Thursday, April 10, 2014
Loss of my best friend
I’ve always been really proud to be an animal lover and a very proud pet parent. My beloved cat Meowshine had been with me for 11 years (I adopted him when he was 4-5 yrs old from the rescue league) and I can’t remember a time that I didn’t love him. He was my constant companion that was always there for me through the toughest times in my life. Through the death of my best friend Sarah (who helped me pick him out), through the painful grief that followed her death, through the demise of my marriage and through the divorce, through an accident that seriously injured my dad (and almost killed him), and through the countless ups and downs life has thrown my way. He’s been my constant source of comfort. No matter who came in or out of my life, Meow was always there for me. Never judging me, always giving me complete unconditional love and helping me cope with whatever state my life was in. When I felt unlovable, Meow was there to show me how he loved me regardless of how I felt about myself or how I acted. When I was so sad I could barely make it off the couch, he was right there beside me gently purring me along. He kept me going during those really difficult times and he gave me something to look forward to. No matter what I lost at least I still had my sweet Meowshine. He was the best cat and best friend a girl could ask for. I loved him so much and I was not ashamed of the bond we had. Call me a crazy cat lady (many others have before) but I really don’t care. No one knows what that cat meant to me and the bond we had and I refuse to let others make me feel bad about that. I’m not sure how loving something so completely is a bad thing but for some reason there are people who tried to make me feel that way. Thankfully there have been many others that understand it and have been so sweet and supportive, which I am beyond thankful for. Over the last year and a half of Meowshine’s life his health started to decline. He was always a healthy cat and he was my first pet so this decline was not something I knew how to deal with. I’m so thankful to his vet Dr. Mack and how wonderfully she cared for him. On April 7th, 2013 she figured out that he either had a mass on his pancreas or he was diabetic. She suggested that we try insulin to see if that would help and I agreed on giving him twice a day insulin injections. There was very little I wouldn’t do for that cat. He had his ups and downs over the next 9 months but progressively he got a lot better which made me so happy. He started purring again, gaining weight again and was a happy elderly cat – in spite of being blind, on heart medication and being injected twice a day with insulin. Minor details, right? In August we got a good dose of insulin figured out (after taking him to the Vet twice a month for blood sugar checks) and things were looking up. I knew that he wasn’t going to live until he was 20 (which I always told myself) but I was hoping for some more good years with my little old man. In the first few weeks of December I noticed he started being finicky again about what he would eat, often refusing to eat and started losing weight again. When he didn’t eat I couldn’t give him his injections which of course was cause for concern. Since he had started getting sick I was constantly worrying about him. Toward the end of December he wouldn’t go to the bathroom in the litter box but instead went everywhere else. I was constantly cleaning up after messes and worried he wasn’t doing as well as he had been. After taking him to Dr. Mack again she advised me to up his insulin dose again but also warned me it might be getting close to his time. I was in complete denial because he had bounced back so many times before. The following week I notice blood in his urine. She said it could be a UTI, which diabetic cats are highly susceptible to, but it also could be his organs shutting down. She prescribed me some antibiotics to see if that could help. In early January 2014 we were set to leave on vacation to Mexico. I was worried sick for weeks before we left. I worried about Meow and how he would do under someone else’s care. Would they care for him to the same level that I would? I knew he wouldn’t survive being boarded for a week and the vet tech agreed it wasn’t a good idea for him in his condition. My boyfriend’s sister was going to be at our apartment to care for his dog while we were gone and offered to care for Meow as well. I knew it was such a big thing to ask of someone else but didn’t have many other options left. I talked with the vet tech and signed some paper work that if anything happened while I was away that his sister could take him to Dr. Mack and she could make decisions on my behalf. I didn’t want to think he could die while I was away but I didn’t want to leave that to chance either. How awful would it be if I wasn’t prepared and the BF’s sister had to deal with that? I don’t think I would ever forgive myself for that. I wrote out two pages of instructions for her so she knew exactly how to take care of him. I don’t know that I realized just how much care he required from me or how much I was willing to do for him until I typed up that note. I was just willing to do whatever he needed and I didn’t think twice about it. But asking someone else to do it really made me realize the extent his illness. I really felt absolutely sick to leave him. We were set to leave early in the morning on Thursday January 9th. Our plane somehow got damaged so the flight was rescheduled to the next day. I was pissed at first but after some snuggling from Meow and accepting the situation, we took that additional day to tie up some other loose ends before we left. That morning Meow seemed fine but when we came back later that day he wasn’t quite himself. He was very lethargic, very slow moving and even spit up a little bit of white foam. My boyfriend’s sister came over that night and I was showing her how to prepare his food with his new antibiotic so I could show her how to inject him with his insulin. And once again he wasn’t having it and slowly wandered away. I tried again with no luck. A little while later discovered that he had diarrhea, which was my final big red flag that something really wasn’t right. I thought maybe the antibiotics didn’t agree with him though so I was going to call the vet when we landed in Minnesota to see what she’d advise (it was around 7pm and they were closed already) and keep a close eye on him that night. I really didn’t know what else to do at that point. I cradled my boy in my arms, kissed his head and placed him on his yellow blanket on the couch next to my boyfriend. I asked him to watch Meow while I jumped in the shower. As I had conditioner in my hair I hear the door crack open and his sister’s voice through the door that something was wrong with Meowshine. I didn’t hear the panic in her voice I expected if something was really wrong so I started to quickly wash the conditioner out of my hair and then I heard my boyfriend yell my name with panic in his voice and I could tell something was really wrong. I ran out wrapped in a towel to see Meowshine having a seizure on the couch next to him. He and his sister were holding his head and trying to keep him steady and comfort him. Meow was full on shaking, foaming/spitting from the mouth. We rushed him to the vet hospital. I can so clearly remember the details of that night. Clutching him tightly to my chest as my boyfriend drove us the short drive to the animal hospital, him all wrapped up in his yellow blanket that he loved. He loved it because I loved it. It was mine from when I was little, all tattered and worn and it was one of his favorite places to be cuddled up on. We were just snuggled up in it that morning as I was trying to figure out what was going on with our flight. I was crying into his soft fur, kissing his head, telling him repeatedly that everything was going to be ok. My mind was reeling. My boyfriend dropped us off at the door, I fumbled my way through the automatic doors with what seemed like endless handicap buttons and locks. The girl at the desk asked what they could help me with and I could barely get anything out. I managed to choke out that I just called about my cat and they took him back to the room as she tried to get my information. Somehow between sobs she got my name and address. I was absolutely beside myself. When my boyfriend got inside after parking the car they led us to an exam room. Meow was somewhere else but there was a vet student there waiting to ask us questions. It was the 2nd time in a week that I realize just how sick he was, just how much care he needed from me as I rattled off all the medical issues he had that I could remember in my panicked state. The vet student left and after a while the vet came in. A pretty, petite blond with a sweet voice. She said a lot of stuff that my mind could not comprehend... “It might be his kidneys... He’s really dehydrated… We need to do diagnostic tests to see exactly what the problem is and those will run around $3,500. And if we do that to find the problem there’s no guarantee that what we find is fixable… He needs hospitalized… He’s really sick… If it is kidney disease (as she suspected), there’s no guarantee that he doesn’t have other issues to complicate that. That would be a lot of work on your part and then you have to ask yourself about the quality of his life…” It seemed to go on and on. My mind was spinning. I could not compute what she was saying. It just didn’t make sense to me in the moment. My reply was, ‘Ok, so if I take him home with me tonight…what exactly are you saying?’ I thought I could take him to Dr. Mack in the morning and somehow she could fix it like she had done so many times in the last year. Or somehow she could make things more clear for me. She knew Meow, she knew me. She cared about us and could help us make whatever decisions we needed to make. Dr. Mack the one who would sit with Meow when I boarded him in October and wouldn’t eat to try to get him to eat. I didn’t know this vet. I’m sure she was nice and sweet but I wanted to be with Dr. Mack who we both came to trust. The vet said that I couldn’t take him home that he was too sick and needed hospitalized. She said if I wasn’t going to hospitalize him, do all the tests that she suggested that she suggested that we euthanize him. My heart stopped. She left the room so we could make the decision. I knew when it got to the point that a decision needed made that I would have to do what was right for Meow. I never wanted to give up on him but I wanted to make sure that when it was his time to go that I made the right decision. No matter how much I wanted to keep him around because of the comfort and love he brought into my life, I knew that the moment he was in pain and there was nothing realistically I could do for him that I had to choose to end his suffering. I knew that it was the best thing for him but it didn’t make the decision any less heart breaking. I knew that I had to do it but I didn’t want to. I wanted to take my buddy home with me and love him back to health. My love for him was so strong it should have been able to save him. In my mind and my heart it didn’t make sense that my love couldn’t do that. I wanted my love to be enough of a reason that he had to stay with me always. But in the end, that love was what I had to use to let him go…no matter how much it broke my heart. And it was weird because something washed over me and I knew it was time. I knew what I had to do. I wish I had the money to pay for all the tests so I knew that I truly exhausted everything but in the end it didn’t matter. He was far too sick that none of that would have mattered, there would be no answers on things we could do to help him. My poor boy was riddled with cancer and diseases that we couldn’t save him from. When the vet came back I told her what I decided and she said it was the right decision for him. It was hard to take much comfort in that in the moment. I had tried to imagine many times before how it would go if I had to make the decision to put Meowshine down. I really wanted him to die peacefully in his sleep to avoid any pain and avoid me having to decide. They lead us to this very large family room and then brought my sweet Meow in, still all wrapped up in his yellow blanket so we could say our goodbye’s to him. I sat with my beloved buddy and again cried into his soft orange fur. Like I did so many times when my heart was broken but this time it was the last time. I kissed his head a million times in a row like I loved to do. I stroked his soft head with my free hand and talked to him. I told him that I was going to miss him so much and that I loved him even more. I told him that he was going to go to sleep and when he woke up he wouldn’t be in any more pain and would feel so much better. I told him that he was such a good cat and I was so lucky to be his mom. I told him over and over that I loved him so much and I was so sorry that he had to go. I told him to say hi to Sarah for me and that she would take good care of him until it was my time to join them. I kissed, sobbed and cuddled him until the vet came back in. When it was time to administer the drugs, he was cradled in my loving arms comfortable in his favorite blanket. They took his front paw out that had a little IV in it. It was so small and so cute. I remember reacting with an automatic ‘awww’. They told me the three things they were going to inject, one to clean it out, one to put him to sleep and one to stop his heart. As they started their injecting, I just kept repeating over and over again that I loved him, that I loved him so much. Over and over. I so badly needed the last thing for him to hear was that I loved him, I needed that to be what he left with and it was. I needed him to leave this world knowing that his momma loved him more than anything and that he heard that loud and clear. I needed him to be surrounded with our love to help make his passing on a little easier on him. He peacefully drifted away in my arms and it was done. My sweet beloved boy was gone. My heart was destroyed. I miss Meowshine terribly. Some days are better then others but the loss of him has weighed very heavy on me. Our lives had become so intertwined and not having to worry and care for him has left me feeling very lost. I read somewhere that grief is love with no place to go. I like that because I loved him so much and it makes sense that I would be grieving this much over losing him. It’s hard to be able to grieve the loss of a pet because there are people who don’t understand. They view the pet as ‘just an animal’ and it is hurtful to feel so misunderstood. If my best friend died or my child, people would understand that I was having a hard time. While I understand that it’s different I don’t understand why something so painful to me feels discounted by others. Minimized. Like it doesn’t matter. Like Meow didn’t matter. But you know what? He mattered to me and even if his life didn’t matter to anyone else, his life and him being in my life completely changed it. And that is worth my pain, worth my anguish, worth my mourning. He is worthy of that and I refuse to let anyone try to tell me different. To anyone grieving I hope you find the strength to grieve how you need to, no matter what the people around you say about it. You have a duty to yourself to process the loss and feel that pain. It is so much better to deal with it know then to pretend it away and deal with it later. The last three months have been difficult but having grieved before I knew slightly what to expect and what I have found helpful in the past. Each day I process the grief in different ways, to incorporate it into my life more and more. I still hate that he was gone but I now know that I did the right thing for him. I miss him terribly and I know I always will. I did decide to open my heart and my home to another cat and while I really wasn’t expecting to do that so soon, I am glad I did. He brings a light back into my life and it feels nice to smile and laugh again. To care for something else and to be able to pet that soft fur, hear those purrs, it’s really comforting to a broken heart. I miss Meowshine and I always will. But I am glad that I opened my heart to Drake and I know that Meowshine loving legacy lives on. It doesn’t mean he meant any less to me, I’m not replacing Meow. I’m just continuing the love I have to share with another animal. I know Meow would have wanted me to.