A few months after K died in 2005, I got a frantic call from K's mom. She was a volunteer at a nursing home, and a lady that she had cared for had this cat. Yes, the nursing home allowed pets. Nice place. Well, the cat, named Pumpkin, had taken to nipping when she wanted attention, and since the lady was very elderly with frail skin that broke easily, her family decided she couldn't have the cat anymore.
"Can you take her in?" Growing panic in the voice. A desperate plea.
I really didn't want another cat at that point. I was still in shock from losing K (and would be for most of the year. Or maybe the rest of my life, I'm still not sure), and the thought of emotional attachment, not to mention the financial cost, was too much to contemplate at the time. My mind searched for alternatives.
"Isn't there anyone in the family that can take her?"
"No, no one wants her."
"Is there anyone else at the home that can handle her?" I was thinking that maybe someone a little younger could tolerate the nips. I could tell from the description she was just being playful. "Or, how about an ad in the paper?"
"No, nobody here will take her. The family is going to have her put to sleep today if I can't find a place for her."
Well, that did it. I was obviously the last hope for a cat I had never met, and I wasn't going to turn down a woman who had just lost her adult child a few months before. I love K's mom and would do anything to help her out, especially if saving this cat would bring her some comfort and a sense of accomplishment.
Off I went to get the cat.
And I could tell right away, what a sweet cat she was. Mellow. Friendly. Confident. She came home with me, didn't fuss a bit in the car, and immediately fit in with Baby (she's the one in my Flickr avatar). She took charge of the place in very short order, and established herself as the Princess Who Will Not Be Denied. Baby was cool with that. And yes, she would nip from time to time, but I discovered if you just give in and give her whatever it is she wants, when she wants it, everything will be fine, thankyouverymuch. A cuddle-bunny, she insists on a few minutes under the covers on those cold winter nights, where she would receive some pets and immediately break out in loud purrs, only to leave after a bit to settle down right by my side through the night, every night. And wake me up very early for food.
So, that's MISS Pumpkin to you, and that's what I call her. That, or "Orange Kitty". Not sure why I started saying that, but there it is.
Fast forward four years. In early 2009, she started losing weight. Everything else was normal; behavior, food, all the usual... just got very thin. Took her in to have her checked out, where they discovered a heart murmur. An echo-cardiogram showed thickening of the heart walls, and the diagnosis was made. She has heart disease. It's incurable. Nothing could be done. "Matter of time" they told me. "Could be tomorrow, could be years".
Home we went. And as it turns out, we had two-and-a-half very good years.
Right now, she is sleeping on her "spot", my old laptop bag that I had left on the floor. It's cool and comfortable. She has fluid in her belly that has made her appear quite bloated in the middle - it's a sign that she is entering end-stage heart failure. I have some medicine that * might * help a bit, but we have days, maybe a couple weeks, tops. When it becomes obvious that quality of life is gone (she's fine at this moment, no pain, still eating and drinking, behavior normal), I will have to make that decision.
God, I hate making that decision. I've had to do it before, a few times now as a matter of fact, and of course it's never easy. The heartache is so profound. But you know. You know when it's time. You don't want them to hurt. It's the kindest thing you can do when the end is near, to relieve that suffering, and to be with them when they go. But man, it rips you up. Being an adult really sucks sometimes.
That's the price we pay for outliving our furbabies, but they give so much back in their short lives, it's worth it. I feel so very blessed to have had such a good friend for these last six years.
So, I may not be around much. We will see. This heat over the next few days will probably have me trapped, so maybe I will knock out a few things. It all depends on how I feel, on how she feels.
Go hug your pet. Give 'em a special treat. And know that you are loved.