Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hankie, Summer 1988 - July 21, 2008

We had to end Hankie's life today. He was in chronic renal failure, had gone totally blind 3 weeks ago, would make sad little sounds of discomfort when we tried to hold him, and looked generally stressed and unhappy. Although he would still eat (mostly licking gravy off the cat food) and drink and use his litter box, he was suffering.

Taking him to the vet to end his life was the single hardest thing I've ever had to grit my teeth and just do. Friends who had gone through it had told me that it would be. They were right.

It was over fast. Scott drove us home, me in the passenger seat holding Hankie like a baby in the little yellow blanket I got him 2 years ago to celebrate his being cured of cancer of the jaw. He was no longer present, but I cherished just being able to hold him and stroke his fur and know that I wasn't hurting him.

I thank God for the twenty years that I had with Hankie, (I was 28 when he came to me, via neighbors, as a stray kitten, am now almost 49) and most especially for these past 13 months when Scott and I and Hankie were together.

Nothing in the world has ever made me happier than when I would look over at Scott in his recliner, with Hankie curled up on his chest, both of them looking at me with a "it doesn't get any better than this" expression.

We buried him in the back yard next to a tiny, struggling orange tree, thinking that both of them could use a friend. The little impromptu preparations we went through once we brought his body home, and the ritual of burying him together, and shoveling in the dirt together, and crying together, and crying more, made me feel closer to Scott than I've ever felt to anyone. Having him as a partner is my greatest blessing. It was a horrible day, and it was a great gift of a day.

Grief has come to me and to those close to me full-on in the past few months. I've run out of things to say, and I'm worn out. I'm not sure when I'll post again, except for putting up a photo of Hankie every day this week, in his honor.

For now, here's the poem I wrote for him.

Hankie’s Dreams, at Twenty Years Old

He dreams of the Cat God who will take him
out of his blindness, out of the emaciated body
that walks to his litter box, bumping into every
tiny obstacle along the wall. The handle on
the file cabinet drawer now an enemy
he is too tired and frustrated to ponder.

He dreams of being returned to wholeness,
his fur shiny as a cymbal, his big cloudy pupils
traded for the focus of a sharpshooter, if only
to gaze once more at the moth’s silly dance.

His life has been long and there have been many
tender hours on the lap of his owner, and next
to her on the couch, and resting his head on her
shoulder or in the bend of her arm as she read,
or didn’t read anything, just held him,
listening to him purr,
the lamp glowing
warm above them.

He knows her life has been much less lonely
because of him. He is glad for that.
He was needed. He was loved, even more
than he had hoped for when he was alone,
tiny, a stray.
He doesn’t want to go.
He doesn’t want to leave her
or his new good friend, the one
who will comfort her, the one whose chest
is warm and safe.
But this fatigue and illness and frailty have won
against even this most noble cat,
against even this most beloved cat,
against Hankie, who has been the most
welcome pet on the planet.

He dreams of the next place
where he can squint in the sun
and sniff the breeze and wait
to see his friends again.


  • At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Candy, even though this news breaks my heart, I'm so happy that Hankie was given a full 20 years to love you and to make your life better. And I'm glad that Scott got the chance to love one of the greatest cats ever.

  • At 10:56 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Seems like all I have to write about anymore is heartbreaking news. It's just my season for it, I guess.
    Thanks, Jackie O. You have always been such a Hankie fan, and it's another reason I love you. I may not ever feel worthy of much, but I know I had a worthy, noble cat.

  • At 11:03 PM, Blogger Gail said…

    The poem is truly beautiful.

  • At 11:07 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Thank you, Gail. I can never tell how bad my writing gets when I'm overwhelmed by my own sadness.

    We TREASURE that painting you did of Hankie even more now. The painting of our beloved kitty, done by the one who introduced us? No. There isn't anything above that on what we would grab if the house were burning.

  • At 11:29 PM, Blogger Citlali said…

    The tears come, my throat chokes up and I've never even met Hankie. He became very real to me in all these months -- reading about him, how much you loved him and what he meant to you. It's unimaginable to me how horribly impossible it would be to get through this. My oldest is only nine. The way I feel about Mataki reminds me very much of your love for Hankie. He was one lucky cat to have you in his world. My heart is with you. = ]

  • At 11:33 PM, Blogger JBelle said…

    And he is. Sniffing the breeze and waiting for you both. We build such emotional muscle when we gather our courage and experience the full depth of our grief and our pain. I can't wait to see The Week of Hankie, Candy. A noble tribute to a noble cat.

  • At 12:16 AM, Blogger grim said…

    Oh, Candy, what a time to lose your pet and your buddy Hankie. A fellow animal-lover, I know how hard this can be. I didn't meet Hankie, but I know that you gave him a great life. During those final days of loving goodbye vigil, he was telling you so.

    When you are ready, call me and we will get together.

  • At 1:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You will see each other again. What a wonderful reunion that will be! In the meantime, dear Hankie is in the best of Hands, just like he was in yours...

    Love, B

  • At 1:06 AM, Blogger maggie katzen said…

    : (

  • At 1:42 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    We're still crying here. I calm down for a minute, then start again. Scott is red-eyed and reminiscing with me.
    It is just incredible how much I want to put my hands on Hankie, to feel his fur, to hold him. I know that emptiness will suck for a long time.

    I truly do hope we see each other again.

    I'm still in shock that this morning he was here eating from his plate, and now it's all over. What an idiot I must sound like to those who aren't "pet people."

  • At 7:00 AM, Blogger prairie biker said…

    So sorry, Candy. We know how much you loved him.

  • At 8:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's very awful to lose a friend like him. Twenty years is a long time.

  • At 8:46 AM, Blogger planbreaker said…

    My heart aches for you, Candy. You gave Hankie a great life and he the same to you. Beautiful poem.

  • At 9:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am crying for Hankie this morning. Yes, please share his pictures, especially the Christmas photos like the one where he was a shepherd in the C-mas pageant. My girls will be so sad to hear this news. Love you!

  • At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Candy,

    I am so sorry about Hankie, but as I emailed you last week with my same awful decision and task - you know when it is time to stop their suffering. I am feeling much better now - I still get a tear now and then but mostly I have the happy memories of a great cat and know that I helped her have a lovely, happy, LONG life.
    Love, MLE

  • At 9:41 AM, Blogger EB said…

    Dear Hankie,

    You were a rockin' little dude. Never ever have I seen a cat so happy to entertain. You must have chased that silly feather around the carpet for hours just because it made me giggle. Then there was the singing of church hymns (where did that book come from?) and the reading out loud of strange passages from Candy's interesting collection of book stacks. And you pretended all the while to understand what I was saying and to be amused. The photos weren't your favorite thing, but you tolerated them because I told you Candy would love 'em!

    Of course, there were exchanges. You liked to leave presents hanging halfway out of the litter box. And you thought that since Candy wasn't around, I wouldn't know not to let you dart outside. Then you'd give me the sad eyes when the sliced turkey was gone and you only had two types of food on two different platters to choose from. What a stinker.

    I know you were waiting for Candy and Scott to find each other. I know you were sticking it out way beyond normal cat years just to make sure she was going to be ok.

    You really were a rockin' little dude.

    ~ EB

  • At 2:17 PM, Blogger sparrow said…

    Candy, Hankie and Scott... I'm so, so, so sorry. Hankie had a fantastic 20 years; I'm glad you were able to put him near your lemon tree - he's still with you and you can visit with him that way.

    :( *teary, lump in throat*


  • At 4:30 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Thank you for the comments. It really does help to have friends pulling you through the thick mud of loss.

    Every one of you is helping me get through the day. The house feels very empty. Scott has come home twice from work today to help me cope. I have to teach a night class this evening, and there's no way I can get through it without crying. But it doesn't matter.

    EB, I remember when I was out here visiting Scott about a year and a half ago, and you were not only above and beyond in taking care of Hankie, but you sent me photos of him because you knew how much I missed him. It was SO great. I screamed from the computer to Scott: "LOOK WHAT SHE DID!!!"

    I'll try to find those and put them up tomorrow.

    MLE: It is so weird that our kitties went in the same week. And they were both down to about 6 pounds.

  • At 4:32 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Ana, yep...20 years is a very long time to have a little presence around the house, in good and bad, with and without a spouse, in and out of the country.

    Thanks, Planbreaker.

    Belle, looks like you will have to keep up the tradition of Christmas cat photos for us.

  • At 4:34 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Thanks, Pixie. We've visited him a few times already. His little grave is right outside our bedroom window, with a cross made of stones laying on top of it.

    He's not suffering. That's been my mantra all day.

  • At 9:43 PM, Blogger Steve B said…

    Been away for a while and just catching up. All I can say is wow. What a terrible, draining couple of weeks it must have been/is being for you.

    I don't know if anything I could possibly say could help, but thank you for sharing your grief with us. It lets people know that they are not alone, and that alone can make going through something like this a little less un-easier.

    {{virtual net hug}}

  • At 2:19 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Good to see you, Steve. Thanks for the hug.
    Doesn't matter what you say. It's just good to have you around.

  • At 2:24 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    By the way, you asked where the church hymnal came from that was in my living room.
    Truthfully, I stole it from my church.
    I'll bet your hymn singing was better than mine.

  • At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Candy - I'm so sorry about Hankie. I never met him but he seemed like a wonderful cat and I know he was the most rock solid thing in your world for a long time. I know you will be grieving for Hankie for a long time. I'm not sure I understand how our animals because so important to us. Maybe it's because they just love us and so totally rely on us.
    The Rabbit

  • At 2:31 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    I know you understand and are going through the same thing. You're right: Hankie was SO rock solid. He kept me sane many, many times. And even after 20 years, I can say that I never came home from work or anywhere without being really really happy to see him.

  • At 8:04 PM, Blogger c . . . said…

    candy, just wanted to say that I'm thinking of you and sending love.

    And also wanted to say that any a$&hole who would say that you're an idiot for feeling the loss of Hankie is, him or herself, an idiot. There is no way that one can spend ten, not to mention twenty, years sharing space with another living creature and not feel anxiety and grief at their loss. You wouldn't be truly alive if that loss didn't affect you. All creatures with a developed brain have the capacity to mourn.

    Ergo, someone who cannot imagine mourning such a loss must not have a terribly developed brain.

    just sayin'

  • At 11:06 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Thanks, c... for understanding.

    I've had people in my life who have said "he's ONLY a CAT." And I felt stupid and like I must be somehow inferior for loving him so much. Or eccentric at best.

    But I don't care anymore. This cat meant the world to me, and was one of the best gifts of my life.

  • At 9:46 AM, Blogger Lisa Dunick said…

    I'm so sorry to hear about Hankie-- that must have been unbelievably hard. I've only had Annie for 12 years now, but I can only hope I'll have her for 8 more. He was lucky to have such a loving and wonderful person.

  • At 2:07 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Damn. Just. Damn. I have an orange one, too. I know. I hope I get as many happy years.

  • At 2:07 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 3:25 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Thanks, LD. I know...I was REALLY lucky to have him so long. He helped me grow up.

    Mel, those are my favorite kind. Always have been. And then one showed up and stayed 20 years.

  • At 3:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Candy I am so sorry. Life for you of late has been hell.

    First off I lost my beloved cat Sydney Poitier that my then boyfriend (now husband) bought me . I had to put her down - and it was so hard this past winter. BUT she had a stroke and would never be the same. She was 17..
    I was with her (being my folks never went with our pets growing up) I wanted to be there - it was hard. My husband (the non cat person) even cried.

    Two months later I had to put our beloved yellow lab down, Annie.
    Who was a every memory of my kids lives as kids... the call to end her life was the hardest. THE MOST grown up thing I ever did - seriously. She barked at me all day I hoped she was saying "Thank GOD what took you so fucking long".
    The sad part was when we drove out of the vet Annie was still slumped over in the window... (haunting) but she's in a better place.. so is Syd. So is Hankie.
    (We had them cremated) my daughter (9) said when we opened up the pretty wood with their ashes, "Cat litter do they think we're fools"..
    I laughed with the tears. Every day I think of them - and know my life was better because of silly, pets. FAMILY>

    All the words in the world don't help but some people feel your pain.

    We adopted two kittens after she passed.
    They have been the high light of strength for me and the kids.
    So sweet, so kind, so human.

    Hang in there. We should all die so peacefully and with loved ones holding us. In the end she was loved - :)

    (kel from Carin's blog). ;O)

  • At 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    In the end HE was loved too - :)



  • At 10:32 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Kel, you had to do this TWICE, two months apart??? GOD.

    Thanks for telling me what you went through. I love comment your daughter made. Talk about a perfect moment.

    Now that you mention the grown-up part, I think this was also the most grown-up thing I have ever done. I know it was the hardest. It was so surreal to be DECIDING when Hankie died. To be deliberating for days and days.

    I cannot believe you had a cat named Sidney Poitier. Great cat name.

    Wish I could've known what Hankie was thinking near the end. Probably just "Help." So I did.

  • At 10:42 PM, Blogger grim said…

    Hankie told you that it was time to go. If there is anything beautiful about this process we call death, that -- to me -- is it.

    I loved the week of Hankie pictures. Hope you are doing better, and when you are, don't be afraid of reaching out to an old friend who happens to live 2 miles away...


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