Today I had to say goodbye to an old friend. Little did I realize 19 years ago how much the little half frozen ball of fur I found would affect my life. As I sit here typing this I can not stop the tears from running down my face. Yet, at the same time, I can not help but smile as I think of all of the wonderful memories I shared with Scooter. Every day when I came home from work he was at the door to greet me and ready to play. It was nice knowing that someone missed me when I was gone and was happy to see me when I returned.
I will never forget the morning I was awakened by this little furry paw gently batting at my lips as I lay on my back in bed. I opened my eyes to see Scooter sitting on my chest with his paw on my lips trying to catch my tongue which I had just used to moisten my parched lips. I remember wondering how the little guy had gotten up onto the bed. Scooter was a wonderful listener. Over the next several years I spent a lot of time talking to him about whatever was on my mind. He was always ready to curl up on my chest and listen to my every word. Sometimes he even talked back, most of the time he just purred.
About 3 years after Scooter adopted me I met my wife, Sonia. She liked Scooter, but had asthma and was allergic to cats. Fortunately for Scooter and I both, Sonia was able to control her allergies with medication and eventually became somewhat immune to Scooter. After a year of dating Sonia, I discussed the idea of marriage with Scooter. After convincing him that I would always be HIS human and that Sonia would not interfere with his "chest time", he gave me his blessing. As a matter of fact, Scooter even helped me propose!
One of Scooter's favorite games was called, "The Thing Under The Cushion". Scooter actually taught me the game one day when the remote control became lodged between the cushions of the couch. He twisted and contorted his body as he attempted to remove the remote from it's hiding spot. Once I learned all of the rules of the game, I began hiding toys and other object between the cushions for Scooter to retrieve. This is how Scooter helped my propose to Sonia. While we were sitting on the couch watching TV, I surreptitiously placed the box containing the ring between the cushions. Sonia was totally unaware of my actions, but Scooter was on to my furtive behaviour.
As if on cue, Scooter began his twisting and contorting as he attempted to remove the ring containing box from between the cushions. Sonia was trying to figure out what Scooter was so interested in, when all of a sudden he removed the box from its hiding place. Sonia picked it up and said, "what's this?" I told her to see what was in it so she opened it and discovered the ring I had gotten for her. The rest, as they say, is history. Scooter, Sonia, and I shared many happy time together over the years. When I was working nights he would keep Sonia company in my absence. He would always hear my car and jump up to greet me long before Sonia knew I was home. Some how he even new the difference between my car and all of the others that entered the parking lot.
When I finally made it to bed, Scooter had this routine he followed every night. He would jump on Sonia's side of the bed and walk across her to get to me. He would then move up by my head and try his hardest to get under the covers which I had pulled up to my neck. He would paw at them, meow at them, and attempt to stick his head under the edge of them until I lifted them up so he could get under them. He would then climb on top of my chest and lay down where he would purr, kneed on my t-shirt, and sometimes even suckle on my shirt like he was a kitten again. He did this for almost his entire life.
Then in February of 2007 I began to notice a change in Scooter. He began to loose weight and to look and act like he was getting old. I took him to the vet for his yearly check-up and had the vet run extra test on him. The test revealed that he was having kidney problems, which are fairly common in cats his age. We placed Scooter on a special diet and began feeding him separately from the other cats in the house so they would not eat all of his special food. Scooter was moving much slower now as though his hips where bothering him, and was no longer interested in play as he had been for the previous 18 years. Even though Scooter was obviously not feeling his best, he still had a spring in his step and trotted along behind us as we escorted him to the bathroom where we fed him. I took him to the vet again for another checkup and was told that it was just his age and that there was not much that could be done for him other than to make him comfortable.
Over the next few months I notice a significant decline in his health. He was pretty much just staying in the bathroom where we fed him at and only coming out to use the box or request more food. He no longer slept with me as he had for all those years, instead choosing to sleep on a blanket I had placed for him in the bathroom with a heating pad. Occasionally I would wake up and feel the warmth of a cat glued to my side, legs, or back, which was the norm. However, when I reached down in the darkness to pet them, I would realize from the feel of his frail frame that it was Scooter. A few times I was awakened by Scooter as he attempted to jump onto the bed but was unable to make it. I would always get up and retrieve him from the floor and place him on my chest under the covers for old time sake. He would lay there until I fell asleep and then relocate to either my side or the blanket in the bathroom.
Over the last week or so Scooter stopped eating as much as he had been. I would sit in the bathroom and encourage him to eat more by raking the food into a pile on his plate which seemed to make it easier for him. He seemed very lethargic and spent all of his time sleeping unless we went into pet him. Yesterday Sonia took him to the vet to see if they could do anything for him. The vet ran all kinds of test on Scooter and the results were not good. He was very dehydrated and his kidneys were failing him. The vet gave him some IV fluids to make him feel better but told her that the prognosis was not good. When I got off from work I stopped by to see the vet and seek his advice. Dr. Vega explained the test results to me and told me that with advance treatment and hospitalization Scooter might survive for another week, but that his quality of life would not be good.
That night I fed Scooter his favorite meal, Dolphin-safe canned tuna. He mainly just lapped up the liquid, but did eat a little of the tuna. I then laid down on the bed and placed Scooter on my chest under the covers and petted him as I prayed for guidance. I eventually fell asleep and woke up at 5 AM to the sound of Scooter crying. I gave him some more of the tuna and after lapping the juice and eating a little he Curled up on the blanket in the bathroom under which I had placed a heating pad to keep Scooter warm. I decided then that I did not want him to suffer and would put him to sleep the following day.
That same afternoon I came home during my lunch break to check on Scooter and he apparently had not moved from the night before. He responded when I offered him more tuna, and even looked up at me and meowed, which he hadn't done in a while. The look in his eyes broke my heart. It was almost as if he was asking me to let him go. I had been unable to make him purr for the past few days, even when I rubbed his nose and eyes, which had never failed to work during the 19 years that we had been together. I knew at that moment what I needed to do. I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew it was the least I could do for Scooter who had always been there for me for 19 years. I called Sonia and told her my plans. I then called the Hunter's Creek Animal Hospital and made an appointment for right after I got off work. I have to say, that was the most difficult phone call I have ever made. It was the most difficult thing I had ever done!
In my job as a law enforcement officer I have witnessed death many times. On two separate occasions I have held the hand a dying man and attempted to comfort them knowing that my voice was going to be the last thing they ever heard. I have had to knock on my neighbors door and tell her that her husband had been in an accident and that he was not coming home. None of this prepared me for what I knew I had to do now.
When I got home from work I offered Scooter a little more tuna of which he lapped up a little. I then laid down on the bed with Scooter on my chest and petted and talked to him until Sonia got home. I then had Sonia drive us to the vet where we were greeted by Dr. Vega. I held Scooter in my arms with his paws over my right shoulder just like I had held him a thousand times before. Sonia and I said good bye to him one last time and then Dr. Vega administered the euthanasia drug via a catheter he had inserted earlier. I held Scooter and petted him as he looked over at Dr. Vega and then looked back at me. Scooter then put is head down on my shoulder, took one deep breath, and exhaled. That was his last breath. He looked so peaceful in the end and I knew he was no longer suffering. That knowledge does little to ease the pain of losing a companion who had shared all of his life, and half of mine, unconditionally.
Scooter will live on in my heart and in my memories forever!