I had to remove this part of last week’s post on celebration. I’m sure you’ll understand in a moment.
My daughter was at my apartment both days the weekend before to finish her very first skirt for a wedding Labor Day weekend. As she was getting ready to leave Saturday evening, I walked out with her. There was a cat sitting on the step outside my door. We have lots of cats loose around the complex so I paid it little mind. It didn’t budge as we walked by. Sunday morning the cat was still sitting there when I looked out in the early morning and when my daughter came back for the finish work. It sat at the top of the landing as we left to shop for a top to go with the skirt and remained when we returned. We asked the neighbors but no one knew anything of this seeming friendly cat.
As my daughter left happy with her completion for the evening, this cat reached up and stretched itself up my pant leg to be petted or picked up. I did both. There were no front claws! Outside for days with no protection and infested with fleas to the point of fur in the ears and eyebrows being worn away. I was horrified and angry. First thing Monday morning, I called a vet down the block that saw cats only. They had to be good if they specialized, right? I made an appointment and picked up a cardboard carrier for $10. Then I checked with the office to see if anyone reported their cat missing. There were posters up near our mailboxes for lost animals but this one was not there.
The Vet determined that this was indeed a female between age 3-12 and infested with fleas so she treated with a deluxe dose of flea killer and prednisone for the itch. I had secretly longed for a companion but have been reluctant because of my location and the cost of caring for an animal. That this cat was female and declawed were bonuses, though I would not declaw a cat.
We confined our newly named Gracie to the bathroom and she allowed me to gently comb her with a flea comb regularly to speed up the process. She ate voraciously as she had while still outside my door. I always keep cans of food around for strays and have for many years. We’ve even managed to get many back to their rightful homes. Gracie had no chip or collar. I claimed her and paid the vet bill. I expected the pet deposit would be next.
By Wednesday, she was flea free and I opened the bathroom door putting her in the bedroom window where she could look out. A few moments later, I found her back in the bathroom on the counter where her towel was. She remained there till my sister made out the futon for the night. Gracie slept with her. I noticed her breathing was a bit labored and wondered if it was the meds. The next morning, the breathing was still labored and her heart rate was high. She seemed to be trying to cough up a hair ball from too much grooming with all those fleas. My gut said we needed a different Vet that day and I made the appointment. My sister went to her job and Gracie and I took a ride. The Vet did X-rays and called me. Blood tests wouldn’t be needed. Well over age 12, she had lungs full of fluid, a tumor under her extremely arthritic ribs. There would be no saving her. She had bitten me already three times as I tried to gently pet her. Every bone in her poor body hurt.
The Vet was kind and gently recommended an end to this poor, very old lady’s suffering. Fortunately, my sister was able to be there with me and Gracie in her last moments. The tears still sting at the loss but I could not let her hurt one moment more. Gracie is now in a gentle state of rest. She came to my door and asked for help. I did the best I knew how, hoping for a different ending. My job was to invest in this sweet creature’s peaceful journey. She has carved a deep place in my heart and I must write her story. The timing was obviously not right for me to keep her but for me to help her go. It brings to mind a picture of coming to the end of life alone. I have tried to make this shorter and happier, it just can’t be. Gracie deserves the space and the ache. I wish her story were unusual, but it’s just too common. When will we stop abandoning animals?
Have you had an animal that put that kind of ache in your heart in a few days?
From my heart to yours,