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.