Five days ago, on 15 October 2023, just seven weeks after saying an unexpected goodbye to Wilson, his adopted younger brother Sidney-Beans was helped out of his physical body. Another unexpected and unforseen loss that brings another wave of sorrow and shock. While we were away on a (rare) getaway and while he was under the watchful eye and caring heart of an animal-loving friend who had moved into the house to care for him, he developed sudden symptoms of being very unwell.
My wonderful team of local friends immediately mobilized to try and assess what was happening and rushed him to a veterinary emergency room for diagnostics. There, they discovered there that he had a large abdominal tumor that had ruptured. He had quickly gone septic. There was no coming back from that. To spare him one more moment of agony, I agreed with the vets that immediate euthanasia was the only choice.
He was just 12 years old.
I don’t need to tell animal lovers how shattering it is to lose a beloved creature, especially when circumstances conspire to deny us the opportunity to be with them in those sacred moments when they are taking their final breaths.
It came as a gut-punching shock, too, since Mr. Beans had been, outwardly, doing so well in the 50 days he stepped so gracefully, and seemingly with such ease, into his seat as ‘spoiled only cat.’
In the weeks we were working to adjust to life without Wilson, Sidney seemed to me to be thriving. He gobbled up the extra attention showered on him. He was more confident and became even more affectionate with me. He was eating well and playing with abandon. He’d had a physical and bloodwork in June. I had no warning signs that anything serious was brewing. He was scheduled for another checkup and more bloodwork three days after he died. I would never have gone away if I had even a whisper of an inkling that something so life- and health-threatening was brewing.
After Wilson died in late August, I set up a cat playground for Sidney on the screened porch: a cardboard box surrounded by catnip-sprinkled tissue paper and new toys. Sid and I had play dates morning and night for interactive chase-stuff-on-strings time. The weather had been friendly for much of September and early October and it was an ideal “happy place” for the two of us to hang out. We both got fresh air and a close up view of the birds. And the squirrels scurrying about as they were busy with their pre-winter nut gathering. I can’t say whether Sidney enjoyed it more than I did, but we both threw ourselves fully into one-on-one Sidney and Anne time.
My appreciation for and bond with him grew exponentially after the our goodbye to Wilson in late August.
Sidney had never known life in this house without Wilson. I adopted Sid as a kitten through a local rescue about a month after I brought Wilson, an adult cat, home. Getting a kitten wasn’t my idea. My husband was certain that Wilson needed a same-species pal. It wasn’t a hard sell.
In short order those two hooligans became buddies. Getting in trouble together, snuggling, wrestling, chasing and grooming one another. They were a heaven-made match. Wilson made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that he was was Cat In Charge. Sid, mostly, fell into line, deferring to Wilson as boss and mentor.
They kept me on my toes and made me laugh, or at least smile pretty big, every day. It took no time at all for the two of them weave into the heart tapestry of this house. Which is why losing them both so quickly has left this small house suddenly feeling a lot bigger. And a lot emptier. As though something vital is missing.
I never thought I’d weep over the realization that I don’t have litter boxes to clean. And yet, here we are. Life is a peculiar mystery. There’s no accounting for what love might look like.
I’ve struggled with how to pay proper tribute to Sidney-Beans. I loved him more than words can say and would have walked through fire for that fellow. Maybe sharing a little glimpse into what was quirky and marvelous about him could begin to do some justice to this grand fellow.
We humans can’t help but assign anthropomorphic words to the animals in our lives. The one that always came to mind with Sidney-Beans was innocence. Falling into the role of protector for him came naturally,
The world continuously surprised him. I spent years trying to figure out the unlikely triggers for his displays of disproportionate concern and suspicion: repeating horizontal lines (no clue); an empty clothes hanger; a stray sock on the floor. All precipitated reactions that I could never quite understand.
He also was not a fan of my banjo. Wilson loved it. Sid? Not so much.
An extroverted, social cat, he cozied up to visitors and overnight house guests quickly. I believe he took his cue on that courage with newcomers from Wilson’s confident sociability and sassy mojo. Sid wasn’t shy about trotting into bed with someone he’d met only a few hours earlier. He’d claim his space and head-butt with the push power of six stallions until he got skritches and cuddles on demand. Then he’d purr, drool, purr some more.
He gave his heart to us right from the start. His adoration and affection for my husband was instantaneous and enduring from the first day I brought the little pipsqueak home until the very end. Sid regarded Bob as his emotional support animal. There was no one he was more relaxed being around.
Sidney-Beans loved, deferred to, and respected Wilson. That deference didn’t stop him from initiating raucous games of chase and ambush. Snuggle sessions and mutual grooming fests between those two would end in wrestling matches, but no one held a grudge. Sidney’s spirit was mischievous, forgiving, and generous.
He had his unambigous dislikes too. Nail trimming was an almost unendurable form of human-imposed misery. Vacuum cleaners. Trucks roaring down the street. Loud talkers. Ominous soundtracks on television movies. No good for The Beans.
But hanging out with Wilson? That was his jam.
Adjusting to a home without Wilson, and now without Sidney? Without any cat? It’s grim and awful in these earliest days. As bad as I always feared it might be, it’s worse. The absence of Sidney’s presence is next to unbearable. I bow to him, though, for how he helped me get through the past seven weeks since we said that heart-wrenching goodbye to Wilson.
Some years back I made a quiet pledge to myself to try on a life without any animals after these two fellows were gone.
Maybe it will be a failed experiment, but I want feel into what is possible in life absent the responsibility, the inevitable heartache, and the logistical demands that we take on when we say “yes, I welcome you in my life and my home and pledge to do everything I can to safeguard your well-being.”
More than a couple of friends have counseled me to “never say never” on that front, and I take what they say to heart. One friend told me I was 100 percent full of s**t thinking I’d never live with a cat again.
Yet for now, I’m clear that what’s right for me is to digest, process, and be present with all that’s unfolded in the past two months. We don’t compost loss overnight. I need to mourn what I’ve lost. To accept that the chapter of my life living with those two amazing beings is over. Only when I am as confident as I can be that welcoming a new furry friend is right might I do it.
It might be never. It might be six months from now. I don’t know. I never planned on getting Wilson 12 years ago, but he showed up in the most unlikely setting. A handsome furry soul mate in a cat suit. I was sure we were meant to be together.
For now, I’m content enough with not knowing what’s next. Though adapting to a home without those furry beings feels anything but easy.
My gratitude for those who rallied to care for Sidney while we were away is off the charts.
I want to thank my friend Melissa for her watchful eye and loving attentiveness to Sidney while we were away. As soon as she sensed something might be wrong, she sprung into action. I want to thank our remarkable vet, Dr. Andrea Tasi for helping to assess Sidney’s condition and give clear-headed, informed, and wise counsel about when it was time to get him to the ER. She’s seen us through all the ups an downs and in betweens with these boys (and our cats before them) and has that rare combination of profound compassion married to level-headed, deeply-informed wisdom all focused on making cat lives better. She is one of the most remarkable vets on the planet.
I want to thank my cherished friend Terri Grow, who dropped everything she was doing and sprung into action to check on Sidney on a Saturday evening and drive him to the veterinary ER very early the next morning. It is an indescribable comfort to know that it was Terri with him on that very difficult day. If it couldn’t be me, I’d have wanted it to be Terri. And thanks to Dr. Mason at Hope Advanced Veterinary Center for taking in Sidney, assessing and diagnosing him quickly, and helping me understand that the most loving act was to let him go. Finally, deep gratitude to Ingrid King, who stepped in with zero notice to do some Reiki on Sid in those brief minutes we had between making the decision to euthanize and when he was slipped out of his body. Talk about compassion in action.
And a thousand thanks to Dr. Lisa Pierson, Sidney and Wilson’s godmother, for her shoulder and her empathy. She’s walked and talked me through no small number of cat crises over the years.
If I’d had the chance to be with Sidney in his final minutes, I know what I would have whispered to him.
I would have told him how lucky I feel to have been in his life. I would have told him I loved him to the next galaxy and back again and that I pray that love accompanies, protects, and holds him always. I would have told him how much Bob would miss his buddy.
I would have thanked him for being a lifeline to sanity for me in the seven weeks since Wilson died. I would assured him that even though his arrival in this house was initially all about having a companion for Wilson, he was immediately a cherished and magical being in his own right. I would have told him there was never one like him before and there will never be one like him again. That it was a privilege to be his guardian and friend and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. I would have told him how much I savored witnessing the profound bond he had with my husband; I’m crazy about the same guy so obviously we share excellent taste. I would have told him, again and again, that he made love come true for me in a part of my heart that would have been asleep forever if he’d not been in my life.
Godspeed, my dear, cherished, handsome, magical-beautiful Sidney-Beans. Thank you. You loved us all so well. May you always be wrapped up safe and warm in the arms of love.