As I covered a few days ago, I hate Christmas. Can't stand it. Would be happier if December fell off the map.

It got worse.

I had a wonderful old cat named Abby. She kept to herself, rarely wanted attention, and and as long as her food bowl was full, you rarely heard her funny quacking meow.

I got Abby 11 years ago, after my family's house burned down. She was our first new pet and was already an adult cat, maybe 3 or 4 at the time we adopted her from the shelter. I'd went wanting a kitten, but I came out with the Buddha of cats - calm as a breeze, gentle and self-contained.

When my husband and I got married, I convinced him to let me bring Abby to live in our apartment. Although my husband's allergic to cats, he agreed, and thus she migrated from my parents' home to ours on a trial basis. Turns out, my husband was allergic to just about every cat...but Abby.

She's lived with us for the 6 years we've been married. She keeps the dogs in line when they sniff her butt too much but she likes to shared her food bowl with the chihuahua, who I'm pretty sure was her secret BFF.

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In recent months, Abby began dropping weight and had a constant cough. Our vet pretty much shrugged and said, "Old age." I've been preparing myself for her to pass for a long time - she is likely 13 or 14 - but she's been a constant in my life. Not my best friend, no - but an erstwhile companion, traveling with me, curling up on my chest when I needed her and then leaving me be when I didn't. She'd been unusually involved in recent weeks, even sleeping in our bed - something she'd never done in 6 years. I was feeling like her time to pass was coming soon and she was purposefully spending time with us beforehand.

If you can't tell where this is going, a few days ago, she went missing. We're not quite sure what day because it wasn't uncommon for her to find a cozy spot in a closet and camp out, hidden and enjoying her zen, for a few days. I noticed on Sunday and a frantic search of the house didn't turn her up.

I felt like she'd perhaps found somewhere private to slink off to, as animals do, when its their time to pass. I was preparing to do a more thorough sweep of the house with a heavy heart when my husband came inside and, with a cracking voice, told me he'd found her.

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She was outside. Fortunately, she hasn't gotten hit by a car or attacked by coyotes... She'd frozen to death, feet from our front door. I have no idea how she got outside... Maybe she walked out, unnoticed, when my husband was smoking or maybe she got out when my husband was sleepwalking a few nights ago and left the front door wide open. Maybe it was her time to go, anyways, and she was looking for some privacy.

I feel like she should have gone better than that, freezing and alone. I should've been there, holding her, thanking her for the years of quiet companionship. I've read that freezing to death is just like falling asleep, and I pray that's true; she was so thin recently, it wouldn't have taken long.

I'm hoping that perhaps she'd gotten outside on one of our recent warm days and passed in a lovely patch of sunshine beneath the big tree, that she didn't freeze until the next few days when it got so cold. Maybe she was already gone. I hope she was.

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My parents are going to take her little body and bury her in their yard, so she'll still have someplace nice when we move from this apartment. My husband's already talking about getting a kitten and I don't know if I really want another one yet.

Thanks if you took the time to read such a depressing thing, especially today. I needed to write it down and work through my emotions some. I didn't cry last night when we found her - I needed to be strong for my husband, who's wracked with guilt. But, now, I've had my little chance to cry and remember my zen cat.

I hope you sleep peacefully, you lovely old girl.