Rafe, our oldest cat (going on 19), came close to death, or so we thought. He started out with a runny nose and watery eyes, and soft sneezes… but then he threw up and stopped eating – and drinking. There are some cats I’ve seen where that wouldn’t have done much harm, but at less than 8 pounds to begin with, Rafe didn’t have any weight to spare.

His eyes sank and took on a faraway stare. He was unsteady on his feet, and too weak to jump onto his favorite ottoman, but he didn’t seem uncomfortable. We helped him as best we could, kept him warm and whispered into his ear, “Hang on.”

Today we wrapped him in his blankets and took him to the vet, fearing the worst (renal failure). She took a blood sample, and injected fluids under his skin. He perked up… more relaxed than we were.

While we waited for the results from his blood test we talked about how I had wanted to be a vet when I grew up – and how, perhaps, I could still become one.

When the results came back, the vet was puzzled, but relieved: nothing serious – some reduced kidney function and a mild liver infection, but nothing unusual for his age. Mostly he appeared to have some kind of ‘feline flu’. She gave us an antibiotic for his liver, and some soft food to feed him with a syringe until he felt like eating on his own.

So now we cradle his head and ease the dropper between his teeth: antibiotic twice a day, food, three or four. I think one of the most important things we can learn from animals, especially from those whose lives are much shorter than ours, is how to face death. Lucky for me, Rafe still has more to teach.