Many of us love our pets. They are friends. They are family. This makes losing a cherished animal a very difficult thing; but for a variety of reasons some are harder to lose. Such was the case with our cat Coal, who passed away Thursday night.

My wife and I have had numerous pets (animal companions in PC parlance) over the years, both dogs and cats. We've loved them all, but none of them were as unique as Coal. Adopted by us at the age of nine, he was a physically challenged animal, being blind and having lost almost all his teeth. Yet he was a stellar example of a creature living well beyond his impairment. 

He was also the most well known pet we've ever had.

I blogged about Coal just over two years ago, and his story truly resonated with readers. It was read by thousands, and to this day remains one of the top five emailed stories in our news center. People I meet still comment about him, and tell me how much they liked learning his tale. Everyone who met Coal had similar sentiments. He was, by far, one of the sweetest and most mellow animals you could have ever met. Even the staff at our veterinarians office, where he spent significant time in recent months, were amazed at his disposition. They would be poking and prodding him, taking blood for tests and the like, all the while he would be calmly laying there purring loudly. 

We have, or had, 4 cats, and of all of them Coal was my “buddy”. He was often by my side, snuggling and purring as I worked or relaxed. Many articles here have been written with his assistance; as he and a cup of coffee were staples of my 6AM ritual. There is no doubt that he will be missed.

Coal took ill a couple months ago, losing weight fairly dramatically and being diagnosed with thyroid trouble. The ailments progressed, however. He wasn't keeping food down and was lethargic. The last few weeks have seen numerous vet visits and a plethora of tests, all trying to figure out what may be wrong. All of this activity was balanced with our serious concern that we did not want to unnecessarily make him suffer. His medications had been adjusted this week, and in a consultation with our vet just yesterday afternoon, we decided to wait another week before we made any final decisions. In his words, it was “not like everything was failing”. His tests looked essentially normal. 

Early last evening he appeared to develop problems walking. He would take a few steps and then lie down. By 7:00PM, he had labored breathing and limited movement. For the next couple hours we sat with him on the couch, petting him and trying to make him as comfortable as possible. At 9:11PM he drew his last breath. He passed away snuggled against the side of my leg, a position he had occupied so many times over the brief 5 years he was in our life. He was 14 years old.

He will be missed.

The point of this missive is twofold; it is for me a cathartic exercise, honoring this exceptional friend, as well as a broader point for those who are dealing with greater physical challenges. Coal was exceptional in dealing with adversity and physical challenges. He did not let his physical limitations keep him from living a normal “cat” life. Even when he was ill, he did not give signs of how he felt. Indeed, one of the challenges we had more than once was discovering he had been ill without giving any signs that one would expect. A bout of pancreatitis earlier was an example of that. The word everyone who knew him would use was “stoic”. He was exceptional. 

Farewell, my friend. You have passed to the Rainbow Bridge. The hole in our hearts will be healed by the memories you've left behind, and you were an example that many could learn from. 

Be well little buddy, and rest in peace.

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