Last night I was watching one of those shows on an animal channel – maybe you know the ones I mean – a vet show where people bring in their sick animal and the vet tells them either their animal can be healed, or it can’t be healed and it will die.

One of the animals was a Boston terrier with big eyes, one of them bloodshot, and a lesion on his nose. Cancer. That was the prognosis. He had a few weeks, or a few months. The family went home and continued as a family with their dog going for walks, going to the beach, cuddling, living their life while they still could. It hurt my heart, and I couldn’t help but think of our cats sleeping quietly, one leaning against my lap, another on his pillow, the other claiming the bed.

Thank goodness, I thought, that I don’t have to go through that right now. While in the back of my mind, knowing all too soon, I will have to go through it with my animals.

And then – at 1 AM when I was finally going to bed – Nikko went into the litter box and I knew something was wrong. He wasn’t moving the right way. There were no sounds. No smells. He jumped out of the box a little confused and I looked, knowing what I would find. Only a few drops of pee. He couldn’t pee. My nightmare.

He was still acting normally, rising up on his back legs to touch his nose to my face, purring when I whispered to him, laying on his middle-of-the-night sleeping spot on the couch and falling to sleep. Relaxed. Time to rest.

I only wish I could have slept. I lay down and sprang up again in a few minutes to check on him, still sleeping on his back, legs akimbo with his little paws curled adorably. I finally dropped off fitfully, and when 4 AM came and I started to hear cats visiting the litter pans I was up and watching. Nikko tried to pee and poo, but nothing came out. He sauntered off and a while later came back to try again. And again. Still nothing. No one was listening to my prayers. A rainy Sunday morning at 4:30 AM. I knew he had to go to the emergency vet. Now.

It was horrible scruffing him roughly and getting him into the carry box. Horrible to hear him howl like a wild thing caught in a trap. Even more horrible to wait hours, finally see X-rays of a clogged intestinal tract, and know that we would have to leave our cat in the hands of strangers who would sedate him, give him enemas and perhaps worse, and try to unclog his internal works.

The vet assured us that this is a common problem seen all the time. I never feed dry food in order to avoid this condition, but I guess it still caught up with us. I told my partner, “There is no God for small animals.” I felt we were abandoned.

They let us see him and say goodbye (but we’ll see him again tomorrow!) before we left him. We were led into the back room from which people had been coming and going for hours. And there, standing beside the cage where Nikko lay with pupils dilated, waiting for horrors, was E! E, the aid who used to work at our vet’s office, but had recently found another job. A job in the animal ER!

A friendly face. A trusted face. We were so shocked and relieved! Someone who knows us, knows Nikko.

Sometimes that’s all it takes. The unexpected face of a trusted friend can make a difference. It can put God back into the day.

It did, a little, for me. But now, back home without Nikko, this day feels long and desperate. We will have to wait for the vet to call us with a status (I called, but right now there’s nothing to report). In the meantime, our Nikko’s life waits in the shadows between light and dark.

To be continued.