A tribute to our barn cats Patches & Marmalade, and our Border Collie, Katie.
My blog post is more a therapeutic exercise to help me cope with the loss than for anything else. I will look back on 2011 as the year of subtraction in some respects. I lost my grandmother, Patches & Marmalade, the farm, and now Katie.
Some people say “it happens in threes” and for us this was true. Just two weeks ago, I had to put down our barn cats. Their health condition was poor and rather than make either of them suffer through the winter we decided it best to not make them suffer.
Yesterday, while Robyn was out with Megan for her piano lesson, Madeleine discovered that something happened to Katie that made her right eye roll into the back of her head. By the time she discovered it, there was a little drainage from the eye, and the whites were bloodshot. Robyn made an appointment for 7:30 this morning at the vet clinic. When I got home from work, Katie’s condition had improved a little but you could tell that something still wasn’t right. Since we moved back into town, we’ve had to restrict her from doing any stairs because her hind legs would just collapse if she tried going down the stairs. She was taking a supplement for a few months to help but there was little improvement in her condition/agility.
I stayed up until about 1:00am this morning thinking about her current health, the coming winter, icy steps and sidewalks outside, and realized that keeping her alive would be more for our benefit than hers. Just two days ago, she got so excited to go out to wet that her hind legs gave out and she slumped to the floor. Lately, she’s had quite a visible struggle to get up off the floor, and an ungraceful collapse to the floor when trying to lie down–always punctuated with groaning/moaning sounds. Our country vet told us the next step would be pain medications. Rather than make her go through any more and risk a fractured or broken hip or leg with slippery sidewalks we decided it would be best to say goodbye. She would have been 12 years old next month.
This morning when we got out of the van to go into the clinic, her hind legs gave out again. While waiting for the vet to enter our exam room, I observed a poster and noted that Katie exhibited three of the 5 signs listed for “severe osteoarthritis.” An assistant and the vet came into the room, and through a stream of tears, I signed the permission slip. The vet placed a blanket on the table, I picked Katie up and laid her down, then he began the procedure. He told us that we’d made the right decision but he understood it was still difficult. Robyn later stated that she really appreciates older Vets–they’re not as likely to recommend expensive, life extending procedures and medications that don’t actually add an animal’s quality of life.
Its amazing “how” these four-legged friends become family members…so much of our lives become integrated with our pet’s habits, personalities, presence. You really don’t realize just how much they color and compliment our own routines and emotional existence, until they are gone. I’ll list just a few of the most notable activities that occur that cause her memory to stir:
- Morning and bedtime: Katie’s toe nails clicking on the floor and sometimes shrill barks when she needed to go outside to wet. Now there’s no animal that needs to go out–habit says call her with a short whistle repetition–even our parrot has the whistle down pat!
- Any meal prep: Always underfoot, patiently awaiting any scrap that might possibly fall to the floor
- Arrival after a family outing: She would always be near the door with her wagging tail and anxious eyes…the kids noted that there will be nobody to greet us when we come home!
- When packing up for an outing or long trip: Suit cases and bustling family members always elicited those perked ears and hopeful eyes that she too might be allowed to accompany us.
- My arrival after work: I’d take my shoes and socks off after a long day and she’d always come over and lick my feet :-) Now every time I take my shoes off, her absence will be a sharp reminder of her passing.
- Serving Ice cream or Cereal: She’s always quietly wait at your feet in hopes you’d allow her to lick the bowl
Those are just a few of the situations that incorporated her presence into our consciously engaged attention/awareness. Now each of us is learning just how intertwined her existence was in all those aspects of living that were on unconscious autopilot–like moving the baby gate we had to install to keep Katie from using the stairs….every time we go up the stairs now there’s no gate to move.
Joshua, our son, doesn’t cope with grief the way the rest of us do…we’re all bawling our eyes out, hugging and comforting each other. Josh will set about drawing pictures or creating a card of some sort, or he may retreat to his room to be alone while we dehydrate ourselves. This morning we came home and gave the kids the news, discussed what happened and how it was affecting us. Later, I went up to my bedroom to change clothes to go into work and noticed that Joshua had placed a stuffed animal dog upon my pillow. His thoughtfulness and attempt at comforting me (because I had the closest bond to Katie) sucker punched me in the gut and I began to cry again.
She loved meeting new people and was always happy when all of her people were in one place. I truly loved her and am conscious of a huge vacancy in my soul–a part of me that is missing.