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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How I Spent My Mother's Day

"Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome." 
-Isaac Asimov

"I would like to see anyone, prophet, king or God, convince a thousand cats to do the same thing at the same time." 
-Neil Gaiman, English author

She always loved cuddling with my turtles.
She hadn't been eating, drinking or using her catbox for the past couple days. I didn't really think anything about the food since she was always a nibbler. It didn't matter how much I put in her bowl. It would always last a couple days or so. I'd add a scoop when it was low, and then she eat that down. For the water I had one of those bottles that you fill that screws into a bowl - you flip it upside down and it would dispense water as she drank it down. Her catbox I usually cleaned out about once a day depending on the state she left it in.

She was also losing her grace. When I first got her back in March 2003 - she was 2 then - she was like a ballerina. I remember having a laundry basket by my bed, and instead of going around it, she would sit back on her hind legs as if staring at the bed, calculating angles and velocities, waiting for the perfect moment, and then - she'd bound in the air, over the laundry basket and land with a silent thud atop my bed. Within the past month, she was unsuccessful at times at leaping onto the bed. Usually she'd be waiting for me when I got home, whining at me to stop moving and pet her. I would put all my work stuff away and then lay on the bed so we could have a chat about our days. She would come by, headbutt my hand, lick me, letting me know she missed me. Then after a few minutes, I'd get up, change into my pajamas, pop open the laptop to do some writing or watch some shows or sometimes grab a book and read - all the while with her right next to me.

Doing what does best -- napping.
Friday morning I had cleaned out her catbox. There wasn't much in it, but as per our usual routine, I knew there'd be something in it later. She'd also gotten in the habit of crunching her food down only to leave crumbs. Once she'd eat a hole down the center of the bowl, she'd wine at me as if to say "Mom! It's empty!" I would usually sprinkle a little extra kibble in there, swirl it around with the smaller bits, and she'd be happy and chomp away. Saturday morning as I was getting ready to work the closing shift at work, I realized I hadn't seen her at all the previous night - sometimes when I toss and turn she hops off the bed and goes to sleep on the floor beside or under the bed - or at all that morning. Previous mornings I'd add kibble to her bowl, and she'd come right out with that look of "food?". When I added the kibble Saturday morning, she didn't come out from under the bed. After work, I went to a friend's house for a birthday party with her on my mind a bit wondering what was wrong, thinking maybe she had grown to sleeping under the bed since she was having trouble making up on the bed successfully. I got home, barely made it into my pajamas, and passed out. I had become used to her crawling out from under the bed to sleep beside me, but she didn't.

Getting in the way while I make the bed.
Sunday morning around 12pm, I got up to use the bathroom. When I got back to my room, I noticed the kibble I had put in her bowl hadn't been touched. I lifted the top off her catbox, and the litter was undisturbed. With the flashlight app on my phone, I got down on my knees, pulled back the bedding to find her. There was she, under the part of the bed where I lay my head every night. She was staring at the wall. I said, "There you are," she looked at me. We stared at each other for a moment, then I shut the light off and sat on top of the bed and waited. Sure enough, she slinked out from under the bed, and stood looking up at where I was. Her other unsuccessful times, she'd made it as far as half her body over the side of the bed and tried to push with her hind legs to get up the rest of the way. This time she leapt, didn't even clear the height of the bed and landed on the floor. When I looked down at her - usually at times like these she would look up at me with that "What Mom? I meant to do that," look - she just stared straight in front of her at the hanging part of the comforter.

Never let me write.
I leaned down to pick her up, and she let me, which was odd for her. Most of the time when I would show her affection, she would give me the paw - press one paw to my shoulder and push/look away like "Mom, you're embarrassing me" - but this time she just laid against me. I held her in my arms, and she felt so small. She'd always been small, always a constant 9lbs. When I laid her on the bed before me and stroked her fur from head to tail, I felt her spine poking up from underneath her grey coat.

Her symptoms reminded me of my friend Jess F's cat. He was sick and toward the end he had been listless, hiding from people, not eating or drinking, and looked/felt thin. I texted her first to see if she was up. She was. I asked if it was okay to call her. She said yes. I called and asked her about her cat's symptoms toward the end. What she told me confirmed they were similar to what my little fuzzy princess was going through.

Didn't like it when I read, either.
Worried, I wanted to take her to the vet, but I had no idea how I was going to pay for it since most of my last paycheck went to beginning of the month bills, and my car settlement payment hadn't come in yet. Jess said she'd help out where she could and gave me the url and phone number to her vet. I called, explained the situation to the appointment desk - payment and all - and he forwarded me to a tech who could better help with estimates and information. As I got dressed, she hopped off the bed, and I watched her back end fall down and lean against my laptop bag on the floor. She then tried to get into my closet - which she knows is a no-no - and I picked her up and set her down away from the closet, and her back end fell down again. This worried me as did what I thought was heavy drooling. I dressed, borrowed a carrier from my landlady, put my fragile little kitty inside and headed to the vet.

During the car ride, she was quiet which only worried me more since she hated car rides and always yowled to and from wherever we were going, also always at least peeing once during the trip. This time she was silent and there was no odor of her pissing in the carrier.

I called her white paw my "lucky paw".
My mind raced with thoughts of mortality and murder and when having to decide to end a life of a loved one, is it murder? Whether it was or not, my mind turned to these and other somewhat dark thoughts. I tried to be hopeful - the tech had said that it could just be an allergy or nausea or a sinus infection - but with the way she was acting, I feared the worst and wasn't sure I would be able to make the decisions I might have to make.

I met with the appointment desk who then gave me a clipboard of documents to fill out since I was new, and then she called a tech after I explained my kitty's symptoms. The tech came, and I followed her back to the emergency area, and there we met the vet. We reviewed what I had told the tech, and when he brought her out of the carrier, he immediately was not pleased. He said she was severely hydrated. She was also disoriented. She tried to stand but looked like a dog on rollerskates, her legs splaying out around her. The drooling was from a sinus issue she was having. He didn't feel any tumors, but he said she had a heart murmur. They took her temperature - 103 degrees. As the vet started to explain things to me, I started to get teary-eyed, and I barely remember a nurse taking the untouched clipboard and pen away from me. I heard him whisper to her for Kleenex. He kept saying it didn't look good and that if there was any treatment to be done, it would require hospitalization, and even then, he wasn't hopeful.

Over the shoulder cuteness.
Not sure about the financial part of things or anything, I called Jess to let her know what was happening. She put me on hold for a couple minutes and then told me that she was on her way. The vet went to tend to other animals and they left me with my kitty - my Nimitz - to cry, calm down, think. The nurse came back to check on me and asked if she could give me a hug. I let her. It was slightly comforting. The nurse weighed her - Nimitz was 6.5 pounds. I cried some more. For privacy and in case an emergency came in so as not to alert Nimmy, the nurse moved me into an empty exam room. She laid a towel atop the counter and placed Nimmy on top of it and then closed the door. I leaned over the counter, cradling Nimmy against me, crying my eyes out. When I would stand beside the counter, she would awkwardly try to stand and headed for the edge. I leaned down again and cuddled her, stroking her fur, and she just leaned into me.

She had always been so good in telling me what she wanted, what was wrong. I kept asking her why she didn't say anything, but all she did was lay against me, her head on my arm, her nose touching the table, and breathed. I could hear the sinus issue then in the quietness of the room. I kept kissing her fur on her head and back, telling her that I loved her. I laid my ear against her body and listened to her heart not sure what a murmur sounded like, but I heard a steady beat of something inside. The nurse came back in to check on me. She checked Nimmy's teeth and said her gums were white which was evidence of poor circulation, mostly resulting from the heart murmur. It was probably also the cause of her back legs failing as well as the lack of coordination. She left again to say she'd keep checking on me.

Guarding my bag as I packed for a Fresno trip.
Eventually a different nurse opened the door and said I had a couple of visitors, and I knew that the other person was Dawn S. A small part of me thought back to when the three of us were at this vet office before, and the outcome was not pleasant. They came in and the nurse closed the door. Eventually I just picked Nimmy up to hold her close to me. "Auntie" Jess said hi and gave her lovies. I introduced her to Dawn. They had never met, but Dawn was loving to my little furball and gave her lots of lovies, too. I told them what I knew but was honest that most of it went into the ether since I was out of my mind once things got dour. We waited for the nurse to come back in and check on us. Jess became my voice talking to the vet about what was going on and what our options were. I had started to cry again at this point. We had decided to at least do the blood test and then would make more decisions after that. A nurse and tech came by to take some blood, and more tears came. They said the results would take about an hour, and the girls waited with me. I huddled over Nimmy again, bawling like a crazy person. She smelled of rubbing alcohol and was wet where they doused her with it before they drew the blood. Her fur was also damp from my tears. At one point I begged for someone to talk about something other than my cat, and for a while we talked about crafting projects and work and redecorating. Eventually Jess asked me what I wanted to do when I had calmed down some. I told her that I didn't want Nimmy to suffer so if the result was long term care that wasn't going to permanently heal her, I would not prolong her pain. Jess had commented that she didn't look good which made me sob a little more. Nimmy's head rested weakly on my arm, her eyes - according to Jess - barely open. Her breathing seemed shallow to me.

To nap or not to nap?
The vet returned, and the prognosis wasn't good. She had a low red blood cell count, and her body wasn't making any more. In the end, he said the treatments wouldn't be an option, that she didn't have long. I asked him how long. He said not long. When I said "weeks?" he said "no"... barely days.

After I made the decision, we were escorted to the private room where the three of us had been for Jess's kitty Taz (Nimitz's "boyfriend"). Dawn and I sat away from Jess as she laid with Taz. I remember being a rock for Jess until the injection and lost it, my eyes blurred with tears before I heard Jess wail. This time it was me. I wanted to hold  her while they did it, but I didn't think I could. I was afraid I'd freak out, drop her, something she didn't deserve. Instead I sat on the floor and laid her out on a large cotton pad the nurse placed before me. They shaved one of her hind legs to find the vein to put the needle in that had a tube attached to it. Then the vet took a syringe of something blue and injected it into her. She was curled on her side - like she was wont to do. The nurse was holding her body, and I was stroking her head and looking into her eyes which were always so big and green. After the injection was done - I didn't think it would take long since she was so small to begin with - he listened to her heart, and he told me that my sweetness was at peace. I thanked them, and they left the room to give us some time.

Always a cute sleeper.
I stared into her eyes as I pet her head. I repeatedly apologized to her and told her I loved her. Jess reassured me that I loved her, and I did what was best for her. That I was a good mommy. Her body twitched a little which threw me off guard. Jess explained that she was gone and that the body was dying, and it does that. She stopped moving, and I hugged her and kissed her. Then we dialed for the nurse to come get her. We were to leave out the side door, but I couldn't leave her alone like that. We waited for the nurse, and I watched her pick Nimitz up and take her away, her body limp in her arms. They told us we didn't have to pay then, and that they'd be in touch when the ashes were ready to pick up.

Once we were outside, I cried again. The ladies walked me to my car and asked what I wanted to do then. I had no idea. I was completely void of anything at that point. I opted to go home. My mind focused on throwing out my cat stuff immediately so I wouldn't dwell on what had happened that day. They said to call on them if I needed them. We hugged and they left. (I love and appreciate those ladies for being with me that day.)

"Why aren't you paying more attention to me?"
I sat in my car and called my brother Lynn. He and his family had three cats - Koko and Iggy from when they lived in Fresno, Scout when they lived in SoCal. When they were in SoCal, Scout got sick and in the end had to be put to sleep. Most recently in Fresno Koko and Iggy went one after the other during the holidays and are buried in my sister-in-law's (Ana Marie) parents' backyard.  For some reason, all that came to mind and in some weird robotic autopilot, I called him. I had woken him from a nap, and when he asked what was up, I told him what had happened. He and his family (and my mom) had met Nimitz once before when I was living with Anna C and Jaime H. After that news, I asked him how Mother's Day Brunch went, and he said it went well. My beautiful niece Bella played waitress to Ana Marie, her mother Anabel, and our mother Bea. When I told him I was done, that Nimitz was the only pet I would ever have, he played the "never say never" card which I suppose may be true, but with the amount of animal loss through my friends and family of animals that were like family to me - and now my own animal? - no, at this moment, I am done. I don't have it in me to do again. In the end, he said I should hang out with my friends, and I told him I would probably do that, but at the moment, there were things that I needed to do before that. I guess my mind/body was just trying to keep busy/distracted.

Diva pose.
I went home then driving the entire way with the radio off and the windows rolled down. When I got home, no one was home. I found things had been moved around oddly, and later I found out that the older man my landlady cares for at home fell again - he's having leg pains - and the EMTs had to move things to carry him out of the house. (He's currently at the hospital for observation.) She got home shortly after I did, and when I thanked her for the use of her carrier, she asked how it went with my cat. At this point when I told her, she was rather sympathetic, but my face had completed dried out. The plan at that point was to do laundry and throw out cat stuff. After I tossed everything out, I went back to my room to collect laundry and when looking for something to wear for laundry day, I looked down and saw "Jonny Cat" which confused me for a moment and then I realized that it was the almost empty tub of cat litter. I grew apathetic and decided to toss it out later and used it to prop open my closet - and have since left it open since there's no one around to keep it closed from. It was only one load of laundry, and as it cycled in the wash, I wrote a little blurb on Facebook reposting an Instagram pic I took of her on my bed.

"This is no longer your sweater, Mom. It's mine."
Later on after chatting with my friend Jon S, he picked me up as my laundry was drying and we went for boba tea and tacos. Once in the car with him, I was tired but happy to get out of the house. I looked like shit - in a black cotton dress, baggy jeans, Skechers type Uggs, light grey hoodie and a blue knit cap with my hair in a ponytail. Every time I laughed, I felt bad. At one point I told Jon "stop making me laugh, I'm supposed to be sad", and he said that as my friend it was his job to make me laugh. He's sweet like that. Thanks Jaquas. (While at the vet when we were alone, Jess, Dawn and I made lighthearted funny comments and conversations but as soon as someone else was in the room, it immediately got dark - at least for me - again.)

Hiding.
When something sad or bad happens, I feel bad about being happy or smiling or laughing since this sad thing happened. I just feel like I should be sad. But the laughter at the silly thing my friend said or the weird video on the TV or the drunk guys talking near us at the taco place... it felt natural and after a while I just let it come out instead of trying to stifle it or deny myself of any of it. I got back home at something like 3am or so. I grabbed my laundry from the dryer, made a pit stop at the ladies room, and then went back to my room. I put the laundry away and got ready for bed, and that was my first "phantom kitty" moment.

"If I don't look at her, she can't see me, right?"
Jess had brought it up regarding Taz and when I told my brother about it, he agreed since he still does the same thing. Jess would see a kitty out of the corner of her eye. My brother would kick a leg up on a chair when he was at the table writing and still make sure he didn't kick Iggy.

Me? I waited for Nimitz to join me on the bed and had to remember she wasn't here anymore. I also still open the door and make sure to close it so she doesn't get out. She never made a run for the door anyway, but I was still wary of the possibility. Not sure how long I'm going to be like this. I don't like it. It feels weird going out and knowing that I don't have a little someone waiting for me at home. The OCD part of my brain is plotting out possibilities of how to reorganize the room since there's a little more space, but the rest of me sees where her stuff used to be and thinks I should hold off on that kind of thing... at least for a little while.

"Can I help you?"
Still having her on my mind, I felt the need to write out what happened, what I was thinking, feeling. While recalling everything, I started to get misty and emotional in the same way I did at the vet hospital... as if it were happening again. I remember when I first got her when living with my friend Kim M. She had adopted a friend's cat - Manny - and around that time we went to faire or out of town to visit family/friends, and we thought we should get a little friend to keep Manny company during the times we were away as well as someone to keep me company.

"Mom! Stop blogging and look at me!"
I adopted her from Furry Friends Rescue at Petsmart in Milpitas on March 1, 2003. I kinda wanted a Russian Blue kitty (female for sure), but then when I went into the room with all the kitties, I stared into this one little cage and saw this little grey furball. She looked over her shoulder at me, and those big green eyes made me melt. I opened the gate and put my hand inside to pet her, and she immediately began licking my hand. The volunteer said the cat liked me, and I was smitten. She was also a diluted tortoise breed which I thought was a sign since I love turtles. Also her coloring reminded me of a character from a military scifi series by David Weber - an empathic three-feet long, six limbed male treecat named Nimitz that adopted a woman named Honor Harrington. Her paperwork said "Pixie" but I immediately called her Nimitz (my own little treecat... though she had a little more than a foot long and only had the standard four limbs. She meowed in the car on the way home, and we left her in the carrier and let Manny get a feel for her. When I let her out, she immediately hid in the tiniest of corners. The volunteer told me that she was underfed and that I needed to add some oil with vitamins to her food so she'd eat it. She didn't like it so I stopped adding it, and she ate happily. Eventually she got a little ponch on her, and the first time I heard her happily purr made me smile.

Adopted March 1, 2003 (at 2 years old)
Rest In Peace May 11, 2014 (age 13 years old)
I distinctly remember her hopping up on the bed, walking up along my leg and then collapsing and me feeling this little body leaning against me. It just made me happy. She used to want to sleep on me - mostly my chest. As time went on, she was fine with sleeping on the pillow above my head or spooning with me or laying on my legs. In recent years she had grown to sleep on either corner of the bed near my head.

It feels weird to laugh or smile because I immediately think of her and the fact that she's not around, and then I stop. It's only been a day. Maybe I'm just being dramatic or weird. I suppose I'll balance out in a little bit.

The strange thing is, I was expecting my settlement money from the two car accidents I was in last year (February & June 2013). The original plan was to get the money, leave at the crack of dawn for Fresno to crash the Mother's Day Brunch and see my mom for Mother's Day and also see my niece who I haven't seen in what feels like ages as well, of course, to see the rest of my family. But instead I spent Mother's Day laying my little one to rest. I can't help but think now after hearing the time frame the vet gave Nimitz that if I had gone to Fresno, what I would have come home Monday night.

It's almost 5am, and it's taken me a lot longer to write this than I thought it would. I should be in bed since I have to be up in a couple hours to get ready for work. I had to stop and wipe my nose and clear my eyes and remember how to breathe. I think I'm stable now. I'm not as much of an emotional rollercoaster as I thought I'd be, but hey, it's only been a day. In any case, I think I'll sign off now.

Later my lovelies.

Have Goodness!
Rae

Mommy misses you, Nimmy! And love you always & forever! xoxoxo

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