On Pets Dying

Simon our cat is dying it seems.

I know this second hand because of the phone call I got last night. You see Simon doesn’t live with me anymore.

After my partner Bill died, Simon went into mourning. I hadn’t realized until then how much animals feel the loss of their human keepers. Simon would stand at the doorway of the bedroom, look at the empty bed that Bill had occupied, and meow and meow and meow. Something was wrong. Someone was missing. “I know Simon,” I would say as I picked him up in my arms to pet him and comfort him. “I miss him too.”

Bill and I had been together a long time – thirty-three years. During that time we had a series of pets, usually orange tabby cats.

Initially, there was Rufus. We named him Rufus after a gay friend of ours who had a great head of blond hair – our friend was not amused. Eventually, Rufus aged and died. Rufus the cat I mean. We lost track of Rufus our friend so he may still be out there thriving somewhere.

After Rufus, we got another orange tabby. We called him Sebastian. (We always had male cats. Curious.) Late in Sebastian’s life we brought a playmate into his world – a large white-and-tan-coloured rabbit. We named him Barcey, short for Barcelona Bunny since we had gotten him from the Humane Society just after having returned from a trip to Barcelona. Apparently, cats and rabbits come from the same genetic pool way back somewhere. So Bill claimed. It certainly looked possible given how Sebastian and Barcey interacted. Barcey would hop around after Sebastian and nudge him until Sebastian started grooming him. Sebastian was getting on in years and not all that keen on having to take care of this youngster so he would wander off after awhile. Barcey would hop after him and the care-giving cycle would start again. Eventually, Sebastian would scurry off and hide somewhere that Barcey couldn’t find him. Barcey would keep looking. He was cute but somewhat of a slow learner.

Then, after both Sebastian and Barcey died came Simon. We had been without a pet for a while. Bill would insist that we stop in at the Humane Society from time to time to look at the animals. On one visit twelve years or so ago, an orange tabby came up to the edge of the cage, locked eyes with Bill and let out the most plaintive series of cries insisting that he and Bill were meant to be mates for life. Bill swooned. And so we brought Simon home and lived together happily ever after. If only.

Bill and Simon were inseparable. Because of Bill’s MS, he was in bed quite a lot of the time which suited Simon just fine. The two would cuddle together and sleep in each other’s arms for hours at a time. That was until Bill was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in August 2009 and he ended up in a hospital bed that we installed in our living room. Simon wasn’t keen on sleeping with Bill in that bed. It was as if he sensed that something was amiss. Something certainly was amiss. Bill died two weeks after his diagnosis.

As Bill was dying, an article appeared in the newspaper reporting on some research about cats’ seeming capacity to sense the approach of death. Bill got a great chuckle out of the cartoon that accompanied the story – a drawing of a cat holding a sandwich board that read “Your Time Is Up.” The cartoon on yellowing newsprint is still on my fridge.

Simon, as I said, went into mourning and couldn’t adjust in our home to the loss of his Bill.

Two friends were looking for a cat and offered to adopt Simon. I took Simon over for a trial period and they all fell in love with each other. Simon got the attention he craved 24/7 and my friends got his company and adoration. So for the past two years since Bill has died, Simon has lived a very contented life. 

Last night my friends called me. Simon seems to be dying. He has stopped eating and drinking and the visit to the vet yesterday was not encouraging. My friends weren’t sure if they should tell me because they knew I’d be upset. I’m glad they called. I would have wanted to know.

The news triggered another eruption of the waterworks that are never far below the surface. I was relieved that I was alone.

After I calmed down, I consoled myself by remembering that Simon had had a good life over the past two years in his new adopted home full of my friends’ attention and love.

This morning I woke up in the midst of a dream that I was in a new adopted home full of attention and love. But it was only a dream. 

* * *

Update six hours after writing and posting the above blog: I’ve just come from visiting Simon at my friends. The vet called with the results of yesterday’s tests. Unbelievably, Simon has pancreatic cancer – the same type of cancer from which Bill died.

* * *

Update #2: twenty-four hours later – we have now put our very ill Simon to sleep.

* * *

Picture of Bill and Simon in bed together.



* * *

Information on my memoir August Farewell – the Last Sixteen Days of a Thirty-Three-Year Romance and my novel Searching for Gilead is available on my website at http://DavidGHallman.com

Both the memoir and novel are available for order through your local bookstore or on-line book retailers such as http://amazon.com, http://barnesandnoble.com, http://amazon.ca, http://chapters.indigo.ca, http://amazon.co.uk




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15 responses to “On Pets Dying

  1. Kat

    What a sweet story and as someone who lives in solitude, I so related to what you said about being relieved to be alone yet the dream of being in a home full of attention and love. Funny how that works in my head…avoidance of pain is an interesting thing to figure out and I’m still often unsure where I fit in the world – in love or in solitude – some days I want love and some days I’m relieved to have the avoidance of love with solitude. Thanks for this piece. 🙂

  2. marion_g

    <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN"> <HTML><HEAD> <META content="text/html; charset=utf-8" http-equiv=Content-Type> <META name=GENERATOR content="MSHTML 8.00.6001.19154"> <STYLE></STYLE> </HEAD> <BODY bgColor=#ffffff> <DIV><FONT size=2 face=Arial>Dear David.&nbsp; I am so sorry about Simon.&nbsp; I don’t care if he lived with you or not, the hurt is still there.&nbsp; I just hope that he is not too sick.&nbsp; Little animals can’t tell you where it hurts.&nbsp; </FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT size=2 face=Arial></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT size=2 face=Arial>My goodness but you write so beautifully.&nbsp; Love Aunt Mame</FONT></DIV> <BLOCKQUOTE style="BORDER-LEFT: #000000 2px solid; PADDING-LEFT: 5px; PADDING-RIGHT: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: 5px; MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px"> <DIV style="FONT: 10pt arial"></DIV></BODY></HTML>

  3. Scott McMullon

    I read your post, and the update from the Vet. I am so sorry to hear about how this has all developed :(.My thoughts are with you and Simon.

  4. Maureen Argon

    So sorry about Simon. What a beautiful piece. Our Simon (remember how irate Bill would be about our Simon "going" in your garden on Nile St) is limping around but he has beautiful Bella (a mere 5lbs full grown) to look after him and snuggle with him. She’s utterly devoted to the fat boy. Our cat count is now 5. Fascinating creatures. You are always in our thoughts, as is Bill and all of us at 76 NIle send you lots of love.

  5. artpimp

    Thank you for sharing your story. Cats are angels in furry suits.

  6. Antoinette Cook

    how sad, i too have cats used to have 5,lost two this year, one to old age another was a hit by a car, now i have 3, cats bring so much joy to a family, sorry for your loss

  7. So sorry to read about Simon’s deteriorating health, David. You’ve penned an eloquent piece about he, you and Bill.Here’s hoping that Simon doesn’t suffer too much, and that the end is as peaceful as can be.

  8. Diana Sebzda

    David, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Simon! Your words resonated within me at the pain you felt upon hearing of Simon’s serious illness and prognosis. I have personally felt, and professionally seen, the re-emergence of grief feelings after the loss of a pet. Even though Simon lived with his adoptive family after Bill’s death, it’s evident, by your words, that you still held him close in your heart, along with Bill – perhaps grieving Bill anew! I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers as you grieve the loss of Simon. As a writer and a reader, you may appreciate one of my favorite books on pet loss – "Saying Goodbye to the Pet You Love" by Lorri Greene and Jacqueline Landis. With my condolences, Diana

  9. I’m so sorry. I lost my 11 yr old kitty last year and still grieving & missing her. I know how you feel.You’ve certainly been through enough. I hope you are finding some peace and happiness these days.

  10. Marty Tousley

    David, dear ~ Having so recently lost my beloved Beringer (our faithful canine companion for the last 15 years) I am deeply touched by your poignant story ~ and I’m so sorry to learn of your Simon’s death. Clearly you were a loving guardian of this kitty, always putting his needs before your own, even unto his death, as you made the difficult decision to exchange his pain for your own. You are in my thoughts tonight. ♥

  11. This is so heartbreaking to read 😦 I totally empathise with you. I couldn’t grieve after I lost my mother, my dog went less than 10 months later and it broke the dam. I think sometimes people don’t realise how deep your love runs for your furbabies. Your photograph is absolutely beautiful <3Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

  12. Philip Elliott

    Hi David; Sorry to hear of Simon’s paseing. He was a doll and looking after Simon while in Mexico was a true pleasure.Simon and I were the best of friends when I looked after him.He was an angel and is now for sure!!

  13. Beautiful piece. The same diagnosis…remarkable.

  14. shurdenkelley03

    Very interestingthanks. I believe there’s even more that could be on there! keep it up. <a href="http://www.Shurdenjackson.com">Okmulgee funeral homes</a>

  15. Ya its a good thing that the stage of funeral if we add song so it will great way of mood.On the other hand Funeral music or songs have a way of encouraging the bereaved or grieving heart

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