Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Memorial for a Lady

For anyone out there who’s ever lost a beloved pet, for anyone who’s ever had to say goodbye too soon, for anyone who’s had to make a terrible decision to put that pet out of his or her pain, this one is for you. I experienced my own loss a month ago, and it’s taken me that long to write this. I know there are a lot of people who don’t understand the importance of a pet’s death, that you feel like you’ve lost a member of the family (people tried to be kind, but a few said things to me afterwards that no one would ever dream of saying if I’d lost a human), but here’s hoping there are a lot of animal lovers out there who get this. I wanted to memorialize my girl in a special way. So here goes.

The moment we locked eyes, I knew she was mine. And I was hers.

I came from a one-cat family, and my fiancé came from a multi-cat household. When we moved in together after dating for several years, we decided to compromise with two cats. A woman who lived near my future mother-in-law’s house had a cat who had recently given birth to kittens – two were solid (one orange, one black) and three were calicos. I wanted males – the cat I’d grown up with, who would live to be almost 19, was an orange male. We decided we’d get the orange one, and one of the calicos. Then we went over to meet them.

She was standing in the box, and the other four were crouched. She was the orange one (we thought she was a he). But while the three calicos were all huddled together on the right, this orange tabby stood on the left, and had one arm protectively hugging the black one, who was huddled below her. She stared at us without moving, as if to say, “I don’t go, unless he comes, too.” That was it: we were taking the two tabbies.

We named her Oscar. I always wanted a cat named Oscar. A couple of weeks after they came home with us, we took them in for their first shots. The vet flipped her upside-down and said, “Uh… this is a girl.” A girl? We had to change her name. But despite the dignity of her new name, we called her The Girl. And eventually that became The Lady.

She was a little skittish, and where her brother was the friendly tabby, she was the one who hung back a little, eyeing strangers and hiding while watching them from afar. Her tubby little brother would try to jump up on our bed at night, but he was too small and could never make it. She, on the other hand, found other places to sleep. Often curled up with her brother. I remember just a few months ago my husband nudging me and pointing, and there they were, two senior tabbies still curled up together, just like when they were kittens.

If something could go wrong with a cat, it went wrong with her. When we had them both fixed, her stitches came out – we don’t know if she pulled them out or her brother managed it, but suddenly that little incision was gaping open. Luckily, the vet was across the street. I ran over, and they stitched her back up, but put one of those little plastic collars around her head, and we had to separate them. I still remember her shooting backwards like a crayfish through the room, desperate to get it off. That night, I slept in the bedroom with her, while my fiancé slept out in the living room with the other cat. Just as I was dozing off, she suddenly jumped up, nudged my head with hers (almost poking my eye out with her plastic cone), and snuggled up next to me. She was scared. She was never scared, but tonight, things were weird, and she didn’t know what to do. So she turned to me. I remember hesitantly lifting up the covers and she crawled under, turned around, and slept lengthwise against me, with her head on my shoulder and my arm around her. She slept with me like that all night. She never did it since, but that night we bonded.

I know you shouldn’t choose a favourite cat when you have more than one… but she was mine.

My boyfriend and I got married, and we moved – twice – and then on a routine vet visit they said she needed to have her teeth cleaned. I was eight months pregnant at the time and I remember lying awake all night because she was staying overnight at the vet’s, and I couldn’t imagine her being there all alone (and yes, that anxiety foreshadowed my often-worrying mothering style). When I went to pick her up the next day – waiting outside the vet’s office when they opened – she practically leapt into my arms.

Our first baby was born, and while her brother decided he was having NONE of this, she was the one who did that creeping thing cats do when they’re testing the waters – she’d move toward the basket on the floor, jerking her body backwards slightly, then stepping forward two tentative steps, jerk back, two more steps, etc. – and she circled that basket like a shark, with her nose sniffing every corner of it. A couple of days later, the baby was napping (something she almost NEVER did) and I ran downstairs to throw a load of laundry into the washing machine, and when I came back up, there was The Lady sleeping in the bottom of the basket, next to the baby’s feet. I was shocked. From that point on she was always rather interested in the kids, although there were times when even she appeared to think, “Good god, why did you decide to bring these yowling cats to my house?!” and she’d disappear to the basement. Here's a pic of her with my son.

A couple of years after that she was diagnosed with hyperthyroid, something that happens often with cats, and it involves a lifetime of medication, or surgery, or a radioactive iodine treatment. The latter was the most expensive, but it had the highest success rate. She was only 11, and we figured we had a lot of years left, so we chose that option. They put a radioactive iodine in the cat, it runs through her system while they monitor her for a week, and then you separate her from the household for the next month, carefully putting her litter elsewhere and monitoring what she did. She was great, and we’d bring her upstairs at night, snuggling with her and joking about how our radioactive cat could be used as a nightlight, or perhaps could power our TV.

She was always thin, while her brother was fat, but he knew he should NOT mess with his sister. She always gave as good as she got, and when we got a four-storey six-foot cat tree, she immediately claimed the penthouse suite at the top, where she could roost and bat at her brother as he sat on the level below her.

She chirped. When she was in a happy mood, purring and sitting next to me, if I coughed she would make a chirping noise with her eyes half-closed. We would talk back and forth like that for ages. My husband thought it was hilarious. “Cough, make her chirp,” he’d say.

She hated the vet. Whenever I took her, they assumed she was the male (orange tabbies are typically male) and they’d try to do the checkup but her pulse would race and one time she drove her body temperature up almost 8 degrees. It was insane. I’d have to sit with her and calm her down in another room before they could come in and give her the annual shots. But considering how many other treatments the poor little girl had had, I don’t blame her for not liking that place.

She was my circus cat. She’d come into the bathroom as I would come out of the shower, and I’d hold my hand in the air and snap my fingers, and she’d stand straight up and stretch her body out completely as if she were bipedal, and she’d grab my wrist with her front paws and rub her cheek against my hand. I loved when she did that.

We got a new kitten in May, much to my childrens’ delight. She was yet another orange tabby-cat girl. My original orange tabby-cat girl began growling more than I’d ever heard, and she found new and inventive ways to hiss, but eventually there was a begrudging tolerance of the new little beast. Everything seemed to be fine, and we were now a three-cat household. And then…

It happened on a Saturday.

Just this past December, I was away in NY on business, and on Friday night my husband took the kids to his parents’ house because he was playing a show in town there. The next day they swung by the airport to pick me up on their way home, and when we got home she didn’t seem right. She slowly picked her head up and looked at me a little dazed, and I asked my husband if she’d been eating. He said she’d seemed off the day before, but nothing too unusual. Just a week earlier I’d been saying to him that we should monitor their food intake, because she looked a little skinny and I was wondering if the new little kitten was stealing all the food. That night instead of putting her down with the other cats, I gave her her own bedroom, with her own litter, water, and food. She jumped up on the bed in the room and curled up, glancing at me as I left.

I wish I’d stayed. How I wish I’d stayed.

The next morning the litterbox was untouched, and so was the food. Of course it was a Sunday, so the vet was closed. My husband decided to take her up to the animal emergency hospital. They charged him $1000 to admit her and put her on emergency fluids, and when they looked her over they found a lot of sores in her mouth. No one knows where they came from, but we suspect that’s why she’d stopped eating. Just after midnight they called our house and said they were transferring her to the ICU, and that she was in stage 4 kidney disease, and it was unlikely there was anything more they could do for her. My husband came across the landing and into the bedroom and delivered the news, and I crumpled into a sobbing mess. My girl was all alone, in an ICU, and we were going to have to put her to sleep the following day. I should be there. I told him I really should be there. He called the ER back and they said she was comfortable, and there was no reason we should come up. I said if we have to euthanize her on Monday, I don’t want her to be alone on her last night. They said to be honest, they didn’t think she was aware of anything around her, and she was sleeping. I decided I’d wait.

Next morning, I was back up there first thing. A vet took me into another room and talked to me, and said he’s not allowed to recommend euthanasia, but if that was what we wanted to do, he said, “You’re not making the wrong choice in this case.” He said they’d put a catheter in her arm to administer the IV fluids, and they could leave it in there so when we euthanized her they could just inject her in the catheter and not have to invade her body any further. I opted to keep it there. But, he added, it would only be good for about six hours. I now had a time limit with her.

I sat in the waiting room for what felt like an eternity while they disconnected her from countless machines. I watched the clock, thinking, “Come on come on COME ON…” I didn’t have much time with her, and I didn’t want to be separated from her. I began reasoning. If she comes out and seems happy to see me, then maybe I won’t do this today. Maybe she’ll get better.

They brought her out and I chirped her name as happily as I could, with a lump in my throat the size of a basketball and desperate to get out of that place. She looked at me and meowed back. She knew me. Would she be OK?

We got out to the car and I opened the front of the cage and put my hand in. She began purring. I began crying. I was sobbing so hard the whole drive home I could barely see the road at times. I brought her into the house and carried her upstairs to my bedroom, where I assumed she’d want to be. I opened the cage, and she got out of it and walked away, her front arm in a splint and walking very wobbly, and she slowly went down the stairs. I followed her, a little perplexed, and we got to the main floor, she turned and went down to the basement, and right to the kitty litter. Of course. They’d had her on IVs and the poor thing had to pee. But she’s peeing… that’s good, right?

I carried her back upstairs and put her down. She walked in a zigzag. That wasn’t like her. She stopped every few steps to give her front arm a shake as if to get that damn splint off, and that made me chuckle through my tears, but she walked to the back patio door, where she loved to sleep in the sun. (Pathetic fallacy was in full swing that day; there was no sun, only a downpour.) She stood for a minute, and then just fell sideways. She couldn’t even ease herself down. She lay there, and I laid flat on my stomach on the floor, petting her head and talking to her and crying.

And crying.

I eventually decided to leave her alone, but that resolve only lasted a few minutes at a time before I’d be back over with her. After about an hour, I left her alone again, and she got up and went back upstairs, where she managed to jump up onto my daughter’s bed. I began wondering if maybe she might be OK. We got a call from the vet’s office saying they had the paperwork back from the ER, did we have any questions? Yes… do we have to euthanize her today?

The vet got on the phone and said her kidneys were at such high levels, he’d never seen a cat come back from it. He said we could put her on some aggressive fluids and we’d probably get some more time with her. “How much time?” we asked, suddenly so hopeful. “Four… maybe five days.”


When should we come in?

How does 3:20 sound?

A quick look at the clock said it was just after 2:30. There’s no time. How do you thank this wonderful little creature for bringing so much joy to your life? How do you take your last few moments with her and make them last forever? How do you let her know it’s going to be OK?

How do you say goodbye?

All day when I’d been sitting next to her, I kept giving her a little cough. Chirp for me, I thought. Just chirp for me this one last time. She didn’t. I whispered her name. Nothing. At one point I put my hand on her head and she sat up, and nudged my hand with her head the way she used to. It was more feeble than she used to, but she did it.

Now she just lay there, curled up in a ball, and we pet her and pet her and cried and cried together. She had come into our lives two weeks after we moved in together. She was an essential part of our lives. We couldn’t imagine our world without her in it. But we were going to have to. This is the last photo I took of her.

We went over to the vet at 3:20. They’re only a couple of blocks from our house (we always manage to live close to vets, for some reason) so I didn’t put her in the cat carrier. God, she hated that thing. Instead, I wrapped her in a towel and held her in my arms as we drove through the pouring rain. We walked in, and sat and listened to another couple talk about their sick dog. You can take your dog home, I thought. “Can you put her on the scale?” they asked me. Why? This isn’t a routine check. “Um… we need to weigh her to estimate how much the ashes will weigh, so we can charge you accordingly.” Of course you can. (The $500 bill for her euthanasia and return of the ashes came later. I love vets, but it’s hard not to feel gouged when it cost us $1500 to basically watch her die.)

Then the vet called us in.

He asked us if we wanted to see the records from the ER. No. Did we want to hear anything more about the renal failure? No. He’d already explained to my upset husband on the phone that despite the $500 or so we’d spent only four months ago on a full bloodwork set for her, often things like this don’t show up. At this point, we didn’t want to delay this anymore. He asked me to lay her down. I kept her in the towel and carefully placed her on the table, still keeping my arms wrapped around her. She looked at me strangely as he pulled out her arm.

“She’s not going to close her eyes,” he told us. “And it’s going to be really quick, OK?” OK. He prepared the syringe. He put it into her catheter. I leaned down and whispered, “I love you so much, my girl. I love you, I love you, I love you.”

“Are you ready?”

No. No, I’m not ready. She’s only 14. She was supposed to live for five or six more years. I went away to NY five days ago and didn’t give her a second thought and now we’re “putting her to sleep.” I should have let her sleep with us more often. I should have cuddled with her a couple of weeks ago when she nudged me with her head on the couch when I was sitting there typing a blog post about Once Upon a Time. I should have noticed she was frail. But the vet said this had the signs of a sudden failure, not something that had happened over time.

No, I’m not ready. Don’t do it. Please don’t do this to her. Please.

“Yes,” I said.

He slowly depressed the plunger. She looked up and growled at him, and then dropped her head. And that was it. I thought by “quick” he meant a minute or something. But it was maybe three seconds. And my lady was gone. The vet quickly checked her heart, whispered, “She’s gone,” and quietly slipped out of the room to leave my husband and I sobbing and grief-stricken. I draped myself over her body and cried and cried into her fur, smelling it for the last time, petting her, and reassuring her that she was OK. I noticed one of her hairs was in her eye, so I swiped it out. And then it left a mark on her eyeball. I can still picture that mark. I shouldn’t have touched her eye.

“Why do you call her The Lady?” my daughter had asked my husband only a few weeks earlier.

“Because she’s a lady,” he said. “She’s dignified and graceful. She’s our lady.”

And our lady was gone. Her last act had been to growl at a stranger who was doing something she didn’t like. Just as she’d stared at me knowingly the first time I looked at her, with one strong arm around her brother and making our decision for us, she left this world as defiant and strong-willed as she’d always been. And god, I love her for doing that.

Fate could have landed her in any family, and I'm so endlessly appreciative and honoured that it gave her to us, and allowed me to share that wonderful life of hers.

Goodbye, my girl. My lady. My sweet, sweet lady.


Joan Crawford said...

This was very sad and sweet, Nikki :(

Ashlie Hawkins said...

Oh, Nikki! I'm so sorry for your loss. I know that pain. I know that feeling and it's awful.

Lisa-Maladylis said...

I bawled my eyes out for you and your Lady, they never live long enough ! Anyone that doesn't know that kind of love for a animal is missing out on a whole lot of love. (((((hugs)))))

Rocket Science Mom said...

This was beautiful. Thank you for posting it. My first two cats, siblings, that were all mine have gone over the rainbow bridge, both younger then I'd hoped at 12 and 16, and it hurts today just like it did the days I had to take them to the vet to say goodbye.

I was crying by the end of your memorial both knowing the pain you are feeling, and so happy for your Lady that she had such a wonderful home.

You will see her again. If not in this life, then the next.

Kate said...

What a touching tribute to your beloved pet. It moved me to tears and I'm not much of a cat person. So sorry for your loss, but just remember all the good memories you have. :')

Carlton said...

I am not a cat person, and actually don't have any pets, but you made the tears come to my eyes. You are right - some of us don't understand the depth of the attachment; no longer just a pet, but more like family. But whether I understand it or not, you made me feel it. Thank you for sharing; your raw emotions and grief touched me, and I think changed my view a bit.

Marebabe said...

How I HATE that I'm so busy at work that I could only skim this moving and heart-wrenching post. Reading it slowly and taking it all in will have to wait, but I just wanted to say again how very sorry I am for your family's loss.

VW: optickle - a really funny illusion

KathyT said...

Oh Nikki. I am so sorry for your loss. I cried over your story and your kitty. I have two myself and know that love and pain you go through. hugs.

TerriDufour said...

Nikki, I lost my kitty last year to Kidney disease. He would sleep on my head and always purred when I talked to him (this was after 10 years of coaxing him to come out from under the bed). I was with him until he purred his last purr, he and I were looking into each other's eyes when it happened. I feel your pain and appreciate your love for your pet.


maven said...

My heart goes out to you on the loss of your lady. I put my 17 year old Licorice down a few months ago from kidney failure. Even though in my heart I knew it was the right thing to do and knowing she led a good life, I was hysterical! I still have her mother, 19 year old Shadow (who has outlived all her 5 kittens).

The loss of a beloved pet is so difficult to go through.

Nikki said...

What a sad but sweet story. I am so sorry for your loss. We also had to make the same choice September of last year for our Tigger. She was only 6 and went into Kidney failure. We didn't really have any other choice. What a great memorial to The Lady. We also thought Tigger was a boy when we brought her home but it was a girl. Tigger stuck with her anyway. You gave me a good cry. :-)

Lisa(until further notice) said...

Losing a pet is truly devestating. We had to put our dog down 7 years ago and a day doesn't go by that we don't think about him. My daughter was only 5 at the time, but she still carries around the stuffed lab beenie baby that Santa brought her that Christmas to help with her loss. We all (extended family included) regale in stories about him to this day. He was a winner.

I know your pain and am so sorry you have to go through it. But the love she gave all of you is worth all of that pain for her having shared her life with you. Nothing can take those memories away

The Question Mark said...

All my best to you and the family, Nikki. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Efthymia said...

I read this with our 4-month-old kitty by my side, and now he's looking at me with that inquisitive look because I'm bawling.

The only reason my sister and I debated whether to take in a cat or not was the pain we would suffer over his loss, because we know their life span is far shorter than ours. I've always gotten incredibly sad over other people's dead pets, so losing my own is something I really don't want to think about.

I hate it when people go "Well, it's not like a PERSON died" -it's stupid; many persons die every day and it doesn't affect me the least bit! A pet is part of the family, and if you accept my love for it then you should accept my mourning it.

Does her brother seem to have been affected by her loss? And how is he with the new one?

You're obviously a writer -and a good one at that- since you could produce something so beautiful and affecting over such an experience.

Christina B said...

Oh, Nikki. I'm so, so sorry. I'm sobbing for you. My heart aches for you.

We had to put my dog down when I was 19. She was my first pet and we got her when I was 8 years old. I grew up with my girl and I loved her so, so much.
As I read this, my 7 month old puppy is sleeping at my feet.
Being only 7 months, and a small dog, she's energetic and stubborn and I often have days when I question my decision to ever get a dog!
Bit tonight, I'll hug her closer. I'll pet her more. I'll let her lie in my lap and lick my hand until it's raw if she wants to because of this post.
It's reminded me that, even on bad days, Rosie is our girl. She is a huge part of our family and without her stubbornness and energy and silly little quirks, she wouldn't be the funny girl we love.

Hugs to you, Nikki.

Sagacious Penguin said...

I've been a cat person my entire life. My parents had three when I was born, and losing them one by one was really my introduction to the concept of death. When I was 8 we got two more, who were allegedly mine and my sister's, but who lived with my parents when we went off to college and moved out.

The longest-living of those two was "my" cat, Rusty, who lived to be 19 until he had to be put down a few years ago. Losing him was like someone cutting the umbilical cord to so many childhood memories. It's not that I can't still access such memories, but in the closing of his eyes they went from being nearby to seeming so very, very distant. He had kept them alive in a way I hadn't even realized until he was gone.

Now my parents refuse to get new cats because Mom says she just can't take the heartbreak that comes from saying goodbye. I'm happy that even though I've been less successful in providing them with new family members than my sister has, I've at least been able to carry on the family cat-keeping tradition, and my parents truly dote on and spoil their 'grand-kitties.'

I keep two currently, both of which spend more time physically on top of me than Rusty ever did, and now in my fifth year with them, it's hard to imagine life any different. I'm a big, hardy guy who's kind of the emotional rock of the family. I rarely cry not because I feel any need not to, but just because it's the way I'm wired. The thing that gets me though -- every time without fail -- is the knowledge that these two little guys who are such a large part of my existence aren't going to be around forever.

I'm a constant thinker, and pondering life and death is very much the norm for me. I hold on to my boys tight, cherishing every moment with them, and knowing full well the value of "the now" and how fleeting and changing life is. Your story of your dear Lady had my bawling like a newborn, and I thank you dearly for sharing it. I understand your loss and how a piece of you will never quite be there again.

I'm glad you have a new kitten in your house, not because a loved pet could EVER be replaced, but because cherished pets are, to me, proof of just how much love humans are capable of -- and I feel the greatest honor we can give our lost friends is to share the love we're capable of with other little furballs who might otherwise never know/experience it.

Anyone who doesn't think a person can mean that much to an animal is truly missing out on one of life's great experiences.

Best wishes to you and yours.

Cynthea said...

What a moving and beautiful tribute to The Lady.

EvaHart said...

That is one of the most beautiful and moving things I have ever read. Thank you for sharing, i'm sure it wasn't easy- I'm sitting here with tears running down my face, remembering what it's like, how painful it is.
Losing a pet is not trivial, and the greif you feel should never be dimished. Losing someone that
has been a part of your life for so long will always hurt, it doesn't matter if it is an animal or a human.

It fills me with fear sometimes when I look at my two beatiful cats and know that one day they won't be there. However all the lovely things you wrote about The Lady reminded me that although nothing will ever replace them, you will always have memories, because they last forever.

Unknown said...

I know how incredibly difficult it was to write that. My cat, my dear sweet Smilo, left us almost 4 years ago, and reading this brought back so many memories, and so much emotion, that I'm sitting here at my desk at work crying, and trying not to sob out loud. We got two cats almost a year ago, and part of the reason we waited so long--a reason I think about even now at times--is that I dread that day coming for them, and I know it will.

You loved her and she loved you--and that is still true. That is the best gift you could give her. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

I haven't checked your site in awhile but decided to tonight. Can't believe it. This past week I had to put my 14 year old cat to sleep. I can relate to everything you went through. I too was away and came home to see how frail he had become in such a short time. I did get to spend that last night with him on the couch since he was too weak to get on or off the bed and I am so grateful that I did. Even in his feeble state he purred and I know felt comforted. You are not alone in your love for these little creatures we take into our lives. Thanks for sharing your story. It helped. I am sorry for your loss and wish you all the best.

Dusk said...

That was beautiful, and I can imagine who hard that must have been to write. And my new kitten was on lap licking my arm as i read it, I think she got a tear or two on her!

Two big ones, plus this one, all under 6, so they've got time but I still remember the day we had to say goodbye to the cat I had since I was 3. I was 14/15 but I still bawled.

I pity anyone whose too close-minded to see what little balls of love they are.

Sorry for you loss, and thank you for the post.

Marebabe said...

Bless you, dear Nikki. That was so wonderful. And may I say, most of the humans I’ve ever known who died never had such a splendid eulogy. You loved her, and your heart aches from losing her. And I’m trying to type this while sniffling and dabbing at tears. I can hardly see my computer monitor. (Now that I think of it, it IS better that I didn’t read this while at work today.)

Thank you. And again I say, bless you.

Therem said...

Thank you for telling this story, Nikki. I, too, lost a beloved cat at the age of 14 to kidney disease, and your account is very similar to my experience. I'm crying now thinking of Norman (that was his name when he came to me, and I never changed it, though it seemed silly) & feeling much sympathy for you. It sounds like your Lady was a treasure.

Allison said...

This makes me so, so sad. Our 11 year old kitty is going to get extra cuddles tonight.

jamurphy99 said...

Nikki, That was beautiful. I lost my Pookie when he was 19 1/2 years old and it was too soon. He came into my life when I was 20 and still living at hime, and left me a few months before my 40th birthday. A lot happens between 20 and 40. Pookie came with me when I got married, and divorced. Then it was just the two of us living in a tiny studio apartment in Brooklyn. When I remarried, Pookie gained a sister, Cara. They never became good friends but tolerated each other. A few years later, we brought in Basil. Basil adored Pookie...they slept together, played together and ate together. When our daughter was born, Pookie LOVED her. I would leave her on the floor on a blanket while straightening up, making the bed, etc., and Pookie would watch over her. He and I slept together: me spooning him and tucking my hand under his belly. I was very lucky to lose Pookie to old age, as opposed to cancer at 10 years old, like Basil. Very lucky. We have 3 cats again, this time all girls. I love them very much...I sleep with Cali and Uma...but, 7 years later, I still miss my Pookie. There will never be another Pookie. Pets are so wonderful. I cannot imagine my life without them.

lucindaa said...

I'm so sorry for your loss Nikki. We lost our dog, Macy, a week ago and this post just brought back all those memories and emotions.

She was only 9, we have the same birthday so she would have been 10 the same day I turn 21 this April, and it was very sudden. I took her for a walk and she was fine, a couple of hours my dad found her dead in the front yard, we never got a chance to say goodbye and we'll never know exactly why she died.

It feels so strange to look out of the window and not see her, or to go out and get the mail and not be able to say hello to her, I've never lived in this house without her...

She's been a part of my life since I was 11, now she's gone and I'm thinking about her almost constantly.

That was a beautiful tribute to your Lady.

humanebean said...

Love, just like laughter,
lingers long in memory
when we say goodbye.

Once joined, never apart.
Those who have gone on ahead
know this to be true.

The heart remembers
when pain has been forgotten.
They are with us still.

Suzanne said...

Nikki, I am so sorry for your loss. My sister recently lost a cat who I was reminded of while reading your lovely tirbute go your Lady. I mourn the loss of Ashlee every time I go to her house and realize after several hours that this time Ashlee won't be coming to give me her discerning greeting.

Again, I am so sorry for your and your family's pain!

Bridget said...

I'm so sorry Nikki! It was beautiful and she was a beautiful kitty.

Beachgirl5835 said...

I'm crying my eyes out. For you and your Lady. My all my dogs, living and gone, but never forgotten.

Marebabe said...

@humanebean: Beautiful.

Fred said...

There will always be a corner, a room we walk into, a sound that will startle a memory of that one who has passed away. Their absence will become a kind of presence, and time will seem a distance from where we parted. My sympathies for your family in losing such a precious little individual (not just a cat, but a little person in a fur coat).

Blam said...

Oh, Nikki... I've lost cats young and old, suddenly and after long illnesses. You're never prepared; it's always too soon.

I have a pair of cats right now, the first to which I'm a parent instead of a big brother, and while we've had a precious 15 years together I'm still not ready for them to go — even as I know that we don't have enough time left. Pebbles is a dainty little girl, orange and white like Lady; Bamm-Bamm is a big baby-faced boy, mostly black and grey with some of Pebbles' coloring on his chin and belly. He got sick early last week for the first time since he was quite young, and while some antibiotics seem to have cleared things up the experience is a reminder of the familiar, inevitable pain that's coming.

Nobody without pets understands the special kind of unconditional love they bring; it's their loss. Despite the pain of our loss when time is up, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I'm thinking of you.

VW: barifti — Ftarbucks employees.

Austin Gorton said...

Aw, Nikki, I'm so terribly sorry for you loss. Thank you for sharing this story, I know it must have been terribly hard (I teared up reading it; I can only imagine what it was like writing it).

I'm a total softie when it comes to animals; my wife is a vet tech, and she knows not to tell me about any animals that come in with a sad story and the need for a home unless she's prepared to bring that animal home, because I'll want to do just that.

My childhood cat, Grizzy (Grizzabella; my mom loves Andrew Lloyd Weber's Cats) was a female orange tabby, like your lady. She died of similar kidney problems shortly after I moved in with my wife (then girlfriend). My wife had a cat already, and Grizz was by then old and crotechty, set in her ways, disliking of any other animals, and suffering from a kidney disease, so I left her with my parents.

Grizz was a family cat, but she was very much *my* cat. She clearly favored me, and everyone knew it. It broke my heart to leave her behind, but it was for the best. She died shortly after I moved out, and while I know she never could have come with me, I still wonder if she didn't slip away a little faster because I wasn't around as much, and I still regret not cherishing our time together more.

My wife and I have two cats and a dog now, and we'll be devastated whenever any of them passes on, which will be far too soon (but then, there's no so such thing as having "enough" time with the ones you love, is there?).

Again, thanks for sharing Nikki, and my condolences to you and your family. Your lady will live on not just in your hearts, but in the hearts and minds of all the people who have read this.

Helena said...

Nikki, thank you for sharing your story. I am in tears thinking of you at that final moment. Those of us who have been there know how you feel.

Jessica said...

I really wish there was an alert on this. I went into it, thinking it wouldn't be that bad, but as I sit here at work the tears are just falling down my face.
I am a full blown cat-lady (my hubby and I currently have 4) whose recent acquistion of a puppy dog for her husband has only solidified my belief that cats are far superior ("Cats rule and dogs druel!")
Reading this I kept having flashbacks to the day after Thanksgiving 2 years ago. My husband had never liked cats when we first moved in together, but he found a lost kitten, only 4 weeks old, with a curly-q tail, that sat on his shoulder in the truck the whole way home. My husband had been joking about getting a duck, so he named his new baby Ducky (he had thought it was a girl at first but we cat-owners often get this wrong.)
He bottle fed his baby boy, he slept with us from the first night on, even peeing on me because he was too small to get off the bed. This cat who eventually grew to be about 4 feet long and 22 lbs, loved my husband without hesitation. He came when called or whistled to. He dominated his female counterparts and left his white fur on every guest because he loved everyone. He had a penchant for stealing food off your plate, licking pepsi cans, and stepping on my husband's manhood when he came in for kisses (not good when you consider his weight.)
My husband woke me up at 8 am and I knew immediately something was wrong. He had heard a crash, bang, boom in the middle of the night ( a common occurance in a 5 cat household) and apparently our monster fell.
Over the past two years he has chastised himself for kicking Ducky out of the bed that night because he was stepping on his face and for not getting up to check when the crash occurred.
Nothing. Nothing replaces the love an animal brings to a home. I am ready to curl into a ball right now and cry or fly to Canada to give you a big hug. Thank you for sharing your story and for being honest about the hurt when others act as if it's no big deal.

Nikki Stafford said...

I haven't taken the time to thank all of you for your lovely comments and your own beautiful and sad stories. I was especially touched by those who said they hugged their kitties or dogs a little bit tighter that night. I know that our other two cats have certainly gotten more attention and affection in the past month as a result. Your stories were wonderful and brought tears to my eyes, too.

Her name wasn't Lady (for some reason I suddenly felt that her unique name was something that maybe I should keep to myself; I don't know why, it just felt right) but that was our nickname. Many of you with pets know that you give your cat or dog one name and almost never call them that, haha! But I love that you're all calling her that, because she really was one.

Sorry for those who got caught up and were suddenly crying unexpected tears! I hope I didn't embarrass too many of you at work. ;)

My husband has always said, "Never trust someone who doesn't like animals." I'm deeply honoured and happy to be among so many people who I can obviously trust, by that rationale. Your stories were beautiful, and I hope to hear even more.

I'm so sorry for all the losses all of you have had to endure. For as much complaining as I did about the cost of things (getting our credit card bill a month later with close to $2000 in costs was a punch in the gut) it takes a special person to become a vet, to comfort people losing these best friends. I hate that so many of us have had to do it.

My husband said to me after, "Isn't it interesting that we could tell she was in pain and there was no quality of life, so we did what we felt was best, and in three seconds all that pain was gone. Funny how we don't show the same kindness to human beings." So true.

I love my girl, and thank you for sharing the love that you've all had for your "little people in fur coats," as Fred so eloquently put it. ;)

JS said...

I am glad I stopped by tonight to read this.  I've had a bad week, and this puts things in perspective.

My (current) husband brought up my cats today because he saw I was sad and wanted to cheer me up.  

My (ex) husband put down our Gracie over ten years ago now, also due to kidney issues.  I called him on September 12th 2001 to check on him - we lived downtown Brooklyn - and we had just broken up 5 months earlier.  When I asked after George and Gracie, he said, "Oh, I had to put Gracie down over the summer."  I have to tell you, with everything else happening at that time, I can still say that was most devestating to me.  I wasn't there for her, didn't get to see her, or love her enough.  I have thought about her every day since.  Every single day.  

Since we haven't been on speaking terms since our divorce a year later, I do not know if Georgie Boy (that's what we called him) is still here, but if he is he'd be twenty.  I'd like to think he is still chasing shadows and flies, and comes when called, maybe a little slower now.  I hope he got another friend, though I know he must have been so sad to lose Gracie.  

Thank you so much Nikki for your beautiful words.