October 26, 2007 was the day I had to put my cat, Milo, to sleep. That was hard, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Milo was my little buddy who’d been with me since I arrived in Canada in 1999. He was an orange and white cat who grew from a little ball of fur to a whopping 19 lbs – hard to imagine I could fit him into the palm of my hand when I first got him.
Milo developed cancer of the lymph nodes, which quickly spread, and the prognosis wasn’t good – 6 to 12 months with chemotherapy and even that wasn’t guaranteed to be a success.
I first discovered the lumps in his throat when El Franco and I were watching TV one night and Milo, as was his wont, jumped onto the couch and demanded his rightful place in my arms for a chest-and-belly rub. That’s when I felt the lumps and I immediately realised something was wrong. My initial thought was that he had a virus of some sort; having just moved into an old Victorian house with a small back yard, I let Milo hang out with us whenever we were enjoying the last warm days of summer. He would spend a lot of time sniffing around the perimeter and I thought he might have contracted something from another cat’s feces.
That week, the vet performed a biopsy and the results came back after more than 7 days. Needless to say, they weren’t favourable and I took him to a cat oncologist who had some doubts about the fine-needle biopsy and wanted to remove two of Milo’s lymph nodes in order to get better test results. I had to wait another week for the results and at this point I was already greiving for my little buddy. His personality had changed and he became more and more withdrawn, not wanting to spend time with me or lay in my arms. Eventually, the second set of results confirmed the first and that’s when I got the final prognosis.
Throughout this whole period, Milo had been poked, pricked, pinched and subjected to a battery of tests, none of which were pleasant for the little guy. He had to be force-fed medication and analgesics, which tasted abominal to him and made him froth at the mouth whenever his teeth punctured one of the capsules. The poor thing had just about had enough, I think, and the last few days were a listless existence for him – and, it felt, for me too.
In the end, I had to decide on quality of life versus a humane and painless end for the best cat I’d ever had in the whole of my life. That was so hard. I never thought I’d be without Milo, at least not for another 10 years or so, and it was incredibly painful to take him to the clinic in a cab, in rush hour traffic, knowing that I’d be going home without him. All the while, he’d rub his chin against my hand in his carrier and nibble my fingers.
Milo died peacefully in my arms at the animal clinic, kneading my face and neck as I scratched his chest and belly, just like old times.
Although the pain will ease as time passes, I wonder if I’ll allow myself to feel the same for another pet ever again.