Still Hanging in There

Trigger warning for pet illness and death

This past few weeks has been profoundly awful. Right on the heels of the relative’s medical emergency that I mentioned in my last post, we lost not one, but two, pets to serious illness.

My cat Thomas was 21 years old, which is an exceptional lifespan for a cat. (That’s not nearly as comforting as you’d think, now that he’s gone.)  He was at the vet only a couple weeks before, and everything checked out fine.  Then, one day, I was working at home, and he was meowing a lot.  He had always had a very tiny meow for a large cat, but this sounded particularly pitiful, like something was wrong. He was standing on the chest freezer, where we feed him and our other cat Haley.  (Sassy had her own spot on the bookshelf, because she got meds daily with her food.)

He had food, so I gave him water.  I noticed he was wet, which freaked me out a bit.  I made sure it wasn’t blood, and it didn’t smell like urine. (In hindsight, he had probably laid down in a wet spot on the floor.) I was worried enough that I asked Matt to come home and check on him.  Matt got him to the vet, and we found out that he had a mass in his bladder and his kidney numbers were off the charts. It was likely cancer, but they couldn’t be sure without more tests, which often don’t produce clear results.  Even if it was a bacterial infection, the prognosis wasn’t good.  So, we took him home and tried to spoil him rotten for a couple days prior to the euthanasia appointment. He wasn’t eating.  Initially, he liked water with tuna in it, but he soon lost interest in that too.  It was pretty apparent that he was done.

I’ve had Thomas for 13 years, so this was incredibly hard.

Meanwhile, Sassy’s kidney issues had gotten worse, and we started her on a kidney diet. Her thyroid numbers were also a bit wonky, and we were trying to get that correctly medicated. Last Thursday, we had her at the vet for bloodwork, and she went downhill so rapidly that they first wanted to keep her overnight for observation and IV fluids, and then didn’t think she’d make it through the night.  We didn’t want her to suffer, and we didn’t want her to die alone, so we made the awful decision to euthanize her.

These were the second and third time I’ve had to do this with a pet. The first was in some ways easier because we found out shortly after we started fostering Luna, an elderly beagle, that she had a heart condition that would eventually be terminal.  So, we quickly shifted gears from fostering in order to find her a forever home, to puppy hospice. She had several good years with us. Thanks to excellent care from a veterinary cardiologist, her heart condition stayed stable for some time. Unfortunately, when she developed cancer, the heart condition meant she wasn’t a candidate for surgery.

With Luna, our goal was always to give her as much good time as we could. I won’t pretend I didn’t get attached, because of course I did.  And I sobbed inconsolably at that final vet appointment. But there was such a long time when we knew we’d have to say goodbye soon.

With Thomas, I knew his age meant that we wouldn’t likely have him much longer, but he was in good health for so long, and the illness came on so quickly. It was a complete shock, totally out of nowhere.

With Sassy, we knew she wasn’t in great shape, but we were treating her as best we could, and the vet was taking care of her.  Again, things seemed generally stable until there was a sudden, rapid decline.

I don’t have any real point to this story, except that cancer sucks, age and mortality suck, and you should probably go hug the people you care about, and the animals you care about if they’re the sort of animals that like hugs, substituting scritches or belly rubs as appropriate.

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