dear oliver


Hey buddy,

I'm sorry this took me so long. Most of this has been sitting in a note file on my phone for over a month. Some of it was written on that last day I held you. Some a week later. Some a week after that. It's been a process, a helpful one. It's lessened the fear I'll one day begin to forget you. But it's never really felt finished, or ready to be shared. Still doesn’t. But I owe you a tribute. I owe you more than that. So here goes. 

I have all these thoughts, these memories, these feelings, and I don’t know what to do with them but write. You know this. You sat by me on many a day as I sat at my desk and wrote. You were my constant companion. My shadow. Your sister has taken on that role since you left us. I feared she'd withdraw with your loss, but instead, she's done the opposite. Sitting in all your old favourite spots, hanging out with me while I work (she's on my lap as I type this). I know people who don't live with pets won't fully grasp a pet-owner's grief when they lose one. That doesn't really bother me, though. They can't understand what we do. That the love you receive from a pet is like no other, though it comes at a very steep price. Or that losing a pet is more similar to losing a close family member than losing a plant you've kept alive for years. That's unfortunate; this is heart-wrenching.


I take comfort in the fact that you didn't suffer. That you didn't have some long, drawn-out illness. That we didn't have to make the difficult decision to end your life. But the unexpected manner in which we lost you was so abrupt. So unfair. Like somebody flicking off a light before I was ready for the darkness. I kept thinking, this can’t be real. This can’t be happening. Of all the many things I know about you, one of the biggest is that you’re supposed to be alive. 

You're not the first animal I've had to say goodbye to. I lost family dogs growing up. I cried. I missed them. I wished I could have them back. But you--you were my baby. You and your sister were only eight weeks old when we brought you home, and after a decade together, you fully owned a piece of my heart. Still do. They say a cat will never love you like a dog does. But you did. You were my boy. 


The pain of your loss lessens every day, though not for lack of missing you. I'll forever feel lucky for the time that we had, and the pure, unconditional love that we shared. I don't think we'll ever stop wishing we'd had more weeks, months, and years. But I'm learning to live with my grief. Learning to miss you without feeling broken. The process feels familiar, reminding me less of extended family I've lost, and more of the first time I had my heart broken. Of how impossible it feels--the devastation of having something tremendous torn from your life. Of how powerless I was to stop it.

But this isn't just about sadness and loss. It's about you. About what a huge personality and an awesome buddy you were. The house feels so much quieter without you. You were tirelessly aggressive in your affection, purring and snuggling, combing your paws through my hair while I napped, always sitting on me, or beside me, or in your favourite evening spot, behind me on the couch. Your constant purr sometimes drowned out whatever show we were watching, but it was such a comfort, knowing you were with me and you were happy. 

From the day you curiously popped your fuzzy little head out of the crate we brought you home in, you always wanted to be involved in everything, from laundry to odd jobs around the house. I think you inserted yourself into the construction of every piece of furniture I've ever built. Every room I've painted. I have no doubt that some of your fur is even painted into the walls. And oh, how you'd play. You loved that green caterpillar toy so much. The way you'd pull it back and launch it across the room instead of just letting it dangle. You were so clever and so cute.

Even when our family began to grow, always a wild card with pets, you embraced the baby stuff as it appeared. You were interested in the babies when they appeared too, often keeping watch over them, recognizing they were an important part of our family. And as they grew, you were endlessly patient with them, always lingering as long as you could stand to indulge their desires to pet and squeeze you. It feels like fate that I showed them your namesake, Oliver and Company, that morning, mere hours before you left us. I'm glad we got to sit all together on the couch one last time, snuggling with our Oliver.

Explaining your loss to the kids has been one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I think Henry still doesn't get it. Emmeline had trouble falling asleep those first few nights. She drew pictures of you and asked questions I either didn't know how to answer or didn't want to have to. Why did he have to leave? Will anyone ever be able to fix him? Should I still put food in his bowl in the morning?

No, he doesn't need food anymore. I'd have to remove the matching blue food dish from beside Huntley's pink one, which now sits alone. She still makes room for you though. When she eats, she positions her body to the one side of the placemat, leaving a space. It's what she's always done, though I think she's come to realize  you're not coming back.  I can't imagine what it's like for her, to have had you by her side every day of her life, her brother and constant companion, and then suddenly, you're gone. I wish I could explain it to her. What I can do is cuddle her and comfort her. We're taking good care of her, as you always did.

Cooper has been taking good care of her too. He'll never replace you as her best animal pal, but he's been keeping an eye on her, sitting with her when she'll let him. Two days before you died, it seemed you were becoming friends with Cooper too, going so far as to rub up against him and let him lick you. Oh good, I'd thought at the time. They're starting to like each other. And then you were gone. I'm sorry you didn't have more time to get to know him. I'm sorrier he didn't have more time to get to know you. 


There was a moment, maybe a month before you left us, when I went to feed all three of you, and you knew it was coming, as you always did, leading the charge with the other two in tow. I remember thinking, wow, there's three of them now. It felt like you were a herd, moving through the house with such excitement. It made my heart feel full. For years, it was just you and Huntley running along, and now it's only Huntley and Cooper. But even with Cooper's jangling collar, the two of them feel quieter than the two of you ever did. You were such a presence in our lives. 

I think one of my favourite things about you was that you apparently adored Bill Paxton. Never one to watch TV, it was pretty unusual when you'd suddenly sit up and stare at the screen every time we watched Big Love. At first, we thought it might be a coincidence, but then it kept happening, even when he guested on Agents of Shield years later. You knew Bill's voice when you heard it, and you always came running.

It occurred to me, about a week after you passed--hey, didn't Bill Paxton pass away this year too? He did, back in February. Problems with his heart. Just like you. Kindred spirits, I suppose. I don’t know where you are, Oliver. I know in my heart that you’re still with me because I can feel the weight of carrying you. It’s one I’m happy to bear. But I hope you’re somehow also somewhere kickin’ it with your hero, Bill. 


Taking out the Christmas stockings was hard, removing Huntley's from the tote and leaving yours behind. I didn't know I'd have to do that this year. Of course, nobody knows these things. They just happen. I still think I can hear you sometimes, moving through the house the way you did. Sometimes I get the sensation of your fur brushing up against me. I can still remember what it felt like to pick you up and hold you.

Whenever we'd return from a trip, you'd march into your crate and demand to go home, punishing us for all of five minutes before snuggling me, purring incessantly, begging me to never leave again. I wish I could've begged you to stay.

I feel like this hurts even more because I know how much you loved me. In a way, I feel like I let you down. But I take comfort in knowing you probably only loved me that much because you knew how much I loved you. 

We are so lucky to have had you in our family, Oliver. Thank you for loving us.