by Lori Dwyer on August 16, 2012 · 12 comments

About ten years ago now, I had to have a cat I loved dearly euthanized. Her name was Tigger. She’d been bought for me when I was sixteen years old and struggling with the concept of anyone ever loving me. This tiny stripy kitten did love me, and as she grew she came with me from house to house to flat- shoved down the front of my zip-up hoodie during one memorable move, she slept comfortably while I walked for kilometers.

I was probably twenty three, maybe twenty four, when Tigger went missing from the flat I lived in. She had been gone three weeks when, one cloudy afternoon, she dragged herself home; back legs limp, stinking of puss and vomit. My boyfriend and I piled her into his car, wrapped carefully in an old towel, and I cried hot tears over her as she feebly purred. We drove to the surgery of a vet who was renowned for his caring, compassionate manner… and staying open until seven pm on a weeknight.

There was nothing this lovely animal doctor could do for Tigger. It looked as though her kidneys were failing, he said, but at only eight years old he was suspicious she may have been baited and poisoned.

“You can stay, if you like,” said the vet, eyes full of compassion for a silly young woman who knows nothing of heartbreak yet, unable to stop sobbing over her cat; “she’s almost comatose, she won’t react to the shot.”

Of course I stayed, patted her head and whispered soft words of reassurance, tears flowing as I apologised to my pet, saying how very sorry I was that I couldn’t fix her, couldn’t save her. I stayed right up until she did react to that shot the vet said she’d barely notice. Her body convulsed and tensed, legs stuck out straight and thin like rods of dowel. She threw her head back and screamed, if cats can scream… a deep guttural yowl that I heard in every silent pause for weeks afterwards.

Her yellow eyes locked on mine and I turned and ran, leaving her to die in the care of my boyfriend.

I couldn’t stop sobbing. “I’m so sorry,” said the vet, and he so genuinely was, “I had no idea that would happen… I was sure she’d go quietly.”

I wanted to explain, to stop my tears for long enough to tell him that it wasn’t him, it wasn’t his fault, he had done his job perfectly… I had not. It was me who had failed here. There had been something vulnerable who loved me, laying on a metal table pleading me with its eyes for help…

And I ran away. A tiny, grown up voice in my mind told me that I only fled because I could– my boyfriend had been there, too. A larger voice trampled out that first one, chanting “Coward, coward, coward…” and replaying that awful, agonizing cat–scream.

It tormented me for years, kicking great chunks out of an already chalky self esteem. It was exasperated when I terminated a pregnancy… and again, of course, when I ran, screaming for help, my daughter in my arms and my husband hanging from his neck in my backyard.

It’s taken me until now, I think, to forgive myself for that. For all of it. Especially the cat. For  allowing something that meant so much to me die without me there. Or for being too scared to stand up and say no when I should have.

Or for running for help, when I had a tiny baby in my arms.

And for walking away, saying goodbye to a body that was growing cold but was still hours away from harvest; and knowing he’d be OK with that, because it just hurt too much to stay.

Because nineteen months after everything I knew about the world changed and I had to remake all my decisions from scratch… I’m still here. It’s just me, and my kids, and that’s all we need, really… we get along just fine.

And I haven’t run away. I’m still here, every day. Not even because there is no one else do it– if push came to “Lori’s really lost it this time…”, there would just have to be enough relatives around to pick up the slack. If I really lost it, they’d just have to.

I’m here just because this is where I belong. Because I love my kids like crazy.

Because, as long as there here too, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jess@Diary of a SAHM August 19, 2012 at 7:58 pm

With my last baby I had antenatal depression, and two days before she was born, when is as five days overdue, my dog bit my 2 year old son right near his eye. It wasn't the first time she had done it, but it was the first time she had touched the kids.
The day before Ava was born I took her to the vet to be euthanized. It was the best thing for our family; i could hardly have a vicious dog around with a newborn and three others.
But I still can't think of that day without feeling guilty, and hurt. So angry that when I had so much going on, I had to hand my scared, shaking puppy over to a vet, adm say good bye for ever.
For the rest of our lives our daughters birthday is haunted by the day I killed my dog. It was the right thing, but still, the awful thing.

Sometimes, it's almost harder when it's an animal.
Big hugs Lori. Xxx


Tara @ Our Whirlwind Adventures August 18, 2012 at 10:37 pm

You are not a coward.
To have seen what you've seen, to go through what you've gone through, anyone who dared to call you a coward – with the exception of your own self – would be deserving of a punch in the head.
We went to the vet with my beloved cat. He was 21 years old. He was an Easter Present for me when I was 3 years old. He knew it was his time, and his eyes told me he was okay. He was ready.
I was there when he was injected, but I wasn't.
I ran.
My body stayed, but I'd long left the room.
You are not a coward.
Not at all xo


Anonymous August 17, 2012 at 1:51 am

My eyes welled with tears reading this.


Cath August 16, 2012 at 11:18 pm

big hugs babe you are amazing strong and corageous xxxx


Melissa August 16, 2012 at 9:18 pm

I'm sitting here with my fingers on the keyboard – totally clueless as to what to say. What a horrible experience for you and Tigger.
I'm so happy to hear that you're learning to forgive yourself. I think it's the hardest thing to do.


Karyn August 16, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Lori, I … I am sorry for Tigger. For you. But I'm not sorry for your wonderful babies, who are learning from you the most important lessons – to keep going.


Spagsy August 16, 2012 at 12:41 pm

You made me "Awwwwww"


Razza August 16, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Oh man, this just brought back so many awful memories from when I stayed while my beloved kitty was put to sleep. I expected it to be rough but with the vets assurances of 'she won't feel a thing' I had no idea how bad it would be. That scream, the tense muscles, pained look on her face. Far out.


Wanderlust August 16, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Wow Lori, this is gorgeous. The sentiment, the honesty and the breathtaking writing. Gorgeous, gorgeous post. x


Kirsty Lee August 16, 2012 at 11:16 am

I've read so many of your posts Lori, and this one for me, is right up there as one of my favourites.

Woahmolly is totally right. It was beautiful and tragic at the same time. You're an amazing writer Lori.


phonakins August 16, 2012 at 9:13 am

Love you and your honesty babe xxx

Reply August 16, 2012 at 8:52 am

We are always the hardest on ourselves and usually the last person we can forgive is ourselves. But we have to, otherwise it's too hard…

This was beautiful and tragic and I'm really glad to have read it, even though it made my eyes all prickly and my heart ache. I love being moved by your words, Lori. And I always am.


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