The Risk of Love


Poupon was an almost constant source of connectedness and entertainment for Cheryl and her husband Michael. One night he snuck into their dining room and carried off a pizza box for his private lair. In the evening he’d creep up onto their shoulders and kneed before settling into the crook of an arm and then stretch out like a child to watch TV with them.

I met Cheryl Richardson when she spoke at a writers conference in Boston. Over the next year I also came to know Poupon, Grey Poupon, that is. I learned that his love for her and her good husband brought them close. The Nichol family pets are that way. They break things, dig holes and make noise but they love us always.

I’ve never physically touched Poupon, never palpated his abdomen, or listened to his chest but his people have shared enough photos and videos that seeing the softness in their expressions, well, I feel a kinship. Pets don’t speak a human language, so we can believe whatever we want about their thoughts and emotions and we’re never wrong.

A couple of years ago Michael noticed that 10 year old Poupon was sleeping more, becoming lethargic and easily fatigued. Cheryl did her best to ignore these warnings. Denial is understandable. We do this because we can’t bear the thought of a serious diagnosis. Good sense prevailed and a house call veterinarian was summoned. Poupon’s elevated liver enzymes indicated trouble but after conservative treatment failed, a follow-up exam revealed internal masses.

Abdominal x-rays and ultrasound brought reality crashing home. Cheryl and Michael would have done anything to save Poupon but his cancer was inoperable. Chemotherapy could buy him several months but his history of intense distress in the veterinary hospital ruled this option out.

It took Poupon’s people a couple of weeks to find their way. Their kitty’s wellbeing mattered most but they struggled with sadness. My part, from across the country, was to listen and offer support and medical advice.
Next week: Weathering the storm.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.