Ripley | Toronto Pet Photographer

Ripley | Toronto Pet Photographer

I really cannot believe that the day has arrived when I have to write this. And if I press “publish”, it will somehow be more final. It hurts too much, so I will try to say it quickly and simply.

Today, at 8:59 a.m., we sent Ripley, our 17.5 year old tabby on his final journey. With as much love as he could bear.

I, personally, have never had the weight of such a decision on my shoulders and I am not sure that either my husband, Dean, or I handled it well. In other words, we were (and are) a mess.

We had no idea that Ripley was even sick until we took him to his vet this past Wednesday morning. What we had erroneously thought to be a little bit of constipation or issues with his anal glands, turned out to be far more serious. In fact, that was not an issue at all. After x-rays and an ultrasound, we were shown that most of his organs were in some state of failure. And his poor, little heart was really only in a constant state of fibrillation, and therefore not pumping vital blood and oxygen to the other parts of his body. Add to that, he had a very serious arrhythmia which put his whole system under additional stress. Hearing this, we decided not to contemplate any heroic measures, but to simply treasure whatever remaining time we had with him. So, at our request, his vet was able to stabilize him enough that we could take him home with us Thursday evening, along with some medication to make him comfortable.

Ripley seemed to be happy to be home Thursday night, but by Friday we knew something was horribly wrong. He could not sleep. He never did eat since returning from the hospital and he shifted his position often as if he was uncomfortable. We watched him and stroked him and cried over him until we knew that we had to make the final gesture to help him.

This morning, Ripley woke me up by pawing gently at my leg. I tried one last time to feed him, which he refused. So, Dean and I began the process of getting ready to take him on his final car ride. I truly believe that Ripley knew the time had come. He seemed to go through a routine to look at all of his favourite places. But when he stopped to nuzzle and kiss his sister, Lady Jane, it made our hearts stop. They had a quiet “moment” when I think he said his good-bye.

At the vet this morning, we held him and told him what an incredible boy he had been. He was from the Toronto Humane Society so, yes, Ripley was a rescue. He was a year old when we got him and were privileged to have loved him for over 16 years. And, even though his physical heart failed him in the end, he loved us until his final breath.

I do not quite know how I will get over the loss of feeling him sleeping on my feet every night of his life, or the way he would truly cuddle you when picked up. I have many, many photographs that will remind me of what he looked like, but I fear that I will forget the sound of his “voice” when he would talk. And his beautiful eyes…everyone remarked on his his lovely eyes. At this point, I am simply hoping that the huge hole left in my heart will slowly heal.

Ripley, I cannot write enough words to tell you how much you are missed. Not a day will go by when we will not think of you and remember how incredibly wonderful you were. I hope, in the end, you simply understood and felt how much you were loved. 

Go gently into that good night, my boy…

A special thank-you to the vets and staff of Westbridge Veterinary Hospital in Mississauga, Ontario. And especially to Dr. Cathy Buller who has been Ripley’s primary vet since the day we brought him home. Having you there at the end, made it just a bit easier.

Orange tabby on bed in Toronto, Canada
Project 52 – Mood | Toronto Pet Photographer

Project 52 – Mood | Toronto Pet Photographer

I don’t usually do this. It is true that I love the pensive, thoughtful images of animals, but for the shelter where I volunteer, I usually aim for cute and adorable. It helps them find homes.

So, when we were given our theme for this week, I had in mind to take an image of a happy, tongue hanging out, tail wagging furry face. Happiness and joy…that is the mood that I wanted to illustrate. And, I was able to do that with the majority of the guys and gals I met this week. But, my heart broke when I met Patches and April. “Sisters” who have lived together for who knows how long, they were owner surrenders. Now, I won’t go into the details of why their owners decided that they could no longer take care of them – there is little to be gained by trying to collectively judge whether they had a good enough reason. All I do know, is that for Patches, a 9 year old Jack Russell/Beagle mix and April, an 8 year old Shiba Inu, just 48-hours ago they knew what it was to live in a home, to have a bed and the love of a family. And now, they don’t understand why one day it all changed. Confusion. Loss. Fear.

I talked to them soothingly, gave them gentle pats on their heads…and they tried to wag their little tails for me. But they were not interested in the treats we brought or the toys we tried to play with. They simply tried to look past the door to where they know their former home still exists.

Now, most pet photographers and pet owners in general will tell you that they often speak to animals. All kinds of silly things. And so, I spoke with Patches and told her she was a good girl and so was April. Whether she understood me or not, I will never know. But at the mention of her sister’s name, Patches turned to April and nuzzled her. Maybe to make sure April was still there. Maybe to assure April that she was still there with her. And it broke my heart. Because, for these two older girls, the future probably has only two choices. One, that they are not adopted. Two, they find their forever homes, apart. Neither path will replace what they have lost.

And, so I leave you with the image of Patches softly nuzzling her sister, April. Maybe, for one of the last times. This image is one of loss.

If you are at all considering adopting a pet, please consider the older ones. They really have so much to offer and ask for so little in return. And, if you are considering getting a pet, remember that they will rely on you for the rest of their life. They cannot simply be returned when it becomes inconvenient or even if it becomes hard.

I will leave you with a couple more images of Patches and April…if you know anyone who is looking for a pair of girls, please pass along their images and story.

Now, this a blog ring, so please check out Sweet Silver Photography located in Nashville, Tennessee!  I’m sure the talented Kelly Coyle has something spectacular to show us this week!