So those of you that have read Bitter and Sweet, will remember that while Tim was sick, our cat Oreo was diagnosed with cancer. Afer a great month or so on steroids, we had to put him down. Digging Oreo’s grave was one of the last physical jobs that Tim was able to do.
In September of that year (2010), Colin brought home Louie as a surprise. I was a bit overwhelmed with everything else going on the house, but Louie climbed out of the cat carrier and into my lap and started purring immediately. I knew he was just what we needed to brighten our lives.
Last summer, I thought that Louie had diabetes because of some symptoms he was exhibiting. After running tests, they discovered he had kidney disease. It was one of those things that would shorten his life but we had no idea what that meant. Could be years. So we had to start altering his food and eventually went solely to prescription food.
Mid-December, he had another check up and the doc was thrilled. He looked great and had even gained weight. Yeah!!! Last weekend, I noticed he spent an entire day on the bed- morning, noon and night. Never got up. By Monday morning, Colin came to me and said he thought Louie wasn’t doing well. I looked at him and thought “Geeze! How did this happen overnight? He looks thin and like he can’t even sit right.”
Unfortunately, I knew what this could mean. Immediately change all plans for the morning. Brigette happened to stop over and she immediately changed all of her plans as well. I felt sick driving to the vet’s. Was he dying? What would they say?
Our normal vet wasn’t available but everyone there is pretty excellent. He had lost two pounds, which is a 20% reduction in overall weight in just a couple of months. But the blood test results wouldn’t be in until 3 PM. We decided to give him an IV push and try the medicated canned food. I went home on pins and needles. I asked Colin if he thought he would be able to handle giving him IVs every day if that was needed. He wasn’t sure he could handle that.
So I sat by the phone and waited. I walked our dog Taffy and the vet called. She said Louie’s numbers had changed drastically. From 60 to 250, from .2 to 7 or something like that. Bad news, but she had seen worse. I started to ask questions but my stupid phone died. I had to wait another two hours before I could talk to her again.
She gave me information but I felt lost. Was it time to put Louie down? What did it mean? Our regular vet called about 7 PM and I finally felt some peace. She knows our family well and she said key phrases that I can understand all too well. Louie had weeks left, but we were talking about palliative care. I get that term. The fluids could help him tremendously. The key factor was that Louie scarfed down the canned food. Appetite and nutrition intake indicated he had a little time left. The plan was that I would go in the morning and purchase more of the food and the IV bags. I would have to be instructed regarding needles and such. I dreaded it but I knew I would just have to pull it together because it wasn’t about me. Louie was dying and he needed me to help him home.
That night I got up to go to bed and discovered that Louie had vomited all the food plus then some. He looked awful. So at 7 AM I started the calls again. Finally about 9:30 AM I talked to the vet. Was this new symptom a game changer? She said she thought from my conversation yesterday that I wasn’t ready to let Louie go. I told her that was not the case at all. We could face that. But I did not want to live with the guilt of having put him down too early because I was too traumatized to provide him with IVs. That just wasn’t an option for me. Once that clarification was made, the communication was clear. It was time for Louie, no guilt should be felt, and yes, if it were her cat, that was the decision she would make.
Waited for a call and found out we could go at noon on Tuesday. Colin agreed to go with me as he had with Oreo. I held Louie in my arms and our doc blessed him on his journey home after telling him what a special cat he was and how loved he was by his family. I felt him relax in my arms and I knew he was gone. Colin and I bawled like babies.
We brought him home in a box. Goofy to say, but he looked beautiful. Now we had to face Frankie. Frankie sobbed just like us but let me hold him for awhile while he grieved. Then the boys went to the backyard and dug a grave together. The work seemed to calm them and give them closure.
Sad days for us, but we truly are doing ok. Personally, I handled the death much better than I did the hours of not knowing. I can do full-on sad. I am familiar with that and while I obviously don’t enjoy it, I know what to do with it. Just feel it. But making life and death decisions, weeding through medical information… it felt like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Hated every minute of it.
Colin and I talked about it on the way home. What’s the alternative? Never get a pet again? We both decided without a doubt that it is still worth it. The love and companionship and connection you feel is worth knowing some day you will have to part. Good life lesson for humans too.