OPINION COLUMNS

Family pet is gone but won’t soon be forgotten

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, July 22, 2015
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“Mommy, when does Isis come home from the hospital?” my 4-year-old son asked at the dinner table Monday.

I glanced at my wife, Amanda, and I could already see the tears starting to well in her eyes.

“She’s not coming back, sweetie,” my wife replied.

It was four months to the day that we had said good-bye to our cat, Isis, and I think the reality was just starting to hit my youngest.

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

Before I go on, I always feel the need to explain the name for our cat – Isis. We took her in as a stray in 2002, and her regal appearance reminded my wife of the kinds of cats you see in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Because she also had five young kittens in tow, it seemed fitting to name her after the Egyptian goddess of fertility.

Ironically, we came up with the name as we were taking her to have her spayed.

It was many years later before a terrorist group decided to claim the name. But by then, the name had stuck. She was our terror kitty.

Isis was our baby before we had our two kids. When we bought our first home, Isis was one of the first to set paws in it. Since she was an indoor cat, I think she enjoyed the extra space that wasn’t available in our previous apartment living arrangement.

We set a cedar chest in a bay window in our dining room, where the morning sunshine would provide a warm spot perfect for cat naps.

It was her favorite spot.

A few years later, when my daughter was born, we weren’t sure how Isis would react to having another human around. Especially one who cried a lot at all hours of the day and night.

Audree was fascinated by the furry creature who would always sit just out of arms reach when she was laying on the floor as a newborn. When Audree began to crawl and later walk, it was often in a bee line toward Isis.

Although some early encounters might have led to some unintentional fur pulling and some hissing, Isis and Audree eventually grew to trust that neither one was going to harm the other.

And even though Isis could no longer be a mother to her own kittens, she seemed to take on second mother duties. At times, if Audree was in her crib crying, Isis would sit outside her door. If I or my wife didn’t respond quickly, Isis would often come stare at us, or, if she felt like it was more urgent, might give a gentle bite on the ankle to get our attention.

Later, when my daughter was a little older and had graduated from a crib to a bed of her own, Amanda or I would lay in bed and read her stories before she went to sleep. Isis seemed to love these times. She’d jump up in bed and lay next to us. Many of my daughter’s first stories were heard with the purring of a gray tabby nearby.

After my kids were tucked in and asleep, I’d notice Isis slipping into their rooms for a minute or two. I always imagined she was checking on them, making sure they were safe.

Over the years, she took less and less interest in the cat toys we had for her. Like many people as they get older, she put on a few pounds and started moving slower.

It became more of a chore to jump into the kids’ beds. Sometimes she’d try and end up right back on the floor.

Later, she began to forget where her litter box was. I became familiar with the certain distress cry she would have just before going to the bathroom on the floor, or on a couch or a chair. What started out as a rare occasion began to happen with increasing frequency.

We talked to the vet and we tried some litter box changes, but the problems continued.

She would eat less and less. Instead of moving gracefully, she took each step gingerly, as if she was in pain.

We finally had to have the talk we had hoped we could avoid for just a little longer: was it time to let her go?

In what was probably the toughest decision we ever had to make, we decided it was time. We all cried as we talked to our kids about it and enjoyed Isis’ company that last night together.

The next day, we took Isis to the vet. I was so focused on trying to keep it together, I drove right past the office the first time and had to turn around and come back.

We said our final good-byes, cried some more, and then it was done.

That night, as we sat down for dinner, we heard a cat meowing just outside the bay window where Isis liked to lay. Amanda and I just looked at each other with an, “Are you kidding me?” look. A stray cat was on the front porch.

“No,” I said firmly. “Not ready yet.”

After dinner Monday, my son said he wanted to take a framed photo of Isis we had in the living room and place it on his bookshelf next to his bed.

“Yes,” I said. “I think that would be a wonderful idea.”

That night, I peeked into his room and found him sound asleep. The glow of the night light illuminated the framed photo of a young Isis nearby.

“He’s safe, Is-y,” I said quietly. “You can rest easy.”

Brian Knox is special projects manager at the Messenger.

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