My Friend Dashiell

 

I lost one of the two most important people in my life today. I’d like to take a moment to tell you about her.

Dashiell first came into my life when she was 2 weeks old. I was in my third year of university, and she was so small I could hold her in the palm of my hand.

Dashiell during her first year, in my old basement apartment…

We’d always had cats when I was a child, but I really had no intention of getting a cat of my own. My girlfriend at the time was volunteering with the Humane Society. They needed someone to take in a mother cat with 5 new kittens, to look after them until they were large enough to be adopted out. We had a spare room in our two-bedroom basement apartment, so we put up a barrier and made them a home.

Within the first two weeks I knew we’d have to keep one of them. Possibly two. And I immediately felt a connection to Dashiell. She wasn’t the strongest or fastest kitten of the litter. She was a bit smaller than the rest, a bit clumsier, and usually the last one to climb up the cat house. But something about her character was different.

She nearly didn’t make it past her first couple months. I saw the signs of a very bad viral respiratory infection in two of the kittens, and it rapidly spread to the rest of the bunch. I knew right away the black and white one wouldn’t make it. He sat on my shoulder with his head bent in exhaustion that night, and I could smell the infection on his breath.

Dashiell at 1-year, in my old basement apartment…

The Humane Society took them for the weekend, to provide medication. When we picked them up on Monday they said two had to be put down. I expected Dashiell to be one of them, because she was already quite sick. The black and white was gone, but so was a striped grey who didn’t seem to show any signs of disease. Dashiell was still there. I think they got the other grey by mistake.

We brought her back home, and she crawled off into a corner of the spare room, probably to die. I didn’t know if she’d make it through the night, and so I sat in there with her for hours, cupping her in the palms of my hands and talking to her, telling her I wanted her to stay with me, and that she would never go back to the shelter. She was still there in the morning, and her breathing was better. And we seemed to have a special bond ever since.

More people knew about Dashiell from my stories than actually knew her in person. She was shy around strangers and hid under a blanket when anyone else came into the house. That’s the impression they had of her, but it was a false one.

She was the most loving affectionate friend. She followed me from room to room and was constantly by my side. She was stubborn and insisted on doing things her way, and she was aggressive when playing with someone many times her size. I never saw her back down—she even forced my wife across the room and up onto a chair.

Dashiell at two, stalking her laces…

I never once saw her scratch. If you were teasing her and she had enough, she smacked you with her palm like a boxer. And she had a hell of a right hook for her size. She never bit either, except in play. Sometimes she would bite onto my hand and just hold there without letting go. I’d bite the skin at the back of her neck, and we’d lock eyes. She’d squeeze a bit and then I’d squeeze a bit, in a battle of wills to see who gave first. She loved that almost as much as chasing each other back and forth across the apartment. We played that game for hours, until I was soaked in sweat.

But Dashiell’s favourite time was reading time. I was a student when she came into my life, so I spent most of the day in an arm chair with my feet up, reading books or studying. I threw an afghan over my legs, and Dashiell claimed a permanent position stretched out between my shins.

Reading time became our tradition, and we stuck to it even after I started to work—50 pages every evening, and on weekends 50 pages in the morning too. When I was washing the supper dishes, Dashiell would walk over to take up a position by the armchair. She sat there patiently, waiting for me to sit and throw a blanket over my legs. Or if it was morning she waited by the sofa instead. She knew that morning reading was sofa time, and evening was always the chair. She knew my habits well.

Reading time was the best time of day for both of us, in so many different apartments and cities. We lived in 9 apartments or houses over the years, in 4 cities and 2 countries. We changed sofas and chairs, but never our habit. That was my favourite time of day too.

For those few people who did know her, Dashiell left a lasting impression.

With Dashiell right before I went to Central America…

Two years ago I nearly lost her to a terrible case of pneumonia that was resistant to all the antibiotics we tried. No one expected her to survive the night. They said that for her entire first week in the ICU that I transferred her to.

We were living in Guelph and had access to an incredible hospital where Dashiell was treated by an entire team of specialists, using better equipment than any “people hospital” in the region. She was on oxygen and heating pads to keep up her temperature; she had x-rays and ultrasounds, fluid samples and even consultations with a neurologist. I’m so thankful my income had finally started kicking in after so many years of poverty—I was able to get her the care she needed. To look after her as she’d looked after me.

Dr. Boudreau and Dr. Sabino, who oversaw her case, never gave up on her no matter how hopeless it seemed. And Dashiell fought so hard she became a bit of a legend at the Ontario Veterinary College teaching hospital in Guelph.

The staff always looked forward to Dashiell’s visits. The x-ray techs fought to be the one to work with her, and the doctors loved her because she was such a good patient. She was a gentle cat and she never complained no matter how invasive the procedure they had to perform. She never scratched or fought; she knew they were trying to help.

Despite accumulating a 222-page medical file that Spring, Dashiell came home, frail and weak but as stubborn as ever. She was so thin I could feel all her bones through her skin. But I still remember how happy she looked that first night back, when I put her under the warm blankets with me and she stretched her legs out long and popped her head up by my pillow.

Writing on Bronson Street, using Dashiell’s house for a chair…

We nursed her all Summer, giving her food through a tube several times per day, and months worth of antibiotics so strong they eventually destroyed the nerves in her ears. She could only hear a couple sounds after she had completely recovered, but she was alive and happy to be home again. And she had beaten the antibiotic-resistant pneumonia that nearly did her in.

Unfortunately the ultrasounds also uncovered signs of chronic renal failure—a gradual decline in kidney function that gets many old people in the end. But that condition was manageable and not life threatening, and we could slow it down by changing her diet and giving her supplements.

The following winter we boarded her at the OVC clinic for two weeks so we could go to Japan for Christmas. When the hospital staff heard she was there they all came over to see her. I received an email saying that “Dashiell had a busy holiday season,” with a steady stream of visitors. I was worried she’d be lonely, but when I went to pick her up I think she didn’t want to leave.

Dashiell bounced back from nearly 8 months of illness stronger than ever, and a year later we hopped a plane together and moved to Malta. It was her first international flight. She was fine, but I was so nervous for her I needed several gins to get through the trip.

That was a big step for us. I fulfilled a long term goal of moving to the Mediterranean. And we had finally escaped the poverty she knew all her life.

Don’t get me wrong, she always had the best I could give her, including the best nutrition. But looking back at all those photos, at all the apartments and houses we lived in over the years, I’m surprised to see how poor they looked. How run down the second hand furniture was. And how shabby my clothes. The one constant was Dashiell—always on my lap or in the room, always following close at my heels like a dog, and always the same.

My friend Dashiell, as I remember her…

She had a good life here in Malta. She loved exploring the sprawling old house I rented. And sitting in the sun in the courtyard, or in front of the portable heater in winter.

She sat in my office during the day all winter, but every day around 4pm she went down to the living room and sat patiently in front of the heater, waiting for someone to switch it on. Several of the vets who saw her said, “Dashiell is a good communicator.” She was always very clever in letting you know exactly what she wanted. Staring at the object intently, then looking at you and back at it. Or coming into the room and calling, and then leading you to the place she wanted you to go.

We had some good times here over the past year and a half, but Dashiell was finally starting to show her age.

She took a turn for the worse 5 or 6 days ago. She had ongoing issues with constipation and not eating, but this time her legs were getting increasingly weak as well, to the point where she could barely stumble around.

We took her to the vet a couple times to get subcutaneous fluids and keep her hydrated, and we were able to get a blood sample on Wednesday to find out what was going on. I was hoping for something like a potassium deficiency that could be addressed quickly. She had that when she was in the Guelph hospital for pneumonia, and the leg weakness sorted itself out within 2 days after her electrolytes were rebalanced. She’s had anemia for several years now too, which also made her weaker. It’s common in cats with chronic renal failure. She’d been looking pretty old the past few months, but she climbed the ladder to my office just last week, out of sheer stubbornness I think.

Back from the ICU in Guelph, thin and tired but still alive…

We got the test results back on Thursday, and I just wasn’t prepared for the news.

The vet said her kidneys had already completely failed. Her anemia had also gotten worse, to the point where she had half the red blood count of a normal cat. She’d gotten weaker and weaker the previous 2 or 3 days, and by Thursday she could hardly walk across the mattress without collapsing to rest. He told me she would just continue to decline, and that she had a few days at most. We could keep her comfortable during that time with fluid injections, to pee out the toxins her kidneys were no longer processing.  But that was all.

I couldn’t think of her suffering just so we could have more time with her, so I asked Dr. Portelli to come over that same night and put her to sleep at home.

When he came to the house we couldn’t go through with it. Dashiell was barely responsive all day, but she perked up suddenly when I came up the stairs with the vet, sitting up like everything was normal and even trying to walk across the mattress to change position. She had a look on her face like she was genuinely wondering what all the fuss was about.

Dr Portelli took one look at her and told us to take things day by day. She wouldn’t get any better, there’s no question. But I was worried if I waited too long she’d go into painful convulsions and have a miserable end, and I wanted to do anything I could to avoid it.

He told me he had several similar cases, and he knew Dashiell well from boarding her. With her type of kidney failure she would just get more and more lethargic until she started vomiting and couldn’t keep anything down, and at that point we’d know she’d reached the end.

Writing together on Dovercourt Avenue…

She had a really good night on Thursday after he left. I took her downstairs to sit on the afghan in her regular place for a nightcap and an episode of MacGyver, so she could enjoy her usual routine. And she crawled under the blanket during the night to sleep beside me, nudging my hand with her head to be petted and resting her chin on my hand. She hadn’t done that in 4 or 5 days, since she started feeling bad, but she wanted to be petted a lot that night. She was so weak but she didn’t seem to be in pain. It was so sad to see her struggle to walk. She was very stubborn and she just kept trying to do it all on her own.

She was still doing well on Friday morning, but she started running down gradually around 1pm. We brought her to the vet for some more subcutaneous fluids in the afternoon, and the visit seemed to take a lot out of her. She was barely able to drag herself around the mattress that evening, and she stopped eating even the tiny bits of food I’d been feeding her with my fingers. Her breathing was shallow and she looked uncomfortable, and I knew if she made it through the night she wouldn’t make it the next day. Unfortunately, I was right.

Dashiell died this morning—Saturday August 25th—around 6:20am.

We sat with her all evening so someone would always be with her. Her eyes were open and staring straight ahead, but she was out of it most of the time. Then at one point she looked up like she used to when she suddenly woke from sleep. She looked around as if wondering how she’d gotten to that side of the bed. And then she saw my wife on her right, and turned and saw me on her left. She turned really quickly, it seemed like she was looking for me. Then she dragged herself over so her head was near mine. She looked me in the eye for a long time, as though she wanted to say goodbye. She nudged my hand with her forehead like she always does when she wants to be petted, and I stroked her head and nose as she fell back asleep. Her breathing got more relaxed and she seemed to sleep peacefully. I kept stroking her head until she woke up 45 minutes later and became restless again.

Reading time on Dovercourt Avenue…

She was struggling so hard to hold on, just like she did when she had pneumonia. But her organs were shutting down and this was a fight she couldn’t win. I stroked her head and told her it wasn’t her fault. We all get old and we all just run down. She couldn’t help it. She was still the same friend I loved for all these years. I told her I understood. And that it was okay to let go.

She was very weak by the time we went to bed. The inside of her ears were no longer pink, they were completely white because of the anemia, and her breathing was short. Then around 2:30am she somehow dragged herself to the litter box to pee and woke us up when she climbed back on the mattress. She used the last of her strength to drag herself up the mattress to lie against me, under my arm (she always liked to sleep there in the early mornings under the covers with me). I cradled her there and stroked her head, but she was so exhausted and barely responsive. I woke up a few times to check on her and she was still in the same place. She managed to pull herself up even closer, and I stroked her head for a while each time I woke. She lifted her head a bit so I knew she was still there.

I think she slept peacefully like that for about 3 hours. And then she woke suddenly at 5:40am and started to collapse. I don’t think she was even really conscious at that point. She suddenly started panting really hard through her mouth, and her tongue was sticking out and it was all white, not pink anymore, she just had no oxygen left. She tried to drag herself around on the bed, gasping to catch her breath, but her eyes were dilated and staring straight ahead so I don’t think she was in any pain.

I called the vet and we rushed her into the car and drove over immediately. It’s only 5 minutes away, and they were ready for us when we arrived. They must have stayed there overnight. I think they expected something like this.

Dr. Portelli was able to give her a shot to stabilize her breathing so she wasn’t gasping or suffocating, and they gave her a sedative to relax her. She was still staring straight ahead and seemed far away, so she wasn’t suffering. I was sitting with my face close to hers and stroking her head while they tried to make her comfortable—and then she suddenly moved her eyes and focused clearly on me. She looked me in the eyes for several seconds, so clearly and so affectionately, with all her old self. Then she looked away and her heart just stopped.

Dashiell hiding in her house…

I had just told the vet to put her to sleep because I didn’t want her to suffer a long end, but he didn’t have time to even leave the room. She just slipped away on her own. The vet and his wife were surprised at how peacefully she went. They said she didn’t suffer at all towards the end. I think when her final collapse started it was in her sleep, while she was lying next to me.

She’s going to be buried in Dr. Portelli’s garden with their own family pets. They boarded Dashiell a few times and got to know and like her, so she’ll be in a good place with other pets who were loved.

I’m glad her suffering is over. It didn’t last long. She only started to get really weak on Thursday, and she died Saturday, so it was a quick decline. She was slow for a while before that, but she could pretty much get around on her own and do whatever she wanted to do. Not a bad way to end. She had just turned 17.

It’s so difficult to believe she’s not here anymore. I keep looking at the places she liked to sit each time I walk into a room. And every time I wake up in the night I listen for her breathing, to see if she needs her puffer. I see her in every room of the house, and in every ritual we used to enjoy together.

Apart from when I was traveling, Dashiell was with me constantly, all day long, for 17 years. I got her when I was 23, and now I’m 40. We’ve been together almost half my life.

I know she had a good life. She was always an equal part of everything we did, she was always involved, and we always cared for her as best we could. She knew that, and she was happy. And I know from the way she struggled so hard to be with me at the end, and from the communication in her eyes, that she loved me as much as I loved her.

Reading time in Malta…

I knew Dashiell was getting on in years and wouldn’t have a lot more time, but it still flattens you when it finally happens. It leaves such a hole in your life, and such a terrible ache.

But I don’t want to remember her like that. With so much sadness, and in her final brief decline. It was still my friend in there behind the weakness and the fading of her frail little body. Still the same friend I knew and loved.

I want to remember reading time. And the way she communicated to me whether she wanted to lie on my legs under the afghan, or for me to prop up my knees and make her a tent.

I want to remember the feel of her legs when she jumped up on the bed at night. And how she nudged my hand with her nose when she wanted to be petted.

I want to remember her eyes—their depth and intelligence, their beauty and kindness. And her grey fur, softer than any cat I’ve ever known. I want to remember the way she’d walk up beside me and then fall against me, leaning her weight there as she curled up in a ball. And the way she cuddled in against my neck when I picked her up.

I want to remember those things so badly. I still can’t believe I’ll never experience them again. Or that I’ll never see her again. It just doesn’t seem real.

I know anyone who has lost a friend—human or animal—understands what I mean.

I hope you’ll join me in raising a glass to Dashiell. My closest companion, and the most loyal friend I’ve ever known. I miss her so terribly, but her memory lives on.

Dashiell in Malta, on the roof deck last summer.

 

 

Comments

  1. I’m sorry you lost your little squishy, Ryan… and thanks for the beautiful story. My favorite kitty girl—an amorphous tortoiseshell pile named Orphée (Urf the Schnurf)—left me abt 12 yrs ago this month. To this day I have her spiked collar with tag around the neck of a Nalgene squeeze bottle.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thanks Cara. Yeah, we kept a few things too.

      I’m keeping a toy Dashiell used to drag around all over the place. It started out as a pair of earmuffs – she carried them in her mouth back when they were bigger than her entire body. Then one of the felt covers came off. I tied a shoelace to it, and that eventually rotted after a few years too, until she was left with this crunched up earmuff and a fragment of shoelace hanging from it.

      She carried that thing with her everywhere. If we were out, it’d be next to her when we got home, or moved somewhere in the room. And she had a specific voice she used when carrying it around in her mouth.

  2. So so sorry for your loss. Was so hard reading this specially since our cat just had two little beautiful kittens
    Sounds like she had a wonderful complete life.

    I raise my glass!

    Hope you’re doing well Ryan!

  3. Keli Brockmann says:

    Balled my eyes out…people who have never had a friend in an animal have never had a true friend.

  4. I’m so very sorry for your loss. Reading your story brought tears to my eyes, as I am in that same feeling of counting down the days, weeks, or hopefully months with my dearest friend, 17-year-old Simon. I am giving him the subcutaneous fluids at home and making too frequent visits to the vet, of late. Thanks for the details of your journey.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      I’m sorry to hear that Jan. I know what a struggle all those “medicine times” can be. Dashiell absolutely hated it.

      No matter how many times we had to give her medicine each day, she always made a huge show out of it, howling and trying to sneak off – she was very cooperative but she sure let us know she was protesting lol.

      The vet taught me how to give the subcutaneous fluids the day before she died. We were going to continue it at home had she made it a little longer. From what I was told, they can have more or less the same happy quality of life until near the end, as long as you’re able to keep them well hydrated and keep that “hangover feeling” of dehydration away.

  5. Ryan, I think Dashiell was a very lucky kitty to have lived in such a loving, caring home. My heart breaks for you and your family. Love & prayers <3

  6. Ryan,

    My sincerest condolences for your loss. Your story reminds me of a special dog who was a great friend to me. Losing a pet who is a true friend is not a light loss;. Rather, it pains as much as the loss of any other . May you reside in the peace and comfort of knowing you provided a good home and an enriched life for your dearly departed friend.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Joe. Yeah, I found this loss to be just as intense and just as difficult as losing any other close family member. I guess because that’s what those special “animals” are. (we’re all animals in any case…)

  7. I’m sobbing in sympathy for your loss and reveling in the wonderful life you had worth Dashiell. So, so, so sweet sad. Our fur friends give us so much. I lost Nika, my beloved 15 and 1/2 year old Golden Retiever, in 2008 and still miss her, but am now able to remember the fun and hilarity and love she brought to our family. We now have Gabriella, our sweet Golden Retriever girl, who brings us joy and love just as Nika did, albeit with a much different personality. All different but the same. Thank you for this remembrance. RIP sweet Dashiell. Live large, young Ryan.

  8. What a moving story, Ryan, i am so sorry for your loss. Dashiell is very handsome & you were both enriched for being in one another’s lives.

    My fur babies are 18 years old & although in good health, i know to appreciate every single day of their company & this is a good reminder to not take their presence for granted.

    RIP, Dashiell, our thoughts are with you & your wife, Ryan.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Michelle. Definitely cherish those moments – not just with the elderly but with all friends. At times like this we realize how precious and irreplaceable they are.

  9. So sorry for your loss; your testament to Dashiel and your relationship is a beautiful and poignant way to deal with such deep grief. Thank you for sharing something so personal and close to your heart.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Lori. I hoped that by digging deep and writing honestly others could find their own truth in this story as well.

  10. Hi Ryan

    I really feel for you…Big hugs… I know what it feels like to lose a furry child. The grief you feel losing a close companion – and their loyal unconditional love – is heart breaking, when they’ve shared so much of your life with them.

    Dashiell, I’m sure, felt just as privileged and grateful, to have you in her life. The love and care that you gave her is what so many animals deserve and don’t get the chance to receive.

    Thinking of you… Dashiell will always be with you in spirit.

    Mandy
    xoxo

  11. My deepest sympathies for the loss of your dear companion and friend.

  12. Sally Hargis says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I am so sorry you lost your darling Dashiell. I too have lost such a friend. I cried every day for a while; but then it gradually got easier and you only remember the good times and not the bad times as often. Be patient. It will take some time and yes time does heal. I worried that I would forget my Jake; but if anything the good times seem even closer. I will pray for you.

    Sally

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Sally. You hit on exactly what I was thinking. I’m worried some of these memories will start to fade away. The small things that used to make us laugh, those little habits and stories. I guess I write because I’m obsessed with the idea of Time, and of all these stories vanishing as if they’d never happened.

  13. Patrick Edwards says:

    I’m speechless. I completely understand and empathize. Pets like Dashiell do so much for us.
    Condolences for your loss.

  14. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. We call them pets, but really, when it comes down to it, we are blessed that they choose to spend their time with us. She has given you a lifetime of memories to cherish, and you always gave her the best that you had to offer. I’m sure her love and friendship for you ran just as deep as yours for her. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this diffiuclt time.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Becky. I agree, “pets” is a misleading term. I never really thought of Dashiell as a cat. And I’m pretty sure she didn’t think of herself that way either. She was just a friend, treated as an equal and involved in everything we did.

  15. Sorry to hear about your loss. She must have had a great life full of love and affection. Remember the good times and cherish them. You were lucky to have such a great friend for such a long time, but I know our greed always wants to keep them as long as possible.

    • Sarah Clarke says:

      I am so sorry for your loss, Ryan. Loosing a member of you family, as our pets are, is so terribly hard and leaves a huge gap filled by that dreadful ache. I found that talking to them helps, it’s as if they can hear you and somehow helps to bridge the gap.
      Your little one had a life of knowing she was loved and cherished right to the end and that is a comfort I’m sure.
      There is a doctrine that believes animals that have very close loving bonds with humans move to a higher level of consciousness and that their journey “back to the garden” is quicker and easier. Sounds logical to me.
      Take care and remember wherever she is now Dashiell doesn’t want you to be sad. xx

      • Ryan Murdock says:

        Thank you Sarah. Yeah, Dashiell would definitely feel bad if she thought she were the cause of sadness. She had her grouchy moments – exactly like me, actually lol – but she was a cheerful, optimistic soul.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Juan. I’m grateful to have had 17 years with Dashiell, especially after her fight with pneumonia. We always said those couple extra years were a bonus we might very well not have experienced.

  16. Roxanna Lloyd says:

    I feel your loss, for your pussycat. I have always had cats, and even though it hurts to lose one, I will always own at keast two. It helps with my grief, It just changes, and alters so you can bear it. Two always have each other for company, too. Your story of your kitty, reminded me of just the one, I had once. My life was kind of nomadic then, too, and having my Howlene helped. Great memories, I wish for you, and I hope you can go on easy.

  17. Lovely re-counting of your life with Dashiell. She, like some critters I’ve known, enrich our experiences in such a life-altering way. So hard when we lose such incredible little beings, but, the impressions they leave are priceless. She was fortunate to have found such a loving home.

    My deepest condolences for the loss of your little buddy.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Ez. Yeah, Dashiell was unlike any other cat I’ve known, and unlike any we had when I was a child. There was definitely something special about her. A once in a lifetime sort of friendship.

  18. It is so hard to lose these sweet and special creatures… But they are willing to share themselves with us for a time, and make us better in the process!

  19. Frank Linick says:

    My heartfelt sympathy goes out to you. I cried reading about your relationship and know exactly what you went through, having gone through the same thing when I lost my parakeet. I now have four cats that give me so much pleasure that I can’t imagine ever losing them!

  20. Ryan, my deepest sympathy from Costa Rica. Little Dashiell crossed the Rainbow Bridge, after a happy life with such a wonderful family.

  21. Patricia Shiels says:

    Hi Ryan, I found your story so hard to read through my tears. I’m so sorry for you loss, I recently lost my pet rabbit, Woody, she like Dashiell was amazing, no ordinary rabbit. I believe we gave her the best possible life, she was a house rabbit and had the freedom to run around our garden, I don’t believe any animal should live in a cage! She died on my lap with my boyfriend sat next to me. We had her cremated as we are moving house and want to take her with us.
    I have attached a poem for you. I hope you like it. She is waiting for you ATB. X

    RainbowBridge.com

    Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together…. 

    Author unknown…

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Patricia, the poem paints a beautiful image.

      Please accept my condolences for your friend Woody. There’s just no forgetting friends like these.

  22. Ryan Murdock says:

    Thanks so much everyone for your kind words, and for taking the time to read Dashiell’s story. It was the toughest thing I’ve ever attempted to write. But I tried to be as honest and direct as possible, so that others might also find their own truth within it.

    The house sure feels empty without her. It’s amazing how much of a hole she left behind, given her small size.

  23. I feel your pain and was crying as I read this. We have 6 furry kids (all cats) at the moment. A few years ago, I lost the cat that was my baby, suddenly and unexpectedly. We had a bond very much like you and Dashiell had. We had him from the time he was 6 weeks old and he had been with us for almost fifteen years. Peaches was on his favorite chair sleeping when my husband left for work and a few hours later when I came home, he was gone. I had always dreaded the day I would have to make the decision to end his life and I probably wouldn’t have been able to go through with it, just like you weren’t. I truly think it happened the way it did because he wanted to spare me that pain. My only regret is that I didn’t get to say goodbye to him, but Peaches always knew how much I loved him. My only hope was that he didn’t suffer and that it all happened quickly. He had just had a tooth pulled a few days prior and I think he may have had a blood clot that caused a stroke and killed him. I know he’ll be waiting for me on the other side, as Dashiell will be for you. My sincere condolences onyour loss.

  24. So sorry to hear of your loss – you will never forget Dashiell. I know – I still miss Mika and Pickle who accompanied me through various stages of my life.

    It’s too soon yet, but DO get another cat if you can – we got 2 from a rescue home just 3 months after Pickle died and we have never regretted it. The relationship will not be the same and you should never try to emulate the one you had but you will also grow as a person as you get to know a new cat.

    Our current 2 cats are our 5th and 6th cats over a lifetime (I’m close on 60 now), so there is plenty of time for you to start a new relationship – but mourn the loss of Dashiell a little bit more first.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Irene.

      I don’t think I can bring another cat into my life. I just have nothing left to give. Maybe in 20 years. But for now, we’re planning to travel a lot more. We don’t have any strong ties here now, or a friend to come back to.

  25. Please accept my condolences, Ryan. Your love for Dashiell came through beautifully in your story. I started to cry as I was reading when my little boy cat, Olie, came over and jumped on my lap and licked my ear wondering what was wrong. I grabbed him,held him tight and told him how much I loved him and I’d do anything for him. He doesn’t ask for much, but I’d give him the world! Dashiell seems to have had a great life and you are both lucky to have found each other…

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Eric. Yeah, cherish those moments while you have them. It’s so easy to take them for granted when we’re living them.

  26. A story hard to write, but I am sure cathartic. I have walked that path with three of my babies. The last one was 15 months ago. I still have his buddy Chaos with us. I still find myself staring at Forest’s favorite spot when there is a sunbeam. Chaos and I both sometime look back upstairs waiting for the other furball to come down for breakfast, but alas he is finding breakfast in a different plain – maybe there really is a rainbow bridge and when I decide to leave this world, I can cross it , seeing all my old friends again.

    Thank you for sharing your’s and Dashiell’s journey – it was an honor reading it.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Carol. Yeah, I find myself looking to the sofa each time I come home from the gym, and folding up the afghan in a certain way and placing it between my wife and I when we sit down to watch the late news. Reminds me of a lyric by Steve Kilbey: “Hear him laughing, his memory walks the garden / I say it’s all right I still believe in you…”

  27. Nigel Griffiths says:

    A sad story but uplifting as well. It is heartening to know that a strong man can also form a bond with a small creature and love and care for it throughout their time together.
    We humans can share life and learn from many creatures.
    I have had many really happy times since I was a young lad with dogs as faithful friends, still keep 3 now. They are an inspiration.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Nigel. I’ve often found more decency and kindness in animals than in some of the people I’ve crossed paths with. It makes me choke with rage to see someone inflict cruelty on an animal, especially when it can’t do anything to fight back. IMO those people deserve exactly the same treatment that they’re dishing out.

  28. My condolences, too. Reminds me of my cat Flake, who (literally) wandered into my life in 1974, and was my constant companion until she died in 1993. It’s always hard to lose a friend, and often times people don’t understand the relationship you can have with a pet.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you John. Yeah, it’s true, many people don’t understand the intensity of such a loss, or that it’s not much different than the loss of a close person. Seeing so many people post here who DO understand gives me a lot more optimism for the future and for humans as a species. The world’s a lot larger than just us, and we share it with so many fellow creatures.

  29. I am so sorry for your loss Ryan. I shed a tear while reading the story of your dear friend and companion Lady Cat Dashiell, may she rest in peace.
    Almost 13 years ago, my Ginger Tom Cat Chichi walked into my life when he was also about 2 weeks old, jumping out from his hideout in front of me as I walked back home when my car broke down. He also could fit into my palm and had some health problems but managed to pull through and get better. He is now so big he can spread over my entire arm length. It was fate, as you crossing life paths with Dashiell was fate. These furry intelligent creatures fulfill our lives and our hearts in an indescribable way, and it’s a true blessing to experience such a friendship.
    I know that you are sad and hurting but you must always remember all those good moments and rituals you had together. Good memories are the best therapy!
    Stay strong, she is watching over you from over the rainbow.

  30. Sorry for your loss, Ryan. I’m more of a dog person but the loss of a four-legged faithful friend is always sad. I still remember losing my poodle when I lived in Vancouver, Canada. Shame on you, Ryan. I’m living in Malta now and you never introduced Dashiell to Laddie, our Yorkshire Terrier. He would have barked his head off at her. Looks like Dashiell was a world traveller, so fortunate to have had you to save her.

    Come back to Malta and let Laddie and me show you around.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you John. It’s funny, Dashiell was never bothered by dogs, even really loud ones. She had a spaniel friend who used to come to her window when we lived in a basement place in university (but she hated the cat upstairs and fought it through the glass). And the vet who boarded her in Canada said they would bring her out front to sit by the fish tank, and all the loud dogs they brought in never caused her to blink. She was really curious about them I think.

  31. Sorry, Ryan. I skimmed through Dashiell’s story too fast. It was early in the morning and did not recall that there was a Malta just east of Vancouver, B.C. I thought of Malta Malta which is much further east and a bit south.. While having breakfast it dawned on me that your loving pet might have been not up to travel last summer. With Dr. Portelli you must have a double Malta connection.

    The offer about the visit to the ‘original’ Malta is still open, of course.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      I’m in the original Malta, been here about a year and a half. We live in the south. Where are you guys based? If you ever need a good vet, Dr. Portelli is excellent. His clinic’s in Tarxien.

  32. Thanks for taking the time to write Dalshiell’s story – it has totally touched me (as I sit here sniffing). She sounds amazing – we are so lucky when we have pets who mean so much. I have had and lost a dog and a cat – and yes they leave a huge hole in your life. But some of the best memories and stories of my life involve them! We’ve got a 6 year old grey tabby now – Pepe, rescued at 6 months from a shelter. He’s a cracker. You have such a speical and unique relationship with them all. And as sad as it is when they go, your life is always so much better for having had them in it…sending love and catty kisses from Scotland.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Jen. My life is definitely better for having known Dashiell. I’m so sad to lose her, but grateful for the time we had together.

  33. Ryan, I am very sorry for your loss. The story you wrote about Dashiell was wonderful, which shows what an affectionate and loving cat she was. I am sure she is proud of you for being her friend and sticking by her till the last moment. You have my greatest sympathies, I wish you and your wife peace, comfort and healing. Regards, Mehmet

  34. Hey Ryan

    My deepest condolences go out to you for the loss of Dashiell. Thank you for sharing your story with us. There is nothing like the bond between human and cat. If a cat chooses you as its human friend, you are blessed indeed! I can imagine the hole that has been left in your life… Sending big hugs your way 🙂

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Deb. Yeah, she left a huge hole behind her, despite her small size.

      Hope all’s well with you. Great to hear from you.

  35. I’m so sorry for your loss. It was a beautiful story that you shared.

  36. I am so sorry for your loss. I was crying and recall my two little fur balls Charlotte and Emilie both gray, mixed Persians and how I lost my little girls three months apart two years ago. They both came into my life when a friend visited and questioned me if I was thinking of getting another cat since the passing of my Tabby but I did not want to go through it again. Well, I walked into the living room and noticed a box and I turned to my friend and asked him what’s in the box? He gave me that look and so I walked over and opened the box and there looking up at me were two gray, little fur balls. Just looking at me with these golden eyes. Well, it was a seventeen year journey and I loved every moment with my two little gems and I guess I was in denial that they were getting older. I kept telling all my friends that Charlotte and Emilie were nine years but my friend had to remind me when he brought my little girls in to my life and I didn’t want to believe they were getting older and time was getting precious. My cats died from cancer but like you Ryan there is an emptiness in my home. Even after two years I keep Charlotte and Emilie’s water and feeding bowls out in kitchen. Your Dashiell was special like my little girls and my heart aches for you.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you George. And thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad you were able to find your own truth here as well.

  37. Ryan,
    Condolences on the loss of your beloved Dashiell. I just lost my dear 19 year old Blackie three weeks ago…you gave Dashiell a wonderful life, as she enriched yours. Hold the happy memories close and remember, as George points out above, that time was, and is, precious.

  38. Just sending love and comfort.

  39. I can empathize with you. My cat lived for nineteen and a half years until he died from complications resulting fro kidney failure and an infected tooth. He wa a good companion and had a good sense of dected goood people from bad ones. It’s been 23 years since he died but he has never been forgotten.

  40. Aw Ryan, I can relate.
    What beautiful friends, cats are.
    For at least a year after I lost my kitties (siblings, 14 yrs old, passed 3 weeks apart!) I felt them with me, in many ways.
    Curious – my Mother lost one of her cats the same day as you. All of her animals are strays that show up at her farm – apparently an identical ruby-striped kitten showed up that night!
    Jo

  41. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your kitty. I’ve lost a few pets in my time and I miss them all terribly, but especially a cat named Mo and a dog named Toby. Those are the two that stick out, that really found their place in the depths of my heart. I take comfort in the thought that they are waing for me at Rainbow Bridge. Sending love, light, and good wishes.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thanks Pam. Yeah, we had a few cats when I was a child. I remember them all, but Dashiell was different somehow. Impossible to forget.

  42. so sorry for your loss – your story of brave Dashiell’s life was beautifully written and made me misty eyed. I have a special friend in our jack russell Angel and i can only imagine what it will be like when the day comes that we lose her. sometimes when i look into her eyes, i cant help but think about that day – and i just know i have got to spend every moment i can with her so there will be no regretts. I only hope i can be as strong about it as you. Your story has been a true inspiration. Heres to Dashiell. best wishes to you in your time of grief.

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Steve. I’m not sure how strong we were about it – we cried our eyes out for weeks. But I tried to do my best for my friend, and to stick by her as she stuck by me. There’s not much you can do to prepare yourself when the day finally arrives.

  43. Anne Hartman says:

    I’m sitting here crying after reading your sad story. I’m so sorry for your loss and believe me when I say I understand exactly how you feel having lost more than a couple beloved pets in my 60 years. Dashiell was a beautiful kitty and she was definitely blessed by your love, as you were by hers. Thank you so much for sharing this story of love and friendship with us!

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thank you Anne. It’s been a few weeks but it’s still difficult to believe she’s gone. It feels like she’s just at boarding or something. The house sure is empty without her.

  44. Susen Kaylo says:

    We never forget our furry best friends. That was a beautiful tribute to Dashiell. Very moving and tugged at my heart as it’s only been 8 mths since my shiu tzui wannabe Great Dane, my DD dog died peacefully in her sleep at 16 yrs of age. Ohh, my eyes teared up as I typed that!!

    But I was blessed with an incredibly healthy, full off piss & vinegar dog who, like yourself & Dashiell, was always by my side with every step I took. She was full of personality & smart. From 5 wks of age, she would come and stand in front of me, and sneeze & sneeze till I figured it out. She needed to go outside to do her business. And she did that everyday for all of her 16 yrs. She’d sneeze. I had to remember to tell sitters that if she stared at them & sneezed continually, that she needed to go outside. I never taught her that. It was just her way.

    Ohh, the memories! They’ll be in our hearts & mind forever. You were blessed to have such a loving, gentle, beautiful companion, Ryan. May the wonderful memories of Dashiell bring joy to your heart & a smile on your face. (And yes, I too, wrote a poem in tribute to my DD dog).

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Great story, thanks Susen. That sneeze was a brilliant way to get a point across. And I’m sorry for your loss. 8 months is still very recent. Even a year feels like yesterday.

  45. Mike (UK) says:

    Sorry for your loss for the loss of such a dear friend. Your story about Dashiell’s life was so beautifully it made me cry. Although i am 6FT 5 In and 210 lbs male i am a big softy. Most of my best freinds over my life have been animals, i am now 64. I tend to adopt animals from shelter homes, many of which have been badly treated I want to give these folk ( animals) a good loving home, but the truth is they give me more than i give them. I seem to have a special relationship with all criters and often feed wild birds form my hand and i keep fish as well, which i can also feed by hand.
    My last cat was a feral (wild) cat we called Hadrian. He was named after a Roman wall built between England and Scotland. We found him stuck behind a large stone in an old stone wall, A nabour said she had heard this horible crying sound for days and could not work out what it was. Any way we took down part of the wall and there was this tinny little kitten, more dead than alive.
    We took him home and put him down and he immediately crawled over to my 4 legged son Toby, who was lying in his bed and started to try and suckle him for milk, i have never seen Toby look so shocked, he got out of bed and let the newest family member sleep. I wish i could say he was gentle and kind but he was not, he would jump on my lap for a smooth and when he had had enough he would either bite or scratch and get down. He could happily feed him self but he also ate the food we
    gave him. We all love him and accepted him for what he was, he had his own bed in the house but came and went as he pleased. When ever we went out he always was there to welcome us home individually.
    It just goes to show some times animal friends chose you rather than the other way round. He lived until he was about 14 and just before he died, he was in my arms, he gave me one of those looks, which said so long.
    Take care Mate
    Mike

    • Ryan Murdock says:

      Thanks for sharing your story Mike, I appreciate it. Hadrian’s a great name for a cat! And very fitting given his origins. Yeah, sometimes they choose us. I sure wasn’t looking for a pet when Dashiell came into my life. I think sometimes they do choose us. Your story reminds me of a cat we had when I was growing up. She was very independent, she would disappear for days at a time, but when she came home she always brought a dead bird or bat as an offering. Dashiell, however, was a city cat, always indoors. Very bookish and set in her ways. I miss her every day, and still dream of her several nights a week.

  46. I remember reading this story last year and how it made me cry. A year later and I find myself with tears in my eyes. This story has brought up some old memories of my pets that have passed on. God has truly blessed us with some wonderful companions and friends. Thank you again Ryan for such a wonderful look into your relationship with your beloved Dashiell…I know she waits for you at the Rainbow Bridge. Kindest Regards
    Ben

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