I hate having to write this post. I knew it was coming; it’s coming for all of us, someday, but who is ever prepared for a loss?
Peter had been wearing his snazzy collar again. Someone, probably Freckle, scratched and/or bit him (I assume…or it was the disease that caused him to hemorrhage??) and caused a huge and awful wound about 2-2.5 inches by 2-2.5 inches on Peter’s back right next to his tail on his left side. At first, it looked like just a lot of matted fur, but Pete licked it quite a bit and it became a raw, hairless…ick. He got the collar to stop the licking.
I didn’t find the other big wound until later. Again, on his left side, but smaller, a red/black thick scab grew about a half inch wide and at least an inch long tapering down another inch to its end.
I called our vet to ask if it sounded as bad as it looked to me and to find out what I should do. Besides bringing him in, I could try keeping the wounds clean and using a warm compress to keep the skin from being to dry and itchy/pulling. I did that hoping he would heal and get better.
As you may know, almost two years ago, Peter was diagnosed with Cushing’s Syndrome (or disease). At that time, it was estimated that he could live another good year. I’m glad we had a little more time with him, but I still wish he were here and healthy.
Peter was getting quite wide and he was hungry all the time and thirsty. I gave him his usual blood pressure pill twice a day and added a second dose to his once-a-day anti-anxiety pill, then I added a dose of Tramadol for pain. Those pills were from when Freckle had urine crystals, I think, and still good through to October. We separated Peter from the others by putting him in the office with a litter box, towel (for comfy ‘bedding’) and food and water dishes. It was sad because he would howl and cry wondering why he was stuck in there. What had he done? Why was he being punished?
After the second night, I let him have the run of the house again. The cats would mostly leave him alone when he had the collar on, so I didn’t worry about him getting hurt more and I didn’t want him to be stressed and worried about being locked away for his “safety”. He came out to the couch with us while we watched evening tv, but the next few nights, he stayed more in the office or isolated on a chair or by his litter box or water dish.
He began lying by the water bowl, using it as a ‘pillow’ and staring off. He also started missing steps when walking. I wondered if it was that he was feeling so bad or it was from dizziness and lethargy from the pain pills. I hoped it was just the pills. But I had to know for sure. Eric thought it wasn’t. So, I called the vet.
A few months back, Pete had a nasty abscess that needed a drain tube. We thought he might have been at his end, then and I had cried and we tried to ‘prepare’ ourselves. This time, Eric told me that he had already said his goodbyes, so I made the appointment for daytime with a doctor who had seen Pete before.
Dr. L. said we could give him antibiotics for his big wounds and she could test his blood sugar (It was likely that he had diabetes, since he was drinking a lot. She thought that might help me decide; if he had it then we knew he was going downhill and we’d have to give him insulin and maybe other medicines and that might be too much for a cat parent). Then, he might be ok for another few months, but that I should think about the Quality of his life and from what I’d said, he didn’t sound comfortable. Could he do half the things he used to? I knew, then that he wasn’t going to come home. Dr. L. made sure to tell me she didn’t want to pressure me and she wasn’t, but I knew what was right. And I knew I couldn’t drag it out for selfishness. If He could just tell me what he wanted me to do!
The night before, I lay next to Peter on the hardwood floor (he was on a towel next to the litter box. He would lie there or in front of his water bowl). I pet and kissed him and talked to him. I needed to get him to the vet and find out if he could be helped…or not. But taking him meant risking the “or not”. I half wanted to sleep there next to him, but I knew that with my bad back, I’d be hurting in the morning. I finally left him to go to bed around 2am.
Crying, I called Eric from the vet and told him what Dr. L. had said, including that we could wait for him if he wanted to be there or we could do it tomorrow. He asked if I wanted him to be there for me. I said I didn’t know. We didn’t want to make Peter come back in another day and stress him out again. So, I decided I would do it then.
Dr. L. came back in and said she knew what a hard decision it was and that she’d had to do the same just a few months ago. She said she thought she might have even waited a little too long and that I was brave to do what was best for Peter and not let him suffer. She gave him the first of two shots to “make him not care what happens”; he’d be kind of “stoned” and shouldn’t feel any pain with the second one. He didn’t even seem to feel it. Dr. L. said it would take effect in about ten minutes and I could stay with him; she’d be back.
My phone rang, then. Eric was calling back. He said that after we hung up, he felt bad. He got that sinking feeling, the pit in the stomach. Even his co-worker noticed and told him to go. He left work to meet me at the vet within 30 minutes. He said it always hits harder than he thinks. I was concerned that the drug would wear off, but was assured that Peter would be ok while I waited for Eric.
I noticed the drug take effect and it startled me. Pete was quite still and his head looked odd. His eyes were dilated and his white, inner lids were half closed. He looked kind of cross-eyed and his tongue hung out of his slack jaw. He was “staring” toward the door to the lobby and I thought he was watching someone, but he wasn’t really responding to anything. Did she give him the wrong shot?!
“Pete?” I asked, and he moved his head and twitched his ears a little. I relaxed. Then, I told him he looked kind of ridiculous and chuckled. I stood next to the counter he lay on and leaned over him, one arm around his body petting him, kissing him, holding him. When Eric got there, I blocked Peter’s face from view so the weird look wasn’t the first thing he saw. I told him that Pete looked funny, then let him see. Then, we had some Pete time. We gave him pets and kisses. Eric played with Pete’s “meaty chin” and we both got almost indiscernible cheek/gum rubs on our fingers like Pete always gives (just much lighter, this time). We each put our foreheads to his in Pete-headbutt tribute. Finally, I had to go get Dr. L.
She came in with an assistant and they gently turned Peter onto his left side and shaved a bit of fur from the inner side of his left leg. I had to be with him even though it’s difficult to do. I didn’t want my Pete to be alone. I held his head in my left hand and petted him. Eric stood to my left with an arm around me, watching Peter. Dr.L. said gently, “I’m going to give him the shot”. I turned toward Eric and squinted so I could only see Pete’s face and not the needle. I watched his eyes to see if he felt any pain. Dr. L. slowly pushed the anesthetic overdose into Pete. I think I saw some slight awareness of ‘something’ (his eyes dilated or undilated) about 3/4 of the way through, then sort of a breath or light gasp. Then, I felt him go suddenly limp as she gave him the last of the it. And I lost it.
I sobbed into Eric’s chest, still holding onto my Pete. He was gone. I missed him so much! He was so sweet. It was so unfair. Was he still here? In the room? In the air/energy? I wished I could feel something there, but I didn’t. I expected/hoped to see a little angel, a beam of light, a warmth around me. I hoped that the connection I once had to an “other side” would open up for me again, but he was just gone. I only can pray that he is happy and better off wherever he is now. I love Peter so much.
Eric and I stayed with Pete for a while afterward just petting him, crying, hugging each other. Our boy was gone. Finally, we left the room and paid for the visit and shot and our burial option. I had recently bought another case of special food for Pete, but it was unopened and we returned it. I was a mess standing there at the counter with red eyes and anguished cries. The poor couple waiting next to us with their little dog must have been uncomfortable. But, I couldn’t help it. The staff kept saying they were sorry and I appreciate it, but the Pain! I couldn’t say or do much at that point. Just cry and have a moment of clarity, then cry again.
We opted for communal cremation. There was that or Private or we could take him home with us. I didn’t feel like I needed to bury him myself. He’s gone and I don’t want to think of him that way. The private cremation is nice, but it costs about $180 while the communal was about $35 and we don’t have any extra money.The Private one also includes the ashes in a rosewood box, but…I don’t need ashes.
They’re going to call us when his paw print is ready. I think it’s a newer thing they do. They put a paw print in some kind of foam ‘clay’ for a memorial keepsake. Dr. L. said this ‘clay’ was softer. She didn’t like to “use real clay, even ‘after'” just cuz they had to put some pressure on to get the print. I like her. I’ll probably be a mess again when I get Peter’s sweet print.
Something ‘funny’, Peter had corns on his paws! My li’l old man. Dr. L. said that can happen, the paw pads can kind of wear out, fall apart, when there is liver damage/disease, so again, he might have been getting/had diabetes, too. Poor man. I’ll know his paw print, for sure 🙂
I had to pull myself together to drive home. My sister had just read my message about having to take Peter to the vet and that he might not be coming home and she was worried about us. She called me just as I pulled into the driveway. We talked for a short while and she sympathized as I mourned.
At home, we tried to watch something funny. Watched Austin Powers, but it’s kinda dumb. Probably funnier on another day, but what’s funny enough to really dampen this kind of pain? And I had forgotten that there was a cat in the movie. It just reminded me of Peter. But, after that, we looked at Pete pics from before he was sick. He was so beautiful! Shiny, healthy and strong enough to make me feel like I had a broken nose when he’d give a good Crack of a headbutt and I didn’t lean down!
It’s hard to go through the day with the little things changed. Last night, I didn’t have to “Pill the Pete”. Eric moved the litter box back from the office to the utility (“cat”) room. And now we only have 5. Felix & Isabelle, Freckle & Violet. And Ella. His sister. I’ve been petting her a lot. Eric was getting woken up by Freckle lately, so he hasn’t been allowed to sleep with me, but last night, Eric said he could 🙂 I needed kitty snuggles. And Freckle was good and slept through the night.
Freck was sniffing around in the office today. Looking around at things that have moved. The empty space where the litter box was for the last few days, the lack of Something. Then, he sat and stared at me from the middle of the floor. I looked back at him and told him, “Peter’s gone.” He looked at me a long time. I said it again, “Freckle, Peter’s gone”. I think he understood. He might remember from when Cocoa left us. Then, we were only three.
I ‘wrote’ a poem on the way home from the vet. It just happened. It all came out as I drove down the hill. As it finished, I pulled over and wrote it down, so I wouldn’t forget:
Peter went to Sleep today,
I miss him so, so much.
Peter went to Sleep today,
I wish I could still touch
His Happy Paws
His sweet, sweet face
And headbutt his sweet head.
I wish my Pete was here with me,
Alas, my Pete…
Goodnight, Peter. I Love you forever.