For from that day I ceased to be
The Master of my destiny,
While she with purr and velvet paw
Became within my house the law.
- unknown

Today I killed our cat. Well, I didn't actually. Our veterinarian did. Afterwards I spent nearly 20 minutes in the vet's parking lot balling my head off. How in the universe's name did I get here?

Two days ago we came home from a trip to the West Coast. We rarely get vacations, but the Trophy Wife had a convention and Stiletto #2 needed to look at colleges. So we combined the two into one big adventure. Unfortunately, the girl and I both got sick the week before and we had been playing catch up ever since. We barely got on the plane. The first day or so was a little iffy, but we got our legs after that.

While we were gone, our very gracious neighbors agreed to feed and let out our dogs (we have two) and check on our cats (we have two) food and water. They did a superb job.

After our trip we walked in the door and went to the kitchen. Our black and brown 7 year old cat Flicka stumbled off the bottom of our carpeted steps and swayed her hips like she was thoroughly intoxicated. She crept over to the kitchen bistro table and mournfully looked up wanting to jump on top as she had done so frequently. It was obvious that she couldn't. I picked her up and placed her on the counter top, proceeded to give her some water, and watched her precariously traverse the sink edge which she fell into twice. Not the nimble cat we had come to love.

It was 8:30 at night. What was I going to do? My girl was beside her self with emotion over how sick Flicka seemed to be. I decided to take her to our regular veterinarian the next morning over the objections of my daughter who wanted her taken in right away which would have meant an hour drive and probably a thousand dollars in off hours emergency veterinary expenses. I felt she seemed good enough to get through the night and I'd prefer her to be seen by the clinic staff who usually treat her.

That night Flicka slept in the guest room with the Trophy Wife. We pulled in a litter box and some food and water so she wouldn't have to go far.

I fell asleep trying to figure out what had gone wrong. She was a shelter rescue kitten. My oldest daughter had done a spreadsheet analysis in middle school of all the available local shelter kittens to convince me of getting a new cat. I admired her industriousness and had to acquiesce to checking them out. But the cats she had selected were getting purchased when we arrived. So Flicka and our other cat, Winnie, were larks that were saved at that moment. I initially thought that Flicka had a bit of an odd look to her face, but she grew into a beautiful, athletic cat and the most loving of our animals. She was an inside cat with an escape artist stealthiness to her. She had just bolted outside two weeks ago. Did something happen out there? What had I missed?

After tests the next morning it was clear that she was beyond any hope of survival. She had severe kidney failure that was not treatable. Most likely a genetic condition she had suffered for quite some time. I now remember that she hadn't eaten well, or jumped much last week. I probably didn't notice because the rest of us were sick and trying to get ready for this trip. Flicka was also really good at hiding when she was ill. She was clearly in major discomfort now, but I decided to wait to euthanize her until after Stiletto #2 could come home from college and get some time with "her" cat and Stiletto #1 could snuggle and say goodbye.

My children wanted to know that Flicka was safe and comfortable. So, I spent most of the day laying next to and nurturning our dying cat so my children wouldn't be sad that she had no one to comfort her. Honestly, I had come to love that cat and still felt guilty that she had been home alone getting sicker and sicker while we were gone. At one point in the day while she was sleeping I went to the garage to do some work. That very ill kitty climbed off the bed and down the stairs to the garage door and whined for me to come inside. I picked her up and took her back upstairs and laid down with her for the remainder of the day. 

That night, the girls both got significant time with Flicka and Stiletto #1 slept with her in the guest bedroom. The next morning everyone said their goodbyes and I drove Flicka to the veterinarian. Signed the forms. Paid the bill. Said my goodbye. And watched her expire. I've been a basket case ever since.

I got here by choosing to be a stay at home dad. This is what at home dads do.

(Goodbye my friend Flicka.)

By Russell Peterson
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