The vet tech was wonderful, bringing in a thick, soft red blanket for Idgie to lay on for her final sleep. I didn’t want her to leave this world on a cold, hard steel table. The doctor explained what was going to happen, and told me to take some time with her while they prepared the injections.
Celebrate Me Home
I moved my chair over to the table and put my arms around Idgie, careful not to jar or hurt her. She was preternaturally quiet, and I knew she was just so tired, completely lacking energy. I felt tears forming at the corners of my eyes, as I lightly brushed her soft gray fur. I stroked her back, her long bushy tail, and touched each of her little white paws. I played with her tiny toe beans, which had always just melted my heart.
I talked softly to her, thanking her for having been the best cat I ever had, and such a wonderful traveling companion. I told her I loved her and would never, ever forget her. That she was going to have a nice long rest, and then when she woke up, she would be across the Rainbow Bridge, where she would be able to see, and to run, and to never hurt again.
I softly sang her two special songs that I had made up for her, and toward the end of the last one, the vet and tech came in. I kept singing and stroking her, as they inserted the first needle to sedate her. The doc said it would be three to seven minutes before she would be completely out, at which time they would give her the final shot.
So This Is What Death Feels Like
My arms were still around her, and I could feel her tiny body relax as the sedative did its work. Her little pink “chipped beef” tongue came out just a little bit, as it sometimes did when she was dreaming. What had always been one of her cutest traits now threatened to completely undo me.
Finally, the doctor said it was time, and moved behind her to insert the needle. I’ve learned that medical professionals believe the last sense to go is hearing, and I wanted Idgie to hear her mama singing her little song as she left us.
I got down very close to her ear, and softly sang:
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, and you are gray…
I felt her go limp, and the doctor moved over and listened to her chest with the stethoscope.
My stomach lurched, and I tightened my arms around Idgie, knowing I could no longer hurt her. I buried my face in her soft fur and cried as I have never cried before.
The doctor touched me gently on the shoulder, and she and the tech left the room for a few moments. I wanted to hold Idgie forever, but my mind revolted at the thought that soon she would grow cold. I could not feel that happening. I did not want it to be a sensation I would remember over and over again.
When they came back, I said, “I don’t think I can leave her.” I felt like I couldn’t walk out of that room.
A strange look crossed the doctor’s face, and I realize now that she was concerned I might really freak out and not let them take her away or something.
She expertly distracted me with some forms to fill out about the procedure and cremation, and said I could stay as long as I needed to. But when I was done with the forms, I suddenly felt like I was going to be sick and had to get out of there.
Goodbye, Little Pal
With one more look at my little girl, I turned the door handle and headed for the front desk. I was bawling like a baby as I walked up there, and I didn’t care who saw me. A woman weighing her dog gave me a compassionate look, and I fumbled with my wallet. The front desk tech kindly said, “We’ll just mail your invoice, okay?”
And that was it. I went out to my truck and when I slid into the driver’s seat and closed the door, a sound came out of me that I have never heard before and hope never to hear again.
So many times, people I met on the road had remarked how special Idgie was, and what a nice little companion she must be. I had often replied, “I can’t imagine doing this without her.”
I was about to find out.
We had been supposed to take off for Colorado that morning, but I was such a wreck, I wasn’t safe to drive. I just went back to my trailer, laid on my bed, and cried myself back to sleep. When I woke up in the afternoon, I got up and took a look around the trailer.
Every place I looked, there were reminders of Idgie: Her scratching pad, her toys, her food bowls. I looked at her empty food bowl and thought, “Oh, good, she’s eaten all her food! She must be feeling better.” Until I remembered…
Later that afternoon, I gathered up most of her things and took them to the local animal shelter as a donation. I simply could not look at them. I spent a few moments looking at all the cats in the adoption room, but there was no way I could even think about that.
When I left the next day for Colorado, I knew that, for the first time in my RV adventures, I would know what loneliness on the road felt like.