Though we have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, we unfortunately spent the day rather heartbroken.
We were excited to spend Thanksgiving evening with good friends and neighbors, looking forward to having a few days off, and had big plans to tackle a few renovation projects. Instead, we began the Thanksgiving day bidding an unexpected and heartbreaking farewell to our beloved four legged family member, Mel.
Mel was a cherished member of our family for the last 16 1/2 of his 17 years. His rugged Scottish (Fold) good looks, expressive personality, near constant grumpy looks in his little round face, and ability to win over pretty much everyone he came in contact with has been the constant in our adult lives.
I was a mere 22 years old when Mel came into our lives, given to us by Alex’s mom when her chihuahua and other cats decided Mel wasn’t a welcome member of her household.
We celebrated some of life’s biggest moments together; our engagement, wedding, move into our first home, job and career changes, the adoption of both Oliver and Lulu, and so much more.
I remember waiting with him in our apartment on September 11, watching the news, anxious for Alex to get home from work in DC. He and I sheltered in our apartment’s parking garage the day a tornado came through Alexandria.
He laid by my side, providing warmth and comfort as I recovered from two hip surgeries. And he’s been a constant presence in our home, never hesitating to provide love, affection, audible displeasure, and quite frequently, comic relief.
He loved Halloween because it meant he could sleep in our Trick-or-Treat basket, yet he hated the idea of dressing up for the holiday. He loved tuna and laying with his arms extended over the sides of furniture.
He loved Christmastime, as it meant chewing on ribbons, laying under the warmth of the tree lights and drinking the sap flavored water while getting tree sap stuck in the fur on the his head (giving him the ultra creative December nickname of “Sap Head”).
He loved lounging around. We would call him “the rolley, polley Cheat” when he’d lay on his back and roll around. (Long story vaguely related to Internet cartoon Homestar Runner, but we tend to have absurd nicknames for our babies.)
He hated to be brushed, and after tolerating it a whopping 1.7 seconds (and issuing a few warning hisses), wouldn’t hesitate to enthusiastically bite the brusher.
He loved to sit outside with us. He could sit for hours on a cushioned chair or in our laps, gently raising his sweet face, breathing in all of the smells of nature and keeping an eye on the pesky squirrels or birds in trees.
And, after much convincing on her part, he came to not only accept Lulu as part of our family, but grew to love her deeply. As long as she remembered that he was in charge.
And although he had grayed somewhat and his health had been steadily declining over the last few years, most recently developing near blindness and some arthritis, he spent his last days and weeks seemingly feeling quite well and giving us no indication that the end was near.
He and Lulu also shared an unfortunate bond of being cancer survivors, of the same type of cancer, mast cell tumors. They were diagnosed within days of each other back in 2012 and Mel had to have a good section of his tail amputated as a result.
He was not happy with the scenario, but fought through that as he did all of his other ailments over the years to celebrate his 17th birthday this past October. He was still doing what he loved, stretching out on the couch, getting scratched under his chin and behind his ears, and transitioning to his well earned life as a lap cat that enjoyed staying warm.
Alex woke up early yesterday morning to run a Turkey Trot with friends in Del Ray. He had heard Mel come up the stairs just a short time before he got out of bed (one of the nice things about old homes are the creaky stairs that let you know when someone is coming or going). But when Alex went downstairs to leave for the race, Mel wasn’t in any of his normal morning spots. Concerned, he went looking for him and found him, already having crossed the rainbow bridge. He looked peaceful, as if he had laid down and curled up to take a cat nap, and then took his last breath.
Having been through Ollie’s long and difficult battle with cancer, I have to say that ultimately we’re grateful for how Mel chose to leave us. He was safe, comfortable, and in his own familiar surroundings, he knew that the three people that love him most were nearby (yes, I count Lulu as “people”), and he made the decision in his time and on his terms.
In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, we had a great week as a family. We spent time cuddling on the couch, and he enjoyed some of his favorite foods including tuna juice and turkey. And on Tuesday night, while we hung a new mirror in the living room, Mel sauntered in to see what the fuss was all about. It was like old times. Me petting him, Mel investigating the tools we were using, and he, Lulu, and I offering helpful advice as to how Alex could hang the mirror.
Below is the last photo we have of Mel, taken Tuesday night. Lulu and I were on the couch and Mel jumped up and snuggled up between the two of us. I remarked to Alex, “Would you ever have believed, given how much Mel hated Lulu at the start, that he’d ever learn to love her and would actually seek her out?”
I can’t imagine a better way to go out. Loving, and being loved.
Our hearts physically ache with grief, and it’s hard for me to type this through swollen and watery eyes. But for anyone who has gotten to know us through our blog or has ever shared in a love for a pet can know that our home feels quiet and empty, and our family no longer feels complete.
A brief blog post can’t begin to express just how much we care for Mel or the void that we feel as a result of his passing. He lived such a long, full, and wonderful life, and we’ve been trying to prepare for this inevitable moment for years, but there’s just no way to truly prepare nor fully express our sadness. To Alex and me, Mel was so much more than a cat both in mind and spirit, and he will forever be loved and missed.
I’ll leave you with this little video we made of Mel and Lulu, showing the spirit, spunk, and feistiness he possessed as a spry 10 year old, letting Lulu know who was boss.
We have to much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, perhaps most of all that we had 16 1/2 years of loving companionship from our smallest family member.