By Emmy Serviss / Boston
Last year, I wrote an article in The Insider about my Fur-ocious Feline Family. I wrote about my mischievous kittens (Annabelle and August), my grumpy old man (Pippin), and my lovebug (Theo). And I wrote about the agreement we had, that they would never ever leave me. But we all know that when we bring pets into our family, we agree to one day having our hearts broken.
On December 20th 2022, my heart was broken.
I took Theo to the vet in October when he had a day of excessive vomiting, and the doctor said he seemed okay for the most part. But this was not the first time that I’d taken Theo to the vet only to hear that he was “fine” so I wasn’t overly concerned at this point. And for all the non-cat owners, it’s pretty common for cats to eat too fast and then vomit almost immediately afterwards. Pippin and Theo did this often, so I again - wasn’t concerned at first.
But during that visit, the doctor also said there MAY be something going on in his stomach, so we did a couple of X-rays to check. Of course, it was inconclusive, so she said we’d keep an eye on it.
But then in November, Theo started acting weird.
He was still eating and drinking as usual, but suddenly forgot about litterbox etiquette and would only hang out on the kitchen counter. He didn’t play with the other cats and he didn’t cuddle in my bed. At first I thought he was just being a weirdo, but then I noticed he was losing weight. Like, a lot of weight.
And then he moved from hanging out on the kitchen counter to hanging out on the toilet water tank. If I brought him into another room to cuddle, he’d stay with me for a little bit. But then he’d jump down and run immediately back to his spot.
He was also the first to run to the food dish to eat so the fact that he was losing weight despite this was really starting to worry me. But he didn’t seem SICK. Just WEIRD. So I didn’t know what to think.
Looking back, I think deep down I knew something was wrong. But I was in denial, because I wasn’t ready for the reality of the situation. To be honest, it still doesn’t feel real.
A selection of selfies over the years
I took Theo back to the vet and the doctor confirmed quickly that it was the worst case scenario. The inconclusive spot we saw on the X-ray just 8 weeks previously was now an aggressive lymphoma. We could try surgery but at his age and the fact that it grew SO FAST, it wasn’t really an option to me. At this point, I was thinking solely about his quality of life. And in the short time between vet visits, his quality of life had plummeted.
The vet tech gave me a helpful and heartbreaking checklist for making the gut-wrenching decision of “How Do You Know It’s Time?” And giving the list a quick glance, the decision was obvious.
Theo was eating, but he was losing weight.
Theo was alert, but not engaging.
He didn’t use the litterbox regularly.
He didn’t play with his siblings.
He didn’t do anything.
He just slept and stared at the wall.
I knew what I had to do.
But I didn’t want to do it.
I wasn’t ready.
I can’t remember the last time I’d cried as much as I did that day.
We sat in that room for a while. He liked the ergonomic mat on the floor, so we sat there together. I held him and cried and he got to eat some delicious stinky food. We picked out a beautiful but simple urn and then it was time.
I wasn’t ready.
The doctor and vet tech came in and took him to the back to insert the IV, and I called my boyfriend and sobbed. I had told so many of my friends who had been in this position that it was “the worst best gift to give them.” But now that I was here, it felt like bullshit. I knew it was the right thing to do, but I felt like a monster.
They brought Theo back in and placed him on the table, but he jumped back down to the floor. The doctor said, “It’s okay, we can do it down here if that’s what he wants.” Laying on the mat, Theo looked the most comfortable he’d looked in the last eight weeks.
I think he knew.
I think he was ready.
I wasn’t ready.
We all sat on the floor and I petted him and cried. The doctor asked if I was ready. I said, “No.” But we both knew it didn’t matter if I was ready. She administered the sedative first and he put his head down on the mat. Then she administered the euthanasia, and he was gone.
It was so quick.
It was so quiet.
It was so peaceful.
And something in me broke.
I sobbed harder than I’d ever sobbed in my life. I kept saying, “I’m sorry” over and over again. The doctor and tech gave us some privacy and I sat with him for another half an hour. I couldn’t let him go. They finally came back in to check on me and I was able to hand him over.
Thankfully, I had already taken care of the expenses, so I could just leave when I was ready. But walking home with an empty cat carrier is a special kind of torture. Coming home and having to face the other cats was just as painful.
I curled up on the couch and cried.
My boyfriend came over and sat with me, and that helped. But I felt like a piece of my heart was gone forever. I’d lost pets before, but they were family pets, not MY pet. And I’d never been in the room before. It’s one thing to talk about it in hypotheticals, but it’s another actually to go through it.
Theo loved his baby brother and sister
It’s been almost a month now, and it still hurts. But the hurt gets more manageable with time. I can look at pictures of him without crying immediately. I can tell stories about him and smile at the memory. I can find some peace in knowing that even though I wasn’t ready, I did the right thing for him.
Even though the pain of losing Theo feels unbearable at times, it’s a small price to pay for having 13 years of memories with my lovebug. I’ll always remember his goofy chirps when we had “conversations.” His love of drinking out of faucets despite having a full water dish. How sometimes he’d reach out with his paw and touch my face, almost as though he was petting me back. And how many nights I would go to sleep alone, only to wake up with Theo being my small spoon.
Theo was my first love.
And I’ll love him forever.
Until we meet again.
Emmy Serviss is a Boston-based writer, actor and video editor. Once it is safe to return to live theater, you can find her performing with ComedySportz Boston and the sketch group SUZZY. When not on the stage, Emmy enjoys indulging in her new pandemic hobbies, laughing way too loudly and counting the days until Halloween.