By William ‘Doc’ Halliday
On Saturday, June 1st, I called my wife as I left work. This has been my habit to see if she needs me to stop for anything on the way home, or if there is any reason for me to stop on the church or anywhere else. It was after 6 PM and I could hear the distress in my wife’s voice as we spoke. I had offered to take her out to eat, but she had said, “Just come home.” I asked what was wrong, but she insisted that she would speak with me when I was home.
My thoughts raced. With a grandson in the Army in Afghanistan, I was thinking the worst thoughts. Or was it another family member? It could be anyone, or anything.
When I arrived home, my wife gave me the bad news. Our youngest was at the Emergency Hospital with a diagnosis of “Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy”. She had discovered him just lying on the floor, hardly breathing, and taken him to the hospital earlier. Our daughter-in-law had been with my wife and was providing emotional support. My wife and I rushed back to the hospital where the doctor explained that he was essentially drowning because of the fluids. Because of the congestive heart failure his lungs were filled with fluid. They had him on oxygen, but…….. My father, sister, and father-in-law had all died with COPD, and I knew all too well the suffering they had endured. When I heard the words from the doctor I started crying.
Almost exactly a year ago a female had given birth to a male offspring. I never knew the mother, or the exact date of birth. The male kitten had been dumped in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart I was working at and I brought the kitten home that day at the end of June, a year ago. He quickly became part of the family, and we named him Butterscotch because of his coloring. Within a week we adopted a puppy also, and Butterscotch and Taffy acted as siblings. Our other two cats, Cocoa and Licorice, tended to ignore both of the newcomers, leaving them to tussle with each other as they both matured. All four of these animals were rescues in one way or another, with Taffy coming from the street.
At night, these two would come into the bedroom with us. Taffy would sleep on the floor on my wife’s side of the bed. Butterscotch would climb up on my chest and lie down with his head into my chin. He was in fact my kitten, not because I had adopted him, but because he had adopted me.
Over the years my wife and I have had many pets. Some of those pets we had individually prior to our being a couple and some together. My first cat was a white long haired feline named John. There had been three siblings in the litter, and the mother’s owner named them Olivia, Newton, and John. Obviously, the owner was a fan of the singer. John would sleep wrapped across my neck. I believe I have cried every time I have lost a pet. Of course I have cried at the loss of human life also, but here we are discussing animals. I remember all too well when I lost Cricket (a cat) when we were living in Massachusetts. I assuaged my anger by cutting down a large tree on our property for firewood – using just an axe. It took me two full days to reduce the tree to firewood.
I do not take deaths, of humans or animals, well.
The prognosis for Butterscotch was not good. If, a big if, he could be brought home, his quality and length of life would be extremely limited. He was on oxygen and yet was struggling for every partial breath. I could not bear to see him suffer more. He was in a closed airtight cube with oxygen flowing, yet was hardly able to move his eyes. We had to put him down. I would allow the veterinarian to perform this one. Butterscotch would only suffer more if I brought him home.
I kneeled to get my face next to Butterscotch as the veterinarian administered the drugs. It was over quickly. He was such a good kitten. I have tears in my eyes as I write this.
My wife and I waited at my truck as the staff placed him in a cardboard coffin and brought him out to us. As we were leaving the parking lot we saw another woman crying. She had brought her dog in to the hospital also, and was suffering from her loss. I stopped my truck, and my wife and I got out of the vehicle in order to comfort the woman. As we were returning to the truck, another man backed his car into my truck.
At home, another grandson helped to dig a grave and bury Butterscotch. Thank you, George. Butterscotch will be at peace, but he will never be forgotten. He added to the value of my life.
Our daughter-in-law prepared a meal for us. Her thoughtfulness was most welcome. Thank you, Carol. As we walked the short distance home, it started to rain. Could it get any worse?
Yes, it could get worse, and did. At just a few minutes before midnight, the electricity went off. A tree had fallen on an electrical line and SWEPCO was sending a crew to resolve the issue, but it would be out all night.
It was not the best day I have ever had. I hope the First of June was much better for you. Those of us who love animals will always be saddened by their demise. I hope you treasure yours while you have them. I know that they improve the quality of my life.
For my dear bride of over three decades, thank you Bobbie for being by my side.