Once a best friend is found or happened upon, there’s always a feeling that you will never have to say goodbye. Especially if the best friend is an animal, such as a dog or cat. Tango Bravo, my longhaired, fat mixed-breed cat, was the best friend I could ever ask for. He taught me so much while he was with me, about being able to cry and also about learning to open myself up. As strange as it seems, though, he taught me more in his last few seconds than anyone ever had before. He taught me to let go.
My mother and I had known that Tango had some health problems. It started roughly the same time as we found him. Since he was a stray, we had no previous knowledge about anything he might have troubles with. But as the years progressed, we discovered that he had a few important issues. We had discovered that he, at one point, had become almost schizophrenic. He would attack us randomly, and though it only happened twice my mother still put him on medication. It stopped, thankfully, and we moved. However, something was wrong again, as his urinary tract started to close up. This is extremely painful for male cats, as it is so rare. Veterinarians compare it to a male human passing 4 kidney stones at once. We almost put him down then because we knew he was in pain; my grandmother became a saint and funded us the money to take care of him, though. The whole time he was gone, for two days, I was stone cold in expression and emotion. I didn’t dare cry, because I never wanted to chance any kind of pessimistic thoughts. When he returned, he was drowsy and the first thing he did was go into my room and lay on my bed. I clung to him, holding his fur close to me, and I started bawling. I tried to stop, but when he woke up just to lick at my tear-streaked cheek, I couldn’t hold it in. I was so happy to have my friend back, and I knew he was happy to be home.
Three years after that incident, I came home from a long day of school.
“Tango? Begley, have you seen Tango?” I asked my other cat. She stared at me with her huge eyes, scuttling to my mother’s room.
As I followed, I passed my room of which echoed the most horrible sound I’ve ever heard. I rushed into my doorway, glancing down at my feet to see him lying there, curled and mewling in agony. It was so terrifying. I called my mother, hyperventilating, and pushed out the information as fast as I could. She came straight home, her government job understanding the problem. We had to admit him again. This time, though, the veterinarian shook his head when we inquired about another surgery.
“We’ve already done this once. He’s starved himself too much, and with as much potassium in his bloodstream as there is, giving him the anesthesia now would overwhelm his heart. I’m sorry, but you need to decide.” His tone wasn’t stern but affectionate, sad even.
My mom asked him to leave so we could talk about it. Meanwhile Tango was put under sedation to ease his pain. My mother started crying, pleading with whatever could help our beloved family member—my best friend. I know I should have been crying too, at first I was, but once I accepted the truth, I couldn’t. I understood and with a heavy heart I pleaded with my mom.
“He’s in so much pain right now. Even if the surgery could be performed it’s almost guaranteed that this will happen again.” I handed her a tissue. “Please, mom.”
She agreed to think about it, and we returned home. The next day, after school, I was conversing with my boyfriend, Arron. He tried his best all day to cheer me up. It started to work, until I received a phone call. My mother was on the other end, her voice wobbling. I started to break down, clinging to Arron, because I knew what it meant. We had no other choice, after all.
My mother picked me up and we drove in silence to Tango’s jail. It took all I had to not jump out of the car once we were in the parking lot. Ten minutes of waiting in the lobby felt like a year. Even when the nurse welcomed us and took us back, time moved slowly as my leaden feet dragged me forward. Nothing felt real then, as she brought Tango into the small, personal room. He was still moving, the sedative just affecting his drowsy mind. I pulled him close and made the decision my sobbing mother couldn’t. With a nod, the nurse shaved a small patch of fur from his thigh, sliding the harbinger into Tango’s flesh.
“You have about five minutes,” she informed us. “I’ll tell you when he passes.”
His eyelids began to close slower until they stopped, staying open. His breathing steadied and his little pink tongue stuck out. He was unable to control any muscle anymore, so I laid him as comfortable as I could. Holding him close, I whispered that everything was okay, because I knew it would be. I knew that he would never be in pain again. Soundless tears rolled down my face as I pet him gently, knowing that he could hear me. After a while of cherished murmurs and sobbing, the nurse listened to her stethoscope. With a grave face, she shook her head. Tango’s eyes were dull, the playful and loving sparkle having vanished. I laid him down one final time.
“Goodbye, my best friend. I love you.”