On Christmas day, we drove our swiftly deteriorating cat, Tank, to the emergency veterinary clinic. We knew it would be our last hour with him. Our son said his tearful goodbye and stayed behind at home, and I was grateful that he did. Though Tank’s declining health had made our farewell a gradual process, it was no less agonizing to hold him in my arms and watch life slip away from him. The kindness of euthanasia was our Christmas gift to him, an end to his suffering.
Roughly 11 years ago, we learned Tank was available for adoption from a rescue group. As we drove to meet him, we discussed his description on the website and figured surely there was a typo. As he was revealed to us, he clearly weighed 20 solid pounds. His initial discomfort, his foster mom explained, was due to getting car sick on the way. His fur was still damp from a hasty cleaning. As mellow as he seemed, he had quickly put the experience behind him. When he warmed to us and we could pet him, we knew he belonged with us. His heart and personality were just as big as his tuxedo-marked coat, and his purr resonated from a chest that reminded me more of a bulldog’s than a tomcat’s.
In all the best ways, Tank resembled a dog. He loved to be around us and would find us when we called him. When he launched himself onto the couch to find a lap, we quickly grabbed the TV remote. He held a fondness for smothering it with his bulk, and moving him required a Herculean effort. Once he made up his mind to plop down, he didn’t much consider the comfort of others, as though everyone loved to cuddle as much as he did. We enjoyed it enough to let our feet fall asleep when he rested on our laps.
With time, he only gained weight because he would steal dog food out of the bowls while our dogs ate. His zen-like demeanor never encumbered him with fear, though we began to suspect he was just dumb, like a dopey and lovable Labrador retriever. More than once he wandered the house with a shopping bag’s handle looped around his neck, as though it were nothing more than a fashion accessory. The fans we deployed in the summer often trimmed his whiskers and eyebrows because he loved the breeze so much. He would calmly take possession of our dogs’ chew toys. Each time, the dogs were stunned by his boldness and just let him have what he wanted, though he was never aggressive. I think the angriest I ever saw him was during the brief period we dressed him as a bumblebee for Halloween (actually our smaller dog’s costume). I see bumblebees completely differently now and wish I could hug them.
Time will leave us with just the memories of Tank’s dopey, loving personality. Why his previous family chose to abandon him at the vet’s office, after having all his claws removed, will remain a mystery. He was their loss and our gain, his faults even now fading in my memory, three weeks after his death.
Goodbye, Tank, for now. Please join the others that have passed and meet me at the Rainbow Bridge one day. I’ll try to remember to lift you with bent legs and a straight back. We love you, and our lives are brighter for having shared our home with you.