22 September, 2001
This is my cat, Shadow. Take a good look, and remember her for a while.
I had to put her to sleep today - which rates up there on my top ten list of 'most difficult things I've ever had to do'.
I realize she's just a cat, but she was mine - and I feel like she didn't get much out of life, so this short 'Blog' is my way of remembering her and giving her life some meaning. Don't get me wrong, her life had plenty of meaning for me - but I'm hoping some of you out there can get a taste of who and what she was.
I picked her out of the litter at the pound in Virginia Beach when she was just about 6 weeks old. The pound, myself, and the vet agreed that her birthday was about 17 March, 1998. I was in flight school and decided I wanted a pet because... I don't know why. Why does anyone want a pet? Companionship, something or someone to take care of? I don't know why. I had no idea (foolishly) what kinds of turns my life would take over the next year or two, and how those changes would directly affect her.
She was a great kitty - by the way she had many names:
Shadow, Warrior Princess
Shadow, Fearless Rat Killer (ok - she only ever caught one mouse and she just played with it)
The Pampered Puss
and " I'm not a Kitty I just meow a lot.."
Strange names, but then people are strange when it comes to their pets. Anyway, back to the story. I must have had blinders on not to realize that I would be transferring to the west coast within a year - and then I would be at sea almost constantly for two years after that. What was I thinking getting a pet when I'm not gonna be around for the next two years? That's just it - I wasn't thinking.
She loved to chase toes under the sheets, she loved to fall asleep in your lap, she loved to terrorize all the plants in the house, and she'd always be sitting at the door to greet me when I came home from work.
I hated to leave her in Virginia Beach when I transferred to the West Coast - but the plan was to get her back when I returned from six months at sea. Six months and a vicious deployment cycle became two years - you see just a couple of weeks ago I returned from my second cruise to the Persian Gulf and finally got into a posistion and place in my life where I would be able to take care of her again.
My roomate and 'friend' from Virginia Beach, George - agreed to take care of her in my absence. Since I've been gone to sea, George had gotten out of the navy and moved to the west coast as well - although a couple hours away. I truly appreciated him taking care of her - and always promised I'd be back to get her as soon as I could. Well, I went down and picked her up from him as soon as I was moved into an apartment that took pets (no easy thing to find in California...)
George wasn't home for the weekend, but I had a spare key with which to let myself in. It took about a minute to realize Shadow was sick. She was so skinny you could see her spine, her hair was matted and stained, and she had pee'd all over the house. I found out later most of that 'pee' was yellow vomit. I loaded up the truck with her stuff as fast as I could and got on the highway to get her back up to Ventura so we could go to an emergency vet. She was so weak she could hardly walk, and her meowing was the pitiful drawl of, literally, a dying animal.
I called my friend Ian, and he looked up an emergency 24-hour vet in my area off the internet while I was driving home. We got to the vet Sunday evening - they took one look at her and admitted her and started her on IV's... they said she was severly dehydrated. The next morning (and $400 later) I took her to a vet a friend here recommended - and checked her in. It took 24 hours for all the tests to come back... the results being that she was malnourished, dehydrated, and had something called hepatic lipadosis (?) - which generally means she had stopped eating for so long that she was living off her liver to the point of failure. The reason she stopped eating?? She'd had a kidney infection for probably the last eight months that went untreated, that combined with - and I quote both the obvious and the vet - 'neglect'.
Turns out my 'friend' treated her like a houseplant that just needed food and water left out for it to thrive. He apparently would leave her alone for four days at a time - every week, with a self feeder, a bowl of water, and a neighbor to check on her from time to time. Only someone who didn't care about her wouldn't notice how sick she was. And it was a long sickness in coming - not something that could happen overnight. It makes me shudder, and extremely sad, to think how much of the last year of her life she spent absolutely alone.
After about 4 days in the hospital I brought her home - with the perscription and realization that the only way she was gonna live was if she started eating. Kinda like anorexia at this point, don't you think? I tried everything, wet food, dry food, raw fish, tuna soup, treats - you name it I probably tried it. But she just wouldn't eat. She was just too sick... the jaundice of her skin, eyes, and teeth (how could you not notice?) weren't getting any better, but I knew it would take time. After four days at home, she still wasn't eating or drinking anything, so I decided to take her back to the vet for the next step - a feeding tube in the side of her throat. She lost an additional pound in the four days I had her home, which was roughly an eighth of her bodyweight.
Shadow spent three days in the hospital after having the tube inserted, and I learned how to feed her with a 60cc syringe 4 times a day. But after I brought her home, I realized how miserable she was and how much pain she was in. The tube feeding was a painful (and extremely difficult) evolution - if she wasn't being pinned down by me to be force-fed she was lying under the bed all day and all night long.
Last night she came out and sat on my lap while I was watching TV... just like always she jumped up and started kneeding my abdomen and chest - either as a way of showing affection or of just softening up the spot she intended to lay on. Even though she was resting comfortably enough, her labored breathing and occasional gags from the tube in her throat were enough to make me cry - not to mention that contstant look of despair she had in her eyes. I decided while I was petting her on my lap that I would put her to sleep the next morning and end the suffering.
I took her in and the vet agreed to euthanize her for me - and we both agreed that, unfortunately, I'd just gotten to her too late - a month earlier maybe and things could have been turned around. They put a catheter in her leg, and I talked to her for a bit and comforted her - tried not to cry and failed. Anyway, I held her as the vet injected her with some pink chemical, and she went limp and just 'fell asleep' as I held onto her. It took all of five seconds. She didn't gasp or choke or kick - or any of the horrific things I imagined - she just relaxed in my grasp as the life slipped out of her. I held her again and petted her and kissed her goodbye - all the while telling her how sorry I was and that I loved her. And then he took her away - I rushed through the door after him to give my dead kitty a kiss one more time and then that, as they say, was that.
I'm not telling you all this to give you a sob story, or to sound cheesy or schmoozy, but so that you can get an idea of how much I loved that cat. Even though I'd had to leave her for almost two years - I was always looking forward to my seeing my constant companion again. I was extremely attached to her, from the moment I picked her up at the pound. You see, I loved her.
I'm sorry Kitty. I'm so sorry. I'll always love you and miss you.
Shadow, the Warrior Princess...... 17 March 1998 - 22 Sept 2001