Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vladimir Putintat, 1996-2009

Today is not a happy day in the House of Many Cats.

Back in January, I brought Vlad in from the cold, supposedly only until his paws healed. Then my friend told me he had small cell carcinoma and only had a few weeks left. At that point, I decided that Vlad deserved to spend his golden weeks in warmth and comfort, and eating as much 9 Lives Super Supper as he could swallow.

A few weeks passed, and Vlad was still ticking. He'd actually put on a little weight and was adjusting to life indoors. Within the first day, he'd figured out the litterbox. Drinking water out of a bowl took longer, but it sunk in eventually.

Toys never did. He never got the point of chasing something for fun; chasing was what he did to get his dinner.

As time went on, he slowed down a little. His big fat tomcat cheeks got bigger, and I began to suspect that although the tumors in his mouth weren't getting bigger, the cancer might be spreading into all that packed tissue. Toms grow those big cheeks to protect themselves when they fight - there aren't many blood vessels in there. Eventually the swelling started to creep under his chin, leaving only a little strip of soft fur to scratch there, but it didn't affect his ability to breathe or eat.

That was the problem - he didn't act sick. He slowed down a little more; he had trouble getting up on the bed but once my housemate donated her old aerobics step for him to climb up on, he hopped back up; he ate less dry food because of his mouth, but he still ate as much wet as was put in front of him. He still liked to cuddle every night when I went up to read with him before bed.

In the years that I've known that cat, it's been one thing after another - fights, bite wounds, infections, ripped up ears, and finally an eye wound that left him blind in one eye. I couldn't wait for him to show pain; I think he's had so much of it in his life that a terminal illness was probably almost restful.

I knew that sooner or later, I'd have to make the decision to let him go. Last week I talked to Mario, my housemate, and the two men around the corner who were his alternate parents. We decided on this Sunday because everyone would be around to go to the hospital with him to say goodbye.

Of course I immediately began second-guessing myself, and Vlad didn't help because he was perky and affectionate all week. Still, his fur was looking greasy and starting to thin, and despite his endless appetite, he wasn't putting on any more weight. I spoke to a nurse friend, and she said that it sounded like we were feeding the cancer at this point, and the cat was benefitting from the leftovers.

That was all I needed to hear.

When I decided to keep him inside, it was because I knew he wasn't well, and I wanted to be able to make the call when it was time, rather than have him disappear one day and worry that he'd died alone under a bush. Vlad deserved better.

And he got it. At 1:30 today, I put him in a carrier and took him downstairs to have a ramble in the back yard - his favorite territory and where I made his acquaintance 8 years ago. A few friends came over to say their goodbyes, and Vlad had a nice walk in the garden. He ate some plants, he peed on my roses, he rolled in the mulch and enjoyed the sun.

My neighbor arrived at 2:00, and we took him down to Penn's vet hospital. I don't like the place, they're ridiculously expensive, but they're very compassionate about euthanasia. The doctor took him back and put an IV in his arm, and then we got to spend some time with him in an exam room. He was a little stressed from the car ride and was panting and, being Vlad, managed to pull his IV loose before the doctor could touch him. Nothing was ever easy with this cat.

Finally we'd all said our goodbyes and kissed him on his big furry head, and the doctor gave him the sedative. He went to sleep in my arms, and then she gave him the second shot. He looked peaceful and about as kittenlike as I've ever had the privilege of seeing him look.

The house seems really quiet without Vlad bellowing for food, attention, litter changes, head scratches and what have you. He had more heart and more personality than a lot of people I've known, and he leaves a big space behind.

When I got home from the hospital, I hugged all my cats, especially the ones who were his. All the cats in the world don't make up for the one who's been lost.

It was time, Vlad. Enjoy your freedom. We'll miss you.

His ashes are going to be buried in my back yard, where they belong. If he had a stone, this would be on it: Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ...Wow! What a ride!

28 comments:

BConky said...

It's so hard to take that step when the time comes. I lost my cat last year he had kidney failure. I still miss him but he was suffering but it's still a hard thing to do. Here's to Vlad your good kitty.

Sewfast said...

Thanks for a lovely tribute to Vlad...my Figaro is approaching that time in his life and I can't imagine it...he is so much a part of our family...my heart goes out to you.

Dawn said...

So sorry to hear that. It's hard to lose a pet. :(

Sherril said...

That's one strong will to live. He was lucky to have you as a cat mom. You took care of him during his life and through his passing. I know you'll miss him a lot, but sounds like it was time, as hard as it was I'm sure. I've been there too.

Rachelle said...

My heart is with you, Karen.

ACorgiHouse said...

So sorry, I know how it feels. I know it takes a long time to get over their not being around. You gave him a long life and a peaceful death, in love and comfort, and that is a great testiment to your cat. K

Debbie Cook said...

A lovely tribute. So sorry for everyone who loved Vlad.

gwensews said...

That was a nice tribute to Vlad. It's always hard to lose them. I'm so sorry.

Little Hunting Creek said...

I'm so sorry - it's hard to lose such a friend.I lost my cat after 19 years and I still miss him every day

Elaray said...

Having met Vlad, I'm very sorry to hear this news. You did a great thing in making his last months comfortable.

Rose said...

Your post is sad but it is a beautiful tribute to Vladimir Putintat. Tough love is so difficult.

Nancy (nanflan) said...

Vlad was lucky to have you caring for him. Magnificent beast.

meredithp said...

So sorry to hear about Vlad, but remember what a great life you gave him, particularly at the end.

eword10 said...

So sorry to hear of your loss. May he have all the catnip he wants now.

The Slapdash Sewist said...

That's a very sweet eulogy for Vlad. He had a good life.

Rachel said...

I am so sorry. It is difficult to lose a pet.

laurachicken said...

I am so sorry. Vlad sounds like a wonderful, tough kitty. You are full of compassion for giving him a wonderful last few months. I am going to hug my two black kitties when I get home in memory of Vlad.

spinnakersu said...

It's always so hard, but you gave Vlad a gift. His life indoors with you was longer and happier than it would have been had he remained outside.

Chris said...

So sorry about Vlad. You made his last few months worth living and did the right thing for him in the end.

Carole said...

It's good to know that in his last days he was loved, kept safe, warm and fed. Thanks for being a cat lover. My cat is 13 and I am taking a lesson from you when her time comes.

Sharon said...

Oh my, it hurts reading your blog because I love cats. You made his last few months a comfortable, secure environment. I think that is more than some pets get. You were so compassionate and I know life will reward you later.

Christina said...

What a wonderful and touching eulogy for a special guy.

Leslie in Austin said...

:-( I'm so sad for you and your household, Karen. Thanks for sharing Vlad with us, if even for a short time. I'll miss seeing him on your blog.

Vlad was a lucky cat to have spent his last months under your loving care.

Nancy K said...

I have a 17 year old dog, so I know that before too long we'll have to make a decision about his health. I am not looking forward to it and I know that it will be as hard for us as it has been for you. They do become family members.

Ann's Fashion Studio said...

So sorry to read this news.Vlad seemed to have a very full life.He was very fortunate to have you and your neighbors watching out for him.

Marita said...

Oh Karen, I'm so, so sorry to read about Vlad, the first time I saw a pic of him in your blog was last fall, he was at your steps (if my memory serves me right) I thought he had a great presence, some people and animals have this gift sand they are remembered always, he made a great impact on me and I can totally relate on your saying that he had more character than some people, they really do have, we're not always able to read them properly. He was so lucky to find his way to you.... so sorry, so sorry....I'm glad you held him in the end.

Melissa Fehr Trade said...

oh I'm so sorry. Our beloved cat went missing this weekend and was presumed dead, drowned, or trapped somewhere and it just broke our hearts. Even though my cat had a happy ending and exciting rescue, I know the pain you are going thhrough right now.

Tany said...

Oh no, now I feel really sad... He was a very special cat and I know he will be missed.