I’ve been on a hiatus…I suppose you could call it that. After you left, it was too difficult to do anything. So, I didn’t. I didn’t even write, and I love to write.

You entered my life very unexpectedly, several days after a colleague of mine asked me, “Hey, do you want a cat?” I was in the military during my second term of enlistment and my colleague was deploying overseas for six months. In a world full of nothing but alpha male co-workers, I probably seemed like the best option. “Uh…I’m not really looking to get a cat but..sure, I guess….”  That split second, half-hearted decision would come to be the best thing I ever did. You fit into my life effortlessly and seamlessly. Looking back now, there is no doubt we were destined to be together. It had to be divine intervention.

You were brought to my apartment one afternoon in Colorado Springs, inside of a little crate with a metal grated door. I don’t recall seeing you in the crate. You must have been hiding, which I would later learn, was the way you dealt with any stranger you met. My colleague set your crate on the carpet, opened the door and a little black blur flew past by my range of vision, making a bee line for the nearest piece of furniture to hide under. “That’s Spooky”, my colleague said. Spooky…not a name I would have chosen but okay, Spooky it is, I thought to myself. Then my friend took the crate and left. I didn’t see or hear a peep out of you until the following day.

I was sitting on my bed when you, a small black cat with piercing green eyes jumped up, walked right over to me and leaned against me with your ultra soft fur and your quiet, calm way. You looked up at me with those sweet little irresistable eyes and I melted inside. You talked to me with the most delicate, soft-spoken meow and captured my heart instantly. “Hi Spooky”, I replied back– attempting a voice soft enough to match yours. You snuggled up to me through the night and suddenly I felt like the luckiest person on the planet. From then on, we would be together for the next seventeen years. Inseparable. A package deal.

You came with me everywhere. Each new duty station, training base, temporary assignment, permanent assignment, hotel stays, and TDY’s. When I left the military and became a civilian you drove with me across the country from one coast to the other FOUR times, riding along in that white three series BMW with Dakota in the back too. You had a kennel to sleep in, sure….but you didn’t need it. You were so used to traveling, you loved the steady vibration and hum of the engine. Most of the time I would find you sleeping. We discovered Monterey together. You loved it here as much as I did. There you were, through job lay offs, heartbreaks, bad-break ups, job changes, career highs and lows, relationships that lasted too long, lonely days and nights, good times, sad times, difficult times and all the ups and downs life brings. You were my one constant.

Later, when Dakota entered the picture, you showed her the ropes. You accepted her and grew to love her and vice versa. Two peas in a pod, she never knew life without you in it. You would cuddle up with her on her bed and she would be careful to not smoosh you. I would leave your food out in your bowl and she would never eat it. You would bathe her and continually grace her with your gentle, yet compelling presence. Dakota loved you respectfully and you loved her overtly. Powerfully impacting her in your quiet and sweet way, the same way you had done with me. We were a pack of three and it was the Spooky Dakota Chapter of our lives. The most precious chapter I would never forget. The one I wished could last forever.

You became sick in late 2017, the first night in my new apartment in Los Gatos, California. I thought I would lose you, but with medicine and special food you fared well over the next year or so. You were so good about getting your insulin shots. You would remind me each morning that it was time for it. I could tell you were slowing down and I knew deep down, my time with you was limited.  I became extremely conscious of my love for you and how I would feel when you were gone. I started missing you early, long before it was your time to leave. I savored every second with you. I became even more in tune with you, and you with me.

In November 2018, we were finally able to move back to Monterey where you had a yard for the first time in many years (thanks to our very dear friend–if you are reading this, you know who you are). You and Dakota were so happy in our new spot. How amazing to see you out in the sunshine, once again, smelling the flowers and basking in those warm rays. It was a magical time. I hung your Christmas stockings for the Christmas of 2018 and we spent our days and nights admiring the twinkling lights on the tree. You adored any live tree in the house and when the tree was there, that was the water you preferred to drink, Christmas tree water. I bought you a red, white and green plaid Christmas bow tie that you wore on Christmas day like a badge of honor.

When 2019 came, we were feeling very blessed and thankful for so many things. There we were, in our familiar town and I was spending more time at home with my pack due to my new business venture and a flexible schedule. It was a wonderful time yet in the back of my mind I worried you wouldn’t make it through the year.

In late March I rushed you to the emergency vet after finding you in a very bad way. You had been getting insulin injections for your diabetes, which as it turned out, you no longer needed. This was good news, your diabetes was in remission. After they balanced your blood sugar and the insulin was gone from your system, I was allowed to bring you home later that same day. Three weeks later there was the follow up appointment with an Internalist Veterinarian. The plan was to test your blood sugar levels to make sure it was okay to keep you off of insulin. This was supposed to be a routine appointment yet my higher self told me it might not be. On the way to this particular appointment, I remember wistfully thinking “I wonder if this will be our last trip to the vet”.  My intuition has always been a great strength, but this is the one time I had hoped it was wrong.

I’d spent the last few weeks helping you drink enough water to stay adequately hydrated, getting you special food to eat, helping you on and off the furniture and sensing that you weren’t as comfortable as you once were. So many things were running through my mind. After we arrived at the vet, the veterinarian did an exam and then ran some tests. While at the vets office, I kept breaking down, and wondered why I was so emotional. Once the tests were concluded, I was brought into a small room where the vet gently but very frankly told me that you had multiple problems. Your spleen had a tumor that could rupture at any time, your intestines were “ropey” (I still don’t know what that means), you had pancreatitis, the onset of kidney disease, and an infection on top of all of that. It was also possible that the seizures you had been having every few months could be caused by a brain tumor. However, there was no reason to confirm the tumor. You wouldn’t make it long enough to know.

You were always the stoic and sweet one, especially around me.  I had no idea you were suffering as much as you probably were. The vet provided some narcotics and told that me that my job was now to just make you as comfortable as possible and provide you with hospice care until I was ready to put you down. In that moment, my heart shattered into a million pieces. A deep sorrow came over me that I can not possibly describe. My little boy was leaving me and I was not ready. I would never be ready. This wasn’t happening.

As we drove home, I knew this would be your last trip in my car. It would be the last of many things over the next several days. When we got home, I reluctantly called and scheduled your euthanasia for one week later, on Thursday, April 11, 2019. I kept telling myself I can always cancel the appointment. Deep down though, I knew your time was coming to an end. I would not allow you to suffer. Not on my watch.

For the next several days, I spoiled you more than ever. I bought you special treats, organic bone broth, and a light weight sea themed collar. I got up several times a night just to lift you up to drink water out of the bathroom faucet. You had a running water bowl but the faucet, well..that was always your favorite. You sat on my lap as I worked, slept on my chest and shoulder as I slept. I listened to you breathe at night, occasionally snoring ever so slightly….like a cute, subtle whistling sound. We hung out in the front yard as much as we could. You smelled the flowers and ate the grass. Sometimes you would go to the edge of the lawn where the neighbors property starts or you would lay on the outdoor dog bed in front of the door. Those where your favorite spots. Dakota was always close by. While inside, you cuddled with Dakota and gazed out the window from time to time. You watched me make your breakfasts and had long conversations with me, as you always did. You greeted me each time I came home, although I tried not to leave you those last few days. I couldn’t bear to be away from you and when I was, I found myself rushing home just to see your sweet face. You made yourself comfortable on the bathroom floor because you were a huge fan of the skylight, always worshiping the sun anywhere you could find it. Just like me, kitty. Intuitively, you knew things were getting difficult and you made an extra effort to surround me with love.

When you had a siezure on the morning of Monday April 8, 2019. I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. I phoned in a different vet, one that would come to our house and set you free from this senseless world. I was told they would examine you first and if they thought you weren’t “ready” they would let me know. As I waited for them to arrive, I didn’t leave your side and you never left mine. You were always wise and knew when I needed you. I was numb and could not believe or comprehend anything. I took pictures of you and a video of your last few hours. I cried endlessly as the clock kept ticking. Most importantly, I loved you as much as one could love anything in this world. You slept curled up on my lap while we waited. Then I cradled you like a baby in my arms and wept, feeling powerless in every way.  I kissed your head and smelled your fur, which always reminded me of a pair of moccasins I used to have growing up. I loved your scent. I asked a dear friend of ours to come be with us, the only other human you accepted besides me. You were always very selective and I treasured that about you. You chose me.

I opened all the windows to our little house in paradise and the sun came through beautifully, lighting up the room with a strange cheerfulness and very slight breeze. Our dear friend came over and watched me cradle you until the vet showed up. You were such a good boy Spooky. After your exam was completed I was told that you were “ready”. The problem my love, is that I wasn’t.

I don’t know how I found the strength, but I signed that piece of paper and carried you over to the place where you would leave me. As I sat on my living room couch with you in my arms, on my lap, I felt your little body become heavy. I whispered in your ear, I love you Spooky. You are perfect. I thanked you for being mine. Then suddenly and quietly, you slipped away….leaving my life as gracefully as you had once entered it. I set you free, but I will never let you go. Tears streaming and emptiness all around.

It’s no coincidence that you left at the onset of Spring, when all things that were dying, are reborn and transformed. Wherever you are now I know you are making an impact because the most beautiful souls cannot be ignored or dimmed.

Dakota and I haven’t been the same since you left. I could try to explain it, but there are no words. The silence is deafening and the void within me is a steady aching feeling. No one ever tells you that your soul mate might not be human. Or, that it doesn’t have to be a romantic partner. A soul mate is another soul that you have the deepest of connection with. Perhaps you can have more than one, I do. Spooky was the first soul mate I’ve ever had–a rarity, and an exceptional miracle in my life. I’m not ashamed to admit that because I’m not so arrogant as to think, that as a human being, I’m superior. As humans, we bring certain things to the world and yes, we have the ability to reason. Animals too, bring their unique gifts to the world. Gifts that we could never duplicate.

If anyone ever says “it’s just an animal”, beware of those people. Animals have the most pure hearts and teach us extremely valuable lessons about life and ourselves, if we love them enough to allow it. If you are open to it, they will undoubtedly make you a better person. If you patiently and compassionately love them through anything, they will blossom into the most beautiful versions of themselves. They are one of the greatest gifts of the universe.

I have been blessed a thousand times over to have been loved by an animal. Not just any animal, a cat named Spooky.