I am not afraid to admit that I am essentially a cat lady. I love cats to no end, although I melt at the sight of most furry animals. In fact, I cannot imagine life without a feline or canine companion...at the very least a goldfish should be a permanent fixture month to month.
I had to make one of the saddest, most difficult choices two nights ago. I had to have one of my cats, Tumtum, euthanized. I have not cried so frequently or intensely in a very long time. She was euthanized the night before I had to make a 10 hour drive back to South Dakota for Christmas. It is the second time in my life that I have had to make that drive after an important part of my life died, that much quiet time is a challenge in such a state. For people who do not like pets, or don't have them, I think the pain of losing pets is hard to understand, especially when they come across someone like me who becomes an absolute mess at animal suffering and loss. Also, non-pet people seem to find animals expendable and they fail to acknowledge the bond that forms. In a way, this perspective would have been nice to hold while I was at the vet's office trying to decide on a course of action. The choice would have been much easier, probably quicker, and the emotional fallout non-existent. At this point, however, I am glad I am not of this frame of mind. I will likely be wearing waterproof mascara for the next few weeks, but I'm comfortable with being sad about losing Tumtum.
For me, my pets are an integral part of my life. I perhaps rely on them unfairly to make life suck less than it typically does. My cats help me stay sane in a very psychologically and emotionally tumultuous profession, graduate school, and life. There are few things more centering than a little cat climbing onto your lap, turning around, and collapsing in a fit of purring while you are trying to type a research proposal or grade 70 papers about corporate income tax. Tumtum excelled at getting my attention when I was hyperfocused on my academic pursuits; for this I am, and will continue to be, beyond grateful to her. It was my love for her, and my gratitude that helped me make the choice to have her euthanized. I could not repay her for all of her love by letting her suffer for my own selfish need to have her in my life, and my cowardice involving making such a choice.
The photo below was taken this summer. It isn't the greatest photo of her, but it captures her pretty well-- just chilling in the open window, taking in the sun, playing with the cord on the shades, in general being cute. She was an excellent little cat and a sweet companion, I'll miss her.