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Posts Tagged ‘animals’

Some lessons bear repeating.

During a visit with my mom in August, I “rescued” an old jewelry box from her Goodwill bag. I really have no idea how long she’s owned it, but she’s had it for at least as long as she’s had me.

I had plans to do a little renovation (the top arch is hinged and is constantly falling over, which seems to be a constant reminder that it really doesn’t belong there) and maybe repaint the boring brown wood a more exciting color.

I embarked on my last semester of graduate school a week after I returned to Huntsville, and haven’t had time to give the jewelry box much thought.

It hit me last week: I don’t love this item. I love the memories associated with it. When I was growing up, it was a permanent accessory on Mom’s dresser, and each drawer held a different treasure. A tiny gold bracelet that belonged to me when I was a baby. A large, exotic cameo pin. Mom’s class ring.

It was a mysterious treasure chest filled with things I didn’t get to see every day.

Without those items, indeed, without those MOMENTS, it’s just a big wooden box. I don’t even have a good place to put it, much less things to put in it.

Higher purpose time: One of my favorite local animal rescue groups, A New Leash on Life, recently donated $10,000 to Huntsville’s low-income spay/neuter program. The organization’s thrift store, called Market Place, made this donation possible. People donating their gently used goods make the Market Place possible.

As for Mom, she would much rather see her jewelry box sold to help animals than for it to linger on my closet shelf.

And the lesson repeated? Don’t think you have to hold on to things to hold on to memories.

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I found this little guy (or girl) traversing my front sidewalk today. Given the usual behavior of caterpillars and beetles in my front yard, I expect him to be in my kitchen tomorrow morning, ready to scare the sleepy out of me at 5:45 a.m.

He could at least stay for a chat, a la Alice in Wonderland.

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A lot of people have asked me how Yang, Yin’s brother, is doing now that he’s by himself. I have to admit that he’s been practicing being a solo cat for a couple of years, hanging out with his brother only for meals and the occasional fight or stair chase.

My mom says that animals know what’s going on in the household probably more than we do. I suspect that he knew his brother was very sick; a couple of times in the week before Yin died, I saw Yang sniff his brother and give him a quizzical look. I think he was also giving food to Yin. For the past few weeks he had been leaving food on his plate that Yin quickly scarfed up; once Yin was gone, he began eating every bite.

He’s been a little snugglier, and he’s slowly learning to ask for meals and snacks (Yin was always the town crier when it was food time). He hasn’t gone around the house looking for his brother; I think he knows Yin is gone for good. So, in a word, Yang is OK. And the rest of the household is well on the way to OK, too.

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I received tons of kind, helpful advice from a lot of people recently regarding some difficult decisions my husband and I had to make about our cat, Yin. The statement that stayed with me day and night, though, was one that a fellow Alabama blogger, Bo, shared. Bo’s 15-year-old dog had died in her sleep not even a week before my original post, and his comment struck home: “I really wish I would have controlled her last moment with us.”

Thursday, September 2, was Yin’s final day with us. I gave him a tour of the garage, a spot off-limits to cats for a number of reasons, and spent literally hours rubbing his belly and his soft, silky ears whenever he would put up with it. I baked a piece of chicken so he could enjoy the smell and the anticipation of one of his favorite treats.

As I was putting a few pieces of soft, too-sweet cantaloupe down the garbage disposal, I heard the distinct ka-chunk of Yin jumping down from the refrigerator; he had always loved melon and was sniffing the air, wondering where his share was. I panicked, realizing I had just thrown away the last bit of melon in the house on the last day the biggest melon lover in the family was going to be around. I quickly grabbed a container of homemade coconut-cantaloupe ice cream out of the freezer and patiently sucked the ice cream off of a few cat-sized pieces of melon. Yin enjoyed every mushy bite.

My husband seared a piece of ahi tuna for dinner so that Yin and his brother, Yang, could enjoy their fair share of what has turned out to be their favorite food ever.

It was an epic last day.

I spent the night on the couch downstairs because I didn’t want Yin to wake up alone during his final few hours. I fed him chicken at 1:30 a.m. when he got up to find the litter box, and rubbed his ears until he decided to go back to sleep on the fridge at 3.

Yin died at around 8:30 a.m. on Friday, September 3, as my husband stroked his side and I rubbed his head and left ear.

Not wanting to leave his body to the care of strangers, we drove him to the crematorium ourselves. We wrapped him in a pillowcase that my grandmother had embroidered before she died in June, and outfitted him with two toys, five Greenies and a tablespoon of catnip for the cremation.

A little over an hour later, we left with a small metal tin containing his ashes.

Thus ends the saga of Yin, who we cared for from the time he and his brother showed up on the carport of our rental house in Mobile, Ala., to the moment we left his tiny body in the cremation room.

It was a fun 13 years. I miss him like crazy, but I also feel honored that we were able to help him have a dignified end to a wonderful life.

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At 8 a.m. on Friday, what was going to be a return checkup for Yin will instead be our peaceful goodbye to him. He’s been putting up with treatment for his chronic renal failure, but he’s tired. So tired. He doesn’t feel good, and he doesn’t know why.

I think he would keep taking pills and subcutaneous fluids for as long as his little body would hold out, but those treatments just don’t seem right anymore. He hasn’t gained any weight. He spends his days and nights on the refrigerator, coming down only to eat and seek out the litter box. He eats like a champ, but then tucks himself back into his spot on the fridge, displaying varying stages of discomfort or, mercifully, falling into a deep sleep.

I’m tired, too. I lie awake at night, terrified when I hear a noise downstairs, even more terrified when I don’t.

This is the bravest, kindest and most difficult decision I’ve ever been a part of.

A couple of times a day, he’ll perk up and almost resemble his old self, meowing at the top of his lungs for tuna or climbing onto my shoulders pirate cat-style for a ride around the first floor. These episodes give me pause, but I can’t make him go on just for the sake of an occasional glimmer of hope.

His work is done here. To paraphrase one of my favorite professor’s favorite quotes, there will soon be a Yin-shaped hole in the universe. I can never fill it, but at least I’ll always know that I let him go with dignity.

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14-year-old cat requires four medications per day, plus subcutaneous fluids. Husband has a dermatological bandage to be watched and changed. The refrigerator is making a noise reminiscent of angry bees.

I have never felt more grownup, married or inept.

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So my husband says that if I write about this, I’ll feel better, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true because I don’t know what to write.

One of my cats is dying. Hell, ALL cats are dying, this one’s just on a downhill path: chronic renal failure, the kidney malfunction associated with bad luck and old cats everywhere.

Yin is 14 years old. That’s apparently the equivalent of a 70-something-year-old person, so it’s not entirely unexpected that he should have issues. Frankly, however, his brother has always been our “issues” cat, so I didn’t see this coming.

I’m sort of OK with the idea that he won’t be around much longer, more OK than random outbursts of tears and total lack of appetite would indicate. What I’m not OK with is that I just don’t know what to do. We were sent home today with antibiotics, blood pressure medicine and CRV cat food, among other gels and pills.

The most confusing bag, however, contains a big bag of subcutaneous fluids and a box of 100 needles.

Sure, I watched the vet give a demonstration of administering the “sub-Q,” and I’m pretty sure I can do it, but I’m not sure if I SHOULD do it. I don’t want to turn my cat into a patient, waking up each day only to await a needle and a bunch of pills. It seems … undignified. Especially if he’s not going to be himself, and he HASN’T been himself in a couple of weeks. He used to make every step I made, spend at least half the night sleeping beside me and bound upstairs every morning at 5:15 to wake me up. Now, he lives in the kitchen. Preferably on top of the refrigerator. I might add that he jumps on top of the refrigerator himself, so it’s not a mobility issue, just a lunatic issue. He’s always been a bit of a mad hatter.

I never thought I would miss my 5:15 wake-up meow, but I find myself wide awake at 5:20 every morning, wishing he would scamper up by my pillow and voice his discontent right next to my ear (he totally knows what ears are for). I’ve realized that I’m even going to miss the scratches on my arms, just because I’ve gotten so very used to them (Stockholm syndrome + bad cats go hand in hand).

OK, maybe I do feel slightly better. But I still don’t know what to do. Other than text message my mom because I didn’t tell her about the cat this weekend because I didn’t want to send us both on an apocalyptic crying fit that would pretty much screw up both days for everybody.

Being a grownup sucks. Being a control freak faced with an array of decisions with uncertain outcomes sucks even more.

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