In Oden’s best interests

Amanda and I have long known that our fur baby Oden would not outlive us, and in 2020 we began to acknowledge that he probably had only months left, no longer years. The ultimate timing or cause was unclear, but his trajectory was visibly downwards — his weight was dropping, his arthritis was worsening, his bathing was becoming less regular, his energy level was declining, and his senility was progressing. In essence, was looking and acting like you’d expect of a 17 year-old cat.

In the meantime, Amanda and I committed to making everyday his best day, lavishing him with lap-time, sunbathing, heated corn bags, premium food and treats, and neighborhood walks. In at least one respect, the pandemic was fortuitous — with Amanda working from home, he’s had two full-time caretakers, or at least one during the weeks when I was away on trips.

In return, Oden continued to give us unconditional love, adorable company, and a tireless post-long run napping buddy.

Sunbathing on the front porch

The first red flags appeared in June, when a blood draw by our home-visit veterinarian revealed elevated white blood cells. Then in October he had a mild seizure. And two days ago he came down with an apparent UTI, which in older cats is often secondary to a less treatable underlying issue. In these two recent cases, he’s had to be taken to a clinic, which is wickedly stressful for him and which we’ve resolved not to do again.

Euthanasia will be a dignified and respectful conclusion for him, but it’s tearing Amanda and me up, literally and figuratively. He’s been Amanda’s lone child since he was two-hands size, and mine for a decade, and we’d both relish several more months with him.

But is that also in Oden’s best interests? Most days, probably yes — including right now, as he sleeps soundly on dryer-warmed blankets while Amanda works feet away, and later today when he’ll likely migrate to the fireplace. But what about the day or days when it’s not, when our selfishness results in unnecessary pain — or worse, being put down at a clinic while we bawl outside, denied from entering the facility because of Covid.

I expect the next week or two will alternate between sorrow and joy, knowing that his time has arrived but that he’s living and has lived his best life. Please do me a favor by keeping him in your thoughts and giving your own fur child an extra long squeeze.

Posted in on November 27, 2020


  1. Lane on November 27, 2020 at 3:01 pm

    If it comes to pass that you must put Oden down, please consider having or finding a vet who is willing to come to your house to do it. We did that with one of our dogs and will do the same when it is time for my oldest cat. This allows your beloved pet to pass onto the rainbow bridge without the stress and horror they associate with a trip to the vet and it helps you to know you were there with them until the very end. Hang in there.

  2. Cameron Leslie on November 27, 2020 at 4:15 pm

    A & A;

    When you have an awesome pet it helps you appreciate that natural world more. It sucks to lose them; but you’re always grateful for the time they give you. Owning an animal can be a selfish, humbling, life altering experience. It seems like he did right by you. It seems like you did right by Oden. You have given him your best, and he his. You can at least feel some comfort in that.

    There will be pain; but you will have fond, fond, memories. Hopefully you can share them.

  3. Jodi Combs-Kalla on November 27, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    I’ve been there. There is no easy route. Watching a loved one die is heart wrenching. It’s called anticipatory grief. Try to enjoy him as much as possible and just allow him to live his last days peacefully with love and care. Just do what you’re doing and wait until you feel you know the next step. Showing love to your little family member with hugs, warm blankets, good foods, and any other way is a wonderful way to send your sweet friend off.

  4. Rocky on November 27, 2020 at 5:37 pm

    Brought tears to my eyes. You have my sympathies. Tough decisions ahead.

    We put down one cat with the help of a caring and compassionate vet who specializes in at-home end-of-life care. Kitty was literally in my arms when he passed. Still very sad, but much better than a sterile vet’s office.

    Remember to take care of yourselves, too.

    • Andrew Skurka on November 27, 2020 at 8:21 pm

      That’s the plan, for that exact reason. We’re fortunate to have a humane society vet tech as a neighbor, and she gave us a very good referral.

  5. Adam on November 27, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    The final chapter in a pet’s life is really tough. Thank you for sharing.

    For our cat Strawberry, also 17, we went through months of ups and downs, with more good days than bad. My wife and I made the euthanasia appointment when the balance shifted to “mostly bad days,” and none of the palliative measures were bringing her relief.

    Saying goodbye was very hard and still the most intensely sad thing I’ve experienced (crying right now thinking about it, and this was 11 years ago). It was worth it, of course, for all the great time we spent together.

    Hang in there Andrew and Amada. I am sure Oden has been very blessed by the love you’ve given him.

  6. Brian Gatens on November 28, 2020 at 5:10 am

    Thank you for sharing that. This past May my family adopted an 8(ish) year old pit bull mix rescue and Zoe has absolutely captured our hearts. She is an older dog who came to us traumatized from being abandoned and left to wallow in a shelter. With us she has flourished, plays, naps, and sees our family of five as her pack, but she arrived on the older side and we know that nature will be what it is. Your post helps me to make sense of what lies down the road for us. With gratitude, Brian

  7. cuisto on November 29, 2020 at 10:13 pm

    thoughts are with you

  8. Dan Davage on November 29, 2020 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Andrew, I stumbled upon your writing while doing a search for inReach explorer SOS lock malfunction. I liked your content and approach so I found your website. Although I rarely comment online, when I read about Oden I felt compelled to share my thoughts and feelings.
    I am a veterinarian in northwestern Montana. Quality of life decisions in older cats are one of the most common and deeply emotional situations I am involved with. It is never easy and certainly involves many ups and downs. Often times a family will make the decision to euthanize on a given day, only to have the cat rally as the time approaches. This happens more often than not, and I want to let you and Amanda know that it is OK to change your mind at the last minute. There will be, and I am sure have been, bad day(s) followed by good days followed by a bad day followed by so-so days. Once the bad days are 48-72 hours in duration with little or no improvement it may be time to say goodbye. You both will know.
    I often think about the significance of having a pet in our lives for 17 years. Think about it, that is nearly as long as many human children live in their parent’s home. For Amanda, a large portion of her life has been spent loving Oden and experiencing life’s joys and sorrows with him. I can’t tell you how often I see this- a young woman has a cat as a huge part of her life, and then that man shows up. If the man loves the cat the relationship may work, if the cat loves the man the relationship will almost certainly work. It is a special process and the fact that you love Oden so deeply says it all for you, Amanda and Oden. Loving thoughts, Dan

    • Andrew Skurka on November 30, 2020 at 9:06 am

      He’s definitely now a two-person cat, and it wasn’t because Amanda gave me an ultimatum — just as he was for her, he became a source of companionship, adoration, humor, and love. I couldn’t resist him.

  9. Eric Copeland on November 30, 2020 at 7:08 am

    Sincere condolences. This can already be a difficult time of year (in what’s been a difficult year, for sure). In this, and all things, enjoy the moments. Wish you all the best.

  10. Paul Mags on November 30, 2020 at 7:13 am

    Losing an animal companion is a profound loss felt the same as losing any family member. We miss their steadying prescience and unconditional love they bring to our lives.

    You mentioned you and Amanda have a referral, but I can’t say enough good things about Dr Dyer. She’s compassionate, professional, and has a rural farm in Longmont where, if you choose to leave the ashes, you can visit.
    She sent a nice card to Adrianna and I and also informed Charlie’s vet (who also sent a card.)

    Home to Heaven
    Dr. Dye and Associates

  11. Carl on December 19, 2020 at 5:42 am

    17 years is a good long run, but it is so hard to say goodbye. Best wishes and thoughts for your both as you go through this.

    Just a bit over a year ago we lost the female of the brother-sister pair of kitties we adopted in 2006. Her decline was a bit over a year in coming, but she made it easy for us to discern when the time was right when she quit eating. That last visit to the vet was so heartbreaking, but she gave us many great memories … she was a loving cat, but had a screw loose for sure. 🙂 Her brother is still with us and he’s become even friendlier since she’s been gone.

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