Would Time Stand Still

The biggest surprise is that it comes as a surprise to me at all. I’ve known how it all will end, that it will end, and sooner rather than later. I’ve even said it out loud in my most grown-up and matter-of-fact voice. And yet  I am rocked to the core of my being.  One soon, she’ll be gone.

Looking good for an old lady.

Looking good for an old lady.


It may come as a surprise to some, but I can be very logical, even practical. Her body has begun to fail her. A diagnosis of kidney failure was our first reminder that time, as it is with all of us, was limited. “She’s an old cat,” I said. “She’s lived a good life.” We held her, I wept. I had always imagined fifteen years with her, but you get what you get, right?

Time passed. Her organ failure did not progress, and she thrived. And when she approached the magic age, when she turned 15, I thought I must be ready. I said “This may be our last Christmas with Piper.” And we gathered around to fuss, to pet her, to appreciate her for a moment. Fifteen turned into sixteen, followed much too quickly by seventeen. With each passing year, the ritual becomes less meaningful. For awhile we could believe that this scrappy cat would defy all logic and the limitations of biology and live forever. I believed it.

But time doesn’t stand still, and nothing, no one, goes on forever. She is failing still more. My wake up came three days ago as I watched her struggle to climb the stairs, her back end swaying as she tried to keep her legs under her, an issue she has never had before. That was the moment I was struck by the weight of inevitability, the moment my heart heard truth. We are going to lose her.

No matter what I said before, how logical and detached I could be, I did not believe. I believe now. Borrowed time takes on new meaning when it comes to someone you love.

She still has some fight left, her paws tapping out a playful cadence as she tries to catch the string on my jacket. She purrs. It takes little to make her happy. A warm lap, a soft stroke. She eats, both our biggest victory and our greatest fear. When she quits eating, we will know that it is time.

She is living the dream now. The cold is hard on old bones, so I heat a rice sock to warm her. She experiences privilege unknown, the lone animal invited into the inner sanctum; my bedroom. I ignore these self-imposed restrictions and my ensuing allergy attacks, and invite her under the blanket to curl up on the electric mattress cover. Her preferred perch is on my lap as I write. Not only do I comply, I insist. I take her with me when I change rooms if she is not already sleeping comfortably. I need every stolen moment I can get. To prepare.

But how do you prepare? How do you say goodbye to someone who has shared your life and your adventures for going on 18 years? I am at a loss.

35 thoughts on “Would Time Stand Still

  1. Well I just bawled my hormonal little eyes out. My dog is going to be 10 and I feel the exact same way about her: I steal moments with her when the kids are playing and won’t interrupt, I invite her into my bed after my husband leaves for work, and I scratch her bum (her preference, not mine) a little longer because I know how much she likes it. Crazy how we animal people become so attached, eh? My neighbor keeps her dog outside 24-7 and while I realize it’s none of my business, I pretty much think it’s a form of abuse. Who doesn’t snuggle with their pets?! Satan worshipers, that’s who. Okay, maybe a bit extreme, but whatever.

  2. Oh I’m crying. I think you pretty much summed it up. Despite all logical understanding of time and how we will, inevitably, run out of it, there is no science to emotions, to loss. It hurts bigger than we can rationalize. Wishing you and your sweet girl comfort and happy time today.

  3. Beautiful post and yet so sad. Mine will be 17 this July and I know exactly what you mean. When she had health problems and stayed for days at the vet I went every day to visit her. Now I’m always panicking that she’ll stop eating. If she stops, that’s it. And like you said, every stolen moment is precious. I know she won’t live forever, but I also know I’m not prepared. But I’ll never be prepared. There’s no way to prepare for that. I guess the best we can do is to make sure we enjoy every moment we can, and make sure they have the best life they can, and when time comes, we try to be glad we had those precious moments. Sorry I can’t really help any more than that. Enjoy your girl. Hug her and keep her on your lap so one day you can look back and think of her sitting there, warming you up.

  4. My little Mimi was 19 when she died. Letting go is a very hard thing to do. After she’s gone, she’ll be waiting for you, Marie

  5. Last spring I lost my family’s dog (whom I haven’t actually lived with in 10 years) and my father-in-law within a week of each other, and I surprised even myself at the depth of emotions I felt and how similar the two losses felt. I’m sure non-animal people think that’s crazy.

    I hope the rest of your time together is perfect, for both of you.

  6. I think you are doing all you can. You are taking every precious you can with her. My parents cat was 21 when he went a couple of years ago, and I lost my 10 year old in June. He had liver failure and mouth cancer though unfortunately, and it was the humane thing to do. I fill up every time I think of those last few days. Finding out on my daughter’s birthday that he would be lucky to last a year without medication, and then three days later when he went down hill so rapidly that he would only last a week WITH medication. So there was only one thing to do, and that was to say goodbye to him.

    Take all the time you can with her. You are giving her the love an old lady deserves. It sounds like she is using her nine lives to keep herself going.

  7. I feel for you. I absolutely know the grief of losing a beloved animal, a member of the family. Our yellow lab Abby Dog died nearly 18 years ago, and I still think about her and miss her. When the time comes, you will suffer the grief and make it through. How wonderful to love an animal that much!

  8. I’m so sorry, Heather. It’s amazing how they weasel their way into our families and hearts. Last year I said goodbye to my dog of 11 years and now as I welcome a new puppy into my life I already get all teary-eyed knowing that time passes way too quickly. I hope you soak up and remember every sweet minute.

  9. I am so sorry. 😦 I know exactly how you feel- I had to put my 13 year old cat to sleep last March, and it was one the most painful experiences. I had wanted much more time with him, but he was very sick with stomach cancer. You will know the right time for Piper. I get moments now of serious loss and yearning to pet my cat- but I know I made the right choice for him, and I know he’s in a much better place, and free from pain. I really feel for you.

  10. Oh no. I’m so sorry. I still cry every time I think of my childhood dog, who we had to put to sleep about 8 years ago. But when it’s time, it’s time. My thoughts are with you!

  11. Dang it, Heather. You are making me cry. We had a dog who lived over 17 years and we all loved him, despite having to walk him every 3-4 hours and him losing eye sight and hearing.

    He was there as long as I could remember, and my heart ached for a long time after he passed. As I read your post, I still think of how much I miss him, and next month will be 3 years now.

    Pets are truly amazing – unconditional love for us. Cherish every moment with her! She looks like a sassy cat in old age. 😉

  12. We’ve been expecting our nearly 15 year old dog to bite the dust any day now for three years. Now I’m pretty sure that he will outlive us all. We’ve been prepared, expectant, resolved to make that horrible decision. Only he keeps on keepin’ on.

    And so we stopped fussing, stopped worrying so much. He is on borrowed time, and we are willing to pay the debt whenever we must. Until then, I’m going to enjoy those cold noses in the morning, the constant need to go out at inconvenient times, the other things that would annoy me in a young healthy dog. Instead, I celebrate them.

  13. I said goodbye to my sweet boy 7 weeks ago today. Knowing it was coming didn’t make it any easier when it happened, but the gut-wrenching sadness is slowly being replaced by the happy memories. Why, oh why, do we open our hearts over and over to these creatures who live for a fraction of our lifespan? But we do it over and over again.

    If you’re interested, here’s my tribute to the most comically lovable cat I’ve ever had: http://mommywantsatimeout.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/to-a-dear-dear-friend/

    I wish you lots of purry lap-time and playfulness, and eventually, a peaceful goodbye. Sending lots of warm thoughts your way.

  14. You do exactly what you are doing now, it is all you can do. My 14 year old puppy is having a very hard time of it and I don’t expect her to see the end of this year. We follow a similar routine as you, with Piper. You only can give them the very best.

  15. You don’t prepare. There is no preparation sufficient that will gird one against the loss of a pet or of a human. I know this now more than ever. I can see that life is filled with big joys, little joys and loss and pain that never really goes away. This reply is not intended to be pessimistic or gloomy. I have just finally seen that the majesty and wonder of life includes saying goodbye to those we love. It’s what makes us human. You can’t have the yin without the yang. Enjoy every moment you have with your dear friend. She knows you love her.

  16. Oh, I am crying with you and for you and for your beloved Piper. What a wonderful home and life Piper has had. But that is no solace and we can never be prepared. The pain of loss will come but then the realization that you both did your best to thrive. How fortunate you both are to have shared such an enduring friendship.

  17. Piper is beautiful. They are never with us long enough are they? I had a kitty that I got when I was 13. I went through middle school, then high school, went off to college, grad school, married and lived in another city and she was always home (at my parents house) waiting for me. Eventually I moved back to my home town and she was still waiting. She lived to 23. It was not long enough.

  18. Aw, sweet kitty. She sounds so lovely and precious, with such a will to live. I’m so sorry.

    When we lost our cat Pigeon, our first baby, at the ripe old age 17 — well, my husband still can’t talk about it “in public.” I know this has been around a few times, but I always love this:

    “We who choose to surround ourselves
    with lives even more temporary than our
    own, live within a fragile circle;
    easily and often breached.
    Unable to accept its awful gaps,
    we would still live no other way.
    We cherish memory as the only
    certain immortality, never fully
    understanding the necessary plan.”

    ― Irving Townsend

  19. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. We experienced the same thing with my cat who finally went to the other side when she was 19. I got her when I was in third grade and she was mine until I was no longer a newlywed. We had been preparing for years to lose her but she kept on ticking. Hugs to you, Heather.

  20. So sorry about kitty! That is hard. I also just realized you are Heather – I saw your congrats on my post and was like, who’s Heather ohhhh it’s cliche! Anyway, an animal is often a better companion than a human, so I am sorry you’re going through this loss.

  21. I’m so sorry to hear what you are going through, and I know how much it hurts. I’ve been a dog and cat owner all my life, and I know what it’s like to love these furry personalities so dearly, and then have to face the cruel reality that we are going to outlive them, and then live without them. This is cold comfort now, but as time passes, the pain gradually lessens… and eventually, when we are ready, we can bring a new furry personality into our homes and into our hearts.

  22. Even though I knew it was coming with Bandit too approx. 18 months ago, I still cried buckets of tears & still mourn him. I miss him every day. It is difficult to say goodbye to your best friend, I wish you peace!

  23. You can never fully prepare, but you can make the most of every moment with her like you are. ❤ I hope she goes peacefully in her sleep, as that's the way I want to go. She knows she is loved and she loves you. She'll always be with you though, in one form or another!

  24. I had to let go of my eleven-year-old long-haired tabby cat a few years ago, due to her cancer. I was devastated for some time. Along with the sudden shock of her illness and the idea of living without her, I was saddened by the thought that this one entity would take part of me with her. My beloved Felicity came before husband, before children, and as much as I would miss her, I felt I would also miss this part of my life that she and I had known when it had been only us. Although five years have passed, I do mourn her still, from time to time. She was a wonderful companion.

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