Almost 7 years ago, my sister entrusted me with the care of her family's cat. She was moving and wanted to make sure that all the noise and packing and confusion didn't upset him, so she left him with me. In the ensuing days as she moved and tried to unpack and settle into her new house, an amazing thing happened - Lefty became a part of our family. He slept as close to the boy as I would allow. He tried desperately to make friends with our other cat. He adored all the attention. After a few weeks, we agreed that he could continue living with us since there was no love lost between him and their dog and other cat.
Lefty became a fixture in our household, always a gentleman. A true gentleman. A well-behaved and well-groomed cat, his name "Lefty" came from the fact that he was left behind when my sister's neighbor's moved out. It has always seemed less than fitting for him. My mother can never remember his name and always calls him "Lucky", and that he is. He is battle-scarred from his days in the hood defending his turf. I remember a time when no cat would come within a three-house radius of us. There has always been such a regal air to him, right down to the way he places his feet, and chest out, head tall, he would stand surveying all his eye could see - his kingdom. After seeing this face he presented to the world, I would often call him Mufasa from "The Lion King", as that is how he seemed to me. Strong, proud, defending his family. When my friend Anita met him, she saw the same regal air and he became "Sir Lefty" - still the gentleman, ever chivalrous and charming.
Unfortunately the years pass, and after he got into a brawl with another cat and lost, I was told he needed to become an 'indoor cat'. And so he did. He never really liked it but he'd lost a step, and even he knew it. Still, he would stand at the door rather pitifully hoping that I would let him go, and on warm summer days with supervision he would have romps in the yard. Every once in awhile he would get out when I wasn't looking, but he would always show up after an hour or so ready to come back inside, knowing that he didn't rule any longer.
Last year, when we moved to Maine, he once again had room to roam in our subdivision. At 17, he didn't go very far. I was thrilled that we had such a great summer so he could return to those glory days, even if his kingdom had been reduced to a perimeter search of the house, a quick jaunt into the woods to relieve himself, and then long days of sleeping on the front porch at his post as 'guard cat'.
He had a long, hard winter. Arthritis catching up with him, at 18, he started losing weight, not eating as much, sleeping a lot longer. Only in looking at pictures from last summer in the last few days have I really seen how he has been failing. Late this spring, he had a fairly severe infection, and has never really come back from it. We had been gone for a few days and on our return, he barely lifted his head to greet us. He has good days, 2 this week in fact, but only after we had him in to the vet again. Two out of seven days will never be enough. He has brought so much to our lives and I cannot fail him now. We are out of options to help him, and holding him in my arms in the back yard a few days ago, when he was having trouble standing, I knew that it was time to let him go.
Tomorrow, I will take him in to the vet so he can pass on without pain. My heart is breaking as I sit with him and hear him purr and watch him turn his head into my hand so I can scratch him just so and he can hug me. I know he knows it's time. A can of his favorite food now, he is still taking care of me feeling my sadness. Soon, I will give him a few last kisses and I will leave him sleeping. The morning will come too soon.