Good by, my friend


There is something so unnerving, some may say even wrong, about planning and knowing exactly when someone is going to die.  Death is one of those things that we all know is coming, but we know not exactly when or where.  Except in the case of suicide, most of us have no control over when or how we are going to die.   Some say it is all in G/god’s hands, others would say its karma, and yet others may give a more scientific explanation.   For most, it’s simply a mystery and explanations are only useful in making ourselves feel better about the whole thing.

Ah, what in the hell am I talking about?  I guess its easier to ruminate on the mysteries of death than it is to actually say my friend and companion, Alaska is dead.  See, there I go again. I just want to stop crying.

I know I did the right thing by putting him to sleep.  And I know I did it in the most compassionate way I could.   At his last vet visit on Monday, his little body was only a little over 5 lbs – this on a frame that used to be 12+ lbs of chiseled muscle.  He was a most handsome fellow.  I always thought if he were human he would be this charming blonde Adonis – maybe even a movie star since he had both charisma and good looks.   And boy, was he a flirt.   In the first apartment we shared, he loved to lay in the slatted window with his paws draped seductively out of whe window as he took a sunbath.   Chevron workers would always admire him and say hello to him as they walked by on their way to lunch.  At a later apartment,  I learned to withstand the invasion of privacy as either a neighbor or my landlord would be standing by my window talking to him through the screen.  These conversations could go on for quite a while as he could be quite the talker.  He loved the attention and he loved people.

I know I did the right thing.  But, yet . . . There is something so wrong about holding and loving a living being and at the same time counting down the hours and then minutes of his demise.  There were moments when I thought there was still enough life there to call the vet and cancel again.  And then there were those when she couldn’t get there fast enough.  I didn’t want him to suffer, and I wanted his mind to be free from fear and pain so that when he died he could feel my love and be comforted by it.  While many of my Buddhist rituals and such have gone by the wayside, I still do believe in reincarnation and believe the mind that we hold at the moment of our death is a driving factor in what form we take in the next life.  All I wanted was for him to die with a mind of love and peace.  His body was weak, but his spirit was still very present. I think I timed it right . . . but there that is again, me playing god (for lack of a better term).

I feel fortunate that I got to spend his last week with him at home.  Due to my incapacitation because of my sciatica issue, I was able to spend a lot of time with him.  If I was on the bed, he became like this moving growth that had attached itself to my body.  For the last few weeks, he insisted on being right next to me on the bed.  If I moved, he moved.

He knew his time was nearing.  In the last week he became obsessed with wanting to go outside.  He would pace around always ending up at the door.  His instincts were telling him he had to go.  Yet when he gave me a nose bump/kitty kiss I felt he wanted to stay.  But when he stopped eating and drinking altogether, that’s when I knew it was time.  Before, in the period of mixed signals, he still had an appetite.  He wouldn’t eat much, but he would make a big fuss about being fed.  Now, not even a can of salmon interested him.  Water, which he used to lap constantly due to his weak kidneys, seemed repellent to him.  I made the call, this time I knew there would be no canceling as I had two days before.

Saturday, there was a break between the rains, so I got a chance to sit outside with him for a while.  He loved that.  He always loved going outdoors. I had a little harness and lead for him and would allow him to hang out outside on nice days.  But after he escaped for two days a few years back,  his outdoor adventures were rare and supervised.

Mostly we spent the day being quiet.  I read and he was either curled up on me or next to me.  I felt bad as I monopolized his time.  I wanted Sasquatch and Tangerine a chance to say good by, but from watching them with hin in the last week, I think they were also quite aware that his time was short.   When the three of them were on the bed, one of them was always curled up close to Alaska, as if to share their body heat with him.  And for a cat that stopped grooming himself months ago, his fur was immaculate due to Sasquatch’s frequent tongue baths.

The end was quiet and dignified.  I could tell the vet sees this part of her job as not merely providing a medical service, but a spiritual one.  She understood and honored my specific requests, and never rushed the process at all.  She sat with us in silence for several minutes after he was gone.

Words can do no justice to Alaska’s spirit.  Oh god, here I go again.

Good by, my dear beloved friend.

Alaska  1991 - 2007
Alaska 1991 – 2009

20 responses »

  1. (((((((LB)))))))

    Our sincerest condolences. I hesitate to write the rest since I know that such a time is a vulnerable one when the mind whirls and little in the way of words stops the turning. Still, I felt compelled and hope it helps, if even for a second. If not and you’d rather yell at me, that’s ok too. Whatever it takes.

    Bless those little furry bodhisattvas who teach compassion, demand it, tease with a sideways glance or a flick of the tail when we forget ourselves and drift towards irritation or anger. They are still when we need still and playful when we need to remember to stop and laugh. Small, dependent, comically defiant… ever-present, perceivable Sambhogakaya, the greatest of Teachers. All the time he was with you, he’d never left Tushita… safe, confident, compassionate, radiant and waiting.

    Be compassionate with yourself…

    Om Mani Padme Hum

  2. Hugs.

    This was a lovely tribute, and brought me to tears with you. You and Alaska were very lucky to have each other for what seems like a short period of life.

  3. “Friends are family that we choose for ourselves”, and so too I think it is with certain animals. I am so grateful that caring people exist to ease the passing and halt the suffering of creatures that have become part of our family. Janine and I have used their services once before after our old lab Sierra took a serious turn for the worse. It was one of single most emotional moments in the years we have been together and time has not dulled our memory of the events.

    I celebrate Alaska’s life with you.

  4. I’m new to this WordPress blogosphere but I stumbled upon your post today and I know it’s not enough but I’m so sorry. He is a beautiful boy and you did the right thing to help him to the next realm when he was ready. I have lots of kitties of my own (all rescues) and they are all young and I dread the day when I will have to make that choice.

  5. We, Wife and I, grieve with you at this loss. Its sad, and still its going to happen again and again. We put ourselves through this routinely. Apparently, the joy and love a simple animal can bring, is worth all the heartache at the end.

    Iver, always more prolific than I, is right. Celebrate the life that was.

    And while replacing Alaska isn’t an option, as we found when Kat Kat recently past, other “simple” animals find their way into your life. And a whole new part of life begins.

    Our thoughts are with you as you endure this loss.

  6. As humans, we have the gift of affection toward other living things.
    We are blessed with their innocence and honored with their trust.
    The true gift is the change within ourselves
    which remains even after the blessing moves on.


  7. the presence of the dead is their absence ~


    this didn’t make sense to me until the day my dad died
    now in his absence I am with him everyday

  8. Thinking of you and sharing your grief. I’m so sorry to hear of Alaska’s passing, but know that his soul/spirit lives on. It is little comfort to us who mourn, though. Know you are wrapped in love and carried on wings of prayer and comforting energy.

  9. I read somewhere that the average life span of a cat ‘in the wild’ is only two years. The additional sixteen or so years of his life, by that reckoning, was your gift to Alaska.

    I’m sorry for your loss.

  10. Your deep feelings of concern and how you are sharing them for your lovely Alaska, are such a wonderful tribute to your companion. We can all feel your pain and heart ache for your special friend. I am sure he also felt honored to have you as a friend, too.

  11. Here’s to the beautiful character-ful Alaska. He sounds like a wonderful being and I’m sure at the end of this life his mind felt peace and love – how could it be otherwise with such a loving human friend by his side?


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