Remembering Dusty

“06880” reader Adam Stolpen writes:

My best friend died Sunday morning, and I was responsible. Though a vibrant personality to his last breath, he was quite ill and in pain. I wanted him to die naturally at home, but could not cause him to keep suffering simply because I loved him too much to say goodbye when he depended on me not to prolong the inevitable through heroic means.



We first met Dusty at the Westport Humane Society nearly 2 decades ago. He won all of us over. As any friend of a cat knows, he quickly proved that our home was now his place. He seemed to tolerate me as well as my son Eduard, but it was clear he was my daughter Betty’s cat.

Dusty was a constant presence, and a singularly pleasant companion. As he approached a people-age of 100 he began to slow down. He spent his days watching life from the window, sleeping in the sun on his favorite chair and developing a psychic way of knowing every time I approached the refrigerator (which held his fresh shredded Stew Leonard’s turkey).

Recently his body began to fail him. Couch backs were replaced with cushioned seats, high beds ignored. By last week his favorite hidden shelf became too much of an effort to reach. He lay in the sun on a rug. Wonderful vets tried what they could. He’d knowingly look into our eyes. We sensed he was saying, “It’s not that you live, but how you live. For me it’s over.”

Dusty and Betty.

Dusty as a kitten, and Betty as a pre-teen.

Betty came up on Saturday. They lay near each other, his head resting on her hand. He slept by her all night. The next morning he came to me. We sat for an hour talking — ok, I talked. He listened and snuzzled my leg. We followed our morning routine, watching the sun come up one final time.

We took Dusty to the vet early Sunday morning. He was not alone at the end. He knew he was deeply loved. It was quiet, peaceful and gentle. I have little doubt he was aware of what was happening, and was content. How different the life of this abandoned kitten could have been 20 years ago if we’d not met.

But this story is not just about Dusty, or how much is missing from our home since his death. It’s about how much he brought into our lives, and how glad we all are that we visited the Westport Humane Society and adopted that little ball of dust.

They’re open today, with animals waiting for a new home. I know, because we took all Dusty’s things, to pass along to the next stray kitten who wanders in.

Dusty, once more.

Dusty, once more.

Humane Society logo

15 responses to “Remembering Dusty

  1. Marcia Wright

    It strikes me as ironic that intrusive laws often prevent us from offering the same compassionate end-of-life support to our fellow human beings that we provide to our loved pets.

  2. Deering Rose

    I am so sorry Dan. I know the loss of a four legged family member is so hard. Much love to you as your sad thoughts of missing Dusty fill your heart at this time. Deering

  3. Barbara Sherburne '67

    Very touching story, and I am sorry for your loss. Two years ago I had to make the same decision with my Mimi cat, who was around 22 years old. It is never easy to say goodbye. Rest in peace, Dusty.

  4. Dan, so sad to read about this. Amazing how these little guys work their way into our hearts, the sad fact is we (usually) outlive ’em – and it is losing a family member to lose them. The only known solution to this kind of loss is cheesecake, chocolate – and time.

  5. Gil Ghitelman

    Losing a beloved pet is one of life’s truly painful experiences. Just ask anyone who’s gone through it. Ask me.

  6. Pamela Pollak

    Adam, we (two human beings, three canine beings and three feline beings) send our deepest sympathies to you and your family. Pam Pollak

  7. Marcy Fralick

    Adam, Eduard and Betty: From me (a senior citizen ~~ Staples Class of ’70), and my two senior citizen felines, (13 and 11 year old rescue cats),our collective hearts go out to you. It’s immensely hard to say good-bye, whether it’s unexpected or expected.

    Most of the vets here in my part of Southern Arizona will come to your house with a mobile medical van to help your pet cross the Rainbow Bridge. We had to use our vet’s services in 2013 when our then 15 year old Yorkie was ravaged with end stage kidney disease. We chose her birthday to end her time on Earth to symbolically give her a re-birth date for her pain-free life on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

    In her favorite sleeping spot, with her favorite toys around her, and all her humans touching her and petting her, the vet helped her over the Bridge. It was so sweet, gentle, tender, loving. compassionate, and humane. We all were a blubbering mess as we held her after she passed.

    I applaud your spirit of giving back to the Westport Humane Society. Maybe, when you’re ready, another kitty will choose you to be their human parent. What a beautifully written tribute to Dusty. Thank you, Adam!

  8. sandy johnson

    I have tears in my eyes reading about your darling Dusty. I, too, went through a similar thing several months ago – my kitty Kit Kat who had just shown up in our yard as the end of summer 18 years ago – was struggling with breathing and old age and the kindest thing I could do for someone who had given me all her unconditional love was to give her peace. She is now buried with many of my other loving creatures. Happily – that we have the Humane Society – I now have a 4 year old darling orange female kitty named Honey. I got her at the Humane society a few weeks ago, and she is truly a honey!! That was her name when I got her as her owners moved to Europe and were unable to take her – her wonderful for me!! She greets me when Icome home and wakes me in the morning by rubbing up around my head. We humans are really lucky we can have the love that our animals give to us!!
    Dusty looked as if she was a real sweetheart – keep all your memories in your heart!!
    Sandy Johnson

  9. Morley Boyd

    Beautiful story, Adam. Very tough to read for anyone who has ever had the privilege of knowing and living with a special animal. Now you have a permanent hole in your heart – which hopefully will be somewhat mitigated by the enduring memories of Dusty, whose life was saved by your family’s compassion all those years ago.

  10. Jamie Walsh

    I am so sorry for your loss Adam. I know Dusty was like a child to you and a sibling to your children. Pets are part of our family and always seem to continue to live on in our hearts. You were a great parent to Dusty and I feel lucky to have met him. A super sweet and noble cat!

  11. Susan Hopkins

    Adam, I am so very sorry for your loss. Your tribute to Dusty brought tears, but we who love animals understand this kind of love and the “tidal wave” of pain that accompanies their departure from our lives. I lost my beloved feline, Chelsea Rose, age 22+ in June 2013. There is a permanent hole in my heart. Thinking of you [and Betty] with comfort and best wishes.

  12. Anyone who knows me, knows I am a cat lover. So I fully understand the story of Dusty. Our newest old car is Dede. We got her at the Humane Society. She is one of the best of a long line of cat companions. Adam, Get another cat soon. You can’t fill the void but it is the road to a new friendship.

  13. Adam, your story of Dusty made tears run down my cheek…..for you, Betty,
    the family. Cats, full of mystery, seem to find ways into our hearts and no one ever seems to take that place. Best, Diane

  14. I’m so sorry. Very touching tribute.