Saturday, January 4, 2014

How do you say goodbye?

And by that title I literally mean, how do you say goodbye. Apparently italics are not permitted in titles in Blogger. Or, how have you said goodbye, in the past?

I am in "goodbye week" with Ivan. (I wrote that and got choked up. I came back later to continue) As his glucose levels go up and up, despite his change in insulin and a short-lived experiment with cinnamon that actually brought his glucose levels down for three beautiful days...until they started slowly climbing again. His neuropathy is severe, and he is unhappy walking. Not just uncomfortable--unhappy. The only time he seems content at all is when he has found a comfortable place to sleep with one of the other cats or clambers up on the bed to sleep with me. Then the old purr rumbles out. He doesn't eat more than a few bites even though he is hungry. His attention wanders, and off he goes away from the plate. If you set it in front of him again it's like he rediscovered it. Look! Food! Imagine that! So I'm syringe-feeding him after he's had his tiny bit from the elevated plate he eats from, to make sure he gets the same amount of food at the same times every day.

I have about $900 on my CareCredit card and considered taking him off to the emergency vet for an extended stay to see if his levels could be brought down there. But given how much he hates the car and the veterinarian, and how much he has been through, as well as his other issues, like his potassium deficiency and his seizures during sleep, I have decided against it. I also don't think $900 will do it in this day and age. There will be a part of myself that probably will always regret that I didn't make that last-ditch effort, but I've weighed it pretty carefully.

I had emotionally decided to have him put down before I began traveling again this spring for work. He requires too much hour-by-hour care for anything less than a live-in pet-sitter. I figured we'd at least have the winter together. Of course, if he rallied, I would have changed my mind.

However in the past four days his joie de vivre has tanked. Oh, he can get around. He can eat, and drink, and poop, and pee, and get from A to B (sort of). But clearly he's doing those things because his body says "It's time to eat. It's time to pee." Not, "Gee, I'd like to go look out the patio door and see what's going on."

There is still some "Gee, I'd like to jump up there to lie with Bear, or with Susan" left. I'm glad of that. But not much. And not always.

Both he and Cricket (who is also 16 plus years old) have taken to sleeping off in the bathroom by themselves (which is 42 degrees F right now in this below-zero freezing snap). Wandering off away from everyone else is a common behavior I've seen in the ill and elderly cats that have come through my life, when they are reaching that time when they just don't want any sensory overload, want to be left alone, and shortly pass on or become so ill they need help crossing over.

Still, when he's hungry or restless, Ivan still wobbles over to me in the kitchen, or will suddenly appear by my feet as I work at my stand-up desk. I'll look down in surprise and there he is, looking expectantly up at me with that sort of half-kitten look that is so surprising in a normally distinguished cat-of-attitude. His eyes aren't vacant. They are curious. This happens maybe once every few days. The rest of the time he focuses off in the distance, and even calling his name doesn't draw his attention. He is often too tired to make it to a comfortable bed and just pauses, eases over on his side, and lays down--even on cold hard floors that he never would have chosen when he was healthy.

I don't want his death to come after a frantic 45-minute drive to an emergency clinic at 2 in the morning because he has gone into convulsions. I feel he's really reaching the point where that kind of thing could happen at any time. I also don't want to discover him in a cat bed soaked with pee because he just can't be bothered to try to get to the litter box. He hates it when he gets food on his fur when I hand-feed him and he can no longer groom it off (Luckily Nellie takes care of that for him, since he also despises a washcloth. She grooms him religiously). I can't imagine how he would feel about being regularly soaked with urine.

So it's goodbye week for Ivan. He'll get all his favorite foods, to the extent that they won't make him feel too ill from diabetes. I'll take care not to yell at my computer when I get peeved with what appears there, to keep the stress level down. Because I close the house down to just the den, kitchen area, and bathroom in the winter, I've opened up all the rooms and cranked the heat so he can go where ever he wants. He immediately toddled off into the great room and popped up on the couch there, momentarily interested, and lay down. But soon he was back in the bathroom, this time with Nellie laying over him like a blanket. Nellie is my Angel of Death who suddenly begins paying special affectionate attention to the next cat to die, probably because she--a shy cat--feels less threatened by the dying one. Monday I'll call my vet and arrange for a home visit when it's convenient for her to come all the way out here. I'll take the day off from work. And I'll get used to it being very empty at that special place by my chest where Ivan likes to sleep.

I'm sure most of my readers have lost a cat, dog, or other animal who was very close to them. I know we love them all, but there are those few who simply complete us, the same as some humans--but not all--complete us. I'm guessing we all have our own rituals, when time gives us the opportunity to say goodbye to our friend.

So instead of "Susan, I'm so sorry" posts which might normally come at the end of an entry of this sort, it would bring some peace to me to hear how some of you have said "goodbye" to your pets in the past, whether it was before they passed on, or after. I'd rather hear about how much other people loved their past pets, rather than being told folks are sorry about me losing mine. If you are a blogger and you have blog posts of those times, feel free to leave a link or URL. Or if you want to write a blog post now, and then link from here to there, that would be fine, too.


  1. I've loved all the cats we've had who have died, and love the three we have now. But the one who was our heart cat was euthanized in October 2010 and I still get teary just thinking about it. He's buried here at home, and my husband inscribed his name on a small piece of white marble that's by his grave. I still try to keep the autumn leaves from covering it, and say hello when I walk by. As you said, there's always one who just completes you, and this gray boy was the one.

  2. I sang him his lullaby every time I hand fed him and held him close to me, to the tune of 'My Bonny'. Every line began with his name and how much I loved him and what we had done together or what I wanted him to think about for that day. On the last day, I told him that his spirit was different from his body and that his body was not working out as bodies get old but a spirit is always healthy and will live on forever and once he was separated from his body he would be able to do anything he wanted. I had to euthanize him and so I told him what would happen when the doctor came and as soon as he saw the doctor I told him to 'run fast and fly high'. I had him cremated and now his urn lies buried in front of my house, in a flower pot. I placed a white stone cat over it and I say hello to him and think of him every time I pass it.

  3. Susan, knowing that you read my blog, I'm certain you have read the many posts about the many cats and dogs that I have lost since I began the blog. In fact, my first post was about losing Clark. I started searching for links and started crying, just thinking about all of them. Since each one was (and still is) unique, I think each goodbye was different. Of course, each got added attention, which elicited guilt for me, questioning why I didn't take the time each and every day to appreciate them to their fullest while there was still time. However, having a houseful of them and working full time, didn't allow for that.

    I had to smile when you said that Ivan "completed" you. My Casey, who will be gone 14 years on January 10th was that an more to me. He changed my life and my view of non-human animals forever. I will share my post about him: Know that I understand what you are going through and my heart goes out to you and Ivan. Blessed be.

  4. All I have is Jack's obit, which I can email you if you want to read it. Your post makes me cry. Hugging you and Ivan.

  5. hi Susan
    If you believe in animal communicators, I have posted an entry where both my cats, Totoro and Megat had spoken from the bridge here If not it makes for some light reading in this sad week. Hugs.

  6. I try to remind myself that this stuff just goes with the territory, but somehow it never makes it any easier. I don't think that I've ever said goodbye to my babies in quite the same way as each one is so different - and what really stands out in my memory is how each one said goodbye to me. I really do think that they know.

    At one point I had two females who hated each other to such a degree that they had to be kept in separate floors of the house. When Mow, the eldest, was near the end she took a swift downturn one night and could barely stagger across the room. I planned to call the vet the next day to have her put down if she made it through the night. I stayed up with her, and after 3-4 hours where she could barely stand, she suddenly got up, marched across the room and stood at the gate to the stairway that separated her from her "sister".

    At first I thought she was just delirious and confused, but she meowed insistently, so I cautiously opened the gate and she went down onto the landing. Daisy, the younger of the two warring females came up and they sat quietly together for a few minutes purring, and even touched noses. Then they both turned and went back to their own territory. It was like she was finally calling a truce and wanted to say goodbye to Daisy. Mow died in my arms about an hour later.

    That was 10 years ago and my eyes still well with tears thinking about it. Anyhow, one thing I have always done with each of my kitties as they are leaving is to imagine all of my love as a light, and then I try to concentrate that light in my hands. Then I put my hands on my sweetie's chest or back and imagine all of the light going into them, and I tell them to feel how much I love them, and to take all of the love with them. And then I tell them that it will be OK, and that they can go.

    Much love to you during this difficult time.

  7. On Nov. 29, I lost my sweet Tillie. She was 10 and her passing was sudden (Acute renal failure).I was able to get to the vets when she died and she has been cremated. I felt devastated as we had such a bond.
    My oldest cat Tiger passed Jan 5 at 3:30AM.She had been slowing down and her kidneys were not great. A few days with fluids were not helping a lot. Rather than send her to the Emergency hospital for Sunday, I was able to bring her home.She was restless and dot interested in food or medication. She finally settled for the night.When she would wake,I patted her and told her it was OK for her to go.After a few hours of sleeping and waking, and many pats, she passed away . It was peaceful and now she is at peace.
    Losing two cats so close together has been hard. I know they are in a good place, but I miss them so much.
    Hugs to you as you say goodbye to Ivan. It is never easy.
    This quote was sent to me after Tiger died. I send it to you.

    "We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan." ~Irving Townsend.

  8. Susan, I just caught up with the rest of your blog and I know he is gone. And I am sorry. My first cat to go, Maggie, I dragged it out ridiculously. I put her through treatments and testing and hospitalization that only kept us apart, probably made her feel more pain and misery and put me in a lot of debt. She did finally die at home after a couple of days of me trying to shove food and medicine down her throat. I am glad she passed at home. But I would never ever would have wanted to have her go that way if I knew she wasn't going to recover. My other cat, Annieboo had a hard time breathing. I took her in to the vet for the last time and went home (they weren't sure when they could see her.) They called and an xray showed she had a large tumor on her heart compressing her lung. The vet said I could try to go to Cornell and see if they could remove some of the tumor so she could breathe but there was no guarantee how fast it was growing, if it was cancerous and had spread or if she would survive such a surgery. She had been ill for a while, and I knew she was at least 13 years old (I don't know how old she was when I adopted her.) I thought if I put her through that it would be more for me not her. I told them to euthanise her. My only regret is that I wasn't there. I had no one to drive me back there and I was so upset and crying so hard I didn't think it was safe for me to drive. I wish I had gone anyway. But I had been having "special Annieboo time" with her for weeks. I had a litterbox in my master bath so she could sleep with me with my bedroom door shut to keep the kittens out and I made sure she had plenty of extra cuddles. I think I knew she was going. Although I wish I had been with her at the very end, I try to remember that she knew I loved her and she would not want me to think of her and feel badly. But there really is no "good" way to say goodbye. It's just too painful. All you can do is what you think will allow you some peace after you have grieved. Not that that ever is completely done either.