In mid-September of 1994, I was walking from my apartment behind the Newport Music Hall towards campus when I saw it: outside of the local pet shop was a cage full of kittens nursing upon their mother. Orange tabbies, the lot of them, except for one. He was that beautiful steel grey that cat breeders call “blue”. As soon as I saw him, I knew that I had to have him. I vowed that if he were still there when I returned from class, that he would be mine. There was a sign by the cage, “free kitten with the purchase of a Kitten Kit”. The kit itself included: a litter box, kitty litter, cat food, a food bowl, and a water dish all for only $20.

I raced back from class and was pleased to see that he was there. I bought the kit and took him home right away. I put him in my bedroom and began to call out different names to see if he would respond to any of them.

“Here, Buddha!” Nothing.
“Here, Monkey!” Nada.
“Here, Tonto!” Zilch.
“Here, Fido!” In bounded the kitten as fast as his little legs would carry him.

Hmm. Interesting! Let’s try that again to make sure.

“Here, HG.” Nope.
“Here, Sabu.” No response.
“Here, Fido.” Once again, I was accosted by a kitten. This time with a quizzical look upon his face as if to say, “you keep calling me and then putting me in another room. Do you know what you are doing?”

I tested this five more times with many other names. In the end, it was obvious that Fido was his name.

Fido trained me to play fetch with him and to only buy the kind of toys that he liked. He liked items that were soft and fuzzy. Easy to pick up was another plus.

He was always there for me. Even when I was sick. He did not complain or beg for food, but would just curl up next to me until I felt better.

He liked the people that I liked and disliked people that I did not.

He was patient with kids.

When he was diagnosed with cancer a last autumn, I was heartbroken. Still, I did my best to make him comfortable. The vet said that he probably only had about a month to live, but we would try a few therapies to help him, just in case.

We kept him comfortable and he seemed to improve … at least for a while. But this weekend he could no longer jump into bed. He was listless. He barely moved. He has lost a lot of weight. He was obviously suffering.

I felt that I had to put him to sleep. I could barely feel any weight as I put him into the carrier. I felt a twinge of guilt that I had gained weight recently but he had lost so much. I drove him to the vet. He was quiet for the whole drive and the raingreyed skies echoed my mood.

He growled when he saw the vet. He recognized her and was not amused. I petted him as I told her what was going on. She agreed that he was suffering. It seemed like the only option.

They had me put him back in the carrier. He is not really a good patient at the vet’s office. So we had to give him an inhalant to calm him before they could euthanize him. I wrapped him in my jacket to put him in the cage, and though he was too tired and weak to fight, he still bit me through my coat. My index finger has two puncture wounds as a reminder of his fury. I did not cry out. I did not complain. All I could think was, “he is fighting for his life. He does not want to die.”

When I next saw him a few minutes later, he was asleep. I petted his fur and watched his labored breathing. I talked to him and prayed that he would forgive me. The vet gave him the injection and I watched as the little bit of light in his eyes sputtered out like the flame on a gas stove that had been shut off.

I have been crying on and off ever since. And I do not know if I did the right thing. What if he would have felt better after another day or two? He wanted to live! He had fought so hard. And I let him die. No, it is worse than that. I killed him.

I can rationalize it. I did not want him to be in pain. Quality of life and all of that. And there is truth in those words. But there is another truth. He wanted to live and I ignored that wish out of my own selfish desire not to see him in pain.

The drive back to Chicago will be very cold.


22 responses to “fido

  1. Oh, Owen, I am so sorry. *endless hug*

  2. Owen… 😦 😦 😦
    Fido wouldn’t have felt better in a few days, I promise you that. You got to be with him when he passed on instead of you possibly being at work and him being alone. You got to say your goodbyes.
    I can’t tell you if you did the right thing or not, so you just have to make peace with the decision you made. There’s no going back. Your only option now is to grieve and to heal.

  3. I’m sorry.
    I can tell you that you did the right thing. It’ll be 5 years this New Year’s since we had to put the family dog to sleep, and my mom & I still cry together every Jan. 1.
    Having a pet means taking responsibility for another life, and that includes how it ends. You didn’t kill him. Cancer did. You made it, if such a thing is possible, the best & easiest death he could have.

  4. Oh, dear, I am so sorry. If it’s any help at all, know that Fido had a long and wonderful life with you.

  5. I didn’t even know Fido, but this brought tears to my eyes. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  6. Owen, I just want to say that I admire your self-conscious attitude. Most of people prefer to hand-wave it all with “it’s for the animal’s best.” How do WE know what’s for animal’s best? Maybe the animal enjoys more happiness from its fight for life than it suffers from the pain? And are we really more worried with *our* suffering of seeing the animal suffer? I don’t claim that that’s the case — I just think that these are important questions on owner-pet ethics, and that you have the courage to ask them.

  7. I wish there was something I could say, but I only have hugs.
    You’re a good person and Fido loved you. He had a lot of happiness with you.

  8. I’m never sure either. If there were a way to communicate better, I’m still not sure we could be sure, but I see something not mentioned here.
    Animals being put to sleep frequently fight. The vet means pain (or at least the extreme nuisances of manhandling) and they are fighting against pain. Not death. I know that when I have held cats as they pass, they will fight against the shot, the pain, and the continuation of whatever is ailing them, but they want the pain to stop. they want the wrongness to stop, be that cancer, or kidney failure, or whatever. Am i sure I have done the right thing? no. But I think so. It seems beter than any of the other options available to me. as, it seems, was the case for Fido and you.

  9. I completely understand – Morgan fought to the bitter end too and it broke my heart. I still don’t know whether or not it was the right thing to do, but looking back it seems like it was the *only* thing to do. It does get easier to bear with time, things always do. But honestly I think that caring for a terminally ill pet is one of the most heart-wrenching things you can ever do, and the fact that you did it with so much love and compassion makes you a better person than many.
    Take care of yourself, and my kittens send extra snuggles for you today. *hugs*

  10. HUGS
    I Still miss my cat when i visit my parents. She got to the point where she had lost her hearing and sight, but would still navigate the house and could “echo-locate” when “lost” by meowing loudly until one of us shouted her name, at which time she would jump in my chair. But she was eating still so we let it be. When she stopped eating and was crying all the time we decided it was time. My mom even paid extra to have her sedated before the shot.

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