Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sad days in the sewing room

Anyone who knows me on Facebook or who follows my business there, knows that I lost Lily this week.

I've lost cats before, but this is a particularly hard one.  I've had Lily for almost 18 years, and she was my workroom companion for the 15 years I've been in this house, the only cat allowed in there, because she (mostly) respected boundaries and hung out either in her bed, on the radiator or in the scrap pile.

Wednesday morning I got up and went downstairs to feed the chicken and the cats.  Everyone appeared but Lil, which occasionally happens -- she's older, and slow-moving.  I called her and in a few minutes I heard her at the top of the steps.  I looked up, and she was standing at the top, her front feet on the second step.  When she started down, instead of bending her legs, she hopped, and almost immediately somersaulted.  I caught her on the second roll and got her to the kitchen and put her down.

She stood up okay, but all four legs were absolutely straight, and her back was arched like a Halloween cat.  I offered her food and she was interested, but couldn't bend down to the bowl, so I put it on a box for her to eat.  This already didn't look good, and if it was any of the things I was thinking it might be, I wanted her to be happy and have a full stomach.

We took her down to Penn's veterinary emergency room.  How many times have I been grateful to have them 10 blocks away?  They took her back and looked her over, and the vet came out to talk to us.  "We have to think about Lily's quality of life," was the first thing she said, which was both upsetting and really comforting, because I hate when they try to blow sunshine and want to "fix" your cat at any cost -- to both you and the cat.

On examination, they couldn't tell what was wrong with her.  The vet's best guess was that she was just like a really old person, with lots of nagging health problems, and one small thing can be the straw that breaks the camel's back.  Lily was hyperthyroid (untreated because she reacted badly to the meds), had a  heart murmur, chronic urinary tract infections, high blood pressure and arthritis.  This sudden stiffness didn't seem to be related to any of them.  The vet's best guess -- which she offered to have confirmed by the neurology department -- was that it was a pinched or compressed nerve in her neck.

I asked what neuro might be able to do to relieve the problem, if that was the case.  Probably nothing I would want to put her through.  It could also be orthopedic, but same deal with treatment.  She could possibly be sent home with pain meds and steroids, on the small chance that it was something that would resolve on its own.

Steroids are hard on healthy humans.  What would they do to a rickety, 18-year-old cat?  Nothing good, the vet said, but it's a chance you could take.  She told us to think about what we wanted to do, and brought Lily in to hang out with us.

When I saw her, I knew.  She was still walking, stiffly, but she wasn't herself.  I picked her up and she tucked her head under my chin and started to purr, but her breathing was a bit labored and I thought she felt uncomfortable with being held.  I had Mario call the vet back in and tell her we'd made our decision.

They took her away for a few minutes to put a catheter in her leg so they could do the injections without her noticing.  She came back wrapped in a plaid blanket and I held her in my arms and talked to her while the vet administered the sedative through the catheter.  She purred and snuggled, and then stopped as the sedative kicked in.  The vet gave her the second shot, and I could feel her breath stop.

As I started to tear up, I felt a sudden gush of warm liquid down my front as Lily's bladder emptied.  From my ribs to my knees, I was soaked.   Mario and the vet and I looked at each other and started laughing.  We couldn't help it.  For a cat who could be sweet, loving, cranky and obnoxious, all within minutes, it seemed the perfect farewell salute.

When the vet brought out the empty carrier a few minutes later (after I'd gotten myself mopped up), she also brought me a round clay disk with Lily's pawprints pressed into it.  I baked it when I got home and I'll hang it in the sewing room, so she'll always be with me.

Not that she wouldn't be, anyway.

Rest easy, my girl.

12 comments:

Eileen Payne said...

So sorry to hear about Lily. I teared up reading your post. I lost a bird (parrot Rita) a year ago and I'm still not over it. My birds are such a large part of my life, and I would be very lonely without them. You are lucky to have Penn so close to home. They are the best of the best. Feel better........

Kay said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Losing a family member (and your cats definitely are family members)is so hard. The plus with pets is that we can choose to put them out of their misery when the time is right. The minus is, you can't always tell when it's the right time. In this case, you were fortunate to be able to know with certainty that this was the right time. You saved her from additional needless suffering and gave her a peaceful end.

You and Lily were so fortunate to have 15 years together, but those good years make it so much harder to bear the loss. Please know that my thoughts are with you.

Andrea said...

Sorry to here about Lily. I know she was very special to you. I lost Jack back in March. It's not the same without them.

Elizabeth said...

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Tany said...

Heartbreaking... :'(. I'm so sorry for your loss

Vicki said...

Oh, I have tears in my eyes….So sorry to hear it. Sounds like she had a good life.

Catherine said...

I cried as I read this. So sorry for your loss.

Cindy said...

I'm so very sorry. May fond memories of your beloved Lily warm your heart and grace your sewing room forever.

gMarie said...

Oh hell Karen, my eyes are wet. I'm so very sorry for your loss. g

patsijean said...

Oh, Karen, I am so sorry. Losing our little family members is so distressing. Our big kitty and my husband's buddy, Simon, is 17 years 4 months, and our tri-color Sheltie, my little buddy, is 16 years 4 months. We are aware that time is limited, especially for Duncan, so I can really identify. A good cry helps.

Marjie said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Having her pawprints with you forever is a nice tribute.

Summer Flies said...

I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your furry sewing companion. What a lovely thought to give you the clay disc.