On June 14, 2008, I fell in love with two kittens. I named them Abby and Benji, after Abigail Adams and Benjamin Franklin. (Yep, I’m a nerd.) Abby is the gray kitten on the left, and Benji is the tuxedo kitten on the right.
For a long time, it was just the three of us. They helped me through breakups, law school, several big moves and unemployment. They comforted me when I felt all alone and like the biggest failure. I graduated law school in 2010 in the midst of the recession and couldn’t find a job. We moved in with my parents, and I’ll never forget the humiliation I felt when one of my nieces asked me, at age 26, if I would ever get married or find a job. I’m the youngest of four, and by their mid- to late-20s all of my siblings were married with jobs, houses and kids. I didn’t have any of that. I didn’t even have a boyfriend.
But I had Abby and Benji. There’s a lot of negative connotations surrounding single women with cats, but that didn’t matter. They were my family. I’ve spent more time with them over the past decade than I have with any other living being.
I met my future husband soon after I turned 29, and we got married when I was 32 (I’ll be 34 on March 4). Abby and Benji were reluctant at first, but they both eventually accepted Ian into our pack. We adopted a third fur baby, Clara (after Clara Barton), last May. Benji took to her pretty quickly, but Abby is still skeptical!
We moved from DC to NC in October. Soon after, Benji’s appetite decreased and he started losing weight. At first we all thought it was stress (including the vet). His blood work came back normal, so we tried appetite stimulants and giving him different food. Then two days after Christmas he stopped eating completely. We took him to the emergency vet for an ultrasound. The next day we got the phone call that no one wants to get. They had found a small mass in his stomach. It was either IBS or cancer. If it was IBS then the medicine they put him on would help. If it didn’t, then we’d know. After a week it became apparent that the medicine wasn’t working. We were force feeding him and giving him fluids and forcing him to stay alive, but he continued to deteriorate. On Friday, January 4, he could barely walk and his breathing was labored. He had also filled up with fluids. We took him back to the vet, where we made the hardest decision of my life.
It’s been four weeks since we said goodbye to our beloved Benji. I still can’t believe I’ll never hear him meow again, or feel him rub against my legs. He’ll never greet me at the door when I come home, or try to block it when I leave. He was my lap cat, my cuddle buddy, the one who’d let me carry him around. He was and will always be my baby. Sometimes I miss him so much I can barely breathe.
What makes a horrible situation even worse is seeing how hard it is on Abby. Clara is grieving, too, but Abby is taking it much harder. She’s been noticeably depressed. And a couple weeks after he died, Abby started having stomach problems. She’s always been the best little eater, so when she doesn’t want to eat I know something’s wrong. She was diagnosed with pancreatitis, which the vet thinks is from stress. Just when she started recovering from that she developed a cold and lost her appetite again. She’s two days into the medication for that and is starting to improve. It’s just been one thing after another and I don’t think I can handle much else.
Today is February 1, and I’m hitting the reset button on 2019. The year is still young and full of promise. I know we’re all still grieving, and probably will be for a while, but I know Benji wouldn’t want us to be miserable. It’s time to take better care of myself and focus on my goals again. One of my first projects is getting better organized and planning content for the month ahead instead of a week at a time. I’ll let you know how that goes!
Hug your fur babies and loved ones close. Our time with them is so precious.