Last Days
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Cecil's last days.

I'm really learning to hate 2005. It just seems like it's one thing after the other... Work has chaos, the horse is injured, then May 11 I had an accident that should have been nothing, a mild torn muscle, but it got misdiagnosed as a back sprain so the physical therapy I got for 2 months after further tore the muscle until it became a major issue. MRIs taken in August to determine the problem had an incidental finding that had everyone up in a panic that I was going to die from Syringomyelia, until it was determined in October that the cyst in my spine has probably been there since I was a baby and is "normal" for me. A seriously torn muscle heals slowly, leaves scar tissue that makes me wonder now if I'm just going to be in eternal pain (massage therapist, here I come!). The day we find out I'm going to live I come within inches of a divorce, and spend a week in hell trying to figure out what the heck happened and what are my next steps. That gets resolved, but the horse has a recurrent diarrhea problem that seems to come from the liver... every 6 weeks or so, about 2 weeks after his hoof trim. Coincidence? We'll find out in another week and a half or so, but I'm betting not. Most horses abscess when they go natural; mine seems to be clearing all the toxins internally and overloading his liver. Then we finally seem to get it all under control, and my best friend in the whole world bar none, my angel-cat Cecil stops eating. After a weekend of hell (during which my immune system stops fighting the crud it'd been fighting and I get a bacterial infection in my lungs) it is determined that he has anywhere from a day to a couple months to live, due to liver cancer. At this point anything other than spoiling him rotten for his last days is academic. So that's what I'm doing.

And none of that is touching the first half of the year, or any of the minor stuff that's gone on.

The cosmic dump truck has certainly been visiting my house lately. I'm so sick of the drama I could vomit. Then again, I'm so sick I could vomit anyway, so perhaps that's not as powerful a statement as it could be.

The one thread that's interlaced through all of this is that I've been forced into the now to deal with it. If I think about tomorrow or yesterday, or anything beyond this present moment, I'll get overwhelmed, start crying, and become utterly useless. Focus on the now, and it's not so bad. Sure, my horse is sick, but what can I do about it NOW? Nothing. So no worries until I can. Sure, my cat is dying at home while I sit here at home, and this time he's not going to get better... but now I have a piece to write, and work to do. And when I get home, I don't let it get to me either. I get him whatever I can get him to eat (currently it's one of the Tuna Fancy Feast mixes, smeared a teaspoon full at a time on the bottom of a styrofoam bowl), and give him all the love and attention he wants. And we both just enjoy the moment. We both know the end is coming - when he came back from the hospital he had that look in his eyes of "I'm dying and I know it" that thankfully is gone now. But for now, watching him smugly wash his face for the first time in weeks after licking a fingerful of smushed tuna-and-something then jump up on the bed and purr for no reason at all... staying in that moment is a lovely thing. And every time I start to drift off into misery, either thinking of the past or what we know is to come, I forcibly yank myself back into the now, back into what I'm doing, and stay here.

What a hellacious year. What a lesson it's been in staying Now and letting the past and future take care of themselves.

The funny thing is that the future seems to fall into place. I was waiting on a query so I decided while I was idling around to contact a breeder of the breed Cecil comes from. As it happens, she's trying to place adult or older kittens over the next couple months... and we'd been thinking of getting Drake a playmate but had held back because Cecil couldn't take it. So there may be a new feline friend in the future with many of Cecil's characteristics (his personality is textbook Turkish Van), hopefully a Rumpelteazer to Drake's MungoJerrie (or vice-versa).

Watching the cats has also been an education these past couple of weeks. Indigo will not stop hissing at Cecil... I didn't realize how much Indigo hated Cec. All I can think is that Indigo wants Cecil to die already so he can have me to himself (when if he'd only come for the attention, he'd get as much or more than Cecil does, but he doesn't come). Drake quite eloquently stepped in front of Cecil, between Cecil and Indigo, clearly saying "if you want a piece of Cecil you're going through ME first." Drake is the established alpha cat in the house; he's a good little fighter, but usually it's just play. Never before had I seen Drake act with actual implied menace before this.

But just as Indigo is rejecting Cecil completely, Drake has joined me on Cecil-watch. We've actually had conversations about Cec's condition. Drake cannot comprehend death, cannot comprehend that Cecil is dying, and yet at the same time his instincts are all screaming at him that this is death. He doesn't know what to do with it. He was weaned early, so there's a lot about being a cat Drake doesn't really quite understand. He has no concept of territory inside the family (we're family, right? If it's yours it's mine too, right?), and no concept of a pecking order inside the family (Some days he'll insist on getting full attention from me, other times if Indigo comes up, he'll decide Indigo doesn't get enough attention and back off.. He's almost a feline socialist!). He's a real caretaker of the family, and radiates love and innocence so much you can almost see it. This is going to be a serious blow to him; Cecil was his mentor and father (as was intended), but at the same time while he was searching for Cecil when Cec was in the hospital, he would play with Indigo and seek reassurance at our hands. Drake and I are learning from each other on this one; I expect we'll mourn - and go on - together as well. He may be my husband's baby boy, but he's still my son as well, as he is at pains to remind me.

And so I find myself in the interesting - and not entirely unpleasant - position of deathwatch of my best friend, pampering and playing with him. A moment's dread every day as I come home from work to see if he's still breathing in "his spot" (he's chosen a spot to hide in that I expect is where he spends most of his time), a moment's relief that when I touch him and hear the Mrr? Mraterat! that means he's coming out to complicate my changing into house clothes, and then the hour we spend together while he browses his canned food before I take it up an hour or so later and split what's left between Drake and Indigo (and wasn't Indigo surprised yesterday - I walked up to him on the bed, he hissed at me, I presented him with a dish of Fancy feast and he actually gave me a guilty look before chowing down), then open the bedroom door and until an hour before bed everyone gets to hang out together if they want to; Drake can come in, and Cecil can go out (and both usually happen now). Somewhen in the night Cecil gets his 100mL subcutaneous fluids; the first 75mL he actually seems to enjoy, but the skin gets tight after that so he argues a little over the last 25 mL. We try to time that for just before he gets locked inside so immediately after he takes his needle (which he will come for) he has his canned food. He browses the canned food again (takes 6-7 tonguefulls, then wanders off, then wanders back about 10-15 minutes later for another few licks, then wanders off... I wish there was a pureed meat product I could put down for him that wouldn't spoil during the course of the day so he could browse like that all day off of it), and when I can't stay awake anymore I split the remaining fancy feast between the other kids again and go to bed.

Cecil has a ramp to get onto my bed made of boxes... I wish I had something else I could give him that was more ramplike, because he's getting too weak to make the jumps. He usually waits for an invitation to come on the bed... I guess he's decided it's my territory and he needs an invitation, but on occasion when he's feeling particularly smug, or when Drake's already on the bed, he'll just jump up on the bed and purr. Recently he let Drake curl up against him, which he hadn't permitted since he came back from the hospital. When he's asleep and I hear him whimpering or growling in his sleep I'll gently stroke his fur, barely touching him, and he'll settle down so at least when he sleeps on the bed, if I'm awake, I can soothe his nightmares away.

So long as we stay NOW and don't venture forward or backward, this is a very good time for us despite his cancer and my (green spongy bacterial) lung crud that's got me on all sorts of medications. Possibly the best time we've had together. We have been blessed.

So 2005 has thrown a lot at me. It's also given me wings to fly. 2006 is offering me another Turkish Van cat who needs a home, hopefully a playmate for Drake (who's bored out of his little tuxedo skull), and an Indigo who might just be finally realizing that there's room in my heart for more than one fur-child. It's also offering me riding again in April if the cyst in my spine hasn't changed, on a gorgeous horse who will have had the time, due to my many problems, to finish growing and gods is he not a sweet, beautiful baby now that he's with people who expect horses to be horses and not robots. He seems to be looking forward to it as well; the one time Rich rode him, Train wanted to gogogogo which Rich can't do yet... but I can.

So autumn's harvest will include my first familiar. Winter's seeds may include a new cat who could well be a third familiar (second feline). And spring will bring the blooming of my work with my second familiar. All in all, I suppose things could be much worse.

But for now... for now I write this document, wait to go to the doctor, thence home for my moment of terror and hopefully my moment of relief, and then the sweet smell of tuna cat food permeating the bedroom until Cec's time is up, the remainder gets shared with the others, and then I throw the bedroom door open and take my nap with Cecil at the foot of my bed, where he prefers to be.

JLSD 11/17/05

Last night we tried something a little different. We did the normal routine with the fancy feast (I'm getting better at judging what Cecil eats... it's going to take a while to get through that tiny can) but then I decided to spread some catnip on my top blanket. It's good for me - I'm married, and sleeping under catnip is old folk magic for improving sex drive. It's good for the cats - Drake went into ecstasies of purring and grabbing the blanket to wrap himself in it if he could, then shook himself off and went off, and came back twice more for some more catnip action. Cecil just lied in the scent that permeated the area of the bed and purrrrrrrrrrrrred contented with the world around him. I'll mark that one in the "good ideas" column.

Then I went about building a ramp for to help Cecil get up to the bed. I upholstered it with the cat blankets, even put some 'nip in between the blankets... but he's not thrilled with it. The angle isn't steep, and it goes almost all the way to the top of the bed, but the blanket isn't steady underfoot at the center of the boards. I'm not sure how I can help that. Cecil's going to have to learn to use the ramp though - I think it will in the end be much easier on him than jumping all those boxes. Perhaps I'd better check his claws and make sure nothing's ingrown... I've got to figure out some way to make it easier for him to get on the bed, because the three steps we've got are efforts for him and I don't want him wasting any energy. Rich ixnayed the idea of using the staple gun to keep the blankets tight on the board (I thought they'd be easy to remove), but perhaps I can tack it down in the slippery spots... It's just so darned thick, because I wanted to give him plenty to dig his claws into.

Pounce treats for Cecil came next - I'm very careful to give Cecil his first, because I want him to have as many as he wants, because I have to break them up for him, because I don't want the others involved, and because when Cec finally decides he's had enough I want to be able to then go outside and call the others and start feeding them with Cecil's leftovers. Shaking the pounce treat jar always gets a collection of cats around me (moment of sadness that it's down to two, but Cecil is in the bed having had all he wanted anyway now so it's not so bad). Pass out the treats, then put them back in the fridge for another day, trailing a train of cats. And then the bedroom door is open again and "social hour" continues.

Last night I didn't take my nap, there was too much to do, so I was particularly exhausted by the end of the night. I tried something a little different with Cecil's before-bed fancy feast that I'll try again with his first fancy-feast: I added a little warm water to help break it up and juice it up a bit more. He wasn't sure what to do with it at first, he knew it was different, but he seemed to like it after a first couple licks. Goodness knows the others loved what he left behind. By the time I took it out to them however I was so tired... I can barely remember feeding them the food, making it up the stairs, kissing my husband good night and passing out. I do know I was having trouble standing upright by that time. Normally at that point I just put the lights out and go to sleep, but now I have promises to keep, (distributing the food that will go bad) and miles to go before I sleep (navigate the staircase with the empty food dish, throw it out, navigate back up, make my way into the bed, try not to disturb the cat if he's in the bed, kill the light, and pass out).

Rich and I discussed NewCat and where he'd wind up, and I think I've convinced him that the master is the best place, especially since we're already working out the details with Cecil. Rich was thinking the guest room, but I'm concerned about the fact that we'd be taking away the kids' sleeping space and where they hang out the most while at the same time having a new cat in what is patently THEIR territory; further, NewCat needs to get used to US first, and then worry about the furs. Rich is concerned about Indigo starting fights; frankly, I'm pretty sure that given the specifications we've made for NewCat that NewCat will whip Indigo in a fight with two paws tied behind his back, so I'm not concerned. Vans' attitude tends to be "I've never met an animal I didn't like." Drake's attitude tends to be the same. If we get Drake and NewCat together first and keep Indigo out of the picture to start, I think everything will be fine.

Indigo... Dear, sweet Indigo. He's harmless unless you want him for something. But while on the one hand he wants to be my "one cat," on the other hand the cold has started, and so has the hissing. I've tried to tell him that you don't hiss at mama if you want to be mama's unqualified heart-cat, but I don't think he'll ever be able to do that. Still, the hissing at me seems to be token, because he doesn't move off, and when I reach out and pet him he immediately goes from hissing to purring. Is it progress? Is he just being pissy because I'm sleeping with Cecil and Indigo refuses to have anything to do with him? The world may never know.

Meanwhile Cecil has become Drake's pillow once again, and Drake cleans him and he seems to be cleaning himself as well because his coat isn't as bad as it could be. It's not at its glossy, cashmere best, but what do you expect from a dying cat? Cecil's breathing seems to be a real problem; he's taking very shallow short breaths, almost like he's huffing and puffing except he's not really breathing hard. That lack of air is what keeps him from eating kibble - he can't hold his breath long enough to chew anything (not that I don't keep kibble, both kitten and maintenance, available for him - a half-handful of each, which again gets distributed to the other kids just before "social hour") - and is what I expect will really be the culprit in killing him. Whatever's filling his lungs will probably continue to do so until he falls asleep (lack of air does that to you - been there done that, with my many pneumonias) and doesn't wake. At least that's a more peaceful way to die than contorted in pain. And really that's all I can wish him right now - love and peace.

Gods, I sound like Vash the Stampede.

JLSD 11/18/05

> -----Original Message----- 
>Sent: Monday, November 21, 2005 10:41 AM 
>Subject: This one's quick 

>Just to let you know that Cecil crossed the Rainbow Bridge 
>yesterday. Saturday he started going from litterbox to 
>litterbox unable to produce anything but not making a big deal 
>about it; Sunday when I got up and we opened the doors he 
>resumed the behavior and started crying when I stopped to talk 
>to him. That was it. He was in pain, and it was time. So we 
>took him to the vet and had him put down. 

>They said they'd give him enough to fall asleep, then give 
>enough to stop his heart. I was wrapped around him the whole 
>time. He was gratefully gone the instant the injection hit 
>his bloodflow. 

>The first time I met him, he recognized me. Hopefully next 
>time we'll recognize each other. 

>Goodbye, my beloved heart-son. We shall meet again someday, somewhere. 

>I just wanted to let y'all know.

Friday I thought he was doing better. His coat was cleaner, he was alert and ready for his food when it came, and when the door opened for social hour he was out and about with the others. Indigo hissed at him some more. Cecil tended to stick to three rooms - the litterbox/feed room, the bathroom (cool tiles), and the master bedroom. He worked out his difficulties with the ramp and was going up and down it with alacrity. Rich called to say he'd be home late so we spent the night together, purring and snuggling and eating treats and more tuna. It took him 3 days to get through that can of fancy feast - 5 meals.

Saturday I spent most of the day with Rich as I could; he'd been so good to me, giving me the past two weeks to cuddle with Cecil and seemed like he'd missed me so I played computer games with him when I could and went shopping with him and spent time with him. Other time was spent with Cecil.. But an alarming trend appeared. Cecil had started walking from one litterbox to the other, and didn't appear to be doing anything in either. He'd go in the box, stand there, and then leave. Lay down for a bit. Go to the other one, stand there, and then leave. I cleaned both boxes thoroughly so I could see if he passed anything. He passed a little urine, but nothing else. He told me he couldn't poop, which sent me immediately to my email to send a message to the vet to see what we could do. Then I called him to the bed (which he came to readily and eagerly) and we cuddled until I went to bed. Friday we hadn't given him his fluid (by the time Rich got home I was so tired I literally couldn't see straight, so I wasn't thinking giving him a needle was a good idea), so I thought perhaps giving it to him would help; perhaps he was dehydrated and constipated and would pass it in the night, but it was not to be.

Sunday morning we got up and did our normal wake-up routine, and Cecil resumed his litterbox dance with more urgency. I tried to pet him at one point when he was doing this dance, and he cried and cried and cried. I knew it was time.

I went in to tell Rich. Rich wasn't thrilled that it had to be now, but when he saw Cecil, saw the pain he was in, he agreed. We got ourselves together, and I gathered Cecil in my arms. I gave him a chance to say goodbye to Drake, and then we went to the animal hospital where they took him and put the catheter in his arm and then brought him in to us. Rich and I each spent some time with him, talking to him and petting him, and when we'd said what we had to say, we knocked for the vet. I wrapped Cecil in my arms as he lay there on the table and hugged him as the drug was injected. I felt him pass gratefully in my arms almost the minute the drug hit his veins.

And so ended my love, my angel, my Cecil-cat. Friend, companion, guide, teacher... All this and more. We promised each other we'd be together again one day, and I know we will, somehow and in some way. Love like that never says goodbye forever. It only says "so long, for now, dear friend."

Now I go about making the Cecil bundle. We took him home (He's in the freezer), and today I take him to the taxidermist to prepare the skin for my altar.

This year's harvest included my heart-son. This thanksgiving, I thank the gods for the two weeks we had where we knew he was dying but he wasn't in pain so we could spoil him senseless. We were truly blessed.

To everything there is a season, and his has passed. So it is.

JLSD 11/21/05

The aftermath....

Drake is distraught. Every so often he wanders around the house, especially out to the garage door, meowing piteously for Cecil. He's still playing but it seems half-hearted at best, though part of that may be attributable to Rich being late coming home last night as well. Indigo... He's sucking up any attention I care to pour out, when he's not busy hissing at me. Drake watches Indigo get pettings on the master bed and turns to the foot of the bed and flops down in what looks like disgust.

Overall I'm just trying not to think about it too much. Stay in the now OR ELSE seems to be the lesson of the day.

Cecil is at the Taxidermist now; he knows what I'm looking to do with him. He warned me it could take up to six months to get it done, but that's ok because it means there's less of a rush for me in getting everything else done. Now I can potentially take Drake today to the vet for his shots and checkup, and possibly to get his microchip. I also got the chance to peruse the pages of the retirees at the Van site and start thinking in terms of Drake's new playmate - who may be a mate after all, since all I saw that was suitable (or borderline suitable in one case) was female.

-JLSD 11/22/05

We'd kicked the cats out of the bedroom again the day before thanksgiving, but I realized I needed them as much as they need me. Indigo comes up on the bed and sits next to me, or sits in front of me... just to be close I think. Sometimes he seems to want pettings, sometimes he seems to just want to be near. Drake has been whimpering every so often... he'll stick his head through the bannister on the steps (where he can't get out, just look) and whimper, or just lay in the bed, look around, and whimper. I think he's figured out finally what's happened, but he's still very upset and quite needy. He just doesn't want to be alone. Unfortunately, Indigo's been in ghost mode when he's not curling up with me, so Drake's essentially BEEN alone in the house, and he's just not liking it at all it appears. I wish I had some way to tell him he won't be alone for long if Rich and I have anything to say about it. I wish, when we go meet the Van kitties and see what's there and if there's a match, that we could take Drake and get his input but I know cats don't work like that. I keep trying to tell him within two months, with luck, we'll have a companion for him. He doesn't get it.

We received condolence cards from the vet and the emergency vet that just darned near broke me. It was bad enough going back to the vet with Drake and Indigo on Tues and Wed respectively after work for their exams (and Drake's chipped now), but the cards... *sighs* I know people mean well, I just wish this one would be left alone. Having to tell Rich's family at Thanksgiving was rough enough. I'm staying in one piece, courtesy of my Rescue Remedy and sheer force of will.

I realized during this past weekend... Getting NewCat isn't just for Drake. Rich and I had a fight (resolved) and I realized that I had lost the one creature who loved me no matter what. When I sat and cried, I was alone. Indigo wouldn't come near me (too scary) and Drake... Drake is Rich's. Indigo just isn't there for me. Drake needs a playmate... but I need a companion too. Not to take Cecil's place, nothing can ever do that, but I need a new house companion. Someone to lavish with love and attention, and perhaps a lap cat this time (Cecil always thought laps were too hot) or someone who likes cuddles (again, Cecil put up with it sometimes but wasn't too fond of cuddles). I don't know. I just know that I'm terribly lonely, even apart from the grief.

-JLSD 11/28/05

Drake isn't even bothering to look around anymore, he's just whimpering every so often when he lies there. If not for the fact that he JUST had his checkup a week ago, I'd be having him checked out for something wrong with him. For some reason he keeps following me around lately... he doesn't want petting, he stays out of range and just stares at me. I wish I knew what he wanted, or rather if I'm right about what he wants... Me too, baby, me too.

-JLSD 11/29/05


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