Monday, August 31, 2009

Letting Go Is Never Easy

By Daniel Quagliozzi


It is with tremendous sorrow that I write this weeks blog entry. After 12 long and happy years, I was forced to make the hardest decision a pet guardian will ever make. My 18 year old companion; Matilda came to the end of her magical journey last week after battling many indignities that seemed to be adding up over the years. The onset of renal failure and her slowly accumulating cognitive dysfunction were making her daily life very difficult with basic needs like drinking, eating and walking becoming extremely difficult.

I could not bare to see my best friend decline this way, fully knowing that every one of her future days would be clouded with confusion, pain and discomfort. After long tear filled discussions with my wife, we made a promise to end her pain and let her go on in peace. A decision we would torment ourselves while still understaning it was righteous and necessary.


Matilda left us on August 28th, 2009. All the moments leading up to her final one were torturous. Saying goodbye to my best friend and trying to detach myself from her was something I quickly realized was going to be the hardest moment of our relationship. After all, Matilda was a truly unique friend that had so many memorable quirks. You may remember her from many blog posts in the past. My last hurrah for her was the story about how a friend watched her when I went to Hawaii. Matilda was ALWAYS by my side, starting the moment I would enter my apartment until the moment I fell asleep. We were always joined at the hip. In keeping with our commitment to each other, she never left my lap until she fell asleep that very last time.


You can imagine that there is a profound sense of emptiness in our home now. You find yourself looking for her in her normal places or hearing her when she is never going to be there, a transition I will never ever get used to. I smell her sweet smell. I still find things she hid in the corners or under the bed. Most of all I still expect her to be by my side, even though I know she always will be. My best friend is gone but forever in my heart.

For myself and others that choose to work in animal welfare, losing an animal that is close to you is very unique. You can't just go back to your desk job and forget your troubles. The next day, you are back in the shelter working with cats or dogs. There are reminders everywhere you turn. The best part is that you find yourself turning to your coworkers who support and understand everything you are going through. Yesterday, I cried on the bus, surrounded by strangers on the way to work. When I got to work, I cried among animal lovers who understood my pain.

Having worked in a shelter environment for over 7 years and seeing many cats come and go, I have been spared the pain of personal loss as Matilda was my first and only cat. I can honestly say that I am now looking at what I do for a living with a whole new perspective. Just when I thought my work was important, I now know just how much impact each cat has on the humans it touches. Matilda was a great ambassador for the cause and I will never ever forget her. I also know that she had fans all over the world. Readers of this blog would almost always respond in high numbers when I posted about her. Rest assured that she is in a peaceful place. Matilda is everywhere now.

If you are going through similar pain or loss of your animal companion, the SFSPCA has a Pet Loss Support Group once a month.

Pet Loss Support Group Sessions
No reservations are ever needed, and groups meet on the first Tuesday of every month in The SF/SPCA Humane Education Classroom, located at 243 Alabama Street. (View map) is staffed by volunteers from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine


Anonymous said...

Daniel, what a great tribute to Matilda. I can't imagine what this is like. I pretend my cats are frozen in time and will never age because that is the only way I can deal with the fact that I might lose them some day. You gave Matilda a wonderful life and friendship. I am so sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

My deepest condolences for your loss of sweet Matilda! I have enjoyed reading about her and seeing pictures of her on your blog. She was obviously a very special lady. I have had to put down a beloved cat before (my siamese Orchid who I grew up since I was 6) and it was one of the saddest, toughest decisions of my life. You and Matilda were both very lucky to have each other. Though she may be gone physically, your bond of love and friendship will never go away and the gift of her memory will be with you always.
Best wishes,
Jackie Sugarlumps

Anonymous said...

I'm so terribly sorry for your loss. It is so hard to say goodbye. You're very kind to share your experience. My best to you and your wife.

Miss Fury

Jen Clarke said...

How very sad. But how lucky a girl to have had such a loving home for her long life. Take care.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about Matilda's passing. I can relate to the enormous pain you are feeling as I too chose to put to sleep my cat 3 1/2 months ago, and she was my first and only cat I've had as an adult. I've lived with her for a very long time and I never imagined that day would come. She's now free of pain and illness but I can't begin to describe how much I miss her. My heart goes out to you.

Honey P. Sunshine said...

we are so sorry fur your loss. matilda is beautiful

Dennis said...

Daniel, my heart breaks for you. You can rest easy in your heart, though, knowing that you gave Matilda a loving home and loving care for her very long life, and no cat could ask for more. I'm so sorry for your loss. I'll miss reading about this special feline friend.

Anonymous said...

Dear Daniel,
I am very sorry to hear about your loss. Your relationship with Matilda was very special. Every word I read in your special story and tribute reminded me of how I felt when I lost my cat, one year ago next Wednesday. I have been thinking a lot about him, which is what brought me to the SPCA web site and your article. Thank you for sharing your story. Matilda was so fortunate to have you as her companion. -Christine

Suzanne W. said...

In July, I too, lost my best friend, constant companion (of 16 years) and all around wonder cat, Sophie. It's been hard for me to find the words to express what her transition and my loss have meant to me. Thank you for this blog post and the beautiful tribute to your Matilda. Being reminded of how deeply others are connected to their own beloved pets helps me in dealing with my own loss. Again, thank you.

Debbie W. said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful Matilda. I think the most difficult part of living with furkids is accepting their short lifespans, especially when its up to us to make "the decision". Bless you and Matilda and may your many beautiful memories give you comfort at this time. (((hugs)))