Love When It’s Hard – A Story of Letting Go Of My Beloved Cat

Nearly 15 years ago, I was walking along the Scioto River when I heard an awful sound. I saw a bag floating in the water and pulled it out to find 11 newborn kittens. Someone had put them in a black plastic trash bag, tied them off and tried to drown them. I rushed them to the hospital, but by the time I got there, you were the only one still alive. The veterinarian checked you out and told me you were healthy and happy and would make a great pet. I had always been allergic to cats and told the veterinarian that I couldn’t take a cat. He looked at me and said, ‘Well, I think this one has already decided that you are his person.’

I took you home and stared at you for three days. I had never been a pet owner. I didn’t know a thing about cats. I couldn’t even keep a plant alive. I wasn’t sure what to do with you.   But, within a few days, I learned – that you were the first cat I was not allergic to. By the end of the week, I realized that you were for-the-keeping and we became inseparable.

At the time, I lived in a small apartment (500 sq. feet) so no matter where I was in the house, you were always right next to me. I tried many things I hoped you would enjoy:

  • Kiddie pool (I guess I thought it was a kittie pool) – nope – not your thing!
  • Walking on a leash (yes, I tried this) – definitely not your thing!
  • Baking cat treats – I guess I forgot an ingredient?
  • Dressing up in costumes for the holidays – you dealt with me because you knew it made me happy but this was also not your thing!
  • Carrying you around in a backpack – absolutely NOT!

You moved with me 5 times over the past 15 years, you were the only one by my side for every single heartbreak I had, every failure, every worry, every celebration, every dating relationship, every hope… you were the one with me when I wrote out the dreams for my life, and I remember reading them to you out loud and asked you if you could move to California, because that’s where I planned to go. You meowed and hopped on my lap, so I knew you were in. You were there every time I closed my door and shut the world out for a while when I needed a break. We developed daily habits for just about everything, and you always laid by my feet at night when we’d go to bed. I always felt you were my guard cat.

When I brought the dogs into the picture, you welcomed them. You let them know this was your turf, but they were welcome to it. I couldn’t have asked more from you. You were completely unselfish.

The dogs ended up starting to get a lot of the attention, and I worried that you’d feel left out. I’d always set aside the time just after waking up for you and I to hang out by ourselves. You’d meow, purr and ask for pets. It was our time. You will always be my first pet and the first being to teach me about true unconditional love.

Over the past year, we have struggled with your diabetes and I didn’t know what was wrong. I was doing everything I thought was right. We adjusted insulin amounts, food and gave you your own room in the house. Things seemed like they may be getting better. When I left for my trip last week, I hugged you and looked at you and you looked the best I had seen in months. I wish I would have held you longer. I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d see you. I was thinking we still had plenty of time.

But as it is, we did not. While in Madrid, I received a panicked call from y boyfriend Eric, who was checking in on you, that you were very sick and unresponsive.   He rushed you to see our beloved Dr. West at Health and Harmony hospital.  She and the team spent the morning trying to get your glucose up, your temperature up and to increase your responsiveness.  She was able to get the glucose and temperature up but had concerns that you weren’t responding.  We decided we’d move you to the OSU Emergency Veterinary Hospital who could provide round the clock monitoring and care.  Eric took you to OSU, and gave me play-by-play updates via text.  We all seemed to think it was the diabetes and that if it was, it could be managed and you would be ok.

OSU asked to run tests on you and the next day, called me to say they were very concerned, as you still weren’t responding, and your glucose was going up and down.  By the evening, they called me again and gave me the worst news of my life.  They diagnosed you with acromegaly.  This is a congenital disease that largely goes undiagnosed.  The prognosis wasn’t good – they said you had a brain tumor and that may be what was causing the unresponsiveness.  I asked them if they could keep you comfortable until I could get home – which would be in about 48 hours.  They said they could.  Dr. Gerken spent hours with me, answering questions and making out what I was asking through all of my tears and sobs.  I asked if I could talk to you, and she brought her phone up to your incubator area in intensive care and told me to take as long as I needed.  I began to talk to you, through my muffled tears.

“Hi Sancho, it’s your momma.  Hi my baby boy.  I love you.  Sanch,  you have changed my life for the better. You have made me a better person and you taught me about unconditional love.   You have lived a wonderful life.  You are such a beautiful cat. You have made me so proud to be your mom. We have always been two-peas in a pod. Best buds. Partners-in-crime. We have had an incredible journey together and I am so glad you picked me as your person. I pick you as my cat. You came into my life when I was a little lost. I didn’t know I needed you, but now, I don’t know what I would have done without you. You saved me countless times, just by being by my side and loving me. There were times in my life I thought I was unloveable, and you showed me different.  You showed me what it means to cherish a soul and love them and all of their imperfections.    Just know you made me the most proud mom you could have and your unselfishness and unconditional love has been a rock, foundation and inspiration for me. It was just you and me for so many years. You are my love, my baby boy, my sweet sweet Sancho.  You are one of the most important beings in my life and I will forever miss you until we see each other again. Please wait for me.  Thank you for being my furry angel. You will forever be loved with all of my heart. I love you Sancho.”

As I finished, Dr. Gerken came back on the line and I was sobbing.  It felt so bad to be so far away and have to say those things through the phone.  But – Dr. Gerken told me your respiratory rate increase as I spoke to you.  She said that she felt that you had heard me.   This gave my heart a little bit of peace.

We decided to go through the night to see if you got any better.  We tried a shot of steroids, hoping it would help the inflammation.  By the morning, you had a fever.  Dr. Gerken called me and said we had done everything we could do, but it would be unfair to you to keep you alive waiting for me to get home.

I never realized that the heart can actually break.  But, I now know that it can. My heart is not only full of sorrow and sadness, but it physically feels like it has broken.  I knew there would be a day that this time would come, but I promised you I’d be there with you, and I am not able to be.  As sorrowful as I am – something incredible happened.   I had some amazing people help me to make you have the most wonderful and peaceful passing – even from afar.

Eric, Dr. West and Dr. Bowden (all my local vets) came into a room that Dr. Gerken prepared for you and allowed me to Facetime with you for as long as I wanted. They held you, petted you, kissed you, loved on you, hugged you and all of that was coming from me.  It was all of the things I would do if I were there.  I shared memories of our past 15 years together, thanked you for being my cat and prayed over you – all through FaceTime.  Now, this isn’t ideal of course, but when you are thousands of miles away – this was a really beautiful way to share love between friends and support you.

It meant everything to me to have Eric, Dr. West and  Dr. Bowden there.  I will never be able to repay them for what they did for me by being there for you.  This was the most-painful decision I have had to make.  But, when I asked Dr. Gerken and Dr. West, they both said this is the decision that is a gift to you.  Keeping you alive until I can get home to hug you would be for me.  You already know how much I love you.  And I hope you will never forget.

Sancho, it was a chance-encounter that brought us together, but there was nothing ‘chance’ about it. We were meant to journey through this life together. I will always remember you as the most handsome man wearing a tuxedo in the room. You will make all the cats in Heaven turn their heads!

I believe you chose to go while I was traveling so I didn’t have to bear the burden of seeing you that sick. You were that kind of cat who would do that. I wanted to be there but you had other plans.

I love you my precious, precious angel. Rest now and know you will never be forgotten, you will always be loved, and we will see each other in Heaven. Wait for me. I promise you unlimited pets, belly rubs and no more costumes.  …Ok, maybe just at the holidays.

Thank you for being in my life and one of my best friends. As much pain as it was to let you go, I wouldn’t trade it in, because it is worth having 15 years of your love and meows in my life. I love you my sweet sweet Sancho.

Love, your proud momma


Julie Wilkes