Remembering a Forever Friend

This post is about Fuzzy, my family’s cat of 15 years. We made the hard decision to put him down this week. It was tougher than I ever imagined.

While I have had the honor of sharing my life with other companion animals, I never received the opportunity to bond so closely with one as I did with Fuzzy (aka Mr. Fuzz or King Fuzzy). He was my family’s first full-time feline, a beautiful gray cat.

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Looking for Petting / KP Original
Fuzzy was born outdoors, a feral, to a feral mum sometime in the spring. I imagine fresh green grass, a cloudless sky filled with sunlight, and birds chirping, chatting with each other among tree branches on his day of birth. I have absolutely no clue what the day was actually like, but I like to think it was a beautiful kind of day for a cat like Fuzzy to be born.

I met Fuzzy when he was just a few months shy of one. He lived among other ferals under the porch of my best friend’s home. Out of the various feral felines hanging around their property, Fuzzy and his two brothers (Wuzzy and Bear — yes, I know, ADORABLE) were slowly being acclimated to an indoor life thanks to the efforts of my friend and her parents. We were in the 6th grade, a time when we were figuring out what in the hell was middle school, and a time when I was determined that my plea for a pet would finally be heard.

After much nagging of the parents, and a visit to my friend’s so that my mom could meet Fuzzy for herself, there was no turning back. Fuzzy was ours and we were Fuzzy’s.

The stars aligned, as the saying goes.

Bringing Fuzzy home was a highlight of my pre-teen life. His first official spot in our house was my bedroom, where he remained until he was litter-trained and got used to his new surroundings. I remember excitedly telling everyone about my new companion. I even remember that my crush at the time came to visit with a friend just to meet Mr. Fuzz. My heart was full. Life was complete already in the 6th grade.

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Computer Hog / KP Original
My family saw Fuzzy through his early years of endless play and through a horrible bout of ringworm that lasted for far too long. We saw him learn to love brushing and loathe nail cutting (always finicky about his left back leg…). We saw as my dad took more interest in him and come to love him as me and my mother did; Dad became Fuzzy’s resident toothbrusher.

We saw Fuzzy often whiz around our house during his crazy energy sprees. We saw Fuzzy chitter-chatter with the birds outdoors, wagging his tail hard against the kitchen chair he was sitting on. We saw Fuzzy refuse to return the toy mice we would throw for him, instead choosing to walk back to us, patiently waiting for us to get the mice ourselves or throw another one.

We saw Fuzzy talk with us as much as he did with his bird friends, meowing, meowing all the time, making his kingly voice heard until his demands were met. We saw Fuzzy gallop to the door every time we arrived home, meowing for petting, meowing to be let into the garage, meowing for food, meowing for even more petting, meowing to say, hello, I missed you.

And then we saw Fuzzy through his worst. A tumor popped up under his right leg a few months ago. He was still the same Fuzzy though, happy as ever, and still healthy otherwise. But the tumor grew fast, bigger and uglier everyday.

Eventually, the cancer took its toll on Fuzzy. He grew slow, wobbly, lethargic. These changes happened so fast, in a matter of a couple weeks. He went from running to the door to greet us to staying curled up in the basement or against the heater, waiting for us to come to him.

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Sun Cat / KP Original
He slept ever more. His sleeping style became less relaxed–instead of sprawling out, lengthening his body to claim the bed, he curled up tight, like you see a slug do when it senses danger. He no longer slept on the beds or couches, opting for a spot against a heater or in the basement–a room with all of his kitty stuff, but not a place he often chose to sleep except on hot days.

The vet prescribed him morphine, to help ease his pain. It likely did, but it was hard to tell. He only slept more.

The last four days I spent with him were the toughest. Each day, I watched cancer take away my friend.

The first day, he came to see us, and asked for some petting. He still ambled up the stairs to the kitchen for his bit of wet food, meowing just a couple times, and then eating his fill, which wasn’t much anymore. Afterwards, he retreated to the basement.

The second day, he came up to the kitchen once, and then went straight back down to his chair in the basement to fall asleep. He did find his way upstairs at one point, to shimmy up against the heater to sleep some more.

By the third day, he no longer got up. He did not use his litter box and he did not come for food or petting. I went down to visit him, petting him gently as I knew even this simple, common gesture of affection might cause him some pain. I tapped his nose lightly, a sign he learned from his kitten days as, “I love you.” While he didn’t get up to greet me, he did purr softly, flicking his tail.

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King Fuzzy / KP Original
The fourth day arrived. He showed no changes for the better. When I went downstairs to visit him, to pet him, he barely purred. His tail never flicked. It was time.

I have never before witnessed an animal being put to sleep. It was an emotionally painful experience, but it wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be. I think because Fuzzy and I seemed to have a mutual understanding that his time had come. But it still wasn’t easy. It was heartbreaking.

I opted to stay in the room with him at the vet office. They placed him on my lap and I held him, pet him, and kissed his soft, gray fur, as tears ran down my face. It was the end. I didn’t want to let go. And neither did he. He knew, and he still had the fight in him, but not enough. He went peacefully to sleep, surrounded by love.

Just like that, 15 years of life came to an end.

While many folks who have animal companions lovingly refer to them as “fur babies,” Fuzzy was never my baby. Yes, he was “Baby Fuzzy,” sometimes, just like he was “Fuzz Muzz,” and “Fuzz Puz” (puz is slug in Croatian), and “Fuzzy Wuzzy.” He had all of these affectionate names, but he was never my baby. He was his sweet feral mum’s baby.

To me, Fuzzy was my friend, my constant companion. And in my book, friends are family.

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Love / KP Original
And so I dedicate this post to Fuzzy, my forever friend. We may have given him a forever home, but what he gave my family was so much more.

Thank you for the wonderful memories, Fuzz. Thank you for the love. May you rest in peace.

With love always,

KP

In memory of Fuzzy, I have decided to mark each anniversary of his death with a donation to an animal rescue/shelter. Today I donated to Paws for Life Animal Rescue, a wonderful volunteer-run organization in metro Detroit that serves both cats and dogs. If you are interested in donating, please visit this link. And if you are interested in adopting a friend, please click here. Thank you.

Feature photo credit: Mr. Fuzz / KP Original

Reinventing My Story of Grief

Dear Readers: Please welcome guest writer, Alexis Croswell (AC) to Inspiration for Good today! AC is a dear friend of mine and a fantastic writer — I hope you will enjoy and be inspired by her personal story as much as I am! xoxo -KP


Today marks the eleventh year since my mom passed away.

When I think about this fact, these are my thoughts:

  • FUCK. This still really sucks. I miss her
  • I wonder if I’d be the same person today if she were still alive  
  • The smell of lavender is her scent
  • Whimsical art reminds me of her (especially if there is purple)
  • Mothers who love their children remind me of her
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Photo credit: Mark Croswell

This last bullet point struck me recently. Living in a big city I don’t see a lot of mothers and children in my day-to-day life. However, a few weeks ago while riding the bus I sat across from a mother and her daughter. The daughter was about 13, the age I was when my mom died.

They were having a discussion about texting in class, and the mom said with authority, “If everyone was doing something really stupid, everyone was doing it, and you knew it was wrong, you shouldn’t do it.” The girl persisted saying it wasn’t a big deal, then ignored her mom for a few minutes in the “MOM! I-am-not-having-this-right-now” kind of way. After a period of self-reflective silence they resumed idle conversation.

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Photo credit: Mark Croswell

I had forgotten what those moments between a mother and daughter can feel like. It was benign and it was beautiful.

When I was younger, everyone in my community knew about my mom’s death. We had all grown up together and many people knew her personally. After I left my hometown, I was a blank slate to new people. Once we passed the point of casual acquaintance I had to shape the story of who I was. My grief became part of this story.

In the minds of people who had never met her, my mom was only the memory of a woman with cancer who died too young. People would associate her with sadness, my sadness. I was too close to the tragedy to speak much more of her than what had most recently happened. I had blocked out so much of my life because it was too painful to recall.

Now, when I talk about my mom, I want to feel and acknowledge the grief, but then allow those memories of joy, happiness, and love to help shape my story.  

Her soul lives on today in me and my sister, and everyone who was witness to her kindness. She is a beautiful woman.

She gave the best hugs. You know the kind – mom hugs – where you fit just right and you know that everything will be okay, someday. Her laughter was beautiful–it added positive energy to the world.

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Photo credit: Mark Croswell

Growing up in our house there was magic, and I could let my creativity run wild (as long as I dusted on Sundays).

She tolerated the summer month I kept pet worms in my bedroom. She laughed in a knowing way when I showed off my hairless legs the first time I shaved. She gave me an appreciation for the act of making art. She painted and created because it made her soul come alive. She taught me how to cook, and how to organize and let go of what I no longer needed. We made the best Christmas cookies.

She was kind and she loved.

I wish I had more solid memories of her during these happier times. What I remember most was the year I watched her die.

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Photo credit: Mark Croswell

It was a slow progression: losing her hair, losing her breast, losing her grip on the physical world. I remember the day she told me she could sense that the end was near. When she said this, she didn’t cry; I didn’t either. I climbed onto her hospice bed and laid with her, our bodies and souls doing the work that our words could not.

I miss her fiercely and love her dearly. It’s never easy to write about her (I had a break for crying around paragraph three) but it is important to me. Grief is a weighty and complex emotion, so when I can break it into pieces and turn those into words on a page that I can confront it gives me clarity.

There will always be grief. Some days I will let it envelop me. Other days I can acknowledge it and let it pass by me so I can find the joyful, happy, and loving memories of my mom. I hope that you can find acceptance and love for your story, whatever it may be.

In the words of my mom, and one of her greatest pieces of advice, I hope that you too can “enjoy life.”

-AC

Lexi head shot

About the Author: Alexis Croswell has a passion for story telling and an innate desire to learn. She enjoys deep thoughts and emotionally stimulating conversation. She will also be the first to laugh at herself and doesn’t take life too seriously. In her day job she works in content marketing at a people analytics company.

Discover more about Alexis here.

P.S. Sign up for Weekly InspirationInspiration for Good’s newsletter! Find guest posts like AC’s and more from KP in your inbox every week!

Feature photo credit: Mark Croswell