I’ve been trying to find a way to talk about this for a couple weeks now. I just couldn’t put it to words. Maybe I was afraid that if I wrote about it, it would seem more real. More sudden. I wanted the time to stretch and last forever. Byron, my faithful furry companion for nearly 15 years, had to be put down on Monday and my heart is shattered. I want to tell his story.
At the end of high school, I was going through all the usual dramas and changes that come with closing such a big chapter of my life. I was going into a program where I knew no one, to a university where very few of my friends would be attending. Pat and I were talking about going our separate ways and my parents were facing serious health problems. My sister was planning to move away and my world seemed completely upside down. One day, my mom and I went to visit my Dad’s daughter, Kim. She and I (and especially She and Mum) had always had a really difficult relationship, so it was a big step that she invited us over. We chatted and hung out and it was really nice. When I arrived at her home, she introduced me to the fuzz ball that was sleeping in a small flower pot. She sighed and grumbled about this tiny kitten that was destroying all of her house plants by sleeping on them and squishing them.
She was a bartender/waitress, and one day on her way into work, she saw a group of young boys attempting to kill a tiny kitten. She went hulk rage on them, and rescued the tiny thing that fit into the palm of her hand. She brought the kitten home and he was promptly named “Mo” by her husband (As in “I said NO MORE PETS!”). So, she was looking for a home for wee mo. I loved him, but my Mom was not convinced. Well, Mo was sure. He woke up and chose me. The entire visit he spent in my lap or arms, and when I went to leave, I found him in my purse. My mother gave the kitty one of her looks. He stared back and they obviously communicated for a minute before she said “Alright, bring him home.”
We had always had pets while I was growing up, but I had never had my own (aside from Sparky, the one eyed Beta fish that lived forever). I was scared and nervous about this tiny little thing being my own responsibility, but I needn’t be. We took to each other immediately.
He became Byron shortly thereafter. You see, I was an English Lit nerd and wanted something suitably geeky for a name. I thought about it long and hard. I chose the legendary lover poet as inspiration because this cat made people love him. I kid you not, it didn’t matter if you hated cats or were a crazy cat person, Byron would own your heart within the first meeting. He loved people, and was so sweet with everyone.
In University, he was my constant companion. He would snuggle into my arms during all nighters, he would snooze on my books and knock over my empty tea mugs. I discovered during this time that he had an absolute hatred or insane love of muffins. If I had a muffin from the tea cart at school forgotten in my bag, he would find it, drag it out of my bag and DESTROY it. I mean, it would look like an explosive took out the muffin. There would be muffin bits all over for DAYS.
He came with me (despite my father offering quite aggressively that I could leave him with them) when I moved in with my best friends. He befriended their cats and continued to steal the hearts of everyone he came in contact with.
It was in my first apartment that he went through another one of his lives. Somehow, he managed to swallow a massive darning needle. The next day I discovered this on my way out the door because he was coughing blood between bites of food. Thankfully, they were able to remove the needle and Byron was absolutely fine.
He came with me to three apartments and back to my parents home in between each. Every single time he adapted very well until the last apartment (which should have been a sign). My roommate disliked him, he acted out (he was in his teenage rebellion phase). He would slam the kitchen cupboards, would go on hunger strikes and would knock over any glass or mug left unattended.
My vet recommended that perhaps he was a social kitty and was miserable being the only pet for the first time in his life. My roommate had talked about getting a cat, but after months of waiting, I decided to adopt another rescue on my own, and brought Cole into our home. He and Byron were not immediate friends. It took a couple weeks, but eventually, they were your typical big brother and younger brother…fighting, snuggling and playing.
Before I moved in with Pat, I was back at my parents place. It was during this time that Byron lost yet another life. My Dad’s son’s middle child decided to throw a billiards ball at Byron’s head one day before Sunday dinner, giving Byron a bloody nose and a bad concussion. I have never felt such a massive anger towards a child before this moment. The family diffused the situation and I took Byron upstairs to tend to him. This was the second time he had been abused by a small boy, and it broke my heart for him.
When Pat and I moved in together, it was an unspoken rule that the cats would come with me. Pat had never had pets, and so it was a definite adjustment. Within a year, I had manipulated my way into us adding a dog to the mix too.
There we were, our own little family. It stayed this way for 4 years or so before I had Liam. He cuddled with me when I was depressed, anxious, sick or sad. He comforted me when my parents died, always knowing when something was wrong and when I needed him most. He let me cry into his fur while he took his post on my lap, snuggled into the crook of my arm. He was more than a cat to me. I didn’t think I could ever be that person who loved an animal that much, but here I was. He was family.
When I was pregnant, it was like I was made of all things awesome for kitties. Cole and Byron would not leave me alone. It was never just one of them, either. It was always both.
As you can imagine, I was worried about how Byron would take to a little boy after all of the trauma he had had. Abused animals can be unpredictable, especially around people that remind them of their past abuse. To everyone’s surprise, Byron loved Liam and took to him like none of the other pets did. Cole runs whenever Liam is around. Seriously, if Liam is awake, Cole is no where to be found. Maddie tolerates him, but is too old and grumpy for his shenanigans. Byron on the other hand, would demand love and attention from Liam, even when Liam was too rough or reckless with him.
So, when we found out I was pregnant a second time, I expected the same kind of kitty magnet. While they both liked snuggles, it wasn’t the same with Byron. He started peeing everywhere but the litter box. He would target Liam’s bed and our laundry. Eventually, he started crapping everywhere too and I started to worry. You see, in all those years together, he had never once peed outside the litter box. Not when injured, not when abused, not when he was lonely and wanted a furrbuddy. My mommy sense was tingling, and it wasn’t good. We took him to the vet after all of the typical behavioral fixes didn’t work (rescue remedy pet drops in their water, pheromone sprays and plug ins, extra litter boxes, cleaning more often, etc…). His blood work came back fine, but the vet found a large malignant mass in his mouth. My heart dropped and I knew it was time. We took a week and a half to digest the news and make our decision. By the end of the week, we noticed he was in pain more frequently, he was starting to have trouble eating. My dear friend was dying, and it was up to us to decide what to do next.
I am not one of those people who believe in kitty chemo. I didn’t want him to suffer for my benefit. I wanted him to be at peace. On Monday the 6th of July, we took him to the vet and said our final goodbyes. As he lay in my lap, right before the procedure, I felt the baby kick rapidly and Byron snuggled up against it. I broke down.
I can’t tell you how hard it is to lose yet another loved one to cancer. I keep expecting to see him on his chair in the kitchen, or to have him crawl up on to his favourite spot on the back of the couch, behind me.
Goodbye dear friend. Thank you for your kindness, your love, your ridiculous antics and your uniqueness. I will miss you so very much.