My Cat Dying: Memories I See on Film in my Head

My therapist suggested I read a book called The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. In the third chapter, something said brought back all five or six memories that when I thought about them, they were like a film running in my head. They seemed to happen just yesterday even though it had been years. I wrote them all down and then shared them with her.

She suggested I write down what was in the film running through my mind when I thought of these memories, being sure to include all the senses. I agreed to do that, but I didn’t realize how hard it would be to rethink through each memory so thoroughly. I couldn’t bring myself to do my “homework” for quite a few days. I decided I would just do one memory before seeing my therapist again. Surprisingly, the most vivid memory I had was the day my cat died. That happened 35 years ago, but my mind doesn’t think so.

I started to write about it and immediately it became from the cat’s point of view. I didn’t plan it; it just happened. I guess it was easier that way. I’m not sure how it happened, but here it is:


It is a warm, sunny middle of the summer day on a side street in the capital city of Michigan. We are so close to the zoo; one can sometimes hear the animals, especially the peacocks. The leaves are full and green, with no hint of the dulling that occurs before they start their colorful swan song of summer. 

The neighbors are out washing cars, kids playing in their front yards. Jules rolls in the dirt, giving her back a delicious scratch. She sniffs as she stretches into the luxuriously lazy day. She sniffs, and the sweet smell of the pear tree behind her dips into her nose. She hears the bees buzzing around it, looking for their next meal. She feels her tummy rumble; it’s almost time for her next meal. Her person should call her soon. She catches a flash of fur zip past her. How dare a squirrel run right past her in her own yard. Immediately, she went on alert, her butt wiggling, front paws planted on the ground, her nails in the dirt for traction. She knew it would come back her way. 

Here it comes! It zips past her again, but this time she’s ready. She takes off after it. The squirrel crosses the yard and runs across the danger zone faster than Jules thought possible. Jules heard her person calling her back, but her predator instincts overwhelmed her caution of the danger zone and her devotion to her person. She is so close to the squirrel. Her mouth is coming down on that obnoxious fluffy tail. She chomps down–nothing! The squirrel kicked it into another gear and jumped for a tree. It scurried up the tree as Jules skidded to a stop. She danced around the tree, trying to psych her way into climbing up.

All of a sudden, she felt this piercing pain sear through her nose to her head. The squirrel had come down to defend itself after depositing its nuts into its home. Jules reared back and, without thinking, headed to her person, her safe place. 

She ran across the danger zone. Once again, she was in too much pain to be cautious. She didn’t even see the four-wheeled monster barreling through the danger zone. She was on the ground; her world went black. She heard her person calling to her, she just had to get back to her, and all would be okay. She got up, running in the blackness toward the sound of her name being screamed into the world. She bounced off something and fell to the ground. She got back up and did it again.

She was closer. Her name was being screamed so loud the fabric of the earth was vibrating in Jules’s ears. She got back up, more frantic than ever to get to her little girl, her safe place. She followed, “Jules, Jules!” Finally, she was past the bouncing barrier, her person’s voice getting even louder. She hit the porch, knowing she made it. She was home; she was safe. Her safe person’s voice changed to a sobbing, choking sound. She heard her name more softly now. She started trembling as the pain from the bite, and the four-wheeled monster seeped into her body. She just wanted to sleep, to rest; she was safe.

“Jules, Jules”

Her person’s voice faded, and Jules started to relax. The pain, the voice, the warmth of the sun all faded as she melted into a deep final sleep.