A Eulogy for my dear friend of 18 years

Today I said goodbye to a dear friend of mine.  Eighteen years ago we found her in a humane society office outside of Junction City, Kansas.  She was tiny, very young, maybe only a few weeks old, gray colored with white paws that looked as if she had dipped each one in flour.  It looked like she had mittens on her paws.
So, we brought her home and named her Mittens.
She and I became good friends as I learned her meows, what her favorite foods were, and some of her little quirks that, of course, we all have.  We moved from house to house around Kansas because the military kept putting us in older housing and then would require us to move.  She began to really hate the sound of packing paper and tape.
I still recall to this day, when I came home after visiting my husband during his mid tour leave in Hawaii, I was tired, jet lagged and worn down.  Yet after saying goodbye to my husband and knowing that I wouldn't see him for another 6 months, that it was back to the everyday loneliness, I didn't cry.  That is until Mittens greeted me at the front door of my apartment style military house, meowing excitedly because she was glad to see me.
During so many deployments and separations, Mittens, my cat and best friend, was there for me.  Greeting me at the front door at the end of the day.
When we lived in Honolulu, Hawaii she absolutely loved geckos and absolutely hated centipedes.  She was our early warning system for centipedes because she would meow incessantly that there was something not good there.  We used to draw pictures of geckos and stick them up on wall because we were entertained by watching her meow non stop at this thing on the wall that she wanted to play with sooo bad.
Then we moved to Upstate New York.  The North Country.  We didn't have geckos but we did have snow and boy did we have a lot of it.  She loved snow and would meow excitedly anytime it snowed out.  We used to call it her gecko meow.  Soon that turned into her snow meow.
She didn't exactly like it when I threw her out into the snow numerous times, but she loved it afterwards when there was tons of melting snow all over the floors that she could lick.  It was always a challenge to keep her away from the snow down stairs in the foyer because that snow was thick with salt from the sidewalks and driveways. I still thank God, that I had Mittens here in New York.  She made the non stop deployments bare able. On summer evenings Mittens and I would sit out on our balcony where I had start working with plants and herbs and she would enjoy chasing moths or butterflies in the safety of all the plants.  Or other times she would just simply lie down during hot summer nights, swatting her tail in agitation because she was too warm and we had no AC.
I could barely keep catnip growing out there because she ate it down to nothing.  She always loved catnip.  Even as of last night.

Fast forward several years.  We moved to Anchorage, Alaska.  I remember when she arrived that she looked like a passenger that was jet lagged, tired, and really was not happy as she had obviously been sitting in her own urine for the past 10 hours of flying time.  Still though, got her home, bathed her, let her explore and then take a nap and she was fine.  In Anchorage we had our son, which was, I think, the one thing in her life she hated the most.  She always hated babies and children so a screeching baby in her home 24/7.  Well that started aging her and fast.
It was only when she was diagnosed with Renal Kidney Failure around four years ago that showed that time was catching up with her.  She was growing older.  She was still my friend, she still cuddled with me in bed in the mornings, she still liked to nap on my lap when I was reading but she was moving a bit slower.

The past six months she has visibly been deteriorating.  She would throw up several times a week. Urinate in odd places (usually on my husbands shoes much to his annoyance).  She had arthritis in her front paws and every so often she would cough in a very odd way.  As if she couldn't catch her breath.
This morning, I woke up, said a quick prayer to God to please show me something that said I was making the right decision.  Then moved onto today's tasks.
She started crying downstairs this morning, asking my husband and I to come downstairs.  Obviously her paws were hurting her and she couldn't bear the thought of climbing all the stairs.  I think that was pretty obvious.

Thankfully, once the veterinarian, finally saw us.  She quickly gave Mittens the shot to make her sleepy.  To this day I will be wondering which way to take the following events.
After the vet left to give us a few last moments with Mittens she, in a burst of energy and youth that I have not seen from her in a very long time, climbed up my chest and gave me a bear hug, her back claws digging into my shirt at my stomach.  I barely noticed it as I was overcome by the gesture and from the grief of saying goodbye to my friend.  I know I will wonder in the future as I do now.  Was she climbing up to give me a hug to say "Thank you dear friend for releasing me" or "I am so scared, please comfort me as I have comforted you over the years"?
I will never know.
All I know now is that while I sit here with my laptop in my lap, my husband plays his game on his PS3, I keep hearing the oddest noise near my right ear, right where Mittens used to lay when she was napping.  I keep hearing a very quiet sigh, as if she were still behind me, taking a nap.

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