Over the weekend, I had to do one of the hardest things that a cat parent can be called upon to do: make the decision to send my furry child over the Rainbow Bridge. Shadow cat apparently had some kind of issues on Saturday morning, which caused her to not put weight on her front legs nor hold her head up. Off to the emergency vet in Waco we went. The next day, after tests had been done, we were allowed to bring her home. She still wouldn’t put weight on her front feet or hold her head up. X-rays and workup found her nineteen-year-old self to be in fairly good health, except for issues with two discs in her back. On top of that, it was apparent that she had suffered a neurological episode of some sort. With a deeply sad heart, we made the decision that she needed to cross the Rainbow Bridge. We were unhappy with the vets here in Hillsboro and the surrounding area, so a morning call was placed to our former vet in Gainesville, and an appointment was made. The distance was great. Two hours through downtown traffic in Fort Worth, up past Denton, and on to the small city just on the edge of the Texas/Oklahoma border. I drove. Pam sat in the back row of the truck cab with Shadow in a carrier right next to her. Pam had bottles of water and a syringe to spray water into Shadow cat’s mouth to keep her hydrated. When we arrived at the vet, it took a short while to get us into a back room. Shadow was provided with a painkiller, stronger than the oral one we had been provided with at the emergency room, so she could calm down before the procedure. Shadow cat’s veins were too fragile to do the procedure the normal way, so they injected directly into her chest cavity – a procedure that would take much longer since it meant that the medicine had to be absorbed into the bloodstream rather than injected directly into it. It took over half an hour for Shadow cat to finally slip beyond the veil. The entire time, Pam held her on the table, one hand giving her scritches behind the head, and the other hand under chest, so Pam could feel her heartbeat. The two of them stared at each other – eye-to-eye the entire time.
The vet came in and out of the room several times, along with a technician. They were eager to hear the stories of Shadow cat’s life. The episode in Indiana with the showdown with the geese from the pond – only a closed patio door separating the two opposing sides. The time that Shadow hid from the movers in Lewisville, and we thought she had gotten out. It turned out that she had crawled inside my pillowcase, which I didn’t find out until we had tried to go to bed late. Her episodes of kitty-racetrack through the house – zooming around the master bedroom in a single loop, then dashing downstairs to perform a high-speed loop in the living room and then back up the stairs to repeat the pattern. And the time she slipped off the edge of the bathtub into a full tub, splashing for help and opening her mouth in a soundless meow.
Shadow cat has never really been my cat. Kaylee was that for me, her passing devastated me, and I’ve never truly recovered from it – though Raven and Gabby have been fantastic kitties in their own way. When Shadow first came to us as a two-month-old kitten, she rode with us from Missouri back to Texas. In Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma, we stopped for food at a Taco Bell. I took Pam’s kid inside to eat, and brought a single taco out to Pam, who sucked the juices and seasonings off the pieces of hamburger meat, and then feed the very hungry kitten. When we made it back to the house, Shadow cat followed her everywhere, earning her the full name “Mama’s Little Shadow.” At night, Shadow would sleep on a pillow next to Pam until Gabby and Raven took over the spot, and Shadow could no longer climb into the bed.
Once we made it back home last night, I got some cream, my bottle of Bushmill’s whiskey, and asked to Pam to get a candle. You can see those in the photo at the end of this post. I poured two fingers of whiskey into a whiskey tumbler, filled Shadow’s food bowl with the cream, and the candle out to the stone circle. I’ve said before that my rituals are simple. This was no exception. I have no need for pyrotechnics, flashy crap, or long speeches. In the northwest quadrant of the stone circle, I set these three items, focusing on the intent behind each. The whiskey is thanks to the guardians that help her to cross the Rainbow Bridge. The cream in her bowl is to sustain her on her journey. The lit candle is to help light her path so she can walk with sureness in the dark of where her paws are stepping. These items will stay on the rocks in the stone circle until Friday morning when I retrieve them for cleaning. Why three days? Well, I could answer flippantly that I’m a Druid and three is a scared number. But really, three days are what I consider to be my period of mourning. Once three days have completed, my memories will shift from sadness that she is no longer part of my life in this physical realm to one of gratitude that I was able to share nineteen years with this furry family member.
There will be those that will offer up formalized ritual templates and note that I should have done “this” or “that” instead. All I can do is shrug and note the beauty of what they offered. But its not something that has meaning to me. As I said, I prefer quiet, simple moments…what I did was a gesture to and for Shadow cat from my heart and soul…both of which she will have a piece of for this life and lives beyond.
Rest beyond the veil, beyond the Rainbow Bridge little girl. We will see one another again. In the meantime, play with the butterflies in the field, and sun in the grass with Mimsy, Lyssa, Gizmo, and Kaylee who have all gone before you, all of whom you have touched noses with…