I was going to say something, really. It happened about three weeks ago. Chucky hadn’t been the same since our panicked Hurricane Irma evacuation. And by the same, I mean, he’d stopped padding into the kitchen each morning for a serving of his favorite food.
He’d started hacking, like he had a hairball, but we weren’t so sure he did. Even when he was plopped peacefully in his dog bed, you could hear his breathing, labored. Something wasn’t right.
I urged mom to make a vet appointment—just to make sure he didn’t have something stuck in his throat. She snagged one for that afternoon. I was getting ready to leave for a work meeting, and, as she scooped him up in her arms and told me she was leaving, I gave an, “OK, see you later,” shrug of a response.
That was the last time I saw Chucky.
He was a fixture in our family for 15 years. We got him after the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, way back in 2003. That’s how we kept track of his age. And that’s why my brother named him Chucky, for Jon Gruden’s smirk. I was in fifth grade.
Chucky was the most laid-back kat; kat because he was kool. He hung with the big dogs, and even had his own dog bed. He loved, more than anything, his food. He also enjoyed sprawling on the back patio, under the sun. And when someone scratched his head, he purred so loudly he could be heard from the other room. Sometimes he’d start drooling. And he talked to you, if you were polite (or weird) enough to respond with a meow.
That afternoon, when my mom took Chucky to the vet, X-rays revealed his lungs were filling with fluid. The veterinarian gave my mom an option, to take Chucky to a specialized vet to undergo more tests and potentially drain the fluids. However, the chances of the procedure working weren’t great. At that moment, Mom said Chucky was relaxed in her arms, and she just couldn’t stomach the thought of leaving him in an unfamiliar place for several days, panicked. Or the thought of taking him home and watching his lungs slowly drown.
The vet nodded in solemn agreement, that she was making the right choice.
Meanwhile, I was leaving my work meeting, headed home. Before I pulled out of my parking spot, I texted my boyfriend, Jacob. I feel like something happened to Chucky. He told me to stop worrying and that it’d be fine. But when I got home, Chucky’s bed wasn’t in his usual spot. Nor was he. My mom was doing dishes. I said hey, and she wouldn’t turn around. When she finally did, her face was red. She’d been crying.
We sat in the kitchen together and talked through sobs. She explained to me what had happened, how she didn’t want him to suffer. She asked if she’d made the right choice. I said yes but that I’d wished more than anything I’d snuggled him before he’d left — at least gave him kiss on the head. Sometimes it’s just easier not to have to say that last goodbye, my mom said. I think she was right.
I messaged my editor and told him I needed some time to decompress. I slipped on sweatpants, shut my blinds, cranked my fan on high and hid in my bed that afternoon.
I thought about Chucky. But I also thought about all he’d lived through. When we got him, I still rocked glasses and braces. I hadn’t yet started middle school. Dealt with high school. Survived college. Mastered grad school. Even when I didn’t live at home, I knew Chucky would be there, waiting for me to return during holiday breaks. In those times, he’d sit in my bed. Sometime he’d pretend to watch Netflix. Or beg for human snacks.
Curled up in my dark room, I started scrolling through photos of Chucky on my computer, fresh tears welling over with each one. I needed to post something to Instagram and Facebook. I needed to let people know why my eyes were swollen, why I took the afternoon for a breather, why I was no longer posting Chucky photos to our “Doges” Slack channel at work.
But it just felt weird.
I didn’t want to get “likes” for a picture of Chucky, “likes” which normally came from people being like, “Wow, that’s a fat cat.” Nor did I want anyone to feel sorry for me. There are far worse events happening in this world. Sure, for my family and me, this was devastating. But for anyone else, it’s just another pet memorialized on social media.
I thought maybe I’d just text a few of my closest friends, but what was I supposed to say? We had to put our cat to sleep today. No, no, I’m OK. I just needed to tell someone. But I didn’t feel OK. And there’s nothing they could have said to me that would have made it better, no matter how much they might have wanted. So I didn’t text anyone.
I ended up not telling anyone, except my editor and my boyfriend. Last week, I finally told a coworker as we were catching up; she’d been Chucky’s pet sitter once.
Now, I’m telling it all in a blog post. I’m not sure why. I think part of me doesn’t want someone to ask how he is, and then me break down. Or to make a joke about his weight, and then me cry. Part of me feels like my friends and family should know because it’s not totally fair to keep the bad parts of my life cooped up inside. Another part just needs to write this down, to purge it from inside my head — three weeks later, the clock approaching midnight.