The Last Vigil by Mark Stone

March 2017. Pets put their complete trust in us, a blind faith that really goes beyond what exists between any two humans. In part they trust us to protect them from suffering, and for most of a pet's life we offer that protection eagerly and happily. But in life's final moments we must still honor that trust and protect them from suffering, even when it is hard, and even when the impending loss is that last thing that we ourselves want to suffer. Yet our pets deserve our very best, even when it is hard.

There came a point when the vet tried to gently let us know that Fred's failing kidneys were worsening, and that he might only have a few more months. That was four years ago. This morning the end at last arrived. Nathan and I took Fred in to the vet, and stood by his side, our hands on his head, as the vet did what was needed to lay him to rest. Dr. Wood and the entire staff at Buckley Veterinary Clinic have been amazing, patient, and above all compassionate in helping us assure that Fred has had as much quality of life as we can give, and as little suffering as possible.

As much as we humans try to understand our pets, animals have a way of understanding each other. Willow and Fred could often be aloof, and often tussled. But last night she just knew. We had him curled up with his favorite blanket, and Willow got up right next to him and kept watch. That's where she was when I went to bed, and that's where she was when I got up in the morning.

When Karen and I returned from our honeymoon, Fred wandered out of the Sierra Nevada wilderness and into our home. An abandoned stray, he was the most trusting and hopeful feline I have ever known. It has been an honor for us to be the stewards of this part of his spirit's journey. 18 years is a long time for a cat, but you will still be missed, big guy. You were -- and are -- a huge part of our family.

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