This post was original published on Pet Story Project and on Nikki Revamped on June 19, 2023.

I was holding on to him for too long. I knew it, the people around me knew it, and he probably knew it. But, how could I let go without a fight? He was a part of my life for nearly 18 years. He had helped me raise my children and sat up with me during all the sleepless nights. Didn't I owe him a fight?

I prayed that he would slip away comfortably and on his own. Prayed that I would not have to be the one to make that choice on his behalf. Who am I to determine when his fight is over?

I had been through this several other times; each time unique in its own way. It never gets easier. It rarely feels as if the world is going to be ok afterward...after. For days, weeks, and months later, I always sense their presence and see them out of the corner of my eye. Maybe it's hopefulness.

That last night was long and, although 7 years ago now, still feels like it was yesterday. His emaciated, shaven body lay asleep on my chest all night. I don't recall if I slept at all that last night, as every time I felt my body doze off, I woke with a jerk to make sure he was still breathing, or maybe hoping he wasn't.

In the morning, I lifted his frail body off me and placed him on the ground. He collapsed. God, why is he still hanging on? I had given him my approval to let go days earlier, and yet here we still are. The morning dragged on as I watched him repeatedly try to stand up, making it a few steps, and collapsing once again. I stared at the clock waiting for 8:30 am, still secretly wishing he would pass peacefully on his own. He didn't give me that luxury. Holding back sobs, I made the call and scheduled for later that morning.

"You've held on to him a good while I see," the veterinary technician said. "It's beautiful how these little guys cement a place in our hearts. You're doing the right thing; it's time." I couldn't reply. The tears streamed down uncontrollably at this point. We remained seated on the sofa the entire time. I wanted my face to be the last thing he saw, my voice the last thing he heard. 
There was no denying the emptiness the house felt that afternoon. His sister slowly crept down the stairs upon hearing my return. She wanted to confirm what she already knew in her heart. She pranced up to my legs gingerly. She was a third of his size, but already knew she had big shoes to try to fill. Her demeanor was more confident now. He had prepared her well.
Hunter's illustration is by artist Colleen Phelon Hall.
Click here for more on Hunter and here for Lily's story.


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