How do you say goodbye?
When I adopted my cat, Rumi, he was already 7 years old.
He was the first pet I had adopted on my own and when we met I knew it was a soul mate connection.
I could not ever imagine losing my newest pet and best friend.
Because my parents had ultimately been the one providing our pets with care during life or death decisions, loss was never something I had to confront with a pet. Plus or minus the odd goldfish.
"It's time to put Rumi to sleep," I said to my mom of the phone, my voice thick with grief.
She sighed sadly. "You've been on this road for such a long time."
She was right, too. Rumi is a purebred Persian which means, yes, he's fluffy and white and looks adorably angry, but it also means he has a host of different illnesses.
He has polycystic kidney and liver disease, he has almost no teeth left, his favorite place to go to the bathroom is right on my pillow.
He barely gets up anymore, and when he does it's to drink water endlessly.
I cannot begin to count the number of times when I have thought that this surgery, or this treatment, or this illness were going to be the big one, the one where I would finally lose him.
Put he has always pulled through.
Today, in the frigid rain, I marched him to see a vet specialist, one who could tell me if he was a good candidate for dialysis.
When the vet never showed for our appointment, I was almost relieved to have another day with Rumi just to think things through.
When you're a kid and you beg your parents for a pet, you promise to walk it and feed it and take care of it.
But you never imagine having to make the tough decision to put it to sleep, because you are a child. Death and loss, and grief ... none of those words are part of your vocabulary.
What scares me the most about putting my cat to sleep isn't the fear that he will suffer. It's the idea that I've made a wrong decision and that he would have preferred to live out his days merrily pissing on my duvet until he slipped away in his sleep.
He loves me, he trusts me, and I'm going to kill him.
I know, I know it's supposed to be a mercy, but that doesn't make me feel like less of a monster.
I want some medical professional to hold me by the shoulders and tell me that it's time. But instead, they kindly present me with options and leave the toughest decision to me and me alone.
If my kidneys were failing I would expect my caretakers do everything they could to save me, not to decide it's ridiculous to waste time and money on another procedure and just put me to sleep.
I know this is different, I know he isn't a human, but he is a huge part of my life. He is my comfort and joy, my silly fellow, my time capsule of memories both good and bad. Through everything, Rumi has always been there, sullenly existing.
Without him, I am alone with my past again and that feels like a tremendously lonely place to be.
Putting my cat to sleep feels like a tremendous failure of the promise I made to take care of him when I adopted him. I know that it isn't. I know that he is unhappy and suffering. But I always thought it would be, in a way, easier than it is proving to be.
We've been on the road to his death for so long that I'm worried I don't know who I am without him on that road next to me anymore.