My next experience of dealing with a pet death came with Barney.
I kept seeing a notice in the paper by the local cat shelter saying that they were looking for a home for an elderly cat who had ‘serious health problems’.
The advert kept appearing week after week and the shelter even offered to pay for all vet fees but still the notice kept appearing.
I went to the shelter to see him and ended up leaving with him, Ginger and Amber.
Barney on the left, with Moses
Barney was 16 when I got him and had a permanent problem with his thyroid that gave him the appearance of having been run over by a steamroller. He was so thin because of his health problems and the years clearly hadn't been kind to him. In short he looked pretty awful. But that wasn't as it turned out, the reason he was homeless.
The lady who ran the shelter told me that Barney's owner had recently died of cancer and within an hour of her death her relations had dumped Barney outside the rescue centre in a box, not even bothering to see him safely inside.
They had left a note saying he was too vicious for them to keep, but I can honestly say he was never vicious once in the three years he stayed with me.
I can imagine he wasn’t particularly thrilled with firstly the trauma of losing his owner and then being dumped in a cardboard box, but I think his displeasure in this is perfectly understandable.
Despite this treatment he still proved to be a very loving and trusting cat.
Although he was old and not in the best of health, his death was still unexpected as although he had always looked like he might drop down dead at any moment, I had gotten used to this, and used to him being around.
One day he just stopped eating. He had had a good appetite as thin as he was and I tried and tried to get him to eat something by tempting him with titbits. He wouldn’t budge though and as this meant he was also not taking his tablets I resolved to take him to the vets the next day.
That night I put him in my bed, a rare honour as he usually slept downstairs. In the morning I woke up to find him missing and when I went to walk down the stairs I saw him lying at the bottom.
I immediately thought he must have fallen down the stairs as usually being so old and stiff he couldn't actually walk up or down stairs. But then he surprised me by walking back up them to see me!
I was dreading seeing the vet as they had often made comments that cats over a certain age should just be put to sleep as it wasn’t worth trying to save them in their opinion. Dealing with the death of a pet is difficult enough so I think having a veterinarian you trust to make the best decisions for your pet is very important.
I knew I would have a fight on my hands trying to convince them to treat Barney given his appearance and age.
But he took the matter out of my hands when he suddenly and unexpectedly had a heart attack and died on my lap in the waiting room whilst we waited to see the vet. Dealing with a pet death is always difficult but having him just suddenly die in my arms was very shocking, both to me and everyone else in the waiting room.
I’ll never know whether he died because he was already sick and this was just the moment when his heart finally gave out, or whether it was because I took him to the vets, to which he seemed thoroughly unfamiliar and the shock of the experience brought on a heart attack.
Obviously I had to take him to the vets as if he had continued not taking his tablets he would have been in trouble anyway. But these are the feelings you experience when dealing with a pet death. I know this and knew it at the time but it doesn’t stop you wondering or feeling guilty.
So I found myself once again dealing with a pet death. I had had Barney for three years by that time and despite the fact that I had many other pets, the house felt very empty without him. Because of his age, he rarely went further than my garden and so was always there to greet me with a miaow.
I brought him home and my other pets all saw him and said their goodbyes. My dog Henry whined a lot as he always does when I am dealing with a pet death and he kept nudging him to try to get him to wake up.
I buried him in the garden in a favourite spot where he loved to bask in the sun. You would think by now I would have been used to dealing with a pet death, but there was still great sadness in my home.