Doing The Hard Thing

Image copyright Fred First I told you a few weeks ago that we knew what must be done. It has taken this long to steel myself to do it.

CJ the Cat (from CJ Harris Hospital where I worked) showed up as a very small lost kitten at the Emergency Room door in January, 1990. I put her in a box and carried her home to our daughter, who excitedly said that CJ (a.k.a Calvin, both perhaps from our Presbyterian connections but more probably from our son’s hero, who also had a cat sidekick) would go with her to college the next year. Daughter went, cat never did.

CJ was an indoor cat once upon a time, but her shreading effect on the furniture sent her permanently alfresco–except for when she and I lived on Walnut Knob that first year in Floyd County without the SheBoss, during which time cat went anywhere inside or out that her highness desired. She’s never been an especially affectionate cat, but we bonded that year of living with only each other’s company most of the time. We came to an understanding.

Since moving to Goose Creek, she’s been a porch cat, and until recently, managing quite well for herself. Until she started going blind a few months back, a process completed several weeks ago. It’s a terrible thing to watch a cat fall off the edge of the porch or walk into her water bowl. Winter is soon upon us, and already CJ howled in the wee hours, unable to find her box in the cold.

As of a half hour ago, she now is in her final rest, up beside Nameless Creek, under a headstone formed by one of the big rocks plowed out of the pasture ground a century ago. She felt no pain. I, on the other hand, will need some time to recover from the sting of sending her out of this world after almost 17 good years. There were just barely enough Powermilk Biscuits to get up and do what needed to be done.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I know what you’re going through my friend. I bawled like a baby when we put our brain-damaged kitten Loki down earlier this year.

    Hang in there and remember that the Humane Society folks in Floyd have a lot of nice kittens and cats that need a home. That’s why we have four running around our house right now.

  2. that’s the worst- growing up on a farm i remember well. whether it was a pet or livestock, it was always sad for me when that time came.

  3. Much sympathy from me and HRFH Xanthippe. She sends purrs and one of her magical foot rubs.

    It’s been nearly 15 years since my beloved golden retriever Laika passed from this world and I still tear up when I think of how much I miss him.

  4. one thing I learned the hard way is that blindness in a cat can be reversed SOMETIMES, if done soon enough.

    high blood pressure can cause the retinas to start to detatch. If in the hands of a good vet, some relatively inexpensive blood pressure medicine is all that is needed and the cat can get some vision restored. Without the meds the high blood pressure remains (not good for the cat) and they go completely blind

    I went through this with my old kitty myself, but wished I’d know about the blood pressure thing before it was too late

  5. Just got the news (Jen was checking fragments, so I actually heard it from her). Funny — I was always surprised, coming home, to find out she was still around, and now I’m surprised again that she’s gone. Glad she’s down the valley, though. Rest well, cat.

  6. This hurts, it really hurts, and there is very little in this world which stings like the necessity to send a well loved pet beyond the fields we know. It just never gets easier, and every single time seems to be worse. On the bright side (and this is something I have to tell myself over and over) is the fact that CJ is no longer in distress.