Xander, 2003-2021

03 May 2021

On a cold winter's day in 2003, I looked down at the adorable face of the new kitten my best friend had bought me as a birthday present. We'd been tossing around names on the drive home from the RSPCA; I wanted to name him something starting with an X or a Z, but I wasn't sure what. The workers at the shelter had put the kitten in a box for the trip home. Far from cowering in fear, the little guy kept sticking his head up through the gap, trying to get out. "I just feel like his name is Xander", I said as I gave in and cuddled all 600g of him to me, not quite knowing where that name had come from. Working out the expected life span of an indoor cat and my newly minted age, I reflected "wow, I'll have him till I'm nearly forty", although surely I would never get that old.

We both exceeded expectations. 

Today, Xander died at home, cradled in my arms. Together right until the very end, as I'd always promised.

I couldn't have imagined, in 2003, the journey we'd go on together. We moved from Newcastle to Sydney to Newcastle to Sydney to the Central Coast and back to Sydney (don't ask). Xander got a Dad, then became a big brother. 

"So...we're really keeping this thing, then?"

And then, when the whole married life thing didn't work out, it was just the two of us again. I would clutch him to my chest and say "at least I've still got you" as he tried to squirm free.

I'd forgotten what an absolute unit he was.

For almost 18 years, he was by my side. He was my companion, my shadow. I've floated through much of my life alone; Xander was my outlet and source of love in my darkest moments, such a major, constant presence in my life I couldn't imagine who I'd be without him. But years went by, and I had to face the inevitable truth that "without him" would be my reality one day. I can't even say it happened sooner than I would have liked, because he seemed like my forever.

But I know just how lucky I was to have that forever, and for the past 14 months working from home, we were able to have that much more time together.

Obviously, this is a very old photo.

He saved my life.

And so, when I realised his life was getting hard for him, I knew I had to let him go.

I'll never again see his sweet face greeting me when I walk in the door, feel him snuggle next to me on the sofa or have him steal half my dinner right off of the plate. My heart is broken, but pain is the price we pay for love. I would do it all again for another day with him.

The mice in Valhalla quake in fear at the approach of this mighty hunter.

Tonight, Xander dines with the heroes.

Give your pets a hug for me.


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