Posted by: expectingamiracle | January 15, 2009

The long story

I realize this is backwards, writing about his death when I’ve never really written about his life.  The cats have always been important to me and I guess I took their presence for granted.  They were here long before the struggle to have a baby started.  And I always thought they’d be here long after.  Justin was 6 years old, almost 7. 

The problems started on Sunday.  He didn’t want to eat.  I have never, in the 5 and a half years I’ve had Justin, seen him unwilling to eat.  My boy was ALWAYS hungry.  We had to limit his food because as long as the food was there, he’d keep eating.

Anyway.  Justin wouldn’t eat.  I saw he had puked up dinner from the night before and thought maybe he had a tummy bug of some sort and we’d take him to the vet the next day.  But I still had a bad feeling.  He was very quiet.  I petted him a little but mostly left him alone because he seemed to want to rest.  We tried to tempt him with a medley of foods but all he would do is sniff at it. 

The next morning (Monday) my husband made an appointment to take Justin in at 3:00.  I woke up around 9:30 and went to check on him.  He was in a “hiding” spot and as I knelt down to him I could hear him breathing heavily with his chest heaving. His little tongue was partly sticking out and I saw a tear below one of his eyes.  I went in the next room and started bawling because I knew this was bad.  I called my husband to ask what I should do and he said to take him into the vet now (which was what I was thinking).  I called the vet’s office and they said they’d take him in as an emergency.

He didn’t put up nearly enough fuss when I put him into the carrier.  As we waited in the vet’s office for about 30 minutes, he started to get upset and meow (there were other dogs and cats there).  I thought at the time that maybe it was good he had enough energy to do that.  I talked to him and unzipped his carrier enough to pet his head.

The vet examined him said he was open mouthed breathing, which is a last resort for a cat trying to get air, that he wasn’t getting enough oxygen and it sounded like he might have fluid in his lungs.  He temperature was also only 95 degrees.  Normal for a cat is 101.  She said she would take him back for an x-ray and tests and for me to wait in the waiting room.

I waited and waited and called my husband and he came over and waited with me.  They called us back.  The vet showed us the x-ray of his chest and all the fluid that was in his lungs.  She said she couldn’t see the heart well because of all the fluid, but she believed he might have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic heart disease where the muscles of the heart have thickened, such that the heart cannot relax and pump blood correctly, which would cause the fluid in the lung area.  We discussed options.  She said he would certainly need overnight care, as she was having to give him oxygen part of the time he was with her.  His respiration was too high and temperature still too low despite the heating pad.  She had started medication for his heart and also a medication to help him pee and get some of the fluid out.  We arranged to pick him up at 5:30 and take him to the emergency overnight clinic that opened at 6:00.  She said they also had a radiology department and in the morning they could do an ultrasound of his heart to see if that’s what the problem was.

We made the transfer at 5:30, with the heater blasting in the car to help keep our little guy warm.  I sat in the back with him and petted him as he was vocalizing that he wasn’t happy.

We waited while the ER vet ran tests on him.  She came back with not only an x-ray, but also the ultrasound images of his heart.  Our family vet was right, he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.   It’s not uncommon for you to never know until it finally gets bad.  Justin’s heart was significantly thickened, which resulted in his pulmonary edema and also pleural effusion.  She said the plan was to keep him in the oxygenated, heated cage for the night, try to keep him peeing to get the fluid off and then the next day we would take him to a cardiology specialist who would work out what medications and dosages we needed to have him on to manage his heart problems. 

We walked in to tell him goodnight.  He was settled in the back of the cage.  They had given him morphine, so I know he was comfortable.  I gave him a pet and told him we loved him.  I handed the tech one of David’s worn t-shirts that had David’s smell on it, for them to put in his cage.

I researched cardiomyopathy and found that in the best case, we could have a few more years with him on heart medications.  I wanted those few years so badly.  I wanted more time to love him.

We came back the next morning and spoke with the vet.  She said he had an okay night and we made the plans to take him to our vet and then call to make an appointment with the cardiologist today.  We waited in the front with the car running and heat blasting, ready for them to bring him out.  But then the tech came to the door and shook her head and motioned us back.  David said she was crying.

Our Justin was laying on the table and he was gasping for breath and trying to get away from the vet.  We came over and started talking to him, petting him, as the vet explained that within a few minutes of removing him from the oxygen cage, he could hardly breathe.  David asked her “what can we do now?” and the vet said it was time to talk about ending his pain.  I quickly asked her “His prognosis?  There is nothing more you can do.”  It was more a statement than a question, but I knew my husband and I needed to hear the answer.  “No.  There’s nothing else we can do for him”.  David and I looked at each other nodded and told her to let him go.  Our sweet boy was gasping for air and threw up.  I couldn’t bear to see him in pain for another second;  I felt as though my heart was being ripped from my chest.  They got the medication in very quickly, as he already had a catheter in his leg.  I don’t remember when I said it, if it was before or after he was going but I stroked him and kept telling him “Mommy loves you, mommy loves you, mommy loves you”.  And then he was gone.

We went to a room with the tech to talk about options I had only briefly thought about .  As the tech walked in, she was crying.  “I’m sorry” she said “It’s just…I spent all night with him.”  She left us to discuss burial versus cremation.  We couldn’t bury him in our yard, as we will probably move someday.  David had thought we might bury him under a pecan tree over by the bayou next to our subdivision.  But I worried about them building on a lot over there (which would block our access) and also about another animal or something messing with his body.  I didn’t know how deep David would be able to dig in the clay soil around here.  So we decided on private cremation.  We will get his ashes back in a week or two and he can stay with us.  I think we made the right choice.  I cannot imagine having his body here in the house with us, waiting to be buried. 

We came back out and they had cleaned him up a little and taken out his catheter.  The vet stroked his body and told us how sorry she was.  They told us how last night he just wanted to sit in his litterbox, so they put David’s shirt in there with him.  “He just cuddled up in that shirt all night long” they said.  And so I am grateful for that, that his last night he was sedated and surrounded by his daddy’s familiar scent. 

We petted him and I snipped a tiny bit of his fur to take with us.  At first I was thinking I could be able to stroke this fur when I needed to, but there is so little I think it will have to go in with his ashes or else it will get rubbed away after a few times of  feeling it.  It still breaks my heart that I have touched his smooth fur for the last time.  I will never hear his little meows again.

We left the clinic with an empty cat carrier.  And walked out to our car, still pulled out in the front, running with the heater going full blast. 

I never thought it would happen so fast. 

I never thought it would happen so young.

This grief thing, I am not so good with it.  The pain feels strikingly similar to the way I felt after I miscarried.  It is loss, plain and simple.  The only “good” thing is that this time my husband is feeling it right along with me.  My husband does not cry.  I’ve seen him cry maybe twice before in our 10 years of being together.  But he cried with me after the first visit with our vet, and again when we saw our boy dying and again when we got home.  It breaks my heart even more to know his heart is broken as well but at the same time I’m so grateful to have someone to talk to about Justin.  We started a list of things we want to remember about him and for a short time, it had us smiling as we remembered all the little things that made him so special.

I don’t really know where to go from here.  I am trying to plan things to stay somewhat busy.  It’s hard to be in the house.  Everything carries a reminder and it feels so lonely.  Our other cat, Stormy, seems to be okay so far.  David thinks she will be fine as an only cat.  I don’t know.  My feelings are so twisted on the thought of just having her versus getting another cat at some point.  It feels so wrong to only feed one cat twice a day, to clean out her food bowl when before, Justin was there to lick it clean.   But even if there’s another cat someday, there will never be another Justin.

I am trying with all my might to cling to the good times we had with Justin.  I feel so incredibly guilty for all the times I yelled at him or got annoyed with him.  For all the times when he wanted in the bedroom as I sat my laptop.  He’d sit just outside the bedroom door and sometimes sneak in, only to be shooed out.  He just wanted to be with me and I didn’t let him.   How can I forgive myself?  I’m trying to believe all the people in my life who say that he knew how loved he was, that we DID spend time with him and give him a good life.  I just wish I had done more.  I wish I had another chance.

I try to remind myself that it’s only been two days.  I have to give myself time.  I just hate this feeling.  I can hardly eat or sleep.  I don’t feel any joy in my life right now.  That is horrible, I have the baby I prayed for kicking away and yes, I do love him.  But I can’t get excited about decorating a nursery or anything like that.  My sweet Justin, he would have been so good with a little boy.  Oh, he would have ran away from the crying at first because the noise would have scared him.  But he would have been so patient with a baby.  He was a little shy at first, but he  was the sweetest, most good natured cat you had ever met.

I don’t know what to do with myself right now.  Other than wait.  Wait for the day when it doesn’t hurt so much.

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Responses

  1. Saw the news on the L&F. I’m just so sorry. The loss of a family member is never easy. Sitting here in tears wishing that you weren’t experiencing this pain.

  2. I’m so very sorry for your loss.

  3. Here from LFCA. I’m so very sorry. I wish I had something else to say. Sending hugs to you though.

  4. This made me cry. I had to wait until today to write a comment because I just don’t know what to say. It must have been so awful for you. I can only imagine your pain. I did have to put both a cat and a dog to sleep, but I had much more time to prepare, and they had both lived pretty full lives. I’m so very sorry that Justin’s life was cut short.

  5. I am so very sorry for your loss. My cats are my babies and I know your grief.

    You are in my thoughts.

  6. Ah. I am so sorry. It really is hard to lose a special pet.

    Hugs!


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