Beginner's Heart

Kali eating cheese on deskAt her best, my 14-year-old cat Kali is doing great. She can still jump (most of the time) onto my desk to eat the snack I fixed (NOT for her). She usually maneuvers the leap from the coffee table to the arm of my chair, and she can stay a couple of steps ahead of the dogs.

But it’s the beginning of the end, and I have no idea how to negotiate that map.

We’re the people who always wait too long to let go of their animals. A cat who was bleeding internally (who knew??); a dog who finally died on the way to be put to sleep, in my husband’s arms. Another dog who was probably in pain, but a total stoic. And another cat who fought against the car ride to her end.

Each time, we swear we will go earlier into that good night, making the decision for these beloved members of our family. But how do you know when it’s time? Kali with toy

Because the times she’s not doing well, Kali seems ready. When does the balance tip to darkness and letting go, from taking care of?

These are the kinds of questions I’m no good at. Kali can’t tell me, although when she yowls (she’s part Siamese, as you can see) for no reason, I wonder if she hurts. I know she has arthritis from the bite she sustained before we rescued her (at 5-ish weeks) from a country bar ditch. On a damp day, when my own joints ache in sympathy, I watch her favouring that leg.

And I wonder: how do you know, oh Buddha of letting go, when it’s time?

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