Zipper was a cat. He had big, yellow-green eyes that he would study my face with, then, finding whatever he wanted to see, stretch his long, orange body, put his front legs around my neck in a cat hug, and bury his face in my neck. On hot summer days, he slept in the bathroom sink because the porcelain was cool. He attended every meeting my husband had in his office, met once a week with the cub scouts, and went to the front door whenever someone rang the doorbell. We called him the cat ambassador because anyone who met Zipper wanted a cat exactly like him, even people who didn’t like cats.
Wednesday, August 24, was his last day on earth. He’d been sleeping nonstop in the bathroom sink for two days. He was gaunt from weight loss. His fur was ruffled. With those wonderful eyes, he studied my face. What should I do? He hated, I repeat hated with growls, hisses, and teeth bared, going to the vet. But when I palpated his abdomen, he meowed and seemed to be in pain. Was there something treatable? I had to know. This was Zipper, after all.
We went to the vet. Zipper was in end-stage kidney failure. His lab levels were so high, they were off the chart. Levels that high can give cats gastritis and pancreatitis. That is why he was in pain.
How do you say goodbye to a cat you’ve had for fourteen years? Who has been a friend, a comfort, a warm body next to you at night? Who has entertained you, attacked your feet when you were sleeping, and stayed by your side in Purgatory while you were writing? A cat who gives hugs and has wise, yellow-green eyes that connect with yours? I stroked his neck and supported his head as the vet pushed the medication that would end his life. His body went limp. He was gone. His eyes were open. We closed them.
Since, I have thought about animals, particularly pets we adopt and assume responsibility for. Heavenly Father, I am sure, knew that human companionship would sometimes fail, that there would be times when what we most needed were those wise, yellow-green eyes studying our faces and silently communicating love.