In early April, as I packed my apartment up for a move around the corner into a little pink house, I noticed that my old cat Maggie was looking thin.
She’d looked thin before, back in 2016, but then she was diagnosed with a bum thyroid. For a cat who’s 16-17 years old, declining health isn’t unexpected. With her thyroid medication, Maggie quickly regained weight and continued chasing my 4-year-old cat, Buffy, around the apartment and wrestling. But last month, I started worrying that she had lost weight again and didn’t seem to be chasing Buffy anymore. Otherwise, her behavior seemed normal, particularly during a move with boxes spread around the house.
A few days after I moved in mid-April, I took Maggie to the vet for her 6-month appointment and to see whether her weight loss was a result of a new problem. She was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.
I won’t go into the details of what happened over the course of the next two weeks, but I’ll summarize. I realized that the disease had hit Maggie quickly and was progressing rapidly, and I struggled with deciding what was best for Maggie. Ultimately, I could see that she wasn’t going to live long, regardless of any treatments or care I could give her, and her days of playing with Buffy were in the past. I didn’t want her to suffer, and I didn’t want her to die alone when I wasn’t home with her.
After consulting with our vet, I made the incredibly hard decision to have Maggie euthanized the following day. During that consultation, the vet said he was worried about me and how I would handle losing Maggie, because I was sobbing and clearly distraught throughout our meeting. I told him that I’d put down my cat, Vernon, back when my daughter was in preschool and Vern was 15-years-old and had cancer on his tongue. My daughter and I got Maggie not long after that, and my daughter will turn 21 this year. “You’ve had really good luck with cats,” the vet said. And he was right.
Maggie wasn’t the best cat I ever got. She was mean, bit until she drew blood, and attacked without being provoked. But over the years, we bonded and I came to understand her, respect her, and relate to her.
Maggie wasn’t the best cat I ever got, but she turned out to be the best cat I ever had. She was smart, fearless, assertive, playful, funny, charming, and incredibly loving. When she attacked, she’d been provoked…but you might have no idea what you’d done wrong. She had her own set of rules, and once you understood them, you’d get along just fine.
Maggie was with me through my daughter’s childhood, through her father’s suicide, through my grandfather’s death, through grad school and career changes, through my daughter’s teenage yearsssOH-MY-GOD-HELP-US-ALL, through my divorce, and through at least 9 moves across 4 states.
Maggie was with me.
Maggie was with me when I felt otherwise completely and totally alone and broken and wiped out and so incredibly depressed on this big fucking planet. Maggie was with me when I started running, when I stopped drinking, when I stopped running, when I started drinking, when I stopped drinking, and when I started running again. Maggie was with me.
Maggie was with me.
We spent a final evening together. I reminded her of how beautiful she was and how super smart, and how unbelievably lucky I was to have found her. She purred. I cried.
My heart broke, I was crushed, and I drove home and wept for hours.
Maggie wasn’t with me.
The following morning, I left Buffy home alone and headed to the airport for a week-long, somewhat-melancholy business trip. While I was away, I got a voice mail letting me know that Maggie’s ashes are ready to be picked up.
When I returned home to the little pink house the following Friday, I thumbed through the snail mail and found several cards and notes from friends and family, and a thoughtful condolence message from our vet.
The poor girl had been home alone for a week, with the exception of visits from her pet sitter, whom Maggie adored but Buffy adores much, much less. Buffy was thrilled to have me back, and would not shut up about it.
I’d already decided to adopt a new friend for Buffy soon, and during my trip I’d started searching online, browsing photos and descriptions at area cat shelters. I applied at a rescue that places cats in foster homes, and I arranged to see a cat on Sunday, which was Mother’s Day (aka not my favorite holiday).
The first cat I met, I decided to bring home to meet Buffy. The foster family drove him to my house and dropped him off.
At 3-4 years old, he’s older than I wanted, and he’s declawed, which made me feel sorry for him. Maggie had been declawed before I adopted her, too.
When I brought the big guy home, I thought I’d test him out, and if he played with Buffy like Maggie used to, I’d adopt him.
Maybe he will some day, or maybe he won’t. But I realized that when I brought him home, I was on the search for Maggie.
There will never be another Maggie.
But there’s a Rupert, and I guess we found each other.