I took some photos of my mum’s cat Louie on my recent trip back home to England; a beautiful white cat – even with him being ear-less, he still was handsome (lost his ears to skin cancer some years ago). Yet I knew these would be the last photos I would take of him. After twenty years, his body was ready to shut down, and I could see that in his every move and his tired but still-magical eyes. I would watch him slowly make his way up and down the stairs, with much effort thanks to arthritis. He couldn’t see properly anymore; high blood pressure had made his retinas detach and caused blindness. And he couldn’t hear anymore either. Sometimes he would sit basking in the sun, looking happy as most cats do when doing just that, but he usually seemed restless, not knowing how to be comfortable.
A loved companion animal has a gift in terms of a loving human caretaker knowing when it is time to end the suffering by choosing euthanasia. Most animals know death and illness far more cruel, or have never even felt loved before. But it’s the hardest decision to make, even when you know it’s what is best; to end the suffering and give that animal peace, after giving so much of themselves to you. Twenty years is a long time, so much can happen in two decades. There’s so much love and attachment that happens in that time; they become part (and so often, become the spirit) of your home. It’s very hard to let go…
I’m glad I was able to get some end-of-life photos of Louie, particularly to give my mum and stepdad. Photos don’t replace memories, but they are a way for us to freeze time and hold those special moments close. So as much as I love taking photos of all sorts of things that embody life – new babies, children, parties, of animals looking for a new life (and family) of their own – I actually hope I can capture more special and precious memories like these, of companion animals before they pass on.
You fought hard to stay alive, my friend.
In the end, though, you couldn’t conquer death.
But neither did death conquer you.
Death cures all diseases, mends all broken bones,
Breaks all chains.
And made you free at last.” ~ Anon
Rest in Peace, little Louie. xo ~ K