So this is what it’s like, rubbed so raw by grief you feel as though your body has been dragged through shards of broken glass…but on the inside, where your heart is.

I wrote those words Friday morning, less than an hour after we euthanized our beloved cat, Sydney. Two days later, the pain is more of a dull ache, less fresh but still lingering. I guess that’s to be expected when you say goodbye to someone who has been a constant presence in your life for 16 years, and then is suddenly – heartbreakingly – gone. But constant presence sounds clinical. Sydney was more than that. She was a beloved family member, and at times, a best friend.

She was the best cat ever.

Granted, I may be biased in saying that, but everybody who met Sydney said the same thing. Even people who supposedly didn’t like cats fell in love with Sydney. How could you not? She genuinely loved people and stole hearts at every social gathering. Tara’s coworkers were more interested in how Sydney was doing than me. I never stood a chance when pitted against my cat in any sort of popularity contest, but it’s okay: I get it. She was just that great.

The year 2007 was a rough one for me and the kids. I was freshly divorced and Audrey and Rusty were shuttling back and forth between houses every week. I thought getting a cat might be a fun distraction and the kids had never had a pet before, so one day in June I visited an animal shelter in Washougal, WA. It was nothing more than a trailer filled with free-roaming cats you could interact with. I spent some time petting and playing with a bunch of them.

But there was this other cat, a beautiful calico named Salome, who was snoozing away in a cage. It wasn’t that she was antisocial; she had just been spayed and was still recovering. You might think that I’d have chosen any of the other cats I’d actually played with over the only one behind bars, but there was never any doubt in my mind.

I knew she was The One.

A few days later I picked her up and brought her home. Changed her name to Sydney – an ode to the television drama Lost, a show I was obsessed with at the time. Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 took off from Sydney, Australia. I was also very much into The Office back in those days, so I suppose she could have ended up named Scranton instead.

Sydney took a few months to warm up to us. Mostly she did her thing and let us do ours. One evening, I was watching TV in my recliner, and she jumped onto the chair and curled up in my lap. It was the first time she’d ever done so, and I was so excited, I called for the kids to come see what was happening, ha. From that moment on, she was forever a lap cat.

Sydney was very chill and laid back. Nothing bothered her, with the exception of other cats. She never scratched the furniture, left kitchen counters alone, and always used her litter box, even if it was a little fuller than it should have been (I tried my best to keep up with that). Sydney purred so loudly, I nicknamed her Buzz. She was sweet and kind and fun, and really did help ease the pain of those difficult years.

When Tara entered the picture, she was very much a dog person and skeptical over the idea of sharing space with a cat. But within a month, she too had fallen under Sydney’s spell. Sydney may have been my cat initially – especially after the kids both moved out – but by the time we moved to South Dakota, she was very much our cat.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when her health began declining, but we noticed some troubling changes beginning last spring. Our first three years in the Rapid City house, we’d let her roam around the backyard supervised when the weather was nice, and she loved spending time exploring. In fact, she would cry to be let out. But last year she was much less interested, sticking closer to the patio and wanting to go back inside after short periods of time. Also, her routine for years was to greet me at the top of the basement stairs when I came home from work, because she knew that meant dinnertime and then lap time. Last summer, she stopped doing that. We quickly figured out that she was going deaf, so she simply wasn’t hearing me come in through the garage anymore. It also explains her reluctance to go outside, I think.

Still, she seemed healthy enough, and made the move to Wisconsin without a hitch. She adjusted to her new surroundings easily, as she always did, and loved to curl up on the bedroom windowsill and soak up the sun. But one week after we arrived, I came home from work one day and Tara told me Sydney had had a seizure. We were hoping that was a one-time thing, but when she had another a few weeks later, we took her to the vet.

The news wasn’t great. Sydney had a bunch of health issues; on top of the seizures – likely caused by hypertension – she had kidney disease. An enlarged heart. Arthritis. We were able to treat her high blood pressure with medication, which put a stop to the seizures, and took her in for monthly shots to ease her arthritic pain, but we opted not to proceed with any more in-depth treatments. At best, we might be able to buy her a few extra months, but there was no cure for anything and prolonging the inevitable seemed pointless. So we took her home and showered her with as much love as possible. Sydney was a notorious beggar whenever we were eating, and we were happy to give her whatever she wanted.

“As long as she’s still interested in food, I’ll know her time isn’t up yet,” I said.

But she continued to decline. She took up a habit of yowling randomly, and it was such a pitiful, tortured sound, my heart broke every time she cried. We couldn’t tell if she was in pain or simply confused. On top of everything else, we suspected she was experiencing Feline Cognitive Disorder. Sydney was 16, which is 80 in human years. Dementia is common in older cats.

More troubling still, she was losing weight. A lot of it. I’d taken her to the vet for a shot a week earlier, and learned later she was down to 5.7 lbs. It looked like she was melting away before our eyes. The weekend we spent in Lake Geneva, we filled her bowl with dry food, but she never touched it.

She was still eating canned food and treats, and begging for scraps of our dinner though, so my own personal barometer of her well-being still pointed to Fair.

In addition to all this, she could never seem to get comfortable. Curling up into a ball became a chore, one that she tried to avoid as much as possible.

Last week, she started acting terribly confused. She would pace around the apartment, making circuitous routes over and over again, never settling in one place for long. It got so bad, we reluctantly had to shut her out of the bedroom at night; she’d been sleeping with us for years, settling in with us as soon as we turned out the lights, but was now climbing over us, across the bed, to her cat tree, to the windowsill, down to the floor. Wash, rinse, repeat. She began hiding in unusual places: she’d paw open the cabinet doors to the bathroom sink vanity and curl up inside there, or try to climb on top of the beer cans and wine bottles that lined a shelf in the office. And she became increasingly unsteady on her feet.

Thursday evening, when dinnertime rolled around, I filled her bowl with her favorite Friskies canned food as usual…and she was completely disinterested.

Well, shit. I knew it then, even if I wasn’t quite ready to admit it. We’d see what the morning brought.

Friday morning, she was curled up on a kitchen chair. She tried to get down but was really struggling. Tara lifted her up and put her on the ground, and she could barely walk. Every step was slow and labored and she was limping. We looked at each other and burst into tears, because there was no more denying the fact that it was time to let her go.

Three hours later, she was gone.

I have never had to make a decision to put a pet down before, and it was excruciating and terrible. I felt wracked with guilt, even though it was the humane and right thing to do. I doubt very much Sydney would have made it through the weekend. We might have had a few extra hours with her, but couldn’t selfishly hang on when she was so clearly in pain. Tara was with her when the vet stopped her heart. I just couldn’t bring myself to watch the light go out of her eyes, so I waited outside. I don’t regret this. And I love Tara so much for being strong enough to be there for Sydney in her final moments.

We’re heartbroken that Sydney will never get to experience our new house. She would have loved looking out the windows, exploring new nooks and crannies. If she’d hung on a few more weeks we probably would have buried her in the backyard, but we didn’t even have the heart to bring home any ashes. We have her collar and some of her fur.

And best of all, many years of happy memories.

There will be other cats…but there will never be another Sydney. RIP, Buzz.

72 thoughts on “Sydney.

  1. I am so sorry Mark…letting a pet go is one of the hardest things we can do, even if we know it’s for the best. When I had to let Max go on in September it wrecked me. He had been with me for 14 years, so I understand your grief. It will hit you at the strangest times, even months later. There are still days when I look for Max when I get home, only to remember he isn’t there. Much love to you and Tara. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kerri. All weekend long, I saw Sydney out of the corner of my eye…or what I assumed was Sydney, when in reality it was a pair of socks, or a plastic bag, or a shoe box. I expect little bouts of grief to wash over me from time to time for quite a while.


  2. So sad. I’m so sorry, Mark and Tara. When the cat I grew up with got like this, I was in college. I came home for a break and could see the end was near. It was hard. I remember sitting in my room thinking about her laying on the front porch and felt absolutely compelled to go back outside and sit with her and pet her. It was the oddest thing. She’s just a cat, I thought. Yet somehow I truly felt she needed me. I sat with her for a long, long time. My parents put her down when I was back at school.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I wanna be great like Elvis without the tassels
        Hire eight bodyguards that love to beat up assholes
        Sign a couple autographs so I can eat my meals for free
        (I’ll have the quesadilla, ha-ha)
        I’m gonna dress my ass with the latest fashion
        Get a front door key to the Playboy mansion
        Gonna date a centerfold that loves to blow my money for me

        What’s wrong with lyrics like that??

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Mark and Tara, I am in tears. It is so, so hard to lose a part of your family and that’s what pets are. Thank you for giving Sydney such amazing love and care over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. For years, we had a pet Pekin duck named Gussie. One winter morning years ago, I went out to the fenced-in back yard to re-fill her food and water containers and found her mauled to death by an unseen predator. Gussie was like a member of the family to us, and I will never forget the joy she brought us or the morning I found her dead.

    My condolences for your lost pet.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had to walk away after reading this post in order to pull myself together to comment. What an incredibly beautiful tribute to Sydney. I’m so sorry for your loss – wish I could send you all a big heart hug through the Internet. It’s so hard to lose our pets – they dominate the routine and mood at our houses in so many ways. Hoping that you guys are planning a shrine for her in your new space so she can go with you in spirit. Sending lots of love!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m so sorry to hear this. My heart is breaking for you and Tara because I’ve been where you are far too many times. It’s the hardest decision animal lovers have to make and I swear I lose a part of myself every time. Sydney was a beautiful girl and I know it doesn’t touch the depth of your grief…. but know that you gave her a good life, and love. That’s really all any of us can ask.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’m crying all over the keyboard. I’m so, so sorry. I’ve had to say goodbye to so many pets and it rips your heart to shreds each time. My heart is breaking for you. You gave her a great life and she gave you a great life, just as is should be.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aww…I didn’t want anybody to cry. Thank you for your very kind words. We animal lovers know the intensity of this kind of grief. Doesn’t make it any easier, but at least we understand the emotions when this sad time arrives.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your tribute was so heartfelt – and made me reminisce over all the pets I’ve lost, and made me gloomily anticipate the inevitable with all my current little dudes – I couldn’t not cry.

        I remember when we lost our third bun. For weeks and even months afterward, we kept seeing him out of the corner of our eyes. We’d be washing dishes and suddenly our heads would whip to the right, mistakenly believing he was up on the armchair. Grief washed over me anew every time that happened. I still think about all the darlings that have come and gone and rue the mistakes I made with them. A few weeks ago when Rivergirl put out that post about whether, if given the chance, you’d choose to become a millionaire or go back and fix the mistakes of your life, my mind went straight to the things I wish I had done differently with our pets. Small things, but important to me just the same. Anyway, I’m getting weepy again so I’d better stop. My thoughts are with you.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s not often I write heartfelt posts, but that just goes to show how special Sydney was to me. I think I keep hearing her…which, actually, I believe really could be her. Who knows.


  8. That is so sad, Mark. Yours is the third blogger I follow who has lost their beloved pet recently. It is heart breaking and I’m so sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing some of your favorite pictures of Sydney. She was a beautiful cat and looked like my husband’s childhood cat named Parfait (chocolate, vanilla and caramel colored). I’m glad you had so many years with her.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Breaks my heart, every time. The hardest part for me is not hearing the click of claws on the floor. Or finding that last hairball under a piece oof furniture months later and just sobbing over it. But you did right by Sydney, and she had a great life. Hurts like hell, so cling to that bit of comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mark, you’ve written such a moving account of the place Sydney held in your lives and in your hearts. And yes, I unashamedly admit having something in my eye. I’ve had many pets, but only one who was my Sydney, so am sending much love & huge hugs to you across the wires.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sidney sounds like an exceptional kitty; I’m so sorry. You’ll miss her the rest of your life if you’re anything like me. My condolences to your whole family.


  12. I’m so sorry. I am shedding some tears over your sweet Sydney. You gave her such a wonderful life, and that’s some solace but never enough. They do steal a piece of our hearts. I hope she makes an appearance in some of your upcoming dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I feel idiotic liking a post that feels like it was written in blood and tears. It’s a tribute to your writing skill that my heart goes out to you, to Tara, and to the departed Sydney. I can only wish you that you know no more pain.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’ve put down pets, it changes you. Z-D ducked out of the whole thing. I’m sorry to read about Sydney, but you did the right thing. I love the photos of her, she was the spitting image of my first cat, Cally Cat.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Tears are streaming down my face as I send you my deepest sympathy. What a sweet, beautiful little cat she was and it does truly SUCK that she won’t get to enjoy the new house. You guys did the right thing for sure. It was time. So, so, so sorry!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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