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Old 09-19-2009, 02:15 PM   #1
Kevin Gerard
Kevin Gerard
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And Another Short Story - get out the kleenex!

SUNNY’S LAST DAYS

Kevin Gerard

A very special kind of Sun went down today. A little after twelve o’clock, my wife’s cat of twenty years, Sunny, exhaled his last breath. I had arranged for the veterinarian to come by at one-thirty to administer “last rights” to Sunny, but true to form, he took matters into his own hands.

Sunny was a very dignified gentleman. He would never allow the financial burden of a veterinarian’s visit to come at his expense. Besides, I think he figured going his way was just more honorable. He fought for every bit of life left in him, and at the very end, he died in my wife’s loving hands.

We strived to make his last days as comfortable and painless as possible. How could we not – we loved Sunny deeply and shared a powerful bond with him. He was the oldest, friendliest, and most talkative cat in our home. His resounding meow signaled us every time he wanted attention, food, an open door, or some friendly conversation. Whenever anyone came by the house for a visit, friend or stranger, Sunny emerged from wherever he was sleeping to sound a happy greeting while purring and rubbing against our guest’s legs. He genuinely loved other creatures of all kinds, human, feline or even canine. He truly was a happy soul.

I loved having playful conversations with Sunny. Never in my life had I seen a cat look right at you while answering your questions. If he wanted to be fed, I’d ask him why he deserved to be treated like a prince.

“MEOW.”

Then I’d ask him when he had appointed me his personal servant.

“MEOW.”

Then I’d say, “Who’s your favorite Daddy?”

“MEOW, MEOW!”

And on it went. If he was sitting in my office chair when I needed to work, we’d have a pressing discussion about who deserved the seat more. When I finally displaced him, Sunny would protest loudly until I moved up enough so he could enjoy “his half of the seat.” He’d jump back into the chair and scrunch himself into the back half before happily falling asleep again.
That’s how it went with Sunny. Like many cats, he was happy to have you living in “his home,” just as long as all activity ceased whenever he wanted something. We didn’t mind it one bit, though, because he was so happy, so handsome, and so full of life. His inner beauty always beamed brightly, like a ray of sunshine shining through a picture window.

My wife used to sing a special song to Sunny, a song she assured me he liked. I agreed with her, but I also knew that even if he did like it, his great dignity would never let that secret escape. Some nights I’d come home from work and hear her high-pitched refrain coming from upstairs in the bedroom. As I climbed the stairs, I’d hear Sunny answering every verse of her melody, line by line. I’m not sure if he was singing along or trying to drown her out. When I walked into the bedroom, I’d see him standing at the foot of the bed, staring up at his mother, eyes beaming and ears perched on top of his head. Sunny loved her with all his heart.

I know that he did love her, because I’m not one of those who believes that animals operate solely by instinct. They function with a full range of emotions, I’m certain of it. They feel love, anger, embarrassment, fear, anxiety, and everything else human beings experience. Sunny felt everything; and he was a delightful, animated individual.

I’ll always remember the story my wife tells about how she found him. She went to a shelter one day to adopt a cat. She walked through the door and heard an enormous racket. Out of all the animals caged in the shelter, there was one cat roaring his displeasure at the top of his lungs. It was Sunny, standing on all fours demanding his release. My wife took one look at him, walked to the counter and told the attendant she wanted the black and white tabby with the great set of lungs. The attendant informed her that Sunny had only come in that day, and they had to hold him until the end of the week. My wife asked when she could adopt him, and the attendant said Friday morning at nine o’clock.

At eight fifty-nine on the Friday morning in question, my wife pulled open the outer door to the shelter office. Over every other ambient noise, she could hear Sunny screaming in the back room, commanding everyone within earshot to come to his aid. My wife adopted him that very minute. He was six months old, and ready for a new life with a wonderful human companion.

This morning, and for the last few days, his great “MEOW” had been reduced to a tiny, hollow mew. My wife and I took our turns washing him, giving him fluids, and holding each other while our tears flowed ever more freely. Even with all of his brave efforts, Sunny’s life was slipping away right in front of us. All we could do was what we had decided to do, make him as comfortable as possible and attend to his every need. We wanted him to pass away while resting on his favorite pillow, warmed by his very own heating pad. We believe he perished without pain, surrounded by his loving family. Our other three cats kept a close vigil, sleeping next to him during his ordeal.

Last night I woke to find Sunny sleeping next to me in our bed. He had barely been able to stand for the last few days, and in order to take up a position against my body, he would have had to jump a distance of three feet. Part of me was amazed that he found the strength, but another part of me realized that Sunny understood my grief, and how deeply I loved him. I’ll always treasure the memory of his desire to spend his last night cuddled up next to his father.

During his last hours, my wife and I laid him on his favorite pillow, gave him the warmth of his heating pad and the comfort of a few extra towels. I rolled up a hand towel and placed it under left cheek to support his head. When his breathing became labored, he opened his mouth to draw in as much air as he could. I knew the end was near, and I placed my hand on his shoulder. I cooed to him, telling him not to be afraid, that we were with him. A minute later, the sun broke through the clouds outside. A warm beam of sunlight washed over his head and shoulders, bathing him in the light he always cherished.

My wife came over to be by his side while I took a quick shower. As I came back into the bedroom, she told me Sunny was gone. He had died looking at his mother, the woman who had loved him and cared for him his entire life.

We’ll miss him more than I can possibly say.
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Old 09-19-2009, 02:41 PM   #2
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Such a beautiful story, thank you, Kevin. My neighbors just lost their beloved kitty, and they told me a story that was almost like yours.



***and that short story collection in ebook form will be when? ***
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Old 09-28-2009, 09:42 PM   #3
Kevin Gerard
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I wish all pets were like parrots and they could outlive us!
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