Monday, 20 June 2011

A Tale of Two Kitties

Scratchy (left) and Itchy
I’ve got to warn you that this is a long blog, involving the death of my cat, Itchy, with a summing up of my awareness of the whole episode, now. It may be difficult for some of you to read…

I first met my kittens, Itchy and Scratchy, before they were named and before I ever considered that they’d be coming home with me, someday.

I was introduced to them, their siblings and their proud mother when a friend of a friend showed me them, all curled up together, in a bedside cabinet she’d taken the bottom drawer from in order to create a nest space.

There was plenty of purring from their mother, and the occasional, high-pitched ‘mew’ of squabbling for kitty-titty and milko. I looked in with a huge smile on my face and watched them all for a little while. Kittens are, of course, excellent.

As I am now - and I do realise I’m blowing my dating potential - I was living here at my mother’s house. I mentioned to her one evening, soon afterwards, that I’d seen the kittens and she gave a big ‘Aww’.

We’d had cats and dogs (and a menagerie of other lovely creatures) before, but at that time there were no pets. I didn’t consider that we’d be getting any more, as my Mum had often said: “No! We’re not getting any more pets!” It seemed a resounding resolve.

For some reason, when I told her the colours, she said that maybe it would be lucky to have two black cats around the house!

That was all I needed to know…

Six or seven weeks later, with the very enthusiastic support of my brother’s girlfriend at the time, I was sitting in her car with a cardboard box full of meows, driving our two new, ultra-cute friends to their new home. Her and my brother lived and worked at a hotel in the Lake District, but from her joy at seeing them, you’d think she was taking them off for herself.

One of the kittens was very curious and full of energy, pushing her head up through the closed box as we travelled, trying to get out. As much as I wanted to play, I guessed it would be quite dangerous and distracting to have a scurrying fluff-ball running around a car while it travelled at speed, so I had to restrain both myself and my new friend’s eagerness for a time longer. While she – as we soon discovered – was so bright-eyed and eager to see the world, her twin brother was much more timid and reserved, sitting quietly in the bottom of the box, looking quite lost.

When we got them home, the little girl quickly went off to explore the house, looking in every nook and cranny and probably piddling in a few of them, too. Meanwhile, her brother just looked around and shivered. He got a lot of cuddles and seemed to prefer that to going on adventures with his bold sister.

I’m not sure if it’s because my brother's girlfriend was bossy or blonde that we gave her the honour of naming the kittens… but she did, and whereas I would have given them splendid, noble names, she degreed that they would be called… yes… Itchy and Scratchy.

Itchy was the boy and Scratchy, you’ve probably worked out, was the girl.

As Itchy found his courage and started his own expeditions around the house, the energy of teamwork with Scratchy began to shine. They were inseperable. They slept together, played together, fought together, ate together and even ran up my legs together when I was opening a can of pusso chunks. Forty tiny daggers in my thighs, but it always made me laugh, despite the blood loss.

Scratchy was quite an aloof, independent soul, compared to Itchy. She didn’t like being picked up and preferred to do her cat thing rather than hanging out with the humans, whereas Itchy was a complete hug monster. Within minutes of my mother getting home from work and sitting down on the couch, he’d be up on her and sitting inside her coat with her.

He’s sit on my chest and put his paws on my face, padding and purring, and he’d chew on my beard when I had one, his big eyes filled with perfect contentment.

As they grew and plucked up the bravery to leave the house by themselves, they went everywhere together. I’d go out in the night and hear two tinkling bells, but never be able to see them until they bounded out of the darkness at me for a stroke and the promise of din-dins.

I’d be sitting in the living room and the curtains would ruffle and soft thumps would announce their return. Whenever they didn’t immediately come into the room, and instead stayed behind the curtains, you could be almost guaranteed that closer investigation would result in the finding of plump earthworms, which both kitties would just stare at with gret curiosity.

They were beautiful… so full of love and life… a great team… perfect twins.

Thirteen years ago tonight… at around 10:50pm… that union was torn apart, along with my heart.

It was the height of Summer and after a long, perfect day, I put on my shoes (I already had the rest of my clothes on) and set out to the local garage/filling station, to buy some cigarette papers. It only takes a few minutes, there and back, down the path to the bottom of my village and across the main road.

When I turned onto the main road - which was and usually is very quiet at that time of night – I noticed two things…

There was a black cat on the grassy verge, at the side of the road. I didn’t know for sure it was one of mine, but my heart leapt, because the other thing was a large van heading fast around the bend, approaching us.

Both were too far away for me to do anything.

I hurried into a trot, moving onto the road, and as the van neared, my mind was willing: “Stay. Stay. Stay.” The cat was turned away and I way praying he’d move in the direction of the hedgerow, if anywhere.

Time seemed to slow down.

At the very, very last moment… where if he’d hesitated a fraction of a second longer, he would have been safe… he ran…

… out into the road…

… under the wheels…

I was already moving towards him in a dazed jog as the van came to a halt.

He was lying on the tarmac, kicking his back legs, still trying to get across the road, but moving nowhere, and even before I got close I knew he was seriously, seriously injured.

I knelt down beside him as he writhed and I put my hands on him. I didn’t know what to do.

I saw the collar. The sodium light had bleached the colour from it, but it was Itchy’s collar… glittery and frayed… and as he pushed with his back legs, there was that tinkling of the bell that always told me he was close by.

The driver of the van, a guy, had walked close. He asked, concerned: “Do you know whose cat it is?”

“He’s mine,” I said.

(Obviously, I must have been in shock during that reply, because… it’s an accepted fact that he was never mine but that I was, in fact, his…)

I picked him up and he was struggling, still trying to twist himself upright and get to the other side of the road.

To my absolute horror, I saw his injuries more clearly as I cradled him in my arms. His jaw had been broken and twisted and… nightmare… one of his eyes had been crushed out of the socket and was hanging.

I tried to put it back in as I carried him across the road and laid him on the grass beside the hedgerow, but it wouldn’t go. My hands were wet and tacky and in the sodium light it looked black, like oil, but the grim realisation was that it was blood.

I knew he was dying and I wanted him to die, then.

The driver of the van asked if there was anything he could do, or anyone he could phone, and I asked him if he had a plastic bag. He said he’d check the cab.

I put my hands around Itchy’s neck and readied to break it… to snap him out of the suffering and send him on his journey. His injuries were massive. I wanted to kill him… because I loved him so damn much.

I put pressure on and he let out a gargle which made me stop immediately… the crazy contradiction being that, though I was trying to bring his death, I didn’t for a moment want to hurt him.

The van growled behind me as it pulled away. The driver had taken the opportunity - while saying he’d look for something I could wrap my little guy in - to drive off.

Without the idling engine, it suddenly became very quite.

I knelt over Itchy. He was just lying there, breathing heavily. His shattered face was hidden from me.

He was letting go. No more struggling.

I stroked him and tried to comfort him as much as I could. I told him I loved him in whispers, my face close to his ear.

Then, it felt like the whole Universe fell into a deep silence to frame what happened next…

He began to purr.

It wasn’t a rasping or choking or anything of struggle…

It was a loud, rhythmic, contented purr.

Tears were dripping from my face onto him, and amidst the torture, it was a moment of beauty to hear that wonderful sound one last time.

He was off his tits on kitty endorphins and he knew I was there, loving him with all my heart until the very end.

And then the end came. The purring stopped. His chest stopped moving. He was gone.

It was such a beautiful night. With a clear sky, as it was then, it never gets dark at this time of year. There were stars out. It was so peaceful, but I’d shifted into some surreal phasing of reality and my heart was breaking.

I left him there for a few minutes and went to the shop, in a daze. Under the fluorescent lights, the tacky black on my hands, forearms and shirt was revealed as a dark red, already drying and flaking in places, but congealing in gelatinous drops elsewhere.

I got my cigarette papers as an afterthought, after asking for some carrier bags that I could use to transport Itchy’s body home in. I can’t remember what I said. There was concern, but no… it wasn’t my blood.

I got back home and took my bundle inside. My Mum was watching the TV and stood up when she saw I was carrying something that I shouldn’t have been.

“Itchy’s been killed,” I said. I broke down as I laid his cooling body on the kitchen floor.

It wasn’t right. It couldn’t possibly be true that my little guy was dead. I loved him far too much.

I don’t recall any more words from that night… just the sense of deep, awful sorrow.

I remember my relief when Scratchy came in through the living room window. She was a little barrel of kittens – absurdly large for her petite frame. She trotted over to me, sitting on the floor, and I told her about her brother, but she didn’t even sniff the body… it was as if there was no connection between the spirit of him that she loved and the shell that was lying there.

The sense of loss in the aftermath… of feeding her alone… one bowl… of hoping there was some mistake and he’d jump down behind the curtain with a big, juicy worm for me to rescue… every waking moment was unbearable.

Nine days later, she gave birth.

I’d prepared a ‘nest’ for her in the living room cabinet, taking out one of the lower draws and filling it with bedding.

She called me when she was ready, with a new, croaked meow, and I sat with her as she pushed out little kitten sausages and her instinct of care took over.

I was there for their very first breaths in this new world. Four beautiful, helpless, utterly adorable new friends, wrapped up in the love of their doting, very-surprised-looking, wonderful mother.

The poignant irony of the death and life, life and death cycle was not lost.

Two of those kittens were Titan and Orion, my boys, now. Their sisters, Bruiser and Piper, were adopted when they were a couple of years old.

Thirteen years on… Scratchy runs in from the garden, up the stairs and meows at me to let me know she’s safe and well. She always does it. I’m the first person she makes for when she gets back in the house.

I lie on my back, on my bed, and she sits on my chest and headbutts me with kitty love while I stroke her. She drools and puts her ear against my mouth as I whisper to her: “I love you.” Hehe. I do it lots and I mean it with my whole heart… think what you want.

I’m often reminded of Itchy, and though I cried writing this (of course), the pain that was once attached to his memory is no longer there. The love is, though, and that’s what bring the tears.

It took me years to come to terms with his death. I was traumatised and my mind must have ran that simulation thousands upon thousands of times, taking me back into the agony over and over again, knowing that whatever it showed me or how many alternative endings it could suggest, there was one certainty… I couldn’t do a thing to bring him back.

Combined with the other problems in allowed myself to believe I suffered from, I know that agony was heightened. I know I should have dealt with it and let go way sooner than I did, but my life has been just how it has been.

And yes… I know some people will be chortling at this story and thinking “It’s only a cat”… but he was my little guy and there was so much love there. He was a member of my family, not a peripheral ‘pet’ that was shooed and treated as an inconvenient burden on the weekly grocery budget. He was loved. He is loved. For those who don’t understand… well… I have compassion for you, all the same. ;-)

I went into my mind, writing this story… but now I’m back here, right now, where I am. Any pain that I felt when I immersed myself in the past, to recount these events, is dissolved by the present moment. It is just thought and nothing to harm me in the moment I live in.

I would say this is the most traumatic incident in my life… you could argue that the passage of time has healed the wound, yet if I put my mind back there, it still brings an emotional response.

However, the only way I can feel that emotional response is if I actively put myself into that situation again, inside the mind and - apart from today - I’ve chosen not to do that.

Consider it this way… you know Bambi is a sad film, but unless you actually get the film out and watch it, you’re not going to cry about it, are you?

Wouldn’t it be madness if you were breaking down and weeping all the time because you had Bambi’s Mum being killed looping over and over in your head?

So, Itchy’s death doesn’t hurt me any more… unless I choose to load up that recording and watch it. The same is true for all events that I would have, in the past, considered hurtful.

I’m sure - unless I die first - that I have more experiences of close death to come, but I know that nothing will ever be as prolonged and tortuous as that experience.

I’ll honour the dead by living to the best of my ability, remembering them with love and letting go of the pain that I could only ever be inflicting on myself – those I would mourn would never want me to suffer.

Naughty Kittens!
Kitties Two
Titan, Scratchy & Orion
(P.S. If this resonated with you and you have the will and ability to contribute to my ‘fighting fund’…  donations would be most welcome through PayPal, at ‘Lesism@btinternet.com’. Anything would be greatly appreciated!)

105 comments:

  1. Aw, I can see how much you loved your cat and I am definitely not one of those people that will say "it's just a cat". We bond to our animals the same as we bond with other people sometimes even more and a pet's passing can leave all sorts of intense feelings to deal with. I am glad you are able to pay a tribute to him....

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  2. Words can't express how much this moved me. In the past year, I have lost (1) a beloved human family member/friend and a beloved feline family member/friend, both to cancer. The cancer took them very quickly. And yes, yes, yes -- your last paragraph is how I want to pay forward, with my life, to honor the love I shared with these precious beings.

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  3. Aww. Such a beautiful story. I know how much a cat or a dog can mean to someone. I lost my beautiful dog two years ago and I still think about her most days.

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  4. It took me back very many years to the death by car wheels of our family cat. We brought her in and placed her in the warmth where she slowly died. her actions were just like your cat's. There have been many painful (and not so painful) deaths since then, of pets, close friends and dearly loved family members. Suffering of loved ones is indeed hard, especially when there is nothing we can do but be alongside, even more so when we can't even do that. Letting go while loving on is not always easy but we owe it to loved ones and LIFE itself to grieve and go forwards. Remembering our loved, but lost, dear companion pets who gave us so much joy while alive may bring a tear to the eye occasionally but that tear is partly of joy and gratitude. Just as it is with you and Scratchy?

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  5. I knew I was going to cry the minute I started to read your blog! I love cats too and just lost a good friend in a car accident last night. This story seems to be saying to live each day like it's your last and never take it for granted. I've become addicted to your blogs. They are so interesting and you really speak from your heart. I remember reading about losing your girlfriend and freezing outside just to get a signal. I am sorry for your losses but I'm also impressed with your thoughts. I can't wait for your next entry.
    Lisa texasred2009

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  6. I'm sorry to hear about your loss, Thomma. I'm glad you have the strength to honour their memories, though. :-)

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  7. Thanks, WBT. I'm sorry to hear about your loss, too, but I hope it's wrapped up with many loving memories. :-)

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  8. Thank you, Gladys. It seems like the greatest paradox that we would stop living ourselves to some way pay our respects to those who have died, though I understand the importance of the grieving process. And yes... we wouldn't cry if there wasn't love there, but we should focus on the love and not the pain. :-)

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  9. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend, Lisa. That's awful news. I hope you're doing okay?

    I think, rather than living like every day is our last (which may be quite a scary prospect), we should live every moment like it's our first - look in wonder at the world around us and enjoy that sense of discovery that comes through fresh eyes.

    Thank you for your kind words on the blog. :-)

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  10. Les, your story touched my heart immensely. I am so sorry for your loss, time is realitive, so whether it's 13 years or one, the pain's the same.

    I like your attitude about living every day as if it were our first. I always marvel at how a kitten, or even a grown cat, can look at something they see everyday and act as if it were new!

    Cats are wonderful muses of life!

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  11. They absolutely are, yep! Hehe. Mine are 12 and 14 and it only takes a piece of string or a long length of grass for them to regress to kittens. :-)

    Thanks for your kind words. :-)

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  12. Thank you. A week ago today I had to make the difficult decision to put my 6 week old foster kitten to sleep. It was the right decision, but I'm still struggling to get those words on paper. There's a line from the Pet Owner's Commandments that talks about being there and making sure that your friend doesn't take that last walk alone. I was able to be there for little Nash. I wasn't sure I would be.

    I'm glad you were there. As hard as it is/was, I know I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else.

    I read this and it shows me that eventually, I will be able to get the words down on paper to honor the little guy. Again, thank you.

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  13. I'm sure there was a very good reason to do that, Clara, so I hope you don't beat yourself up about it. He's out of pain and I'm sure he wouldn't want you to be hurting, either. :-)

    You loved him. That's the important thing, and the only thing you need to remember about your short time together.

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  14. I had two kittens many years ago, two ginger tabbies called Whisky & Teddy (not my choice of names!). When Whisky was run over he was killed outright, which was fortunate for him under the circumstances. But it completely broke my heart. I cried the entire night, when I was supposed to be going to the theatre with friends, and when they asked me about it the next day I tearfully told them what had happened.
    The loss of that kind of love is so painful, I think, because it is so pure and therefore harder to get over, if indeed we ever do. Time does make us remember the love instead of the pain, and it helps to feel that their love was in our lives for the time that they were with us.
    Teddy lived to a ripe old age, chasing the rabbits he loved to eat!!
    When the time is right I will have cats again.
    Dogs too, probably!
    Mary x

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  15. Yeah, it is a pure love - completely genuine, without judgement or ego attached. It's heartbreaking to suddenly have it taken away... but the love endures.

    I had two dogs and a cat when I was a kid (Suzie, Binza and Topsy)... Topsy was tiny compared to the two dogs, but they would never mess with her. They loved her, though... but in a very respectful way, so as not to risk their noses. :-)

    I hope you bring that love back into your life again before too long. :-)

    Les x

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  16. Our beloved Bengal bad boy Neo was killed by a car last August. We spent over 12hrs wondering what had happened until the local council called to say his body had been picked up. My worst sadness is that he died alone, I only hope it was swift. They are not 'only a pet' they are family and I miss him every single day. I cried for you and for everyone of us that has lost a furry or feathered family member.

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  17. I'm so sorry to hear that, Sharon... I do realise, in perhaps a grim way, that I was lucky to be there with Itchy. But that doesn't mean you should lose yourself in sad thoughts of wishing you were there with him... celebrate the love, not the sorrow.

    Neo and Itchy are in the same place. Neither are suffering. I'm sure we'll see them again. :-)

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  18. Thanks Les. I hope I do too. Next time I move it will be high up on the list of priorities, that's for sure.
    Mary x

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  19. There's always a magic in meeting new, fluffy friends. :-)

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  20. Your tale got to me, as a lover of cats and one who endured many losses. The worst having to put my fave cat to sleep of 18 years who had been with me half my life.

    thanks for sharing a beautiful story of heartache and love through our pet family members. they bring sunshine into our lives like no human can and ask for nothing in return but love.

    Its also nice to see a heartfelt post about cats from a man, I must say.

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  21. Love... and din-dins... and to have doors opened for them... and to have doors opened for them again, after they've just gone through the door you opened for them and then closed behind them, but they changed their mind. ;-)

    Thank you for your kind words, Donna! :-)

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  22. This was an awesome blog post. People without pets don't realize how much you can love them. Baxter (dog) just turned 5...and though I know I'll have more years with him, I'm terrified of when he'll pass away.

    I loved that you said that you were your cats, and that the cat wasn't yours...I think that's how it usually plays out, and that's okay to have a bond with your animals that is that intense. :)

    Also, I don't judge you at all for telling your cats you loved them. I cuddle with my dog almost every night and kiss him on the cheek before I go to work. :)

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  23. This must have been so hard to write. I know it was hard to read...left me in tears, but I'm glad I did.

    I understand your pain as I've felt it more than once when I lost or had to say goodbye to a pet. Saying goodbye the way you had to must have been so difficult, but at least you were there.

    This touches me even more today because I have a sweet little black cat that decided to chose me last night. I can't take it in though and am looking for someone who can. It seems to be lost or abandoned. I want to take it in so bad, but I'm not allowed pets in the apartment. I'm hoping someone will claim her before I get too attached.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    Blessings!

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  24. Thanks, Lynne! It's so nice to read all the positive comments and hear stories from others about their own beloved little friends!

    It seems the majority of us don't mind a hug and a kiss with our cats and dogs. I guess it's when tongues are involved that it starts to get disturbing! :-P

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  25. Aw, that must be wrenching, Joanne.

    I rescued a kitten, years back, after its 'owners' abandoned her in the back garden of the block of flats I was living in. They left her in the rain with just a bowl (that had filled with water) of crunchy food.

    When I heard her crying and investigated, she practically leapt all over me - she was sooooo loving. I looked after her for a couple of weeks, but the accommodation just wasn't suitable and I had to get her adopted. I think I must have been the first human to show her love, though - and I know the family she moved on to did, too.

    I hope you manage to find some great new personal assistants for her! :-)

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  26. Thanks for the post Les. My first time reading your blog and it had me in tears, my cat wondering why the hell it was raining on her inside. :) BTY I doubt you will have problems with dates, every girl wants a guy sensitive enough to cry with her, even if he still is at moms.

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  27. Aw... thanks for the comment, Shannon. I hope you can find smiles in some of my other posts, to make up. And thank you for the encouraging words! :-)

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  28. I loved the part where you said "he wasn't mine...I was his." You told your story beautifully.

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  29. Amazing writing talent. The reader feels they are right beside you. Pure love in your words. Thank you.

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  30. Thank you so much, Maggie! :-)

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  31. Despite the sorrowful episode, and I apologize if my comment can not match the empathy your loved one's ordeal deserves, life pursues its extended reach over void and chaos, and I pray it may bless and keep blessing your soul along the way.

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  32. Well said Les and put me straight into memory lane of all my beloved pets over many years. You have said what we all feel when we lose a loved one, fur or not. :) Thank you!

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  33. I'm so sorry for the loss of Itchy. I can only imagine the pain you went through as you tried to stop the event from happening. I can only relate to the pain of losing a beloved part of the family. They're not just pets, they're our children.
    You're blessed with such a beautiful bond with Itchy, Scratchy, Titan and Orion.

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  34. Thanks, Elf! It's great to read the comments of so many similar hearted people. They're our friends, not peripheral possessions in our lives. :-)

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  35. Yes, Meowie, I've been very lucky to have been loved by all of them. Thank you! :-)

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  36. FoundingEditor3 July 2011 at 04:57

    lovely. thanks for sharing this

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  37. Thanks for reading! :-)

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  38. Thanks for sharing this, I lost my Shadow a couple of years ago and then the kitten that I got to fill the empty hole disappeared when he was only a year old. I now have another cat, and people ask me why I put myself through this! However you have inspired me to write about it as they are never "just a cat".

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  39. No, they're not... and all of them have loved and been loved by you. I'm sorry for your losses, but happy for the time you shared. :-)

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  40. Hi,

    They never leave: always there! We have a door that on occasion still opens and swings shut, as it always did when our cat came into the living room.

    best
    F

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  41. I get the phantom leg brush now and again - when there are no cats in the room (not physical, at least) - and it always makes me smile. :-)

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  42. Thanks, Scorpiogal. Hugs to you. x

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  43. I'm sorry about Itchy, I cried, which although forced me back to the day when my own bulldog girl died, is a compliment to your writing skill. Take care...good job.

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  44. I'm sorry to hear about your own loss, Rogue, but I really appreciate your words. Thank you!

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  45. I'm so sorry you had to experience such a traumatic event but thanks for sharing such a personal loss so eloquently, Les. Three months ago my beloved Balinese died from feline leukemia and it seems like it happened just a few moments ago. But choosing to load up and play the recordings, as you say, of happy times has been a comfort. Your writing is beautiful, and my hubby is wondering why I'm sitting in front of the computer crying.

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  46. I love my little cat with all my heart. she purrs when she's eating, happy or getting cuddles from her mammy. she doesn't just answer to her name (Emmy) she also knows her nicknames as well and comes running when I call her. She sleeps on my bed all day and won't come down for anyone when they shout for her but the minute I come in from work, she trots downstairs and gives me the most wonderful greeting. I adore her and my home would not be the same without her. your story broke my heart as I know what it's like to lose a cat that means so much to you, that's part of your family. We've lost 3 cats over a span of many years and each one had a different personality but equally as loving and a huge miss. Cats are the most wonderful, loving animals.

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  47. I felt just the same way when my beloved cat was hit by a car in front of our house years back he was killed instantly didnt suffer too much These days I have three cats but wont let them out anymore we build a outdoor cage so they can go out safely. We live in city in Helsinki ! I really hate when ppl say that it was just a cat For me he was beloved member of my family !!

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  48. people who say 'it's just a cat' in my opinion are emotionally retarded. Our pets, for us it's our cats, are an integeral part of our lives and become family members and each day our emotional attachment for them is as real as it is for another person. It's only natural that we go through a deep grieving process when we lose any loved one. I love our four cats, each one of them has their own individual and unique personality, and each shows their love for us in their own way.

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  49. Writing is not an effort, it is a release of pain, of thoughts that are inside that need to get out. I shared your journey, savoring every moment, tears welling in my eyes, a sigh of resignation as you brought me back to reality.

    I'm not sure if it was solely because the writing itself is beautiful and takes the reader on the journey with you, or whether this is combined with my love for my cats. Either way your writing is a gift. I am now a fan. Thank you for sharing this.

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  50. Les,

    I can see your deep and enduring love for Itchy. Timely post to read. Our 23-year-old daughter has 2 cats, one boy and one girl, with amazingly similar personalities to Scratchy and Itchy. Last week, she had to let go of the boy (she found a more suitable home for him). She is grieving.

    Coach Theresa

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  51. Beautiful, totally heartfelt... I could see every bit of the saga of your lovely cat. Horrific that you saw his being hit, beautiful that you were there for him in his death, We have two strays we gave homes - Abbie is very old - 20 years and still in good health, Buster is younger, about 8 and his shadows me like a puppy and sleeps on my la when I'm at the computer. I can't imagine life without either of them! Thank you for posting the pics and of your two li'l rascals! :)

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  52. Haha, I'm weeping and I'm sat in work! If anyone sees me they'll think I'm mad!

    It took me a long time to get over the death of my cat Sooty when I was 16. I trawled it over in my mind too many times and felt like I should have done something to stop it. And he wasn't my first experience of death. My sister and Grandad had already been taken from me at that point. But the death of my cat was just as hard to bear, and is heightened by the caring factor - we look after them and feel that we can and should protect them from everything.

    Thanks for writing this. It's cathartic for me and it pleases me that there are other strong animal lovers like this in the world :)

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  53. Aw, thank you, Jennie, though I'm sorry it brought it all back for you. We really do have to hold on to the love and let go of the pain, though - that exchange of affection highlighted both of your lives and I'm sure Sooty would have always wanted you happy. No cat likes it when humans make strange, unexpected noises like sobbing. ;-)

    I did laugh that your workmates now think that you're a mentalist. If you've read my Curious Incident of the Cat in the Daytime Story, you'll see another example of that... but Sooty's got one up on Titan by making you look absurd years after her passing. Perhaps she was close by, laughing into her paws.

    Thanks for the lovely comment! :-)

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  54. On the 2nd of October in 2009 I had to put down my seven year old Chi, "Rocky". I miss him enormously to this day. Part of Rocky's story is on my blog "Rescue Dog"....it deals with how a little Chi rescued my wife and I following the death of our son:
    http://justcommonsense-lostinamerica.blogspot.com/2011/01/rescue-dog.html
    May God bless you with comfort for your loss.

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  55. Scratchy and Orion look exactly like my two cats. They're sisters called Bonnie and Clyde :)

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  56. Les, thank you for having the courage to share this. Life with creatures is a joy, and we go into these relationships knowing that they will end in heartbreak, because of the lifespan issue. And yet I will take that heartbreak, because of the profound happiness I get from my dogs, who teach me so much. I still miss my cat, Cookies. I got her when I was five, and she died when I was twenty-two, and part of me died, too.

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  57. Well, I've inadvertently cleaned my keyboard with tears reading about wonderful Itchy and your fabulous relationship. Funnily enough I was taking a break from writing a magazine article and felt drawn to click the Twitter link, as I was intrigued by Itchy's name. The article I'm writing is about dealing with bereavement and I'd just added a sentence about the letting go ritual being for pets we've lost as well as people!

    Love synchronicity. My family always have their ashes scattered in the Lake District - it's a spiritual home for us. Keep writing - you're very gifted. The more we share from our hearts the more love there is in the world.

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  58. Very powerful story, Les. I admire your courage for sharing it so openly. My partner and I have (only) four felines. We have had to say, "goodbye" to many former feline companions over the years. I can relate to your sense of loss. They are and always will be family. Never underestimate the emotional power of an inter-species long lasting love affair. You have my sincere sympathy and respect.

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  59. My magnificent dog, Dixie, had to be put to sleep four weeks ago tomorrow. I think of him every day. He was my canine soul mate! Thank you for this blog, it touched me so much. Pets give the only form of unconditional love a human can ever receive and I will never be without one.

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  60. I believe strongly in past lives. I have a beautiful black cat called Shadow that is now ten. I know she is the same cat that was taken from me twice already in this life. She keeps coming back to support me unconditionally on my journey. It is like she is a piece of my own very being, extended into this glorious animal, to remind me to be strong and remember to love myself enough to keep going. Because I love her with the same depth that I felt in your story, it is like we are entwined. Two expressions of the same soul. I have moved 5 times since having her, and as long as I am there she settles within hours, and never strays. She climbs upon me when I cry and nestles into my heart space, purring with such love to say....'you are not alone, and my love for you is the same that Source of all creation wishes for you to have for yourself.
    It is not always easy to explain, but thanks for your beautiful story and listening to mine.

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  61. Over half a century ago an adolescent girl walked into the bathroom and peeked into the linen closet where her best friend, a seal point Siamese, had his bed. She peeked in quietly because he'd been sick and she just wanted to be sure he was ok. But, of course, he wasn't. He would never again snore in her ear at night, never again would he wear her doll's clothes without complaint or ride in the doll's buggy looking up at her with such love. She's never forgotten the love he gave unconditionally and never will. I still love you, Smokey Joe!

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  62. Great story Les. Mark Greune

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  63. Great post. Brought back memories of my long-departed kitties, Spit and Polish.

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  64. That brought tears to my eyes. I lost my cat Templar a week ago today. He took his last breath in my arms. He was my friend for seventeen years. He slept in the crook of my arm every night and I loved him dearly. Thank you for sharing that story. As sad as it was, it helped me know that I am not alone in my grief for the loss of my friend and amazing creature.

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  65. Animals are amazing creatures, I have 2 little dogs and without them in my life I would be lost, my eldest dog can sense my moods and comes in close to hug, her hair mops my tears. I am a recovering agoraphobic and my little dogs have been a god send for getting me out in the beautiful lake district again.
    Claire m.

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  66. Hey Les, This is a very touching post. Our pets are so important to us. When my first dog died, my husband and I sold our house and went travelling for a year. We just hated the thought of returning to that empty house! Thanks for sharing.

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  67. Living on a main road we've lost a couple of cats [one used to suddenly stop and wash in the middle of the road, the other was chased by a car] and it's never easy. The ones who are caught glancing blows and survive to learn [I'll never forget a mad dash to the vet one Sunday afternoon, cutting up a police car, which bless their hearts, took one look at two tearful small boys all over blood and cat and gave us an escort to the intersection].
    And then there's finding your neighbour's cat and having to break it to them that their baby is dead.
    All of us who have cats feel for you in a way beyond words... Itchy is waiting for you.

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  68. That has happened several times to our family.It is harsh and painful.The worst thing is finding someone to share your pain with.Thanks for sharing your story with us

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  69. My cat, Soshi, died years ago in a quieter, but no less traumatic way. She had a brain tumor. We were lucky enough to be able to help her along, to ease her pain...but I still hear her cries. I also still hear her purrs, and feel her warm weight in my hand as I used to carry her around, and remember her sweet, loving looks. So, I know your pain. I think it was necessary, though, to also feel that love. And thank you for sharing your story.

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  70. You deliberately made me cry...didn't you! What a terrible thing to happen. I adore cats too. Such sweet photo's you have added. jenny Reeve

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  71. Wow, thanks for sharing your story. It brought tears to my eyes to hear about Itchy's life and death. I have 4 cats and they are my family, my children. I couldn't love them anymore than I do and I completely understand how you feel about your cats. I love my dog too...but my cats...they are something very special. Deirdre R.

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  72. Gosh! I really cried out loud at that Les. So very sad and how incredibly traumatic for you to have seen it happen and to have found him in such a critical state. However, the fact that you got to witness his contented purring as he left, or perhaps caused his contented purring by being there... well, he didn't die alone and that's something to be thankful for.

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  73. No chortling here. It's never just a cat, or just a dog. It's so sad when they go.

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  74. So sad. I'm so sorry for you and Itchy. What a horribly traumatic way to lose a furry loved one. Thanks for putting into words what I also feel at times, overwhelmingly. My Scully was more than a cat, more than a pet, and when cancer brought her to her end 19 months ago, it broke my heart & I've never quite been the same. I have several cats, love 'em all, but the connection with them isn't the same as with her. Cat lovers would get that. Others might think maybe I need one of those lovely shirts with the very long sleeves that wraparound and tie in the back. ;-} Scully has been on my mind lately, and tears have flowed, as they did while reading your post. A heartbreaking post, but so sweet to read that Itchy felt loved at the end, purring to let you know that, to express his love back. He didn't die alone at the side of the road. He had you, and he died feeling your love, which I have no doubt is the thing he cherished most.

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  75. Tears are streaming down my face as I type this. I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved Itchy - what a horrible, horrible way to lose a furbaby. But you were with him in the end, which I must believe comforted him on his journey over the Rainbow Bridge. I was similarly devastated by the loss of my Moose and Shadow eight years ago (both within two weeks of each other). Brilliant blog; you so well illustrate the bond between human and feline, and the holes they leave in our hearts when they depart this world.

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  76. It's never 'only a cat'. Never. My cat was taught to adjust to living indoors. He went out in a harness for occasional visits. Safer that way. Cats who remain indoors - their average life span is 15. Cats who roam at will - average life span is three. With mine, eventually his arthritis meant he didn't want to stray outside anyway. When he died, in my arms under vet supervision for an illness they couldn't treat, he was about 16.

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  77. Okay - I"m a mess after reading this. I'm truly sorry you had to go through this. What passion and love you have to write about it. Know that others share your pain, and care.
    Sincerely,
    Darcy
    darcymann@hotmail.com

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  78. Hi Les,

    Like others who have posted replies, I cried too when I read your brave, moving story. I, too, share your pain, and the love you feel for your little friend.

    I've had to say goodbye to much-loved cat friends over the years - It broke my heart wide open every time. They aren't 'just cats' - they are little people with fur and four legs!

    My partner and I currently have a family of six cats, all strays abandoned in our neighbourhood. They are all so loving. We could try to protect ourselves from the pain of loss by trying not to love - but what a tragedy that would be.

    Bless you for caring so much.

    Magda Lyn

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  79. Hi again Les,

    This story is sent from the heart of one cat-lover to another (even though, in this case, the soul animal was actually a dog....)

    Marion Woodman wrote:

    "In his eighties, he was my analyst. I had been in England seeing him for six months, and was still trying to be efficient.

    On Christmas Eve I learned that my dog, who was in Canada, had been killed. I decided not to waste my evening session talking about my dog.

    I arrived as organized as usual. At the end he sat quietly, then asked me what was wrong. Nothing, I said, as I put on my coat. You have not been here, he said. I told him my dog was dead. He wept. Wept over my dog, asked me how I could waste Christmas Eve chattering when my soul animal had just died.

    Suddenly his weeping made me feel what I was doing to my soul. We wept together. That's when my analysis began."

    Our animal friends meet us and love us soul to soul. They help us to find our souls in the midst of all our human, egocentric busyness and non-sense. How precious they are.

    Blessings,

    Magda Lyn

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  80. What a beautiful and moving story. I lost my little angel cat, Georgie, in April. She had been my best friend for 10 years and been with me through thick and thin, always there to supply a kitty snuggle when I needed it. 10 days after she left me, a friend took in a stray who was in the middle of giving birth. One of that litter is attacking my legs as I write this, the next chapter of my life. I will never forget Georgie and Princess Penny is not a replacement, but Georgie had to leave to make room for the new addition, and who knows where she would be if ny friend had not adopted her mum.

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  81. <3 xo . . . not sure what to say. Good post, good man

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  82. Awww what a heart felt account - I know how you feel and felt - I lost my cat when she was 20 years old - I good age I know but i still miss her and love cats

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  83. I'm a 40 something trucker from Scotland read your blog on the loss of Itchy.
    I'll happily admit with tears streaming down my face the last pet I lost was also due to a road accident, I received a call at work, (I was an undertaker at the time)To say it broke my heart was putting it mildly, I still remember the drive to the vet, waiting till they brought my little "Poppy" through in a black bag. then taking her home to bury her in the garden.
    I still have her best pal & mine :) "Lucy" she is very loving always happy when I come home. yes some may scoff when I say my cat is my best friend. I dont care.
    She is family, I love her very much, even when she sticks her nose in my face at 4am. :)

    I have dealt with death both professionally & personally.... human & all kinds of animals it affects us all differently, its never easy. i'm sorry for your loss, I understand how you feel.
    (It took me around 4 hrs after reading your blog to write this.)

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    1. Jim, thank you so much - that is so appreciated. And thanks for gathering the strength to write this comment... I appreciate it must have brought those memories tumbling back for you.

      I'm so sorry to hear about Poppy, but glad you still have that love, and Lucy. :-)

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  84. Thank you for sharing this story, it can't have been easy. I lost my wee 'Pepper' a couple of years ago, not as tragically but through illness. Thankfully very short so she didn't suffer long. Couple of days of her not being right and I left work at lunchtime to go get her and take to the vet. I was too late, she'd already gone and it broke my heart. My other cat, my boy Mitz, was hovering near her. He was strange for a while, obviously missing Pepper but he's good now. Curled up beside me right now in fact.
    Your story, though, reminded me of an evening last winter. Walking home from work could see shape of something moving across pavement ahead of me but it was dark so not sure what. when I got level with where I'd seen it I looked around to find a little cat hurt. I reckon he'd been hit by a car. He was scared and in pain and trying to run away, but couldn't, he was dragging his back legs, hips hurt. I phoned the SSPCA and stood by the little guy for an hour and half in the freezing cold until they came, I couldn't leave til I knew he was being taken to care.
    Animals give us so much and all they ask for in return is food, love and cuddles.

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    1. Aw, I'm so glad you've got Mitz, Lynn, though I'm sorry to hear about Pepper. Welling up just thinking about it, as I did with Jim's post, earlier. They're so special to us and yeah, they don't ask for much.

      That's a lovely thing you did with the injured kitties. I hope he or she was okay. x

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  85. My daughter had to have her dog put to sleep a few weeks ago. This is the second dog she has lost, and her way of dealing with the pain is just to refuse to think about them. I wish she could allow herself to let go of the pain and remember the love she had and enjoy the memories as you do. Perhaps I can get her to read your story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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  86. Just read your blog very touching and heartfelt I too had little black twins Sausage and Pumpkin I came home one night to find Pumpkin dead in the middle of the road I remember kneeling down over her little body howling and heart broken. Still can't bare the memory of it and that was 15 years ago. Thanks for sharing your story .. Rowan x

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  87. What a lovely heat felt story, Les, thank you for writing itdown for us to read x

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  88. My husband found a little cat living in a rabbit hole on the landfill site where he worked,she was scared and unloved,he eventualy gained her trust and she came home to us..What an experience it was for us as never had we had a cat before,she thrived for a while but then kept getting poorly.She lived with us for a year before we had to have her put to sleep (she had a massive tumor in her belly).It broke our hearts but we jumped in again with both feet and got two kittens who bring joy to our lives every day...It was as if she came to us for a reason..And we loved her :)

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  89. I recently lost my 17 year old Himalayan. She was the love of my live, especially after my divorce. She had always enjoyed great health and loved looking out the front door, usually falling asleep while doing so. Last November she began eating less and her breathing became ragged and uneven. I took her to the vet and received heartbreaking news. She had fluid build-up around her lungs. I had them drain this out and had her treated with everything we could. But unfortunately she never really improved much but I was happy to help her last days be less miserable (I hope). One day I took her to the vet to have her put to sleep b/c I couldn't bear to see her suffer. But she suffered a heart attack on the way. I cried for days afterwards and still miss her so badly. We buried her in my stepson's yard. I just pray that someday we'll be reunited in Heaven where we can enjoy each others company again!

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  90. I have tears running down my cheecks as I amm tyjng I have lost a friend in much the same and I still miss them

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  91. Dear Les, I just discovered your blog and I am so sorry for your sad loss, past but still vivid.

    I too lost a sweet cat, Kola- a 'scaredy cat' Russian Blue female who would hide under my bed in a storm and adopted Dad. It was terrible when one day, living with Mum and Dad, she disappeared for a week and then without explanation returned, perhaps after a 'kitnapping' because she never wandered.

    Worse was to come when some time later she didn't want to come out from her hidey hole and the vet. found that she had a cancer and couldn't survive. It was terrible for us all, especially Dad.

    Like you, I have felt that phantom presence and heard the cat bell. When we love another being it has the power to really make us suffer too. On the other hand, that love can take on another dimension that can last beyond ordinary explanation. Thank you for sharing that very special relationship with us. It is lovely that Scratchy then had her kittens and you have your furry pals.

    I love your blog photograph, by the way.

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  92. Thank you for sharing your story, I am sitting here with my kitty (Mandy) and tears in my eyes.

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  93. Bless your heart...I love my pets the same way...the way you are supposed to love them. And I never forget them either...xoxo

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  94. I'm in bits and have often wondered how awful it would be to lose my girl. I felt so much for you in the moment you just wanted it to be over and the emotion of hearing Itchy purr for the last time. Oh boy... I hope it's getting easier. Thank you. I will treasure my girl when she wakes me at 4am. It's good to write a long blog for this. Itchy deserves it.. <3

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  95. Well this made me weep. Perhaps it's Itchy reaching out and saying hello.
    I would never say it's 'only a cat'. For me an animal life is equal to a human life. I also feel there is a kind of 'great cat soul' which inhabits all cats. Maybe I'm nuts, but there it is.

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  96. I lost a cat in a similar incident, although I didn't witness it. Instead I spent two weeks looking for him, before I found out via the local chip shop that a dustman had recognised him from my poster. Sure enough when I went to collect his body, it was him. Your story made me cry, and I share your pain.

    After 6 months I adopted a pair of rescue cats, who were equally special in their own ways (and have since passed away at 15 and 18 years of age), but you can never forget a loved cat. They are very close members of your family.

    I'm resisting the temptation to adopt another, as I don't want to dilute their memories, or experience further loss.

    I'll always miss 'em when I think about them.

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  97. Okay, now my mascara is running down my face. I'm sorry about your little guy. He sounded like a sweetie and he was lucky to own a person like you. I have a 14 yr. old male cat now, and a rescued 5 yr. old stray and I love them both like children.

    Years ago, I fed a skinny stray cat where I worked and then her 5 kittens after they were born. I grew quite attached to them. I named them for the Harry Potter characters: Hermione (mom), Percy, Bill, Fred, George and Ginny. Fred and George where both ginger and looked like twins. George was more outgoing. Around 11 months later, when I returned to work after a long weekend, only Hermione showed up for food. Weeks passed and I worried about the kittens. There were coyotes in the woods.

    One rainy day while I was working at my desk, one of my coworkers ran in to tell me a cat was hit in the parking lot. Naturally I left my work behind and ran out in the cold rain. Beautiful George had found his way back to our building only to be struck by an SUV. He was dying, much in the same condition as your Itchy. The rain puddle quickly turning red underneath him. When he expired, I found a box cover and placed George on it. I carried him to the edge of the woods so the trees would block the rain. Silly really, but I tried to do something nice for him.

    I had to finish the work day after a good cry. That afternoon my husband picked me up, we took George home and buried him in the rain next to a large oak tree.

    Eventually, Fred and Ginny returned. I continued to take care of them until my company closed its doors. I was able to take Hermione and Ginny home with me. But Fred didn't want to be caught. I still worry about him.

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  98. Someone told me when die all the pets we ever loved will come running toward us...it's the one dream I have that I pray will come true.The pain of losing a true friend never really goes away.

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  99. Been there, I adore cats since I was three years old, never been without a cat. My beautiful white cat, Charlie, who I found as a tiny kitten in a hole in a field with his mother, and came home with me in the car from Devon, was dying of cancer four years ago at age nine. I was heart broken knowing the end was coming soon, but I still let him carry on as normal by going in his beloved garden and sitting in the border. The one day the vet assistant brought his medication to my door as she was passing in the car, and said she was in a hurry as there was a tiny black kitten in the car. Oh I had to go and look and there was a tiny female jet black kitten with blue eyes, our eyes met and I was in love instantly and so she was with me. The vet assistant said look how she looks at you. "Can I have her" I asked and yes was the answer because nobody wanted her as she was the only one left in the litter of wild kittens found. She looked like a wild miniture panther. As soon as she was six weeks old she was delivered to my door and came into the house, took one look at Charlie and jumped on him spitting and so wild. I had to keep them apart as she was so aggressive towards him, and my poor Charlie was dying. Within six weeks Charlie had gone and I had to stand and weep while the lethal injection was inserted into his little skinny frail body, that was so big and healthy only a year previously. He had been hanging on for me at the Vets, as soon as he heard my voice he lifted his frail head with eyes that were now blind and tried to look at me, and I had to make the decision to have the say it was time for the needle. To be so heartbroken and sobbing, I could not drive home with him in a bag, so she said she would keep him in the deep freeze until I went back the next day. But the traffic stopped me from getting to the Vets because of road works, and then I was struck with a health problem and things went on for two weeks I couldn't get to him. Anyway, eventually he was buried in my garden where he loved. My little black panther took over my life. She was so different to any cat I had ever had. We had a special bond. At eighteen months old she was killed on the village road where I never thought she would go, and after missing her for a couple of hours I knew something was wrong, because every half hour she would run back to me in the house to say hello and then run off again. She was so tiny, but so panther like. I picked her up off the road and I thought I would die of pain, she was my baby girl. I always said that to her. I still miss Karli, three years later, and now have a rescue cat, who came to me out of the blue, and a tabby cat, who is like a tiger. I don't let him outside. Sunny is unbelievably beautiful. He has his moments though. I always pray for their safety though, I know life on this earth is so fragile, and it can be taken away at a moment's notice.

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  100. First of all it is nice to see that I am not the only one who has written long blogs. As for the writing about our loved ones I have written a poem for one cat after she died, a kids book for another when he passed away and now I have a 17 year old cat who has been skinny and "dying" for 2 years and will write something for her. I have also written for a friends dog and neighbors pets. So far I have been the only one to read each eulogy but writing about each lost makes the pain better. It is crazy how much we love our furry family members.

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