Friday, May 30, 2014

Heartbreaking Loss in January 2014

So while we wait for the outcome of the Ontario election to be determined.
You see, the NDP did not support the Liberal budget throwing things in disarray and forcing an election in mid-June. To date, only the Liberal platform specifies the inclusion of IVF. The NDP have waffled on the matter, and the PCs will not support it. Guess where my vote is going? D'uh. No brainer, huh?
Anyway, back to my blog.
At one point a few posts back, I briefly mentioned the huge loss we had suffered.
For those of you who are not animal lovers, fair enough. But I ask that you respect my particular feelings on the topic.

My fur babies.
Smudge and Shadow, Newfoundland, Christmas 1997

Smudge and Shadow. Brothers, from the same litter. Born in Japan in 1995, on August 25, they came into my life 7 weeks later as tiny, miniature, black balls of curious fuzz. And I doted on them.
Page-A-Day Calendar, 1997
My boys were inseparable. I almost named them Hook and Sook. Hook would have been Smudge; he has the physical trait of the kink at the tip of his tail that is frequently seen in purebred Himalayans (as his mother was. Gosh she was gorgeous. Long, white-haired, docile thing. A beautiful animal.). Shadow would have been Sook; so named because he FOLLOWED ME EVERYWHERE! To the kitchen. To the bathroom. If I sat down, he'd be in my lap. If I lay down, he'd be sleeping on me. When I gamed on the computer for hours into the late night, he found a way to adapt to the formation of my forearms and lay there as I moused and typed.
while pregnant with Petite, Shadow sleeping with me, February 2009
Hook and Sook became Smudge and Shadow. Smudge because of the white smudge on his lower belly; gosh he loves to have that rubbed and nuzzled! He's so affectionate. Shadow because he was my shadow. After all, he truly did follow me everywhere.
They loved the occasional bit of ham or tuna. They were inseparable. They slept together, groomed together, played together, traipsed around the house together, followed me together, and spent about 95% of their waking hours in each other's company. They were joined at the hip, as it were.
Smudge and Shadow, 2008
Shadow was my delicate kitty. Sweet. A little hesitant and fearful. But oh so affectionate! In his younger years he would jump into my arms from the floor. He did that to Hubby the first time Hubby came to our house and it shocked the heck out of both of them! Hubby to see a cat fly up to his mid-chest. and Shadow to realize that Hubby wouldn't catch him in time and he dropped back to the ground! I knew then and there that Hubby was a good guy and would fit into our life. If the cats like you, you're good by me.
Shadow 2009
Both boys, being of advanced age, and having no real other physical issues, began to show signs of kidney failure about two years ago at age 16. We've been managing their symptoms ever since. They continued to eat and drink well, but we gave them medicine to combat the kidney failure, and in the last year or so, a once-a-month B12 injection. But in the last five or six months, they began to vomit.
Well, Shadow began to vomit. And so it progressed. Just around Christmas 2013, I began to see slight traces of blood in his vomit. He must have been hurting so. Poor baby. He was still active though, so I didn't do anything about it.
Shadow and Smudge
In January, the day we left on our vacation, Hubby was in the car with Petite, bags packed, and I was locking the door. I had said goodbye to the boys (our dear neighbour Marc watches them when we are away; he's such a godsend) and turned to head out. At that moment, Shadow began to vomit again. And this time, as it had been once or twice earlier that week, it was a fair bit of dark reddish vomit. Blood. My heart was so heavy. But for a cat at 18 years of age, there are no heroics that will give him the quality of life he used to have. I couldn't put him through that. I stopped, wiped up the vomit, kissed him again and left to join the others in the car. We went on with our holiday.
During our vacation, Marc kept us updated. Three days before we were due to come home, Hubby got a text from Marc. Shadow was not coming to eat. Marc looked around for him, and found him in our bedroom closet, lying in a laundry basket on some of our clothing. He coaxed him out, and got him to eat a little, but he told us it didn't look good. Hubby and I were out at dinner with our friends when that text arrived, and we told Marc that there was nothing he could do, but to please keep us updated.
That was Thursday evening.
Shadow playing with a catnip toy, 2013
Saturday, two days later, we arrived back at home around 2 p.m. When Shadow did not meet us at the door, I knew it couldn't be good. Smudge was there, to-ing and fro-ing on our legs and suitcases, but Shadow didn't make a sound. I called him. Twice. Three times. And then I heard him coming slowly out of the bedroom to greet us. He looked frail. Eyes a bit glassy. Tired. I picked him up and he was already a bit cool to the touch, as compared to his brother. I cuddled him close. I brought him to the kitchen, hoping to give him some tuna and water, which he usually loves to drink, and coax him to have a little. No way. He wouldn't have anything to do with it. I put him down. and watched in horror as I realized he couldn't control his back legs any longer. He managed to walk. swaying a little on his legs, back and forth, and he returned to the bedroom and curl in the laundry basket again. I checked on him. And at that moment, I cried.
I called our vet, but they were closed of course (it was a Saturday after all) and as I had told them, there was no point in heroics. I would not put Shadow through that. I had loved him for all 18 years of his life and I could not put him in pain or subject him to invasive poking and prodding. He didn't belong in a vet's office, on a cold, steel table. He belonged with me. He knew I was home and I needed to be with him.
Shadow, summer 2013
I resolved to leave the luggage until time permitted me to handle the unpacking. Hubby took care of our daughter. I focussed exclusively on spending as much time curled with my fur baby, the cats ensconced in the bed with me or alternatively, me next to him in the closet, for the rest of the afternoon. He couldn't jump onto the bed although he came to the side of it and managed to put his forepaws on the covers, so I brought him up there and he curled in my lap a little, letting me snuggle with him. There, I tried to say my goodbyes. Or. to start to. Shadow snuggled with his brother, for what would be the last time. When he was done, he got up and tried to jump off the bed, but he couldn't do it himself, so I helped him. He got to the laundry basket in our closet again, and lay there, partially on the floor, head and upper body in the tipped up basket, surrounded by our clothing. He loved the softness of my pyjama pants; I'm glad they were there for him.
After about 15 or 20 minutes, he got up and came out. He meowed loudly a few times. I petted him, trying to soothe him. He was visibly agitated. He got in and out of the closet twice, and then I called Hubby to come to us. Petite was in bed by this time, so it was just me, Hubby and the two cats; Smudge on the bed, Shadow in the closet. Hubby moved things aside and sat with him in the closet a few moments, until about five or ten minutes later, when Shadow's breathing changed. It got raspy, ragged. Deep breaths followed by long pauses. I knew it was time. I said, "Do I need to be there?" and Hubby replied, "Yes. Yes you do."
Shadow and me, taking a nap, 2010
I got down with him, sitting beside him. The tears came. I stroked his silky, soft, shiny fur. I whispered to him, "It's okay Baby Shad. It's okay sweetheart. It's okay. You can go if you need to. I love you. I've always loved you. I know you have to go, and it's okay. It's okay." I think I repeated those phrases a hundred times; I think I was trying to convince myself that it was okay to let him go at that point.
His breathing got increasingly shallow, and he lifted his head one last time. I stroked his cheek. Stroked his nose and back down his head, smoothing his fur. My hands were on him at all times. I asked Hubby to get a towel for me and I draped it over my shoulder to pick him up and hold him in a position that he used to love. He was almost gone. and I needed to cuddle him.
I did just that. I held him in my arms as he took his last few breaths and slipped away. He had to go, and I had to let him.
And as he went, my heart broke. My Baby Shad was gone.
Shadow relaxing in the sun on his kitty perch, a favourite spot
After about half an hour, I lowered my baby Shadow and the towel into my lap to curl him there. I sat with him for about two hours. I couldn't bear to tear myself away. We righted the laundry basket and placed him, towel and all, in there for the night. I couldn't bear to have him far from me just yet. It would take time.
Shadow died on January 25, 2014, just after 11 p.m. surrounded by all the love I had to give. He had given me so much over the years. My boys were my constant companions. Through thick and thin, they had given me unconditional love and I returned it to them as good as they gave.
Something tells me he waited for us. He knew he was going to have to leave us, but he waited for us to get home. When we arrived home earlier that afternoon, when he heard our voices, sniffed our scents, curled in my arms, he knew. He just knew he could finally let go. And I will be eternally glad that he waited for me.
Smudge and Shadow 2005
I found a wonderful, caring, compassionate pet bereavement centre who helped me make arrangements. I have Shadow's ashes in an urn, and when the time comes, his brother's ashes shall join his. The two shall be together again someday; it's only right. My boys have always been together. I take comfort in knowing that part of me went with him. As a family, we all made contributions to a keepsake envelope that was cremated with Shadow, and I tucked in one of the grey, felt, catnip mice that Aunt B (who passed away a year and a half ago now) made for the cats. Shadow loved his catnip! Aunt B loved my boys too and I know she will take care of Shadow until I get to see him and cuddle him again.
Last photo of Smudge and Shadow together, January 25, 2014
Rest now dear Shadow. You gave me so much. I am grateful you waited for me to be there. But I know it was time. I love you my sweet Boo. I will see you again and so will your brother.  I promise. Go play in the sun my boy. You deserve the rest. I love you.
When the time is right, I will get a tattoo to commemorate my boys. I have wanted it for years and after Shadow was gone, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Now that I have a design in mind, when all is said and done, I will get that tattoo. It will be exactly what I need. I look forward to it, and I'll certainly show it off when it's done. 
Thank you for reading. If you have pets, hug them tightly on my behalf, and tell them how much they are loved.