Saying goodbye to Idgie,
my dear little co-pilot

So long, little pal…

It’s Halloween, my second-favorite holiday. I love all the costumes and spookiness and the kids with their candy. I’m in Lamar, Colorado, for my winter workamping gig, and the town’s got several spots where they’re hosting “trunk or treat” events. Despite the sub-freezing temperatures tonight, in another time I might drive down to watch and smile at all the little kids in their outfits, holding out their bags for candy. But not this year.

This year, I’m just not in the spirit, spooky or otherwise. All I can think about is that it’s only been 16 days since I woke up and heard Idgie making noises that told me she was in severe pain, and I knew as I left with her for the emergency vet at 5:30 am that she wouldn’t be coming home with me.


She had been slowly losing weight the whole first year of our fulltime RV life, but I wasn’t aware of it until this past June, when she got a full blood workup and the vet said she was remarkably healthy for her age. She weighed 8.9 lbs. then, a 20% loss since her pre-trip checkup a year ago.

But by August when I took her to her regular vet because she was having issues with severe constipation, she was down to 7.3 lbs. and I started to get a little concerned. I began to think this was wasting, because my friend Robin, who’s extremely cat-savvy, had told me that significant weight loss is not—as most folks believe—a normal part of aging. 

There was something about the severity of the bowel issues that made me start to worry in the back of my mind, but I figured it must be part of her advanced age (around 86 in human years). After all, that vet gave her such a great outcome from that blood panel.

My vet told me I should take her off grain-free food and just feed her Fancy Feast, because supposedly now grain-free is bad for her. But that is exactly the opposite of everything else I’ve been told, so I just kept doing what I’d been doing. She slowly got back to normal, at least with her digestive system. 


Now that I think about it, she never bounced back entirely from that episode. She seemed to stay kind of crabby, and took to sleeping down on her scratching pad next to my bed, which she had never done before. I bought her a fresh scratching pad, since she was spending so much time on it.

I started noticing that sometimes when she was trying to get up on or down from the bed, she’d make little grunty noises. They seemed exactly like the ones I make when I get up from sitting, because my knees hurt a lot. I figured she was also developing some arthritis, and decided if it persisted, I would get a supplement to give her for the pain.

On Sunday, October 13, I brought her up on the bed with me to sleep, because I missed her being in the crook of my arm where she always slept. The next morning, she woke up purring and good-natured for the first time in months. She was all stretchy and sweet, and put her little paws on my face like she did a lot, almost like she was making sure where I was.

I said to her, “I’m so glad you’re feeling better! You had me worried there,” and hugged her.

Something’s Really Wrong

But on Tuesday the 15th, around 5:00 am, I woke up because my arm was asleep under her, and I had to move it. When I did, she growled at me. I was kind of freaked out, because she had never, ever done that.

When I continued to move my arm, she got disgusted and got up to relocate. But I watched her and noticed that she was going around in circles like dogs do, before lying down. Only it seemed she couldn’t find a comfortable place or position, because every time she attempted to lie down, she made that growly noise and got up again.

I realized she was in pain, and from the sound of that noise, probably a lot. That was it. I got up, threw on some clothes, and got her soft-sided carrier. When I lifted her to put her in it, she made a really icky growl-howl that told me she really was hurting, and it wrenched my stomach.

Final Trip

We reached the emergency vet at 6:00 am. We got in to see the vet by 7:00, and I told her what was going on. She immediately listened to Idgie’s chest, and I knew by the look on her face, she had heard something bad.

Very gently, she told me Idgie was in acute heart failure, had developed a heart murmur, and was experiencing extremely erratic arrhythmia. Right away, Idgie’s recent lethargy made sense. I asked what we could do.

The doctor said that she could put Idgie on a painkiller regimen, but unfortunately, she would not recover from the heart failure and at best, she could have another 3-6 months.  

Wrenching Decision

I could not—would not—do that to her. For more than 17 years, she had been a fantastic best little friend, and she deserved better than that. If she couldn’t have a good quality of life, I would find the strength to let her go.

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.

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.

“She’s gone.”


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.


Idgie’s History

She becomes our kitty.

In July, 2002, my then-partner discovers 8-week-old Idgie in a pet store adoption program and brings her home. We take her straight to the vet, where we learn she is FeLeuk+ and are told she likely won’t live a year. So very sad, we decide to make that year—or whatever time we do have—the best it can be.

She becomes my office cat.

Since we can’t expose her to our two other cats, Idgie takes up residence in my upstairs office, where she heals from her tough start on the mean streets of Philadelphia. We develop a very close bond. We know she was born in mid-June sometime, so we celebrate her birthday on June 16, which is easy to remember because it’s mine, too.

Her story gets told in a book

In September, 2008, the heartwarming story of how we got Idgie and how she managed to beat her original brief lifespan diagnosis becomes the anchor essay of the anthology, Almost Perfect: Disabled Pets and the People Who Love Them.

She becomes a literary rock star.

In spring of 2009, I begin taking Idgie with me for presentations about disabled pets, to libraries and retirement homes. As the back cover girl, she knows she is all that, and revels in the attention and love she gets from our audiences.

She becomes a fulltime RVer.

In early September, 2018, Idgie moves with me out of our 1,100 sq. ft. apartment into a 119 sq. ft. travel trailer. We soon set off from our rural Pennsylvania home base for the American Southwest, where we’ll spend our first winter as fulltimers. She discovers the joy of the sunny outdoors, even though she can’t see it. She adapts far better and faster than I to life on the road.

She regains her sight and runs free for the first time ever.

At 8:32 am—ironically, the time of my own birth—on October 15, 2019, Idgie leaves the confines of her limited body here on Earth and crosses the Rainbow Bridge.

I hope she is whole and happy, and knows I will come find her when I cross over myself. And will send me another little fuzzball to love in the meantime. Thank you, little pal. You will always be my heart, and I will miss you forever.