We met in the bathroom. You weren’t able to stand, and you didn’t even lift your head or wag your tail. That’s how I knew. A lab almost always musters a wag or a lift of the head. Your dad held your paw, and your grandmom spoke tender words to you. The first paw I’d seen held. So tender, it broke my heart.

We met on your couch. Your nose was dry with crusts of discharge. Not because no one cared, their love for you was wide and deep, but they couldn’t clean you without hurting you. Your belly was swollen with the sickness that was taking you away. Your eyes met mine, and you told me you knew it was time.

We met on your kitchen counter. The sunlight was streaming in through the window, and you curled up there, purring to say hello, purring through the fluid that filled your belly, your lungs, your skin.

We met on your living room floor. Your paw was bandaged to cover the surgery you’d recently had. The surgery happened before they knew about cancer in your lungs. You were no longer able to breathe comfortably, and yet your tail wagged a hello. The patch you wore on your skin helped to ease your pain and helped to provide comfort to you, but nothing could heal you.

We met on your mom’s lap. She tells me you were 22! The oldest cat I’d ever met, and yet you were so handsome, so fluffy though you’d lost so much weight with the illness that was filling your belly. You passed away with your head on your mom’s arm, with her gently stroking your face and telling you how much you meant to her.

We met in the hallway. You were pacing your home. Standing or walking was the only way you could find comfort. Lying down hurt too much from the tumors that distorted your skin. Your eyes were so tired. You finally lay down in your bed after receiving the medications to help you find comfort. As I pet your fur, I saw the bedroom full of your toys. Your dad would have done anything to help you.

We met as you scurried to run from me. You’d scared your mom when you strained to pee on the living room floor. You’d need a full health workup, but your mom couldn’t get you into the pet carrier with your nails so long and scratchy. We worked together, you and me, to get your nails trimmed. I showed your mom some tricks to help get you into the carrier. So grateful you have more time here with the one who loves you.