For Emily, On Her 18th Birthday

(Spoiler alert: Emily is a cat)

Emily, photo courtesy of the author

“I really love pets. They’re like children. They know if you really love them or not. You can’t fool them.” — Donna Douglas

My darling Emily,

I always wanted the world for you, did you know that, my sweet fur-daughter?

I didn’t want you to be held back by society’s preconceived notions about what an adorable fluffy kitty-girl could or couldn’t do. Remember how I’d always tell you that you were so cute, but smart too?

I’d joke that I’d say the same thing to my human daughter if I had one, but that wasn’t the path I chose in life.

When you were growing up, Papa always said you were a criminal mastermind, but you showed him! You didn’t get arrested once, did you?

(Unless you consider being quarantined in a separate suite of the house because you didn’t get along with your siblings and expressed your disdain for them by peeing on the furniture “arrested”.)

Papa continues to tell you how gloriously fluffy you are, on a regular basis, just like he has your entire life. He can’t resist you, even when you’re naughty.

You’re a fighter, too. How many kitties your age could survive as long as you have with the multiple-whammy of thyroid disease, chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure, and arthritis? But you just keep trucking. Dr. M says you’re doing really well, considering your age and your various conditions. You have more prescriptions than the rest of the family combined!

We’re sorry about the subcutaneous fluids…we know you hate them. We don’t love them either — especially your Mama, who’s afraid of needles, but we love you, so we persevere.

We hope you understand that we hold your quality of life as the top priority in everything we do. We’re so glad you’re still here with us after all these years, but we don’t want to keep you a minute longer than it’s kind to do so. We know you’ll tell us if we wait too long.

That moment may come sooner than we’d like it to, though we’ve felt the past year or so that we might be living on borrowed time.

It’s cancer — the big C — that evil disease that’s taken so many human and feline family members from us over the years. Your diagnosis is painfully recent, but since the type of cancer you have is “diffuse”, surgery is not a possibility and our treatment options are limited.

We won’t be doing chemotherapy because we know how much you hate leaving the comfort of your suite, and we also know that any kind of treatment wouldn’t buy us more than a few months anyway. This is, sadly, not our first rodeo.

At your age, we’d rather keep you relaxed and loved and with us than put you through terrifying trips to the kitty ER and uncomfortable treatments, just because we’re too selfish to let time take its course.

You’re doing really well, for now! You’re eating like a little piggy, although you never seem to gain any weight. You’ve always been a tiny thing, under all that fluff, and these days you’re downright fragile. You’re still using your litter box, frequently, as you’re obsessed with water like most cats with kidney disease.

You’re surprisingly spry for your age! You still snuggle with me at night, although sometimes you sit on the bed and stare at the wall as if you don’t know where you are. That’s ok. When I’m 80 (the equivalent in human years) I’ll probably stare at things that aren’t there too.

When you howl in the night, I call to you so you’re not scared. Sometimes I think you purposefully like to sing the songs of your people in the tiled bathroom, though, because of the way it echos so nicely. You were always ornery like that!

For now, my sweet Emily, we’ll cherish the time we have with you. Eighteen years is a long time for a kitty girl, and we’re so lucky we’ve had that time.

Rest assured, we won’t let you suffer. You’ll let us know when it’s time, and we’ll make the arrangements. It’ll be the last, best gift we can give you. And we’ll be there with you, until the end.

Love,

Mama

“Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to.” — Alfred A. Montapert

I adopted Emily and her brother Tommy in early 2002, when I lived in Chicago, before I had merged households with my husband. They were fully feral, discovered in the courtyard of an apartment building. Their foster mother couldn’t handle them without garden gloves at first, but she was persistent, and by the time they came to live with me, they were shy but snuggly.

As of the publication of this story on 9/15/2019, Emily is still living the good life as her adorable, sweet, ornery, stubborn, cranky, little old lady self! Her actual birthday falls on September 11th.

Kathryn Dillon is a 40-something Cleveland Heights, Ohio-based author, rekindling her passion for writing after a 20-year hiatus. She resides with her husband and their three very spoiled cats in a ridiculously large 1910-built home that they are slowly attempting to renovate. She is a product manager by day and holds an MBA from Roosevelt University and a BS in Magazine Journalism from Ohio University. She believes life should be lived to the fullest, and particularly loves baseball games, craft beer, rock concerts, art museums, and the symphony, not necessarily in that order.

Life’s a journey. Sometimes a peaceful hike in the woods, sometimes a screaming joyride down a dark highway. I’m on a quest to discover my truth by sharing it.

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