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Old 06-21-2014, 09:11 AM   #1
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Yesterday was the first time I've ever had to put down a family member

It was around October 2000 when I went to my fourth travel assignment located in Anchorage, AK.

I have very fond memories of this place and time. It was here, in the most unlikely of all places, where I met Cheri, and began a great adventure together that still continues to this day. During that memorable year from October 2000 to November 2001, we roadtripped, camped, fished, toured and explored the beauty and scenic wonder of the great state of Alaska. But this story isn't really about us.

It's about her black cat named Perchie.

Adopted from the Anchorage Humane Society in 1997 as a very young kitten small enough to fit on the palm of your hand, Perchie (or Perch) got his unique name because, according to Cheri, his diminutive size enabled him to "perch" himself on either her foot or shoulder while she was busy in the kitchen or even sleeping. When I met Perch, I didn't care very much about cats, which meant that I really didn't think very much of him. I had the closed-minded opinion that ALL cats were aloof, boring, untrainable and were basically eating and pooping machines. But after spending that one year with Perch, he proved to me that I was completely wrong.

Most cats have their little idiosyncracies, and Perch was no different. The funny thing about him was, he really enjoyed being stroked and petted........above the neck region. Sure you can touch him ANYWHERE on his head, nose, cheeks, ears, etc., but if your hand ventured below his neck, particularly on his hind quarters, he would quickly swipe his razor-sharp claws at your hand and immediately draw blood. I've always thought this behavior was a bit odd, but then again, I AM talking about Perch.

I have always had this assumption that cats cannot be trained. But little did I know, that Perch was willing to please. In just a few days, I managed to train him to sit, shake (he would stick out his paw and I'd shake it) and speak (or "meow") on command. I'm not a Cesar Millan by any means, but my ability to train this cat made me proud of myself....and of him.

Around the fall of 2002, Cheri decided to quit her staff position in Portland, OR and for the next 4 years, go on various travel assignments with me. We bought a Honda Odyssey, and outfitted it with a metal, jail-type barrier between the front seats and the back seats. Perch (and my other cat, Bandit) would occupy the whole area in the back along with our other luggages and household belongings. Our trusty "Catmobile" would eventually take us and our cats 7 times (yes, SEVEN) across this vast country during at least 8 travel assignments, each time taking different routes to ensure we would visit a different state we've never been in. I can honestly say that Perch has been to more states than most Americans. And once he spots a Motel 6 or an Econo Lodge motel after many hours on the road, he'd start meowing loudly to signal us to stop our driving marathon so that he could rest.

I would have to say that one of the funniest traveling episodes occurred when he was just lying on top of a high box looking out the window lost in his own little world. I was driving, and some car had accidentally cut us off. I immediately jammed on the brakes prompting a skid, Perch flew off like a rag doll towards the metal barrier, smacked it hard, dropped straight down like a ton of bricks and landed on the litter box located on the floor. Lucky for him it was still clean. A little dazed, he slowly got up and started meowing REALLY loudly, as though he was madly cursing at me for making him do something comical straight out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon. I knew that he would survive this crash, because he has always been a survivor having been diagnosed with a heart murmur all his life. That's how tough he was.

During this past week, our once healthy and ornery 14-pound bundle of feline joy had stopped eating altogether and had deteriorated into a 7-pound emaciated animal who just slept all day and walked with no energy. We had tried EVERYTHING to make him eat, but he had completely lost his desire to live. Still alert and with most of his senses still intact, his 17-year old body continued to spiral downward into the inevitable.

Yesterday morning, Friday, June 20, 2014 at 9:05 AM in our vet's office, we made an incredibly difficult decision to have our beloved Perch injected with a sedative that would forever prevent him from waking up. Even though he had kept his eyelids open, Death peacefully glazed over his soulful eyes. We helped him close his eyes for the last time, and the last vision he had on Earth was of Cheri and me, two "parents" who loved and cared for him like no other.

He looked so peaceful, as though he was sleeping during one of his naps, and we are sure that we made the right decision.

Some people will never understand why I would feel such a heavy loss over an animal. After all, he's "just a cat". They just don't "get it", and probably never will, and that's okay. But fortunately, there are many others who are truly animal lovers, who DO understand the immense pain. It's times like this that I wish that I could harden my heart and feel no sense of grief or mourning, but I suppose that it's really not in my nature. I guess that's a good thing.

Even to the very end, Perch had taught me two very important things. The first is to ALWAYS have an open mind. He was the ONE who changed my opinion about cats for the better. But this lesson can also be applied to MANY aspects and things I encounter every day in Life, not just cats.

He also taught me that it's okay to let someone frail and dying go, whether it's a human or an animal, and not feel any sense of guilt. Because in the end, it's not just only the last gift, but it's also the BEST gift, I can give.

I'm really going to miss our Perchie Boy....

(Sorry for the lengthy story. Writing about it was very therapeutic for me and helped me deal with my loss. Thanks for reading it).
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Old 06-21-2014, 09:16 AM   #2
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Every thing you wrote makes perfect sense to me. Sorry for your loss

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Old 06-21-2014, 09:17 AM   #3
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It is a hard thing to do. Thanks for the story and I am sure that it helped.
Getting there is half the fun - take your time and enjoy the scenery.
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Old 06-21-2014, 09:35 AM   #4
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In the wild most animals separate their selves and let nature take its course. We always want to help but most of the time we are prolonging the inevitable. I’ve never spent one day of my life without animals so I know your pain well. It is a very hard decision to make but it was right when there was no hope for recovery or quality of life.
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Old 06-22-2014, 08:34 AM   #5
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I totally understand... The Worse things I've ever been through in my 55 years, is putting down our older Great Danes.... They , like your cat, were a family member... Treated better than a lot of humans... I feel your pain..... Darel
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Old 06-22-2014, 08:36 AM   #6
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Old 06-22-2014, 08:57 AM   #7
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My feelings are with you. Not everyone understands what it is like when, for 17 years, this animal has been your friend, your com-padre, your sleeping buddy, your source of some laughs, that purring when they hit your lap. But I do.

With 3 cats currently, and two them approaching Perchie's age, you almost begin to prepare.

See, in our family, we've always had animals - both dogs and cats - and I'm always the one volunteered to do the ..uhmm.. final vet thing, and it's incredibly incredibly difficult, everytime.

Having gone through much as you describe on 7 different occasions (and currently living with 5 loving animals now), it's never, ever easy.

On the one hand, you never want someone you love to suffer.. so you are thankful that you have a kind way of helping... but on the other, you realize instantly how much you will miss them, how much you'll miss that bond between the two of you.. because it's a rare bond, a unique relationship all it's own between the two of you, and it's irreplaceable.

Sure, you might have new and different relationships in the future, but each is so different, with one never replacing the other.

Some even choose to never have another because they can't stand the pain of letting them go one day - this would be the case for my wife's mom, and something even I'm considering when the day comes that all of my animals are no longer here.

I have a cat named Sugar, who was a rescue kitten - complete and utter mean cat for the first year. She and I had to do a LOT of work together to understand one another. She started out white, then turned that Siamese black and white. She's dainty compared to my other cats... 11 pounds maybe. Today she's around 5 years old... and everywhere I go, she goes. She is rarely more than 10 feet from me, she sleeps on my feet, she's playful, sweet, demanding and has more personality than some humans I've met.

And I'm going to hate that day I know is coming one day, the day you just had. I hate that it's inevitable, that it can't be stopped or put off a little longer.

Our family vet told me once... "It's really unfortunate that our animal friends can't live as long we do..." ... a measure of acceptance I suppose.

Hope your coming days are peaceful, loving, and full of joy for the chance to know such an amazing creature.
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Old 06-22-2014, 02:40 PM   #8
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I too understand and feel your pain. We faced the same thing with our female Jack Russel last Aug. She was only ten and cancer had taken over. We could not bear to see her suffer. It still brings tears to my eyes.
Your story was very well written and many of us are there with you. Sorry for your loss.
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Old 06-22-2014, 10:20 PM   #9
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Thank you for sharing. Every time I read a story like this, I get to tear up a little and release a little of the pain I still feel, that I never really expressed much of, for losing my own Tuxedo Cat 'Bitsy' to old age a few years back.
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Old 06-22-2014, 11:30 PM   #10
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You gave Perchie a good life, how about posting a picture of him?
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Old 06-23-2014, 12:15 AM   #11
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Wonderfull story about your friend and comrade. It's never easy. Our condolences to you on your lose.
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Old 06-23-2014, 02:01 AM   #12
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Perchie was lucky to have someone in his life that cared for him as you obviously did. And you were lucky to have had him in your life for those many years. I'm truly sorry for your loss.
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Old 06-23-2014, 08:02 AM   #13
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I'm sorry you've had to go through that. But unfortunately, part of life is death. Same way with human beings.

We lost our 9 year old pit bull to cancer last Summer. Then our #1 cat got run over and I had to make another decision.

Now, my outside dog, Hank the Rottweiler, has moved inside, and we've found him to have a mass. We don't think he's going to be with us long, even though he's doing okay right now.

My mother had a terrible heart condition, and she lived another 16 years with great medical care. One night, my sister and I had to make the decision to continue or discontinue with her medications. She was at the end of life. That night, she made a miraculous recovery and lived another 2 years. Mom's decision to take that last breath trumped any decision we ever made, and she knew best.
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Old 06-23-2014, 08:10 AM   #14
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I have never cried as much as when we have let go of a beloved pet. I believe it is one of the most selfless acts in life, to let a loved one go in peace and with comfort and dignity.
God bless you for loving so deeply.
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