It was on this day in 2014 that I held my beloved Cecil in my lap as the vet gave him a shot that sent him on his way. It happened too fast. That was six years ago, and it still blows me out of the water. Coming just a few years after I said goodbye to Orson, it was among the most emotionally painful moments in my life.

With Cecil, it was different. It was my choice to release him. While I was at work that day, he suffered an embolism, lost the use of his hind legs, and was in incredible agony. I wonder how long it was before I got home, and Lionheart was at the door, yowling at me that something was wrong. Then I heard Cecil.

I rushed him to the vet, and I knew what the end result would be, but I had already made that decision. No pet of mine will suffer a minute longer than they need to. I’ll take the pain and let them go. There is peace over the river, and it’s better there than it is here. The vet assured me that even if Cecil survived, he probably wouldn’t have his legs anymore, he would be in pain, and it would probably happen again. I refused to put him through that.

To this day, it destroys me when I think about it. How long was he waiting for me to get home, suffering? Did he wonder where I was? Was he frightened?

That evening, I paced the floor back and forth for an hour or more. Later, I read somewhere the pacing is a kind of caveman reaction — Someone from the tribe is missing. Where are they? Must find them! I was ranging away from and back to the home campfire, hoping to find the missing member of the tribe and bring them home.

Cecil didn’t come home again until he had been turned to ashes. He sleeps now in a lovely box, next to Orson’s ashes, in my bedroom, where we all still keep watch over one another.

Someone who didn’t understand commented that I was overreacting, that I was acting like I’d lost a family member.

Yes, that’s exactly how I feel. Cecil was my constant companion for 14 years. He understood my words. I understood his meows. We’d been together for so long we understood each other’s language. He comforted me when Orson died. And Lionheart comforted me after Cecil. Lion took his place as if to say, “I’ll be your guardian now.” And to this day, when I’m sad or sick, Lion will not leave my side.

No, I’m still not over it.