A Goodbye to Chester

Chester, Chester roony, Chester man, the Cat of Steel. Chester came into our lives late in the year 2000. He was one of a litter of kittens brought to my wife Deb’s office. Of course Deb had to check them out. When she opened the cardboard box full of kittens, Chester came strutting out, confident, and already sporting what we would come to cal his bah boom walk.

It was immediate love. Deb scooped up this incredible kitten, and took him upstairs to her office, where the bravado soon dissipated. Chester was a people cat from the beginning. Suddenly separated from his litter mates, his people, he soon was a frightened little kitten, in a large, busy, place. Deb called me later to say she was bringing home a kitten. After a few seconds, I asked if there were any more from the litter. Deb went back down,
and there was one kitten left. The shyest one, he would not come out of the box. Everyone else had passed him up, which was magical for us. It was Oscar, Chester’s brother.

Scooping him up, Deb headed back to her office and Chester. As soon as she got off the elevator with Oscar, both Chester and Oscar let out an incredible yell, and started crying to each other. They were brothers, connected from the start, and now back together, as it should be. Chester regained his bravado, and snuggled with his brother, they feel into a comfortable sleep. Chester kept that bravado through the rest of his life.

Oscar was the practical and competent athlete, the protector. Chester was the adventurer, always curious, always wanting to be around others, always in the middle of everything. Chester had a huge soul, and a huge heart. He loved everyone he met, and looked at life as a never-ending adventure. We had two wonderful brothers different as night and day, but forever joined together in a way only siblings can understand.

Chester was healthy and happy, and enjoyed life to the fullest until this May, when we realized he was losing weight, and not eating. A trip to the vet ensued, where we found he had some dental issues. Other than that, his checkup went fine. We scheduled dental surgery for him, and thought soon everything would be back to normal. We were so wrong.

His surgery reportedly went great, and later that day we were comforted that he was awake and that the worst was behind us. He spent that night at the clinic, and we brought him home the next day. Right away, something was terribly wrong,  he was very lethargic, he just lay there with his head down, not even acknowledging anything or anyone. Later when we tried to feed him, he would not eat. He was very tired, could barely walk, stumbling this way and that, and then only a few feet at a time until he had to rest again. We thought it
was still the anesthesia, and convinced ourselves all would be OK in a couple of days. It wasn’t. He never recovered from the surgery.

For the next month, he had small ups & downs, but Chester never really returned. He seemed depressed, he would not eat, he just sit or lay there with his head down, no doubt in fear of what had happened to his world. Cats don’t understand the why, only that things had changed, and it was not good.

We fed him via syringe, we gave him fluids via IV, and we loved, and cared for him every minute of the day. He spent a night at the vet two more times, on IV’s, and with expectations and assurances that he would improve, that he would come back, that we would once again have chester in our lives. We eventually got used to coming home and not having him greet us at the door. We got used to him not coming up to bed with us, not sleeping and
cuddling every night. Well, we got used to it, but we never could accept it. Things were wrong, our world was rocked,  as was Chester’s. Throughout the month, we were sometimes terrified, but other times overjoyed by little signs of progress. When he licked the juice off some tuna, we were elated, and hugged each ther tightly in happiness. When he once sat there and cleaned his face, like normal, we wept with joy. Sometimes we thought we saw his bah-boom walk returning a bit, and, again, we wept that Chester would soon be back to his old self.

Occasionally, he would seek us out, and follow us around the house – slowly and shakily, but we thought it was a good sign. Looking back, I think he was begging us to do something, to ease whatever pain he was in, to make things normal again. He trusted us so much. I can’t help but feel, at least in his mind, we had betrayed that trust. We tried so hard, but we could not make it better.

Last Friday, after feeding him, and giving him a sub-q, we went to bed. Chester was sleeping on the couch. HE did not come up to bed with us, but that had become normal. The next morning, I came downstairs, and found him sitting up on the living room floor, actively looking around. For an instant, I was elated that maybe some progress had been made, and he was finally coming out of it.

Those feelings were short lived though as I found he would not respond to anything, and, while he was anxiously looking around, he did not appear to be seeing anything. In fact, he was suddenly blind. A short time later, I watched him have some type of seizure, he lay there on the floor shaking and trembling for what seemed like forever, but was only a few seconds.

We got him to the vet as soon as we could. There was no crate this time. He rode in Deb’s lap on his blanket. Quiet and barely responsive, we took him inside. He was, in fact blind. His pupils were fully dilated, and he did not respond to any kind of light. HE had gone so far downhill overnight, and we think his spirit had already left him. He was just waiting for us to do the right thing, and let his body go.

Soul searching. Knowing what we had to do, but not willing to admit it, not willing to let go of someone who was that important, that close, that meant so much to us. Not willing to admit defeat, and so very afraid to take the last,  irreversible step. The doubts set in, the regrets were already forming, once we went there, we could never go back, never return, it is as final as final can be. Did we have the courage, the strength? Moreover, did we love Chester enough to let him be free of his failing body? Free of the hurt, the fright the terror of what his life had become.

We had only the knowledge that he was blind, and that sight would not come back. Chester had so much wonder for the world, without sight, even with some miracle, he would never enjoy life again. And there was little hope for that miracle either. He was done, he was begging to be let go.

We did a lot of crying, a lot of soul searching, and a lot of questioning why before we made the decision. But finally, we tried to accept the inevitable, we had lost our friend, our pal, our Cat of steel. We told the vet to put him down.

The injection was given, and as we watched our boy go to sleep for the last time, watched the life drain from him, watched him depart our world forever, we wondered if we had done the right thing, and we hoped and prayed that Chester knew we were there, that we loved him, and that we were doing the right thing because we loved him so very much..

Chester was a special cat. His heart was full of love for everything around him,  and everyone he met. His loss has left a huge hole in our home, in our lives, in our own hearts. A hole that can never be filled, only covered over temporarily. We know we will recover, that life is sometimes hard, but it goes on, it must go on. But right now, there does not seem to be any possibility of ever getting over his loss. Our lives are devastated, our hearts are empty and broken. We want him back, so very bad, but that will never be. We can only take comfort in the thought that maybe, just maybe, he is still “up there” over that Rainbow Bridge, enjoying his new life, bitter but free. And we must hold on to the hope that sometime, perhaps in another life, we will be rejoined, be together again, with our Cat of Steel.

Chester is survived by his brother Oscar, His “Little Buddy” Zoomy, Coco the Weiner Dog, Max the Lab, and of course, His (adoptive) parents Deb and Mike. He is missed by all. There is now an empty space in our family that cannot, and never will be,  filled.

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