Letting Go

Our white cat, Tiger, came to us in 2006 when his previous owner dropped him at our house. Joanne and I instantly saw the man was abusive. When he opened the cage in our foyer, Tiger ran as fast and far as possible. We later found him crouched behind the dryer.

         It took a long time to win his heart; he was so fearful. But, over time, he gradually warmed to us. I think he finally realized we would not injure him. In time, he became vocal and his personality opened like a flower. He learned to express his needs and his affection.

         For example, Joanne and I meet at our game table almost every day for a card game and have done so for years. In that ritual, I’ve pulled the piano bench up beside my chair for Tiger. He would jump up, watch us play a while, and then paw my arm as I tried to play; his searching eyes told me he needed attention. And, of course, I gave it to him.

         And, despite the feline reputation for indifference, Tiger was always attentive to us, mainly to Joanne, a diabetic. If her blood sugar fell or climbed too much, he would lay nearby, fixing his gaze on her. When I appeared, his laser stare told me, “Do something!”

         We became a society; three of God’s creatures leaning into each other within our one-acre corner of Tennessee. We learned the cross-species nuances of affection, reaching, retreating, intruding, and yielding. We stepped on his tail; he threw up on our floors. Through it all, we slowly began to understand the scripture, “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast.”[1] We were effectively the hands of God for Tiger; we had to fulfill the Lord’s care for His creatures.

         We loved and enjoyed him for 13 years. But, these pet-and-people connections never end well. He was, after all, an elderly cat. So, after completing some kidney tests, about 1:00 p.m. on October 1, the vet told us the time had come. We said we’d bring Tiger to her clinic at 3:00.

         Over the next two hours, I watched Tiger interact with his environment, including us. But I knew what he didn’t—that the road to his future had washed out. As I petted him, prayed for him in this new journey, and wept in farewell to a friend, I wondered if that’s how God views us. He sees what we cannot, and He knows we can’t control what is coming. In the end, our weakness will drop us into His kindness.

         Throughout that last trip to the vet, and as we entered the “death chamber,” Tiger was docile, accepting, silent. As he lay on the table, his very full eyes locked on ours. Peacefully. He had moved beyond fear.

         Then we gathered him in his blanket and held him while the doctor administered the drug that would take Tiger from us. As the chemicals carried him from our shoreline, he pulled a corner of his blanket into his mouth and began to suck. He continued to suckle a breast we could not see. Until he stopped.

         In his death, Tiger made his final statement to our little family; go gently. Lay it down, let it go. Rest. Everything will be far better than you ever imagined.  

[1] Proverbs 10:12 (ESV)

20 thoughts on “Letting Go”

  1. It’s always so hard to lose a furry family member. But there is consolation in knowing that we’ve had a hand in making their lives a good and comfortable one. RIP, dear Tiger!

  2. Thank you for sharing a piece of Tiger’s life and last moments. There is nothing like the unconditional love we receive from a pet—-especially one we have rescued. My Nala blesses me every day with purrs and hugs. My Sammie and Mai Tai have no doubt greeted Tiger.

  3. Brought tears to my eyes. They are my family. I think they have been my lifelong bonding agent. Thank you for writing this piece.

  4. This is a beautiful message and one I need right now as our beautiful, ancient AnnieCat is very close to leaving us. Animals are truly one of God’s greatest blessings.

  5. Your story is nigh a universal one that captures Beverly’s and my experience over the years with our dogs (Cleo, Otis, Aspen…) and cats (China Bear, Jack, Ellie Mae …) all of whom God used to enlarge our world and de-center our human egos. Ed, thanks for sharing.

  6. Thank you Ed for your words and the ultimate kindness they present to us.

    “In the end, our weakness will drop us into His kindness.”

    1. Thanks, Chris. I think that’s one of the big eternal surprises…our weakness unlocks God’s power and kindness. Glad to be living life with you and Linda.

  7. Thank you for this Ed. It is mystical, this way God gives bond with these special animals. I knew I would enjoy getting the dog we have now, Mose, butI really had no idea we would bond like this.
    The picture of tiger pawing at your arm as you play cards is a tender, sweet image of the redemption you and Joanne brought to Tiger’s abused life. It’s like the way a referee holds up the winner’s hand at the end of a boxing match.

    Congratulations! You and Joanne just spent 13 years beating the living hell out of the hellish existence of the abuse Tiger knew before you got him, and the Lord looked on what you have done and pronounced it “Good”.

    And I say amen.

  8. I’m at a loss. This impacted me beyond what I expected when I began. Your touching account of Tiger’s blessing and departure brought up memories of my own when we lost Duchess and Cheyenne. I am truly sorry for your and Joanne’s loss.

    The other day as Joanne was at our house, helping Roberta with placing wall hangings for me to put up, I noticed our little poodle, Cody, was unusually affectionate with Joanne as she worked. He followed her around the rooms, looking up to her. It was unusual for him to do with with anyone but us. Then I realized he sensed a lingering grief in her and he wanted to do what he could.

    Thank you for opening your heart to all of us who enjoy reading your posts. Seeing into the deeper parts of your heart and mind was so very touching.

    1. Thank you, Glen. I think pet relationships and losses represent one of our biggest areas of resonance with other people. We all get it. You and Roberta have always been models of how to treat animals. And, Joanne and I have benefitted from that. Thank you.

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