We recently euthanized our beloved, beautiful 12-year-old Maine Coon cat, Sweetie, and we're profoundly saddened. We were a family of three, aging together, and we're forever diminished by losing her.
Sweetie's lymphoma was diagnosed suddenly and unexpectedly while my husband and I were on a cruise in the middle of the South Pacific. She who had stayed by my side and in my lap for a dozen years was half a world apart from me at the end. There was no way I could get to her.
The best I could do right before she died was to whisper in her ear, "I will always love you, beautiful girl" from the ship's phone, while her caring sitter cradled her just as I would have.
And because I was floating on a ship with over a thousand people I hardly knew, and showing the sorrow I would have been able to hide if I were grieving at home, I experienced a surprising range of responses to her death, far different from the expected condolences of friends.
Those who had lost animals themselves were genuinely moved by our 10-day, long-distance saga of ship-to-shore calls to the vet and oncologist, a last-ditch round of chemo and blood-tests, and our tearful goodbye to Sweetie. One of the crew members who heard most of the ordeal as we huddled by our cell phone in the alcove off the main deck, burst into tears herself when it was all over, and gave me a long, hard hug.