Last week the hardest thing that has happened to me while being an expat, my beloved cat died in the U.S. while I was here in Qatar. I realize that many people are going through things you might consider harder or worse than this, but for me this was heart wrenching. Sophie and I have been together since 2001, and she was my original travel buddy.
Sophie was a birthday present to myself that year. I returned the sweater my mother had bought me and bought Sophie instead. Please forgive me, I was in college and buying a pet was perfectly acceptable to me at the time. I had also lost a kitten that summer due to a “kennel cough” and wasn’t ready to trust the shelter again. She was a mix of stray cat and purebred Himalayan. She was the friendliest of her litter. I gave it lots of thought and even slept on it overnight before going back the next day to get her.
Immediately, I started taking her on trips with me. I was in my second degree at college, so these were mostly road trips. Sometimes these trips were just on errands around town. I was determined that she wasn’t going to mind riding in the car. As long as she was not confined to the cat carrier she loved it. Going home for Christmas that first year was the real test, as that was over a six-hour drive. Luckily, I had a car that the back seat laid down. Her carrier, litter box, and my suitcase loaded into the back and off we went. It didn’t phase her at all. She sat on top of her carrier to see out the window or slept in the front passenger seat.
When I moved to New York, the trend continued. My Dad and I drove from Texas to New York City with a cat in a moving truck! She loved every minute I think. There were times she slept on the dashboard. Yes, I know we weren’t very safe with all this cat moving about the car thing, but you drive for two and half days with a cat howling in her carrier. Most of the time, she was asleep in my lap and I enjoyed watching her reactions to the world whizzing by outside the window.
The adventures continued when I would fly home for the holidays from New York. It was much cheaper to fly her in the cabin with me than it was to board her. For many years, Sophie flew home with me. Now lots of people fly with their dogs, but I know that not many people fly with their cats! Going through security was hilarious. I was required to send her carrier through the x-ray machine and carry her through, but for my piece of mind, Sophie was always on a leash, which set off the metal detectors. Sophie also had her own plane ticket. It is just too bad she didn’t earn frequent flier miles! In the terminal, I would let her out of the carrier on the leash so she could stretch her legs while we waited to board. That alway elicited lots of stares and questions. Sophie was a beautiful cat and everyone commented on the length of her whiskers. On board, she was under my seat until take-off and then I would usually put her carrier in my lap, so that way she knew I was there and I could pet her. Not once on any flight did she ever cry. The flight attendants would pet her after the food service was over. This all ended when I had lady get very upset that she was flying next to a cat that she was allergic too. Sophie was not able to come out from under the seat that trip and I decided that wasn’t fair. Luckily, we moved back to Texas not long after this and she went on another epic road trip that last five days.
Sophie was almost 12 years old when I moved to Qatar and had not been well before I left. I always knew that she would probably pass while I was living here, but my plan was always to be home when that time finally came. I am a control freak and thought I would have control over that too. I figured she would decline slowly and that I could make it home and be there with her. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. Whatever it was that took her, it took her quickly, which was a blessing. We are pretty sure it was cancer, but keeping her alive till I could get there was not fair. It wasn’t till I saw how bad she was doing on FaceTime that I knew putting her to sleep was the right thing to do. It didn’t make it any easier. I cried for hours and am pretty sure my body was in shock as kept shaking.
While it is just been a week, I am doing better now and can actually talk about it. Sophie was my best friend. She always knew when I needed a cuddle or a laugh. She gave my parents great joy by living with them. I also know that I made the right decision to leave her at home when I moved to Qatar. She enjoyed going outside and pretty much having free reign of my parents house for two years. When I would come home to visit, she would come running when she heard my voice, but after few minutes, she would run off. I am pretty sure she was afraid I was there to take her back to living inside all the time, so moving to Qatar for Sophie was never an option. Hopefully, one day I can accept that making that decision was right and the best thing for Sophie. Now I will take Sophie on all my trips by keeping her memory with me always.
The lovely photo of Sophie is courtesy of my Dad. Thanks, Dad!