Casey by Jeff Louderback / Jeff Louderback

Casey stopped and smelled the roses for one last time yesterday. Though he had grown weak from fully losing his appetite, and he struggled to walk, Casey perked up when I carried him outside. I sat him down on the front lawn, and he sniffed the rose bush and then stretched out on the grass, taking in the warm sun and the comfortable breeze.

Since I took him in as a stray when he was one, Casey was solely an indoor cat, but he always savored every moment on the screened porch. Yesterday, as he basked in the sun and rested his weary body on the grass, I sat on a nearby chair until he was ready to return inside.

Last night, for the first time since I learned that he had advanced leukemia and liver failure two weeks ago, Casey expressed signs of pain with a loud, moaning-like meows. I was prepared to drive him to the emergency veterinary clinic, but held off when he climbed onto my lap. I sat there with him for a couple hours until falling asleep. When I awakened this morning, Casey was no longer on my lap or by my side. He was lying in the bathtub, awake but sapped of energy.

Animal behavior experts recommend that, when you are living with a terminally ill pet, you should try to hide your sadness because animals sense their human friend’s emotions, and that can lead to added stress. Though I have been torn apart inside these last two weeks, I kept it to myself as I spent almost every moment outside of work with Casey. I could no longer hide my emotions this morning.

Just like when my childhood dogs passed away, my grandma died and Whitey (Casey’s friend and fellow housecat for 10 years who died in 2006) succumbed to renal failure, I sobbed about Casey, knowing that it was time. I placed Casey on my lap, pet him for an hour and then took him to the veterinarian’s office, where he was euthanized late this morning. As I have so often every day over the years, I told him that I love him, and that he means the world to me. He died in my lap, which in life was one of his favorite places to relax. I sat there with Casey for about 15 minutes after he passed away. Though he was no longer alive, I wasn’t just yet prepared to see him only in cherished photos and memories imbedded in my soul. Then, when I was ready, Casey was wrapped in a blanket and carried away, departed in body
but not from my soul.

I am a conversationalist – around people and my pets. I talked to Casey frequently, whether it was while he was by my side watching a Red Sox game, resting by my computer or sitting on the screened porch while he took in the fresh air and basked in the sun.
I talked to him wherever he was.

If he could actually understand what I am saying, today I would say a heartfelt “Thank you.”

Thanks, Casey, for making me laugh with the quirky things that you did – like sticking your paws in your water bowl and licking them before shaking the water onto the floor, standing by the drain in the shower and watching the water slowly disappear, chasing the red light from the laser pointer all around the room (even though you never caught it, you never gave up), staring at the HDTV only when a baseball game was airing, sitting on the car passenger seat just like you were human and breaking into an impromptu sprint around the house for no particular reason.

Thanks, Casey, for resting by my computer screen and keeping me company while I worked. Though running a business from a home office has a lot of perks, it sometimes gets lonely, and your presence allowed me to relax and concentrate, even during the tightest of deadlines. You will never know how many stories you helped me write.

Thanks, Casey, for making me look forward to every drive home. It was comforting to see you in the front window every time I pulled into the driveway, and have you greet me at the door.

Thanks, Casey, for being there for me in the best of times and the worst of times. Even in tough periods these last 14 years, somehow I felt a sense of comfort waking up in the morning and
seeing you at the foot of the bed.

Thanks, Casey, for being my shadow. I liked how you followed me everywhere I was in the house. Where I was is where you wanted to be.

Thanks, Casey, for your gentle, friendly and affectionate demeanor. You were even bigger, longer and taller than a lot of small dogs, but you were so calm and loving. You knew no strangers, and you had such a unique personality that I was attached to you from the start.

Most importantly, Casey, thank you for your undying friendship and companionship. I gave you a home when you were a scared stray and provided you with a lifetime of food, shelter, care and a whole lot of love and attention. In return, you showed me the most undying and loyal friendship and companionship that one living being can offer to another. You didn’t care whether we were in a tiny one bedroom apartment or a spacious house, you were just content knowing that you had a home where you could give and receive love. You didn’t care whether I looked like a young and fit man, or a David Wells look-alike on the verge of middle-age, you loved me just the same.

How am I going to endure this when every day for the last 14 years Casey has been there for me, no matter what was going on in the world outside? Though he is gone, I care and will continue to care. I remember and will continue to remember – and those memories will sometimes give me sadness because I miss Casey so much and other times bring a smile to my face and warm my heart. I thought about burying Casey at a local pet cemetery out in the country amid tall oak trees. Instead, I decided to place his ashes in a cherry urn that looks more like a double-side photo frame. One side features the poem “Rainbow Bridge” and the other side includes a heart-shaped frame where Casey’s photo is displayed. Beneath his image are the engraved words, “Casey, 1994-2009, Unconditional love is everlasting.”

As it does day in and day out, the sun rises and sets. Morning gives way to afternoon, afternoon to evening and then eventually the dawn of another day. It’s hard to remain a vibrant part of life’s daily cycle when you lose a loved one – whether it be a human or an animal companion. The world continues, yet you find yourself enveloped by an overwhelming feeling of sadness that never leaves. Two weeks ago, Casey appeared to be living his normal life as a healthy and active cat – then the news about his terminal illness, and suddenly he is gone.

I’ve heard people say that, after going through the anguish of a pet’s death, they don’t want to get another animal friend because they don’t want to again endure the heartache that death brings. I know how that hurt feels, but I subscribe to the old saying, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never too have loved at all.” My heart is hollow and my eyes are filled with tears because Casey’s no longer here, but my heartache and tears represent the special bond we shared during the time he was with me. My life was better because Casey was in it. I would rather have spent the last 14 years with him and now feel this sorrow and mourn his passing than never have known him. Still, it hurts. There is no pain greater and all-encompassing than a broken heart.

Farewell, gentle giant. You knew how much you were loved. I hope you know you will always be remembered.


Unconditional love is everlasting,
Jeff Louderback