Nashville Paw

Farewell, Old Friend

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It is with a deeply saddened heart that I write to you today. This morning, Chris and I said our goodbyes to one of the dearest friends I've ever known: our 20-year-old cat, Smokey.

After months of battling kidney failure, Smokey finally let me know he was done fighting. The light had gone from his eyes and he lay in my arms like a rag doll. He glanced up at me with his will to live at last gone, and seemed to ask for the simple gift of peace. "Okay," I whispered. "I understand. I'll help you go."

Together, we sat with Dr. Mark Waldrop and his wife, Rhonda, at Nashville Cat Clinic as we prepared to help Smokey transition to the next realm. They have shared the last few years of this journey with us, and it is no doubt due to Dr. Waldrop's incredible and compassionate care that we were able to offer our beloved kitty a high quality of life and joy in his last months. 

I had called Chris at work, telling him to "come... it's time." As we waited, I held SMokey in my arms, so sad that for the very first time, he did not purr. How my heart lifted, then, when Chris walked in to touch him, and his motor began! It was as if he'd just been waiting for the whole family to be together, and then he was ready.

We spent some alone time with Smokey, gently stroking his soft gray fur and sharing our love for him, and then, when it was time, the Waldrops helped make his exit from this earth as beautiful as the way he lived it. It was compassionate, loving, kind and peaceful, with utmost care and respect taken. We even shared some tears, as they recently went through the same with their elderly feline. Saying goodbye is never, ever easy--but having caring people around you makes all the difference in the world, and we so greatly appreciate all of the staff at Nashville Cat Clinic for making the experience as comforting as possible.

As Smokey closed his eyes for his final slumber, my heart throbbed with grief and yet a sense of calm and relief also came, knowing he was to suffer no more. He will now be in the tender, loving care of Chuck and Brenda Gifford of Faithful Friends Pet Memorial Service until he comes back to us, at which time we will set him free back to the earth from which he came.

When I think of Smokey, I see him as he was brought into a vet clinic in 2000, where I worked as a vet tech. A kind woman had found him alone on the icy streets of Chicago, starved and scared, and she hoped we could help. A scanned microchip found that he'd been adopted and dumped back at a local shelter three times, and the final guardian had dumped him outside before moving out of state. At nine years old, he'd already known so much heartache; so, despite my cat allergies, I could not turn my back on him. He was a cat that apparently no one wanted, and I was determined he would never see a shelter cage again. 

I see him stocky and full of life,  tiptoeing through snow in the back yard and perching on windowsills to crackle at the birds. I see him getting lost in a good dose of catnip, rolling in fresh spring grass and chasing me down the hall begging for a treat of salmon. And I see the old, weathered face and brittle body that lay before us today, having lived so many long, good years.

Smokey met me at the door every day. He loved to be carried like a baby so he could "hug" my neck. He saw me through a marriage, a divorce, endless moves and countless ups and downs. And he has sat here in my lap as I write to you from my computer, as I publish Nashville Paw, day after day. The ache of a now-empty lap leaves me quite heartbroken, and after 11 years with the most sweet-natured feline I've ever known, I am sure it will take time for this grief and pain to subside.

Loss is an inevitable part of life. And while it hurts so deeply to lose a loved one -- two or four-legged -- it helps to remember that he's not really gone: his spirit, his gift of unconditional love and his sweet memory lives on in the heart and mind of everyone who knew and loved him in return.

There is an empty place in our hearts and home today, but I'll always cherish the unforgettable friendship I found in this old, forgotten cat. Goodbye sweet Smokey... we will miss you, dear friend. 

{Visit Smokey's tribute photo album here.}


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