When my, now fiancée, Jessica moved in a little over a year ago, she naturally brought her clothes and toiletries and others things she had, but she also brought a very special friend: An old, deaf, little lady named Scout. Scout made herself at home right away, sleeping on my face, mewing with her gritty gargled voice day and night . . . In short, she was a tough animal to get used to and I think my initial thoughts were along the lines of "I'm glad she's so old, I'm not going to have to worry about her THAT long". But that quickly past. She endeared herself to me. Her presence, sleeping on my legs every night, became a comfort. She always wanted to be on our laps or at least touching us and she would often bring gifts to us - a pair of mittens or a little stuffed animal lamb - to prove her love and win affection. What started as a terrible cat roommate, became one of the most profound animal friendships I have ever had. Of course, Jessica had this type of relationship with Scout since her mother brought her home way back in 1997 and she had Scout perched next to her from the time she was 10 all the way through into high school, college, adulthood, relationships, different dogs and other cats and pets. Scout was a constant for her.
But there was a problem.
A few months prior to my meeting Jessica, she lost her beloved dog Bogart to cancer. She made the hard decision to end his life before his suffering was unbearable. Only and few days after that, Scout went into shock herself and Jessica was faced with putting a second family member to sleep in less than a month. Miraculously, on the advice of a coworker and vet of Jessica's, Mike, Scout recovered, but she had issues with her thyroid and possibly other issues. Jessica didn't know how long she would have with Scout after that. When she told me this when Scout first arrived in our little apartment, I was worried about the poor thing crashing again. What would be the cost, monetarily and emotionally? How could I prepare for the sadness that would encompass Jessica when her friend of 19 years finally expired?
I dealt with Scout's impending doom the same way I have been trained to deal with many of life's dilemmas: With dark humor. I would commonly Snapchat our friends pictures of Scout peacefully sleeping with the word "dead" nearby. I created some creative poses. Not everyone was amused all the time, but for Jess and I, it was a fun inside joke that we could share.
The problem was, the more time that went by, the more I cared and grew closer to Scout. She was there for every moment we had in our room, almost always on top of us or in our lap. She was there for my birthday party and Halloween and our roommate Christmas and our couch proposal . . . She was there for it all. So when we both noticed that she was losing weight, those thoughts of her crash the year before kept coming up in the backs of our minds. She began periodically throwing up her food after eating too quickly and drinking too quickly. It was a sign that her thyroid and perhaps other organs weren't working the right way. An inconvenient truth about cats is that they are programed to hide pain. Pain is weakness and the weak are often killed or at least marginalized. Scout hid her pain, but we could see it every so often. She was deaf, so we would surprise her more often than we would like. Sometimes she would be jostled from a deep sleep and not be able to get up. In another instance, she just fell over without provocation. It was funny, but sad. This was the end for this tiny, fuzzy cat.
After a little time, Jessica and I made the decision that I think all animal lovers should make: To make sure that the last moment of Scout's life was on our terms and not a situation where she was in pain and suffering. On top of that, she was suffering at least a bit even though she was able to hide it.
We called up our vet Mike and set an appointment. The week that followed was quietly torturous for both of us. For Jessica, she made some artwork using Scout's paws and ink. She also makes origami boxes for all her animals with special personalized notes and trinkets that are interred with the body. For me, I just tried to remember her touch and recorded her voice. I tried to spend as much quality time as I could with her. The night before, Jessica took Scout into her arms and told her what was going to happen the next morning. It's really hard to know if a cat understands you or not, but that night, Scout decided to sleep by each of our heads, Jessica's and then mine, for a few hours. She didn't eat all night and leave the bed to go do cat things. In that, I felt like she understood.
A few hours later, we were in the car to McGrath Animal Hospital. It was a sunny and warm day. birds were just returning after the harsh snow a few weekends before. It was hard, but we did it and saw it through and her suffering was over. Possibly the greatest friend and presence in Jessica's life and a creature that had crawled into my own heart was gone. Today, I think I still hear her sometimes, her awful smokers mew or see her in my periphery. We still mourn, but I can't help but think we did the right thing. I'll never forget Scout Sinatra, the greatest cat in the world.