At YRSTRY, we create albums for any kind of personal story, including remembering our furry family members. In May of 2020, our family lost one of our pets, Jeremy. Writing his story was truly transformative, as it provided comfort to look at all the photos, remember so many great moments, and reflect on the timing and symbolism of his death. His album is also a much loved treasure for our son (and me, if I’m honest – he was my cat, through and through).
In Memory of Jeremy is a 20-page, 8×8 hard cover album
“What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” ~ Helen Keller
Jeremy was just a little fluffball when we added him to our family.
At the time, we had a huge dog named Konan and a cat named Patches. Patches was the first furry family member, as she was with me before I met my husband, Doug. I am the self-proclaimed cat person. Doug is team dog.
While he was away working a summer job in Nunavut, I decided we needed another animal. Perhaps I was lonely? I can’t remember the reason why, but I do remember when I pitched the idea of a second cat, Doug responded, “Then I’ll be able to get another dog.” That would come later when we added Luxor to make the score tied at two between Team Cat and Team Dog.
While Doug was up north, I visited a foster home with SCAT Street Cat Rescue in Warman. The woman had a litter of kittens with ‘J’ names: Jeremy, Julie, Junior are the names I remember. Jeremy reminded me of the tabby cats we always had growing up, so I chose him. She told me she envisioned Jeremy becoming “a fat, lazy tomcat.” For years after, Doug and I would joke: “Where’s our fat, lazy tomcat?” as he was playful and tormented first Patches and then Brooke up until the end, never really showing signs of being particularly fat or lazy.
Patches was not a fan of this new kitten, who of course wanted to play all the time. Konan, who was around 100 pounds, loved him. The two would play together, often with Jeremy fitting in Konan’s jaw. We would cringe, knowing it would take one crunch and kitty would be gone, but Konan was always gentle. We wondered if Jeremy thought he was a dog, as he initiated play with the Great Dane-Staffie more than the fluffy cat (maybe because Patches scowled and growled at him a few times). He also liked to sleep on the dog bed and would greet us at the door, just like a dog.
Jeremy was so good with all our children. When he arrived on the scene, Doug’s oldest two were six and five, perfect for a playful kitten. He was always down for playing with a toy, and he tolerated all the awkward cuddles.
When I became pregnant, he started cuddling against my stomach. After our son, Cub, was born in 2014, Jeremy was never far from the baby. We would have cuddle sessions on the couch since the cats were no longer allowed in the bedroom since Cub slept on the bed with us. One night, the only way we could get Cub to be comforted and sleep was on his stomach, even though he was technically too young (a month or two old) to be sleeping that way. Jeremy was lying beside him on the bed.
As Cub grew older, Jeremy was the cat who would play with him – or tolerate him playing with him. Jeremy let Cub carry him around, he let Cub lie on top of him, and he was almost always there for bedtime, often cuddling up against Cub.
When he wasn’t cuddling against Cub, he was cuddling with me. Once I went to bed, Jeremy would join me, curling up between my legs or snuggled up against my side, purring away. Whenever I’d sit down on the couch, he’d find my lap. When I was working at my computer, he’d often sit beside it (or sometimes on top of it). He was never far from my side.
When Cub was only three and a half months old, we moved to our new house we had built in Warman. Baby Cub and I spent the day at a friend’s while Doug helped the movers. Part of the reason he helped was the two cats: he wanted to make sure they weren’t freaking out. At the end of the day, he told me he had found and delivered Brooke to our new home but couldn’t find Jeremy. He proposed taking me and Cub and going back to look for Jeremy later.
The day we moved was the hugest snowstorm. Jeremy had always been an indoor cat, and I was terrified at the idea that he had somehow dash outside and was scared, even though the movers said they never saw him escape.
Cub in his carseat, sleeping, Doug and I went back to the house and called for Jeremy as we looked around the house. It was a tiny house, how could he hide from all of us? We opened canned cat food as we called. Eventually, I broke down in tears. It was at that point we heard a mew. It was an old house, and he was between the boards at the back of a cupboard – quite the hiding spot. I held him the entire drive to Warman. We found it strange that he adjusted to the new house the quickest of the two cats. We figured he thought it was one big cat tree with all the carpeted stairs.
When Cub was around three, he became very interested in maps. When we’d drive back to Warman from anywhere, he’d ask us to take the service road and turn on the car map. Because our car was manufactured in 2012, the map shows how Warman used to be, when the golf course was on the south part of town. Story goes that’s where Jeremy and his siblings were found, so Cub – to this day, even now that Jeremy is gone – asks for the map and comments “This is where Jeremy was born.”
We always assumed Jeremy would live a long time, being an indoor cat who led a pretty plum life. However, a Wednesday evening in May, I was deep in conversation with my husband in our bedroom. Doug was sitting on the bed facing me, and Jeremy was on the bed behind him. All of a sudden, Jeremy looked like he was playing with a ball: he arched his back sideways, almost like he was batting at something, and then plunked back down to the bed. I couldn’t concentrate on what Doug was saying because I kept looking at Jeremy: his pupils were dilated, and when I went over to him, he was purring. But it didn’t feel right: I knew that cats purred when they were anxious, too.
We noticed he had a limp when he got off the bed and agreed we’d monitor it in the morning.
When I woke up and saw him, I knew things were much worse. He was no longer just limping: he could barely walk without falling over. Brooke seemed to know something was up, too, as she didn’t bother him. I tried to get him comfortable in a sunbeam as he always liked. My husband was on the phone with vets in Warman until we found one who could see him right away. We were trying to explain it matter-of-factly but sensitively to Cub, who was not quite six at the time.
Of course, I was stressed because it was during COVID-19, and we knew we wouldn’t be able to go in with him. Also, in my heart I knew this was the end. A huge wave of relief washed over me when we arrived at the Warman Veterinary Clinic and the vet tech walked out to our car: Shannon was a woman I had gotten to know and love through the moms group I used to facilitate in Warman. She commented to Jeremy, “I know you’re well loved because I’ve seen so many pictures of you!” She was referring to all my cat photos on Instagram (crazy cat lady).
After I explained what had happened, I asked what was their policy if we had to euthanize, and she said we could come in. While I was sad to leave him for the examination, I knew he was in the best care, and that she would love him just the way I did.
My husband, Cub, and I drove home, and I tried to distract myself playing outside with Cub. Shortly after, the vet called, and initially said we could try an IV, until I noted that his condition had worsened, not gotten better, from the night before. She said then there wasn’t really anything we could do: it was likely a blood clot blocking blood supply to his back legs. We all drove back to the clinic, but only I went in.
Jeremy was calmly bundled in a fuzzy blanket I had brought him in. As I was crying, Shannon asked if she could hug me (because of COVID-19 and the guidelines to physical distance). I was so grateful for her kindness. This was the first time I’d accompanied a pet to be euthanized: my husband was there when our first two pets died.
The vet came in and explained the process. They gave me all the time I needed with Jeremy. I held him and pet him and sang this ridiculous song the kids and I had made up years ago for him – it is literally singing his name over and over to a tune. I don’t know what kind of awareness cats have, but I didn’t want him to be scared. I wanted him to know how loved he was right up until he was gone.
Before the vet gave him his final shot, she thanked him for the memories. I held him until his last breath and for a while after, and then left him bundled up in his blanket. We have his ashes to spread in the backyard and his pawprints to go with the pawprints of Patches and Konan.
Even though I was a bawling wreck before and during most of it, I felt like I was given a gift. I thought of the words a dear friend told me when we lost Konan: the greatest gift you can give your pet is to take their pain away. And not only did I take away Jeremy’s pain, I was there filling him up with love as he left this earth.
I had a hard time falling asleep that night: I missed the cat cuddled up against me, making me way too hot and making it difficult to move if I was uncomfortable. Looking at photos of Jeremy is a mix of warming my heart and stinging my soul.
I know now that I wasn’t just crying that day or since that day because of losing my trusty companion, although that’s more than enough reason for my heart to hurt. A large part of why I was crying so heavily is his death symbolized the end of a chapter in my life. My life as I had known it up until that point, it was all changing, and it would never be the same. And now on top of never being the same, I wouldn’t have this tabby cat to cuddle with me at night. I will take comfort in all the good memories as I navigate this next chapter without him.