Sometimes, if we’re lucky, love conks us over the head. Oftentimes it is elusive. And sometimes it sneaks up on us when we’re not looking.
Shadow came into my life for all the wrong reasons. I chose him sight unseen as a playmate for Kimmi (which of course didn’t work), and I adopted him with another, older male cat at the same time. (He was an orange tabby; how could I resist?) But the older cat actually tried to kill Kimmi (my vet said he was just being a cat, but it was much worse than a cat fight), so he had to be returned.
Even by himself, having Shadow was stressful. He didn’t like the littler box, preferring to make his messes in the bathtub. Since the box was right next to the tub, I tried filling the tub with water. That got him to use the box, but the tub leaked into my downstairs neighbor’s bathroom, and I had to pay to repair her ceiling. I would have returned Shadow, but I didn’t feel right doing so since I’d already returned the other guy.
Although several neighbors thought he was cute, I thought he was goofy-looking (the vet agreed). Truthfully, I never would have adopted him had I seen him first. He was noisy, meowing constantly in the mornings as I tried to wake up. He chewed up and destroyed numerous toys. He scratched my upholstered furniture down to the wood. Worst of all, he still didn’t always use the litter box, opting to deposit something in the kitchen every so often. Turns out he had food allergies, but refused to eat the only food recommended by the vet. I bought new litter boxes without a top, new premium litter, and even put a box in the kitchen at night. That worked most—but no all—of the time. I sometimes threatened to have him euthanized, not willing to give him up for adoption because, after all, who would want him?
Although I named him for Shadow his gray color, he followed me everywhere. Case in point: I’d be sitting in the living room watching television, where he’d be sleeping in his favorite chair. (See above) When I ‘d get up to visit the bathroom, he’d come too. He never let me out of his sight.
In February, Shadow became even more finicky with his food, and he started having problems with his balance and a discharge from his ear. The vet found not only a particularly awful ear infection (which she thought might be causing the balance problems), but also a large tumor in his belly and sight problems–one eyelid was paralyzed and wouldn’t close. I’d completely missed the eye thing. The vet gave me some antibiotics for the ear and some drops to keep his eye moist. But we both knew his time was near the end.
And yet… for a cat who had caused me no end of grief and frustration, I had the hardest time letting go. He wasn’t a young cat with a tragic disease. He was 16, an age not unusual for cats to start failing. And yet… I couldn’t let go. I made plans to take him to the vet one last time, and couldn’t do it. But a couple days later we made that final trip.
I’m not new to euthanizing pets. It’s just a fact of life—their lifespans are much shorter than ours. But every time seems to be as difficult and heart-breaking as the first time. I guess that’s how unconditional love works.