During the fall of 2021, Pernod started to struggle with his health. In the early hours of the day I heard him vomit now and then. Of course we took him to the vet. She examined our little man and found nothing out of the ordinary. We went home with some pills for his stomach and the problem was solved for a while. Next Pernod started to mess with his food. When Pernod ate, he often put his bites of food on the floor next to his bowl before eating them. So we were used to some mess on the placemat under his buffet. But suddenly he became a lot more messy. Strange. Back to the vet. This time she thought that Pernod might be suffering from one or more infected teeth. We were referred to a veterinary dentist. I didn’t even know that existed! But of course I went. Everything to give comfort to my little friend.
The dentist saw it immediately: Pernod had bad teeth, but no inflammation. That couldn’t be the cause of the mess. Weeks passed. Vomiting again. Always early in the morning, on an empty stomach. A stomach infection? Gastric acid? A drop of this, a pill of that. And the funny thing is, all this time I was worried about Pernod, but I never thought of anything fatal. Looking back, I think that is very strange. I’m normally quite easily worried, but in this case… It was probably because I thought that at twelve years old, he still had years and years ahead of him. But what mostly fooled me, was that the little man was always so cheerful. Every morning, when I opened the bedroom, he was almost bursting at the seams with pure happiness. His gait was more like a hop as he ran ahead of me into the kitchen. There he got his food. To mess with. I cleaned it up again with a smile. Pernod was a very happy boy, always. When I think about it, the tears come again. What a gift to have a friend like that. What a privilege.
And then the day came when I was in the kitchen with my husband and we both looked at Pernod and saw that he tried and tried, but couldn’t eat at all. He took food in his mouth, shook his head, and dropped it again. One more bite. The same thing happened. We looked at each other, and we both knew: This isn’t right. Not good at all. Back to the doctor. She shook her head and said: “We are going to test his blood. He clearly has a problem, but what? Kidney? Liver?” The next morning, I dropped Pernod off at the clinic. I had to leave him behind and I hated it. But I knew I put him into loving hands, because everyone in this practice now had a soft spot for our little star. A few days later we got the results of the test. Everything seemed more or less in order, except for one thing: Pernod had a serious vitamin deficiency. That indicated a poor absorption of food. And he had lost weight. No wonder. The doctor suggested an ultrasound of his bowels. “Maybe there’s something in his stomach that shouldn’t be there. Cats eat crazy stuff sometimes. A simple rubber band can have far-reaching consequences.” We had to wait a few days before Pernod could go under the ultrasound. By now all emergency lights were flashing in my head. I slept badly. Got up in the middle of the night to go and see how the little man was doing. When I put my hand on his head in the dark living room, he started to purr without opening his eyes. He knew I was with him and that made him happy again. Oh, my heartbreaker.
My husband found a way to get some food into Pernod’s body. He bought pâté and served it in small bites on the edge of a plate. Pernod could lick that. And he thoroughly enjoyed it. It took us at least half an hour 3 times a day to get him to eat enough, but we did it with so much love. And we saw results: the belly started to fill up a bit once more.
Then came the ultrasound. This time I was allowed to stay with Pernod so that I could calm him down and no anesthesia was needed. I tried to decipher everything I saw on the computer screen, but of course I couldn’t. The doctor spoke cheerfully as he scanned the organs. “Look, his liver. Looks good! And his kidneys: great for a cat of this age!” And then there was silence. “What are you looking at now?” I asked. “At the stomach,” he said. “And therein lies a problem.” When the lights were turned on in the treatment room to discuss the results of the ultrasound, a light went out in my heart. I could tell from the faces that this was not good. The doctor tried to keep the spirits up. “I see tissue,” he said. “It could still be anything. A benign tumor, for example. But it is the reason why this cat can no longer process food. His stomach is full, even without food. It’s too early to worry too much, it could go either way. There may be treatments available. But to know more, we have to make a puncture. Tomorrow morning, I suggest.” I sat down on a stool and struggled to breathe. Defeated we went home, the little man and I. We walked right into the arms of the big man. My husband.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I just knew that I wouldn’t be getting good news. In order to have the puncture made, Pernod had to be cut open. That really bothered me. If there is one thing I want for my animals, it’s a comfortable life. As little pain and discomfort as possible. I’m not someone who wants to save life at any cost. When it is time to let go, we must do so. For the good of the animal. All human tears are for later. That’s the price you pay. The responsibility you take on when you sit next to a nest of cuteness and say, “That one! That one belongs to me from now on.”
But now, face to face with a big problem for Pernod, I suddenly wasn’t very sure. I struggled with the idea of the procedure, but I just couldn’t give up either. As I walked with Pernod to the clinic early in the morning—again—my soul trailed behind me across the icy ground. In hopes of blessing, I dropped off my friend at the front desk. I was not allowed to stay with him while the anesthesia was administered, no matter how hard I tried to convince the assistant. I went home, dragging my feet. “If there’s anything special, we’ll call,” she said. I knew there would be a call.
The phone rang not long after. ‘We have to talk’. The big man and I ran to the clinic. Breathless we entered and met the surgeon, still wearing his apron. “It doesn’t look good. I can’t save this cat. Pernod will survive this procedure, but after that there will not be much prospect. You should think about whether it is wise to let him wake up from his anesthesia. It may be wiser to put him to sleep definitively now and spare him all further inconvenience. the decision is yours.”
Storm in my heart! I don’t want to decide about life and death! I want life itself to decide, not me! Pernod is my best friend in the world. Of course I want to keep him with me for ever! Come on, patch him up and we’re going home. He can mess with his food as much as he wants, what do I care? But the book filled with my own wishes was closing fast. A hush came over me. I knew the answer. We let him go. Out of love, just love. Don’t ask me how much it cost me. It cost me more than I could afford. I paid with a bleeding heart. I paid the price of love.
We went home with a motionless Pernod in his basket. Not a word on the way. Nothing. The weight of the basket and its contents were right, but other than that, nothing was right. No beating little heart. It felt so wrong. When we got home, we lay Pernod down in his usual spot in front of the fireplace. He looked so perfect, so completely perfect. Then we got Cootje to let her say goodbye to her soulmate. She sniffed and walked around Pernod a few times. Then she walked out of the room and didn’t want to come back. We didn’t know it at the time, but Cootje would continue to avoid the place in front of the fireplace for days. Her time of grieving had already started.
We put Pernod in an old wine box and buried him under the thick old beech tree in the garden. No one will disturb his peace. But I will miss him for as long as I live.