Queen Elizabeth once called a bad year her annus horribilus. Looking back over 2014, for us it was an animales horribilus. Some people think pet-sitting is a picnic, and sometimes it is, with the occasional ant infestation. But it’s also a huge responsibility; you hold the lives of people’s “children” in your hands, literally. And when those lives slip through your hands, it’s no walk in the park, trust me. In the five years we’ve pet-sat, we’d been lucky enough to never have an animal die on our watch. Our luck just ran out.
The horribilus part of this year started in Mexico. First, we nursed Rufus through illness and surgery that ultimately left him one digit shy. Then little Mocho stumbled into our lives, sliced and diced. We had him stitched up and shored up enough to return to his “home”. Then, here in B.C., there was Bill the cat, who was diagnosed with lymphoma a week after we began caring for him. We knew both Rufy and Mocho could be healed. Bill could not. The cancer ate him up with devastating speed. At the end, we were on a literal death watch. On his final, one-way trip to the vet, I held him in my lap, his hand in mine, frighteningly cool; his head and chest, with its faint heartbeat, resting on my arm. When his eyes met ours and held them, we understood what he was telling us. He was ready.
Whenever a person or pet dies, people always tell you to be thankful for the good life they led. It’s trite but true. For Bill, it was a wonderful life. He was a big, tough bruiser of a cat. He was born wild, lived wild for three years before ending up in the SPCA, where Joanne and Neil found him and fell in love with him. For the next several years he spent his days roaming the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean, hunting and stalking rodents and reptiles as he had in his early years, then coming home to good food, a warm bed, and a family that cherished him.
Then he got sick. But this was Billy, the big bruiser. We sincerely believed that if any cat could fight this, he could. We even promised him that when he got stronger, he could ramble the brambles again. We held out hope, every day waiting for a Christmas miracle that never came. His ashes will be scattered over his beloved bluffs, and he’ll be free to roam forever.