My Bella Girl

I’ve always tried to keep my writing upbeat; I wanted to brighten someone’s day and make them smile. But sometimes life just prevents that. And I’ve never felt more like I need to sit down and write than right now.

Our vet told me today that I need to say goodbye to my kitty, Bella, tomorrow. Just writing out those words is unbelievable and makes my heart break. If you know me, you know that my parents and pets are my everything, and losing them is my ultimate fear in life. I don’t know what else to do right now other than cry and sit here and stare at her.

Bella means beautiful in Italian, and boy is she ever. Her coloring and patterns — black on one side, brown on the other with white mixed in. Bright green eyes, pink button nose, and pink little paws. She’s been my constant companion for sixteen years. By my side my entire adult life and quite literally my baby girl.

Known for her feisty temperament and shall we say “attitude” she has always had a fiery personality. What can I say, the girl is an only child and has been spoiled rotten her whole life! With me though, she’s loving, affectionate, and a little cuddle bug.

I remember when we first went to meet her as a little kitten at her foster family’s house. Her name was Iris which then became her middle name. She was all ears and came right up and chomped on my dad’s glasses. To this day, chewing on my glasses every morning has been her thing. In her younger years, she was known to fetch her toys like a dog and bring them back to me.

One of her favorite activities is chewing on houseplants, then throwing them up. She used to find the loudest way possible to wake me up to get her breakfast in the morning, if poking at my face wasn’t working — slamming the doorstop, messing with the curtains, crunching on paper. She loves “helping” me make the bed with fresh sheets, darting through them as they parachute over the top of her. She doesn’t love when I brush her so much as when she rubs her head on the brush and brushes herself. My lil nut.

Part of the reason I need to write this now, with her sleeping on the window seat next to me, is that I won’t be able to bear writing about her in the past tense. I know some people don’t know or understand the love of a pet — and frankly, I’ll never understand those people. These have been several of the hardest and most excruciating days of my life. To have this little innocent being rely on you for their wellbeing, to be their voice. To have had her by my side for all these years. She’s been my best friend, my comfort, my daughter, and has seen me through so much. Utter and absolute unconditional love.

I don’t want her to suffer. But I need to be sure. I need to be able to trust our lifelong vet in his knowledge and confidence that it’s time, and that there’s nothing more we can do for her. I need to see that she’s not herself and is clearly showing me that something is wrong. I need to see that she’s fading. While thinking about saying goodbye feels impossible, I don’t want to put off the inevitable, let things get worse, and cause her any more pain or discomfort. But I don’t want her to think I’ve given up on her.

My friends have shared our family vet and one of them told me that he’s always said — if you wait until you know it’s time, it’s too late, and they are suffering greatly. She said she’s heard that it’s always better to do it a week too early than a week too late. Everyone assured me that vets don’t take this lightly and won’t go to that option unless they are very sure that it is the right decision. And today our vet was very sure. He said we do what we can to try to squeak out a little more time with them, but we don’t want it to get to a point where they’re unable to walk, in pain, and starving. We aren’t going to do that to her, he said. There is no doubt in my mind, he said.

I spoke to my therapist today and she asked me to try to change my thought process from “what am I going to do, how am I going to get through this” to “look at what a beautiful long life she had, look at all the time I had with her.” She said to start thinking about a way to make meaning out of her life — and so here I am writing this. Sobbing. And Bella’s always hated it when I cry. I’m hoping that somehow overnight she’ll pass on her own and save me from having to make that inconceivable decision. Which as our vet said, shows me that I know it’s time.

Her life does have meaning — so much. She’s brought so much laughter and love to our family. We’ve watched birds & squirrels, played laser light, chased reflections, and lived in a few different places. We’ve been on way too many car rides; people in passing cars laughing at my meowing little co-pilot. We’ve spent hours drinking water from the faucet. We used to eat hash browns together. She’s played with lots and lots of toys, hunted flies, and even brought me an occasional (live) mouse or two. She’s an expert tail chaser and skilled back massager.

I saw something on Instagram once from a girl asking if anyone else huffs their cat — I do that. She smells so good! I don’t know how she does it; I just breathe her in and nuzzle my face into her fur.

That temperament I mentioned — everyone always knows to steer clear of Bells; she keeps you on your toes! It is her way or the highway and it’s all part of her charm. She’s been a not so gracious host to guests and our newly adopted senior cat, Chunky — boy, she does not like him. I was telling a friend about them recently and she said, but you’re an only child and you like to be around other people. I replied, do I though? She laughed and agreed. We’re two peas in a pod B and me. She always lets you know what’s on her mind whether it be a meow, a growl, or a helluva purr. Thinking back, I probably should have adopted one of her siblings along with her all those years ago.

I remember after we lost our precious and beloved dog, Andy — it was the feel of his ears I missed the most. Working or writing without her in view, watching TV without her cuddled up on my lap, and going to bed without her on my head or the pillow next to me is a void I can’t even fathom. These creatures imprint on your heart, on your life.

I would have never made it through all my years alone in the city without her. Her watching me leave for work from the window ripped my heart out and honestly, coming home to her running to greet me at the door was the best part of my day. I looked forward to our nights together. And being able to work remotely this past year with her next to me all day every day has been a gift. She’s turned off my computer, shoved her face in the camera to join Zoom meetings, and typed nonsensical sentences — quite the executive assistant.

My therapist told me today that she was in a situation once where she had to make a decision similar to this. She said she did a spiritual reading afterward, which she doesn’t even know if she believes in, but that they told her all they were receiving back was gratitude. One of my best friends and our former roommate told me today that I am the best kitten mom in the world and Bells has the best life a little girl kitten could ask for. And that my childhood cat, Max will show her the ropes in kitten heaven.

So here we are, sitting with her. My dad saying how beautiful she is, reminding me that this is about her and not about me. My mom’s telling her what a pretty girl she is and how she’s a part of who I am. My mom had a friend who said that they don’t want to go to heaven if their pets aren’t there. Well, I agree and truly believe in my heart that they are. I know that I’ll see her again someday. She’s a part of me and always will be. My Bella Boo has made me whole and part of my soul will leave with her.

And now it seems as though her little body is shutting down. I’m staying near her, talking to her, petting her, and letting her be where she wants to be. My mom said we need to ease her into the next life; give her a gentle passing until we see her again. Both my parents reassuring me it’s time. And maybe even Bella trying to do the same.

I’m writing this because I want to pay tribute to my little Bellarina and my sixteen years with her. I know so many other people who feel the same way about their animals. Friends who cried with me on the phone today, wanting to take away my pain. A friend who said her dog is her soul mate — this is how I feel. Messages from so many people who know how much this little girl means to me. These are the people I’m grateful for. As well as the vets who have cared for her along the way. I’m grateful for our vet’s honesty, and for basically making this decision for me.

I hope my words provide comfort to someone else going through this same hell, whatever the loss may be. Anguish is the word right now. I don’t know how to deal with this being my last night with her other than to thank her for a beautiful life, tell her that I’ve loved being her mom, tell her not to be afraid, that I’m sorry for all the times I got mad at her and forced her in the car, that we’ll always be with each other, that I love her more than life, will miss her more than words can say and that we’ll be together again someday.

I was with her the whole time. Petting her, nuzzling her, and telling her how much I love her. I asked our vet again, you’re sure? Yes, he said. She’s my little girl, I said. I know, he said. My parents were with us and my sweet Bella Girl knew how much she was loved. They assured me she was ready. Our vet held her little paws, my hand, and told me in no uncertain terms that this was necessary and the best thing to do for her.

The thousands and thousands of times I held her and kissed her and called her name weren’t enough. It would never be enough. And losing her before me wasn’t our agreement. I do my best to deny and avoid reality and when it rears its horrible, awful, ugly head it knocks me to the floor. Grief is the unthinkable coming true and my heart goes out to anyone in the midst of it.

I ache to hold her again just as I knew I would. I keep thinking I hear her or see her. She’s touched everything in our home, in our lives, and her absence is heart-wrenching. She made me a better person; she certainly tested my patience, she made me a mom. My small but mighty little spitfire.

She made quick work of being my tiny guardian angel as I already saw signs of it when I got back home. I know you’re up there showing them whose boss, baby girl. I miss you; I love you and I can’t wait until I see you again.

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