Love in life and death

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When I was ready to quit this blog a cousin of mine made a comment that may seem rather obvious but is something I’ve never thought of- if nothing else the blog documents the little details of our lives these past few years and will be special to us on down the road when we are 60 and can’t remember the details. I decided to keep on mostly for that reason, and because I know the grandparents sure love all the pictures. This post though, this really long and rambling post is 100% for me.

Today I had to take the bunnies to the vet and as I stepped into the room where I said goodbye to Lucy just one month ago the feelings of sadness and guilt welled up inside me stronger than I was prepared for and I couldn’t stop myself from crying. And I realized that what I need to do is share about Lucy, and write it down, and then move on.

Lucy came into our lives in a rather unexpected way, as animals tend to do. Our very first cat, Dusty was an adoption from Craig’s cousin. Four months after she joined our family, on a rather ordinary day, I carried her out with me to get the mail and sat her down to gather a package. She walked to the end of the driveway and then turned, and gave me a very pointed look. I headed inside as she stood there- the garage was open and she was prone to wander. But just like the t.v. show ‘Without a Trace’, Dusty simply vanished that day. I went crazy with worry and canvased the neighborhood with fliers, going door to door to look for her. I spent every lunch hour scanning the internet and shelters and lost pet sites. But Dusty was simply gone.

About two weeks after this happened I was on the Independence Animal Shelter website when I saw a cat that looked just like Dusty! I was convined! I had found her! Nevermind that the markings were slightly different and this cat, ‘Slate’, was guesstimated to be 10 years old rather than the spry young kitten than ran away. I left work and drove stright to the shelter. It was immediately obvious that the cat curled tightly in the littler box in a small metal cage was not Dusty. She was traumitzed, and old, and scraggly. The shelter volunteer shared with me how it was so sad when families surrendered their older cats because they always ended up putting them down. “People like the kittens, not these poor old sweeties” she said. 5 minutes and $10 later I had pried ‘Slate’ out of the litter box and was on the cell phone to Craig as I drove home with the cat in the backseat.

When Craig returned home he indulged my impulsive cat purchase as he knew the depth of my sorrow over losing Dusty. I renamed ‘Slate’ Lucy and crossed my fingers she would get along with the bunnies. The first few days did not go smoothly. Lucy would not leave Craig’s closet and was not eating her food. My dad suggested we mash the cat food with water and feed her wet food. It worked and she started to eat a bit. We took her to the vet and discovered she needed hundreds of dollars of dental work and her mouth was covered in sores. The evening we picked her up from the vet after having her rotting teeth extracted was the first night she took her place in the center of our bed, purring like a carburator.

We had four great years with Lucy. There were ups and downs for sure. No matter what we did and what foods we gave her, Lucy vomitted nearly every night and most days. A vomitting cat and white carpet were not a good mix- and I blogged about this many, many times. But Lucy tolerated the rabbits, and she LOVED us. She waited by the door for us to come home, sitting so close I missed whacking her by a matter of centimeters every day. I’ve never seen a cat get so excited to see people! She followed as around, and had mannerisms more like a dog than a cat. She never begged for food and never climbed on the furniture. Except for that one time when we pulled out of the driveway but then ran back in for that one forgotten item, finding her perched on the top of the piano! Busted! It made us question the arthritis and wonder what else she was up to when she thought we were gone!

When Devan arrived, Lucy took it in stride. She didn’t shy away from the screaming baby, and since we coslept with him decided it was her duty to keep watch over him. She even licked his head before I scolded her for getting too close to the baby. As he grew and began to chase her, and poke her, and pull her tail she showed amazing restraint and never once tried to retaliate. This past year though was also when we started to notice she wasn’t quite herself- less social, more mopey. She ‘cried’ for longer periods at night- sometimes for hours and along with the sleep deprivation from Devan it began to grate on our nerves a bit. And then she began to cry when we left the room or when she thought we were gone and it slowly dawned on us that she was deaf.

Craig and I dug in and endured and hoped the move to the new house would help. For a few weeks, we were optimistic. But then the crying increased, and then she stopped using the stairs, and stopped coming to our room at night, and stopped using the litter box. We discussed what options we had with an older cat with so many health and behavioral issues but I just couldn’t make the decision to end her life. I’ve always said that no matter how sick, I could never make the choice to euthanize an animal. But then we are in the middle of this situation and I realized we really had no other choice. We didn’t want her to suffer, we didn’t want her on a million medications, we knew the behavioral issues were linked to her failing health, and our marriage was beginning to suffer from the lack of sleep and the stress from the constant soiling of our house. I say this not to excuse myself from what I decided, but to remind myself of how I reached the most agonizing decision I have ever made.

One Tuesday I was ready to leave for work when I discovered cat poop in the middle of the living room and a box of placemats that was soaked in urine. It struck me that it was a situation that would not get better. Lucy’s health would contine to fail, and our resentment of her would grow. For all the love she gave us, I knew that I wanted to say goodbye to her in love. And I knew that she had been in pain and I had no desire to prolong her live to prevent my sadness at the loss of her company. And I told myself that animals had no concept of life and death, and that whether this year or the next made no difference to Lucy- she had lived a full and happy life with us. With my voice shaking I made the call.

Thursday, July 31st, I took Devan to his sitter and then returned to the house where Lucy and Craig were waiting on the porch. I picked her up and cuddled her as we climbed in the car and drove the the vet. The trip was over way too quickly and I could barely stop the tears as we went into the room. He gave her a relaxant and for ten minutes we sat in the room and held her, and stroked her, and told her what a beautiful cat she was and how sorry we were and how much we loved her and how much she had given us. And then I put my face down next to her and kissed her and he gave her the final shot and she drew her last breath. It was very peaceful, and incredibly difficult.

I felt like I would vomit and we wrapped her in a blanket and drove home. We were both fairly silent and in a sort of shock as we brought her home and buried her with her favorite toy and one of Craig’s shoes that she was fond of sleeping on. I came inside and immediately cleaned up her food, and litter and all of her toys and carried them to the basement in a trance. And then Craig left for work and I went to take a shower. And that is when I lost it- the feelings of loss and guilt and sadness rolled over me in waves and I was powerless to stop them. It may sound overly dramatic, but anyone who has loved an animal knows how big a part they play in our lives. They are family, Lucy was family.

This past month has been okay. The house has felt empty. There have been nights I would gladly clean up vomit and poop and pee and listen to her cry just to cuddle her again. There are many days that I feel doubt and guilt and wonder why I didn’t do more for her. And there are also days that I feel confident that we did right by her and gave her the life, and death, that I would want myself. There is no question that it is just hard.

And that is the story of Lucy. An unlikely cat who came into our lives and won us over. She taught us about patience and unconditional love. She was a wonderful cat and I loved her dearly.

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2 responses »

  1. Awww. I love animals.We had to put our Golden down when she was 16. I was a sophomore in college and became so sick I had to go home. It’s a tough decision, but I’d rather end their misery in peace with us by their side then them going in the night very uncomfortable.I don’t even want to think about dealing with Millie in the future. She’s my first child!

  2. My parents had to put our childhood dog to sleep a couple months ago. I was terribly sad and I didn’t have to go home to an empty house. I know how upset I was when Merlin went missing for a few days… I can’t imagine your feelings… I am sorry.

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