Tom Suiter

With a Heavy Heart

Posted December 17, 2006
Updated April 9, 2009

Many of you will understand what I'm about to write. I need to write this to start my own healing process. I'm trying to make sense of something that makes no sense. People who love their pets, as I do, with all their hearts will certainly know what I feel.

Friday was a beautiful December day and a vacation day for me. I wanted to spend it doing the things I like most -- my morning walk, shooting basketball, stretching, drinking my fresh fruit smoothie, reading and maybe taking a nap.

My wife Julie was going to the ballet with my mother, so that left Friday night open for me to watch the Hurricanes and the Appalachian State game -- both of which I was looking forward to seeing.

Around 4:30 p.m., I got in bed with my book and quickly fell asleep -- my day was going as planned. Before she left for the ballet, Julie let me know that one of our kitties, Sophie, whom we also call Snuff or Snophers, was outside and asked me to check on her.

We have two beautiful Persian cats named Chloe Claire and Sophia Snow. Sophie does like to go outdoors while Chloe will but won't stay long. I will tell you, I love them both as if they were human.

We always felt very safe in letting our cats out. We live in a secluded area, the middle house in a cul-de-sac on the top of a hill, well off the main road with very little traffic -- and neither kitty ventures very far off the back deck area, which is surrounded by woods.

Sophie is a big eater, and I thought for sure she'd show up sometime after 6 p.m. ready for her dinner. Now, I wasn't alarmed when she didn't, because sometimes she liked to hang out underneath the deck or maybe take a short kitty adventure into the woods.

During the rest of the evening I checked the back door every 20 minutes or so, expecting to see her. Each time I would call her name -- but no Snophers.

When Julie got home at about 11 p.m., we both started to worry and we began to search. This was very unlike Sophie, but still no Snuff. During the course of the night, we both slept very little. We were up periodically checking the door hoping to see her sweet little face peering in, wanting her treats and our love.

I couldn't sleep I was so worried. Finally at about 7 a.m. Saturday, dressed warmly I went to comb the woods surrounding our house. I called her name over and over "Sophie," "Snuffers," but no response. Julie joined me, and we searched all morning. We were worried but kept telling ourselves that Sophie, an independent sort, was just having an adventure.

Around noon, I went to the front of the subdivision to walk and post a sign about our lost kitty.

I came back, walked the woods some more, calling her name over and over but never a meow. I decided I'd shoot some basketball in our driveway, hoping Sophie would wander back, while Julie went to walk around the subdivision.

I was back in the house doing some stretching when there was a tap on the window. There was Julie holding Sophie -- and for about 5 seconds I can't describe the joy that filled my heart. Then, I saw the tears in Julie's eyes. I rushed outside. Sophie was dead.

Julie had found her in a ditch at the entrance to our cul-de-sac.

I can't describe the awful feeling that came over me, the ache that my heart felt. I screamed "NO! NO! NO!" My eyes filled with more tears than I ever knew I had. We were both so devastated. Our Sophie, so beautiful even in death, had apparently been hit by a car. How and why it happened, we'll never know.

Sophie was a black Persian. The black Persian is the most royal of Persian cats -- very smart but very shy. You had to earn her trust, and we had worked hard to do just that. Julie, who has a heart as big as Montana, was her special person; she and Julie shared a rare bond that few humans have with their pets. But Sophie and I, too, had a bond.

She was my friend. She had the most intelligent eyes and the kindest little face. She looked more like a human than a cat. As I came into the room she would roll on her back so I could rub her tummy -- and oh, could she purr. And she loved to play. Julie and I were the only people who got to know her. She was so shy around others. We were all she needed. It took a while for this kitty to trust us, but when she did, there was nothing but love -- always a peaceful, loving presence, a calming influence in our lives.

My love for Sophie and her sister, Chloe, have had such an important impact on my life. Because of them, I learned that animals have feelings and know love as well as pain and suffering. Both kitties have a sense when I need their affection, and they are always there. I too have that sense about them. They know and understand.

Because of my love for them, I became a vegetarian, a vegan to be exact. They made me see animals in a different way. People are always asking me why I use animals in my "Play of the Day" segment. My answer is because I love all animals and think they make good television, but really its because of the friendship my kitties give to me. It's a way I try to honor them.

Julie and I spent hours Saturday and Sunday, shedding tears and recalling memories of Sophie. I'm not ashamed to tell you how much I have cried and continue to grieve. Trying to seek answers for what happened, how it happened, wondering why she had wandered where she never had before. It just wasn't like this shy kitty to leave her comfort zone. We kept asking, "What if …?" and blamed ourselves for not paying more attention.

This special cat, so pure of spirit with the warm, kind eyes didn't deserve to be killed in the most common way, by a car. And what tears us apart is that we weren't there for her. She died alone. That rips at our heart.

Our gratitude goes out to the person who kindly took her off the road and laid her in a quiet spot off the road in a dignified and respectful way. They had no way of knowing whose cat it was, but they showed her respect, because they knew it was someone's pet.

We buried Sophie today, and I will tell you it was one of the saddest days of my life. Words cannot describe what she meant to Julie and me. She was like our conscience. Only someone who loves and really knows his or her animals understands.

She was just nine and was in perfect health. I loved that dear sweet Snophers with all that I had. She was my friend who loved me no matter what kind of day I had, no matter how many mistakes I made on television. She depended on me, but I think I depended on her more. A loving purr with a sweet face to greet me when I got home. A friend to sit with and who would listen to me with those alert eyes but who wouldn't talk back. She never asked for much but gave our family so much in return. Hers was an unconditional, sacred love. She loved to be held. What we would give to hold her one more time. Oh, if only …

I will go to work this week with a very heavy heart. Sports, or really anything else, won't seem important, because I have lost a dear companion.

Only an animal guardian will understand.

It has been an honor and a privilege to know and love Sophie Suiter.

(First posted on Dec. 17, 2006)


Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • wakeup Dec 28, 2006

    Tom and Julia,

    I read your thanks and then the original blog. Words cannot describe how my heart aches for you. We have two dogs that we love with all our hearts. I know the day they leave us will be one of the worst days of our lives. My heart goes out to you. I understand the love of a pet and how they enhance our lives. Remember that you enhanced her life as well and that the love you gave her will live forever.

  • ruthndochines Dec 26, 2006

    Tom, The NC Vet School has a program for those of us who have lost a dear pet. They may be very helpful. It is worth a try.

  • sunydaze Dec 26, 2006

    Tom and Julie,
    I am so sorry for your loss! Everyone said once my husband and I had children, our pets would take the backseat. We made sure they didn't. they too are our family and love the new baby. People may think it is strange that pets can be part of a family, but in reality pets set such a wonderful example for us human. their unconditional love is something we all could learn from! God bless your family as you grieve the loss of sophie. just think though, she is up there watching now with a big bowl of tunafish and catnip galore.

  • debbiemedlin Dec 26, 2006

    Tom & Julie,
    I was so sad to hear about Sophie and as I read your story I sat here at my computer and cried. I had to make that terrible choice to put down my beautiful cat (Smokey) back in April. I had her for 15 wonderful years. She had just recently gone blind and also was going into kidney failure. For a couple of years she hadn't been able to jump up on the bed because of a little arthritis, so I had a ramp up to the bed and over to her window seat. Every morning at 5:00 a.m. she would wake me to feed her, either by patting me on the face with her little soft paw or putting that cold little nose to my cheek! Oh how I miss her, especially here at Christmas. She so loved to check out the packages under the tree and swat at the ornaments. And when the turkey was done, she was always the first in the kitchen begging for some! I'm so thankful for her photos and my memories. It really does get easier with time. Happy Holidays.

  • marisasears Dec 25, 2006

    I read your thanks and then back-tracked to the original blog. My heart is breaking for you and Julie and dear, dear Sophie. The words escape me in order to find a way to console you. Having lost two wonderful cat friends (one as recently as this past November), I fully understand the pain. Their memories give me solace and I have their urns (with pictures) on my desk and they look down on me as I sit here. Their ornaments adorn our tree - handpainted portraits which captured their personalities. Time will heel and the smiles will outshine the tears. My heartfelt condolences my friend.

  • ejcperry Dec 21, 2006

    Tom & Julia
    We am terrible sorry to read about Sophie. A year ago this month my wife and I had to give up our 15 year old Cocker. Unless you have lived with a pet and understand how they become a part of your life it is very difficult to explain the pain you feel when you lose that pet. We know that feeling and grieve with you.
    Ed and Judy Perry

  • briscot Dec 21, 2006

    Tom and Julie, We completely understand your loss, as we too lost our precious cat, Zelie, in similarly tragic accident 12/30/04. She was one zany companion who provided great love. Amongst our oh so many fine memories: Zelie curled on my wife's lap, purring, amd making loving eye contact as my wife sang "you are my sunshine." We have since adopted two more special cats from the SPCA. Google "Rainbow Bridge" for a heart wrenching tale of kitty heaven.

  • rviverette Dec 20, 2006

    Tom, I understand where you are coming from, about 10 years ago, my wife and I lost "one of our kids". Her name was Buttons, she was a black toy poodle. She lived about 13 years, of which we had her since she was 6-8 weeks old. Buttons was by far the smartest dog I've ever seen. My wife could say she was going to call Domino's for pizza, and Buttons would go and stand in front of the door and wait patiently for the pizza to arrive. She loved Domino's Pizza. Buttons slept with us every night, as she got older, she could not get on the bed by herself, so around 9:30 at night, she would go into the bedroom and bark until my wife or I would not only put her on the bed, but we had to get in the bed with her.

    So, I know what you and Julie are going through, and my heart goes out to you both.

  • mljernigan2 Dec 20, 2006

    Tom and Julie,
    My heart goes out to both of you and Chloe. As I walked into school today (I'm a teacher) a colleage, who knows what an animal person I am, told me to go on-line to read about your loss. Our "kids" are our pets, too. We only have 4-legged children and love them as much as I feel like we would love the 2-legged variety.
    Anytime we lose a special little furry child is devastating, and under these circumstances even worse. We recently lost our little man, Sampson, to cancer and miss him so. Yes...we do have 6 other cats and 2 Yorkies, but each one is so unique and no one else can ever take Sampson's place.
    Have you ever read the story about the Rainbow Bridge? It tells how you will meet your beloved pet again when you die. That is how I try to lift my spirits and I hope maybe it will help you, too. I am also a volunteer at Snowflake Animal Rescue. We are a small group of dedicated cat lovers. Spending time with the kitties that desperately need and love atten

  • blondemonkey Dec 19, 2006

    I can truly imagine how broken-hearted you and your wife are about Sophie, and am so sorry you have had to go through this. My two torties are my heartbeat and my oldest just turned 17. I cry at just the thought of losing her and her sister. Hopefully you will find comfort in Chloe, and have peace in your hearts knowing what a wonderful life you were able to give Sophie. And when you remember the joy she brought you I hope you can soon smile through your tears.




About this Blog: