In the winter of 1990, two friends of mine--cat lovers both--manoeuvred me into adopting two kittens, litter mates, which had been given only a temporary home after having been rescued from homelessness, hunger, and a harsh winter. One kitten was all gray; the other, all black. A couple of weeks after taking them in I named them for their dominant personality traits. I named the grey kitten, "Blue," because she tended to sulk. The black one I named "Sappho," because early on she revealed an intense need for affection, which she never outgrew. Two years ago, Blue died, which broke my heart. But, she'd had a good life.
Today, I had to put Sappho to sleep; or rather, I chose to. She'd been losing weight for several months and in the last couple of weeks ate hardly at all. She didn't seem to be in pain--in fact, she remained quite affectionate to the end--but she'd grown so thin and dehydrated that her end was clearly very, very near. I've put animals to sleep before. It has always hurt. But none had been in my life for fifteen years, as Sappho had.
Fifteen years is a long time (at least two life cycles--or stages of development--when I look back on the patterns in my life thus far). Sappho and Blue lived with me in Portland, Missoula, Manhattan, and Savannah. They were there before I met my second wife and there long afterward, outliving the long and nearly fatal grief I felt after my divorce. They were with me before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and after I began to 'recover' (for lack of a better word) from it. They were steadfast, as only cats or dogs can be. Food, water, affection, some catnip and the occasional stray mole (which infested my house and yard on Sauvie Island) were all they needed for excitement. They were phased by cross-country travel and trips to the vet, but little else. They were cool.
What happens to my ex-wife when she leaves this life is of little consequence to me, but I hope Blue and Sappho find a place in cat heaven, where the catnip is fresh and there's always a hand free to rub a belly.