Mourning All Over Again

As soon as I saw the subject line in the email, I knew it was bad news. I paused a minute or two before opening but that wasn’t enough to prepare me for what I was about to read:

I am so sorry to have to break this news by email when you’re away, but we had to put Leo down today.

I went on to read about how he had stopped eating and had been losing weight and how the vet initially thought it might be kidney disease, but then concluded diabetes.

It all sounded so familiar because I had gone through the same thing with my older cat, Wally, last spring. It broke my heart then to say goodbye to Wally. And even though Leo was not technically mine anymore (my friends agreed to adopt him permanently shortly after I left), reading this broke my heart all over again.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know I struggled with the decision of what to do with my cats before I left on this trip.

I felt selfish and guilty. I felt like a bad person.

I hated making the decision to put Wally to sleep after finding out he had diabetes, even though everyone assured me it was the right call to make.

It wasn’t as hard to give Leo away to two friends because I thought it was a good situation for him. He had seemed depressed since Wally was put down and they would have a dog and a new baby to entertain him. But it was a tough, tough transition – much tougher than I anticipated. He spent the first month hiding in a far corner under a bed – only lured out by the promise of tuna.

By the time they made the decision to put him down this week, he wouldn’t even eat tuna.

He eventually came out and seemed to blend well with his new family. They sent me pictures of him and the dog lying on the bed together and told me how he let the baby tug at him as she crawled around. I was thrilled and relieved that it seemed to be working out so well and around Thanksgiving, we agreed that they would permanently adopt him.

But now I can’t help but wonder if the stress of everything triggered Leo’s illness. When I took him to the vet in June, he was given a clean bill of health. It is so hard to understand how he could get so sick, so fast. And just like with Wally, I can’t help but feel guilty and selfish – that if I hadn’t given him up to go on this trip, he’d still be alive and purring today. And I feel bad that my friends had to deal with the decision of putting him down – it certainly wasn’t what they signed up for.

And so I cried. A lot.

The tears started before I even finished reading the email and they didn’t stop for about four hours. I hadn’t cried so much since I had put Wally to sleep.

I surprised myself with how long the tears kept flowing, but I think it was a good, healthy, necessary cry. I was mourning for Leo and for Wally and also for everything else I gave up to pursue this dream – my stuff, my job, my friends, my former life. As I lay alone on my tiny hostel bed (thankful that I had booked a private room), I wondered again if it was all worth it.

But as the day went on, the tears subsided and I forced myself outside to see more of beautiful Odessa while the sun was shining bright. As I wandered aimlessly, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face for the first time in months, I remembered that yes, it is all worth it – and that sometimes the greatest sacrifices can lead to the greatest rewards.

So I will miss Leo, just as I miss Wally. But I will take comfort in the fact that I was able to give them a good home for a decade and that Leo spent the last months of his life in a loving home.

And if there’s a heaven for cats (I’d kinda like to think that there is), then at least Wally and Leo are together again.


12 thoughts on “Mourning All Over Again”

  1. 🙁 I know how you feel. My dog died when I was studying abroad and I still beat myself up about it. I wish I had been there for her. *hugs*

  2. Just getting to read this, but my condolences as well. It is hard to give away our pets, even when we know they too want us to be happy and pursue our dreams too. As Ali said, it wasn’t your fault.

  3. So sorry to hear this. My wife & I lost all three of original dogs within 13 months of each other last year. We still haven’t gotten over it. Don’t blame yourself, they knew a lot of love because of you.

  4. Katie, I am so sorry about both Wally and Leo. I can only imagine how you feel…my family didn’t grow up with pets but I now come home to the most beautiful dog and can’t imagine her not being here. *HUG*

  5. 🙁 oh no. I am so sorry. And I feel like crying, too. I had never thought I could feel so strong feelings about someone else’s cat… I completely understand what you think and that you’re feeling guilty.
    Makes me think again about my own plans…

  6. Katie,

    There is a heaven for cats, and it has all of their favorite sunny spots to sit in,and magical self-cleaning food bowls that deliver all of their favorite foods at their whim. The mice and sunbeams are there to be chased; odd items reappear on shelves to be knocked over every day; yarn and string untangle themselves regularly, and birds sit outside every windowsill.

    Thinking of you,

    Susan, on behalf of Darwin (Felina Emerita) and Flying Tackle Phil.

  7. Oh, I’m so sorry! My mom had to put our dog down when I was on my first expat experience in Egypt for a year after graduating high school and it was horrible. Don’t feel bad about your decision to travel. A lot of things we have (for better or worse) much less influence on than we sometimes like/fear to think. Hang in there!

  8. I’m so sorry Katie…I have often wondered how I will react when the time comes that I lose my cat Tiger…I’m sure it won’t be pretty. And try not to blame yourself for it..I had a cat when I was young that the same thing happened and it came seemingly out of no where. All the best…

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