You asked me if I could write the story of the last couple of months of losing dear friends. I'm honestly not sure. But if I don't try I'll never know. It's a very personal story so I'm giving up all pretense at writing in the third person and just telling you what happened.
Last year, in November of 2008, Tom and I had the rather horrific experience of having two much loved cats diagnosed with cancer in the space of 24 hours. One cat was 18 and elegant and settled; one was only 8 and a character filled rabble rouser. One was black and white; one was white with little splotches of colour. One male; one female. You see how it is going I'm sure - one Ying and one Yang. Tom has written about Kali - our troubled little street kitty at length - he wrote about her life not so much about her struggles over the last year.
Dumont has a pretty neat story all in his whole right. He was part of an epic - a piece of 36 years of loving individual cats for me. We adopted him the day after my first cat Rum died - I was in university and had gone to the clinic to pay the bill. The vet asked if we were looking for another pet and I said no. I was told the sad tale of this adorable four month old who had been abandoned when the owners couldn't pay for the needed surgery to remove a coin from his throat. The humane society arrived to pick him up and they were sent away. I left the clinic empty handed and when I got home Tom asked how it had gone. I told him the story of the abandoned soul and he looked behind me for a new addition.
When I realized he was serious we raced back to the clinic to pick up Dumont. Dumont lived with us for 18 years - more or less a few days - he was the picture of health - right up to a crisis last fall. He had surgery to remove a tumour on his mid line at that time - our vet was sure it would be a mammary tumour but it turned out to be another tumour - a tumour common to dogs but rather unusual in domestic short haired cats. The surgery went well and he blossomed quickly - gaining weight and going back to sleek and active until the very end of September 2008. He had a bad episode of digestive upset and when I took him to the vet the blood results showed he had critical renal failure.
We did aggressive fluid and antibiotic therapy which he responded well too then I took him home - he happily accepted occasional sub q fluids til for over a month then he started resisting. This was a cat who didn't resist anything so I felt very strongly he had put up with enough. I honoured his request and he continued to eat, purr and sleep on my head.
Eventually he crashed: he lost interest in eating and drinking. I contemplated calling for a mobile vet for euthanasia - or taking him to our much loved vet for the procedure but he seemed quite determined to lie on the bed I set up for him in the kitchen and hold court. He wasn't in pain and he derived great comfort from having his family around him. I sat (and lay) with him non stop from 10 pm on ... he would fall asleep and wake up to find one of the cats gently touching him - licking his head, laying a paw over him or his sniffing his face gently. If his head slipped off my hand he'd carefully lift his head and wait til my hand was cradling his head again. He dozed quite peacefully. It was an oddly beautiful thing. The patriarch of the house - who had greeted each and every one of the animals in the house now said goodbye to all. He took his last breaths around 1:30 am or so and his heart stopped beating a short time later. The change in energy in the room when he left was eerie. He seemed very quiet and laid back in life but he carried an enormous life force.
Kali was very interested in his death. She sat right with us and watched quietly often curled up beside Dumont or on me. She battled her cancer for well over a year - and probably longer - her indomitable spirit kept her jumping on the fridge, telling off cats, batting little fake mice around the house, insisting on her nightly cuddles long after her blood values suggested she should be unable to walk let alone play. It was a bone marrow cancer of some sort - being Kali once we had a diagnosis we didn't do too much invasive stuff - she was not a fan of being handled on terms other than her own. We did a home course of chemo, and she was on two medications but apart from those daily medications we let her be. We did do two transfusions - one was for her in September as she so clearly wasn't ready to go and one was just before Christmas which, truth be told, was for me - losing two souls I loved dearly in far too short a time was more than I could bear. The first transfusion gave her excellent quality of life for nearly 4 months. The second did the same for three weeks. I would do both again in the same circumstances. A third transfusion simply wasn't feasible; she was far too weak and the time the tranfusion worked for was radically shorter the second time around.
Unlike Dumont, Kali was not mentally ready to go - she fought death with every action -even trying to walk away from her carrier as I prepared it for the drive to the vets. She had refused to eat for a day and was visibly weakening, she had done very deliberate rounds and the dogs had been particularly gentle and attentive with her. Her spirit was strong but her body was letting her down. Waiting would have been cruel as she was obviously confused and a little frightened by what her body was going through. The fabulous vet and her amazing tech and I considered all options - it was hard for all of us to accept that the end really had come. However there wasn't much we hadn't tried to extend her quality and quantity of life and we all realized that anything we could do short term might result in suffering or pain. To imagine Kali suffering was impossible. She lay peacefully in my arms for her final injection. Once the euthanol hit her vein her weak body gratefully drifted away even as she puffed her breath into my face as hard as she could. What a funny, spiritual, spirited girl she was.
They were amazing friends to us and a very special part of our family. We will miss them enormously. They have left holes that no one will be able to fill. (Why oh why do we keep loving them when losing them is inevitable?)I told Dumont to take care of all our friends (yours and mine) who await us at the bridge - and I can assure you that no matter the species he'll do his thing - in his gentle loving way. I asked Kali not to cause too much trouble and entertain everybody who is so patiently waiting. Patience is not in her vocabulary! The rainbow bridge is a better place now that they are there even as it is impossible to imagine life here without them.
Anyhow, thanks for asking for the whole story. I tell it not to be self absorbed nor to seek pity but to share the tale of two very different, much loved cats and how they continued to teach me even in death.
All my best,
6 days ago