Friday, November 30, 2012

Leo 1996-2012

Our cat, Leo, died earlier this week. Our lightfooted and athletic kitty started showing her age gradually, then all of the sudden with a round-the-clock sleep schedule, a stiff walk, and inability to jump on our laps without help. The last week she had to be helped to her food bowl, then her cat box, and then the vet came and put her to sleep. I don't like euphemisms, but I like the word "euthanize" even less. Andrew dug a deep hole in the garden, and we put her there.

It was one of the saddest days for my me and my husband. We received Leo from a friend when we were first living together in 1997. Leo was just a year old, mostly a kitten. She loved to be snuggled, and she was so hard to put down I would wrap her in a big scarf that I then tied to my upper body, and carry her around like a baby. That's weird, I know. Leo would lay there until she fell asleep, and then I would hang her on a door knob and she would continue to sleep there. She would come when called, very un-catlike in that way. When my husband and I would walk down to our local business district for dinner or errands, she would stalk us for four blocks until we got to a busy intersection, and she would wait there until we walked back. Sometimes that would be an hour or more.

Leo also followed me to the studio almost every day until the past couple of years when she lost interest in being outside all the time. I never worried about her knocking stuff over, she was so sensitive to her surroundings. She would post up on shelves, or next to glaze buckets, or on the floor next to her food dish, willing me with her penetrating stare to run home and get her more food. I always did because Leo was very hard to say "no" to. There was one time where she made a miscalculation and and didn't quite make it up to the next shelf she was jumping for. She swung, monkey-like, claws dug into the shelf she was trying to get up to, and knocked over a huge vase I had just worked on for 4 hours, shattering it. I grabbed her, and wanted to shake her, but how can you really punish a cat? I put her outside and slammed the door. She gave me about 15 minutes to recover and then started meowing to let her back in. Of course, I did.

I've been coping with overwhelming sadness all week. There is something particularly poignant and painful about losing a pet. You are supposed to look out for them, to take care of them, but there is a communication gap. You don't know what they really need or what they are thinking, you can only guess. Leo added so much to our lives, and now, there's just this absence where she once was. The last week she was alive was so hard, because I knew we were about to lose her, but she was already gone in so many ways. She could only lay there, and there was not a thing I could do to help her, except to let her go.


  1. I don't know if it helps, but I'm crying here in front of my computer for little Leo, your faithful companion, little love and big friend. She had your heart, and for that she was a lucky girl. A friend once told me that when it comes to pets, we humans are the caretakers of souls. You took good care of her soul. She fed yours back in return. I am so sorry for your loss. I really am.

  2. Dear Whitney,
    I got tears in my eyes reading your blog, but I thank you for writing it. I lost my lovely Kiki (Black sleek sweet rescue kitty) after a very brief period of her not eating and similar to your Leo we had to help her go to sleep.
    I was so bereft I could not look at friends pet posts on FB, and could not imagine getting another kitty... it seemed inappropriate. I would see her curled up body out of the corner of my eyes in chairs as I walked through a room :(
    Thing will get better.
    A year later we rescued a new friend...our beautiful dog Lenny and then this year another... Coco.
    I just really feel sorry for your loss.
    Martha Egan

  3. I've never posted before...only stalked your lovely work. But I feel I need to write. I'm so sorry for the loss of your beloved cat. It's hard for some people to truly "get it" when a pet passes away. They are our furry children. There will always be a special place for her in your heart. She sounds like a very special kitty and it's great she was able to spend her life with yours.

    It's ironic you post this today as it's the 1 year anniversary of losing my lovely black kitty, Pepper. I still miss her daily and there will always be a void in my heart she used to fill.

    Much love to you during this hard time <3 - Amanda

  4. I am so sorry for your loss. Coincidentally I was just a couple of hours ago telling my daughter about the first pet (a beautiful Keeshond dog) my husband and I had together and how I held him the night we decided he would have to be euthanized. It was one of the hardest choices we ever had to make. Pets enrich our lives in so many ways, and I have had some really great ones. I hope you guys find the right new pet one day when you are ready. S very sad for you. Xoxo

  5. Oh Whitney, I know how painful this is, my deepest condolences! You and your husband were very lucky to have Leo in your life, and he was lucky to have the both of you. I wish you peace in this time of sorrow.


  6. I'm sorry to hear about Leo. The heart ache to let our fur babies go. Sending you hugs... xo

  7. Anonymous11:09 AM

    Hi Whitney and Andrew,
    I am bereft. Leo was such a great cat! I love how she would tolerate Sophie, and they even became friends (well, kind of). My heart breaks for the two of you. I'm so sorry. How miserable. sending my love and best wishes to the two of you. xoxo jeanie and amy

  8. I am so, so sorry for your loss. We had to put our kitty down this week too, believe it or not. (kitty, a smart, loving calico). I'd had her since I was 18 and my husband (then boyfriend) and I had just moved in together. That was almost 15 years ago. The void is tremendous, I know. Hugs to you. You were a good mama to her and she loved you very much. godspeed, sweet Leo.

  9. Very heartfelt, I think in so many ways pets are another member of the family. Theres a lot of empathy with animals that we live with though, they can sense our mood and although they aren't with us for a particularly long time I like to think that their lives are happier to have known us.

  10. Anonymous8:20 PM

    I'm so sorry for your loss. They give us so much love, and more. I recently moved back to the US from Australia and had to leave my cat Buster there. He's almost 18 and I worried that the travel would be too hard for him. He's very happy and well looked after where he is, staying with my ex who is very attached to him, but I miss him, and will likely not see him again. It sounds like you had a wonderful life with Leo. I wish you peace and love in your time of sadness.