come into bed with us. I let her, and when she fell asleep, I got up, took Wylie with me, wrapped him in a towel, and I went into her bed.

I did not sleep. I let Wylie stay in the crook of my arm and I petted him. I could not stop looking at him, horrified that his eyes would not close, they could not close. He was dying in my arms, I could feel his body shutting down, and I could do nothing. His body was shutting down. That is all I could think, as I felt his insides moving, right beneath my hands. I will not go into more detail, because it is something I don't like to remember, and is too graphic to share.

Morning came, and the minute the vet opened, my husband made the call. I was leaving the minute he got off the phone, they were taking me right away. My husband stayed behind to get my daughter off to school. We went to the van, my husband carrying Wylie and placing him beside me in the passenger seat. My husband said his good bye to Wylie, he cried and he kissed me goodbye. I loved him so much more in that moment, for his tenderness. I knew then that he too, had grown to love Wylie in a way that was unexplainable.

I don't remember driving to the vet. I remember walking in and I burst into tears. Bless those ladies for just taking me into a room to cry on my own and wait for the vet. Wait for finality in its ugliness. They told me to say my good bye, but really there was nothing left to say, I had whispered it in Wylie's ear over and over again the night before. I had whispered in his ear, my love and appreciation for him,  for the previous 18 years. For eighteen years, he had been my faithful, non judgemental, loyal loving and caring friend. How do you say good bye?

When it was done, I cried louder, I sat down, I looked at him. And I turned and left out that door. I hated leaving him there. I knew I would be back in a few days to pick up his remains, and I just wanted to go home and cry. And that is what I did. I went to bed, sleep deprived and I cried myself to sleep. I cried for days. If I drove past the vet, I cried, when I went to bed at night, I cried. I cried so much I think I freaked my daughter out. She saw me weak, likely for the first time in her life.

It has been a year and a half since my friend left us. Within six months, I lost my other cat, his "brother" of sixteen years. I swore we would never get another cat again. Never. One day I went to the Humane Society by myself and I came home a few hours later with 2 cats. We now are a family of three cats and a dog! Us pet lovers just cannot help it I suppose.

 I still cry sometimes, when I think of Wylie, and his "brother" Ceasar. But we have their urns with pictures next to them, we (my daughter and I) write them notes and Christmas cards, and we remember them with sweet love. We know that they would be happy that we have more cat love in our house. And I try not to think of the final days, but just the love. Oh and it was good cat love!

Go hug your cat, your dog, your rabbit, and be thankful that you have that faithful friend. I will always be thankful for the love of my Wylie, just as I am for the love of my new, crazy, loving, playful friends and their dog brother Duke!

As always, thanks for taking the time to read.



  1. Beautiful. I'm crying just reading it. It reminds me of the emotions I felt when I lost my beloved Fuzzby a few years ago this month. <3

  2. What a touching story! I, too, have had pets my whole life, and I understand how important they can be. Thank you for sharing.

    -Helen from Bettencourt Chase

  3. We cat and dog lovers understand completely. They leave pawprints on our heart forever. You shared a beautiful story of true love.
    (I had 2 cats and a Golden too, and miss them terribly.)

  4. I can't believe it's been so long, I remember when you came to see me afterwards, and I knew the look on you face the one I had after Willow... Cruz wants to know why I am hugging him so hard...!!!