Saturday, March 24, 2012

Requiem for Gryffin (guest post)

One of our readers, a colleague, submits this essay at a time of great personal loss, remarking that perhaps clients need to recognize that we have these feelings, too.


He heard the voice as from a distance. It was the voice he heard every day, the voice of the one who scratched under his chin and behind his ears. The voice who controlled that damn red dot that somehow always vanished just when he was about to catch it. The voice who fed the yummy mushy food, and, when he used That Look, dispensed the tasty tuna treats.
The voice was soothing, and choked with emotion. He could feel the hand stroking his head and chin. He purred, enjoying the touch.
It wasn’t that he was in pain. He just ached all over. He was so tired all the time now, and so very thirsty. He couldn’t seem to get enough to drink. Sometimes he almost fell asleep while drinking. And today he just could not get out of bed.
The tiredness began to overwhelm him. He purred once more (he knew it made the voice happy), then took a deep breath and closed his eyes...

When he opened his eyes again,  something was…different. He felt different. He stretched an experimental paw out, and realized there was no ache. He reached out with the other leg and reveled in the sensation. No aches, no kinks or creaks or pops. He leaned forward and stretched his back and hind legs. They felt loosed than they had in ages.
He sat down and took another deep breath. The air smelled clean. Pure. And  a little… ‘nippy? His nose twitched. He moved his head as he breathed in the scent, homing in on the source. He stood and paced over to a small garden. He nosed through several less interesting plants (making mental note to come back later and investigate them) until he found the Catnip. He inhaled the sweet smell, letting it tickle the inside of his nose. Then he chomped hard on a leaf, the flavor exploding on his taste buds and swirling within his senses.
He came to a while later. He looked down to find himself sprawled on the grass next to the garden, a handy sunbeam warming his fur. He rose and shook himself, then settled back into the sunbeam to wash. He hated feeling dirty.
Once finished, he chose a direction at random and casually strolled through the grass. A light breeze tickled the fur inside his ears and countered the warmth of the sun overhead. He found a large tree with a cool shady spot underneath. He sniffed the tree, taking note of several scents he hadn’t come across in quite a long time. One of those might even be his brother…
He rubbed against the tree to leave his own message, and then stood tall and stretched his body against the rough bark. His claws dug into the bark, and he delighted in the feel of ripping his nails out, then sinking them back in, then ripping them out again. For several minutes he simply indulged his primal instinct to sharpen, mark, and destroy.
Afterwards, he contemplated the tree. He could easily make the jump to the lower branches, and there might be something interesting up there. He was preparing to leap when a splash nearby sounded. He turned and spied a small pond, ripples spreading across the surface. The tree forgotten, he moved to the side of the water and gazed down.

He could see a small school of fish (FISH!) moving just below the surface. Every now and then, a fish (FISH!) would jump from the water and splash back. He dangled a paw in the water in contemplation, slightly disappointed as the fish darted away. When he removed his paw, the fish returned, and he began to plan his attack. He waited for another jumper, then grabbed at the air. Unfortunately he only caught air. But he refined his calculations and planned for the next jump. That was when the movement caught his eye.
He turned quickly, searching for the source of the darting motion. He saw it – a squirrel (SQUIRREL!) digging near the base of the tree. He immediately crouched low in the grass. If the enemy (SQUIRREL!) hadn’t seen him yet, he had a chance to make the first move. He waited motionless. The squirrel (SQUIRREL!) continued to search the ground for food. He inched forward at a glacial pace. Carefully he calculated the distance he needed for the perfect attack. He neared the ideal spot when… he heard the voice. It was very faint, as if from a very long distance. He turned his head and looked, but saw only the rolling meadow, swaying trees, and ponds dotting the vista. In the far distance he could make out others like himself (he made mental note to investigate later). But no sign of the voice. He almost stood to search, when he felt a gentle breeze, almost like a final touch, caress his head and chin. He closed his eyes and purred once more to the voice.
Then he turned back to his prey. Almost there…


  1. Awww, how very sweet! I like to think this is where all cats go when they pass. What a lovely ending!

  2. How inspiring that is & to ease the owner's distress !

  3. this is one of the saddest things I've read in a long while. We just lost an elderly dog a couple of weeks ago. I read your post, looked at our remaining dog (also elderly) and just cried all afternoon.

  4. Beautiful. I know when it is my turn to go to the Rainbow Bridge, I will be reunited with my sister Pixie.

  5. I'm so sorry for your loss. This tribute to Gryffin is what I hope all kitties experience when it come time for us to release them to the place where they can spend eternity basking in all of the things that make it so good to be a cat in its prime. If only the comfort gleaned from imagining such an idyllic passing could spare us the grief that comes from having our time with them come to an end.

    Your 'Requiem' is, at the same time, the most joyous and the most heartbreaking take on the loss of a beloved cat companion I've ever read. That said, I wish there had been a warning posted that this may cause deep-seated feelings of loss and sadness to surface. Ir's been 20 minutes since I finished reading it and I'm still sobbing from reliving the moments when I heard my Woof, Moo, and Chatter cats purr for the last time.

  6. When faced with euthanizing an animal, i have often tried to get an owner to tell me something that the animal enjoyed, or a funny story about them. Then I will try to tie that into what the pet will experience in the pet afterlife... ie, "I bet Fluffy will finally catch that cardinal now." It is funny how euthanasia is often what people consider to be the tripping point of being a vet. There are so many times that I consider it to be a gift. It is one that can be hard to give, particularly over and over again, but it is a gift in most cases.

    1. You are so correct in stating that euthanasia is a gift, the final gift we can give to our pets who have given us so much throughout their lives. I've seen the look in the eyes of far too many pets during that last visit and have seen an understanding and felt a sense of gratitude from them. When that devil of a dog that has tried to eat you during every visit since it was 8 weeks old is finally seeing you in the Quiet Room, calmly allowing you to administer the IM sedation that saves him from the distress of trying to get that IV injection, then licks your hand to say thanks before drifting off to sleep, you know that they understand and that they forgive. It's a shame we can't show our human family members the same kindness.

  7. The first part especially brought tears to my eyes. May I use it to give to owners of CRF pets who ask whether their pet is in pain? There is so much more to it than pain. A beautiful description of slipping away.

  8. How beautiful.... how joyous!! Thank you so very much for sharing this. I don't know how you guys do the "pink needle" day after day for our beloved pets, but (almost) every vet that I have ever had do the honor of crossing one of my old ones over has been gracious, caring and truly a Godsend to me. Thank you, thank you.

  9. That is beautiful and comforting, I am so sorry about your loss of Gryffin.

  10. Oh hell I'm bawling. Beautifully written.

  11. I have tears flowing down my face. Way to make me cry at work, again. Well said. I can only hope that this was how it was for my sweet kitty last month. And I'm so sorry for your loss.

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