He was 18.5 years old and a member of the family since I brought him (and his nearly identical sister Daphne) home in a basket at six weeks old. In re-reading my post from last year (read here) when Daphne died, I see that I can't explain any differently the pain of such a loss nor the additional difficulty of having it happen while living abroad. Therefore I'd simply like to write about my buddy.
Dodger and I had grown very close over the past few years. Partly due to his age and partly because since joining the State Department, he settled into the life of an indoor cat with far less independent time outside. I've seen him successfully through radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, and in Bogota five years ago, during a routine vet visit, he had an anaphylactic reaction to an injection and I watched what I feared were his last yowl and gasp for breath. Clearly they weren't, thanks to the fast actions of my vet and a veterinary ICU hospital just minutes away. (Trust me, I still relive those "what-if" horrors in my mind.) Then last September he suffered a blood clot that reduced his control over his hindquarters greatly. Fortunately, he was able to re-gain a lot of strength and mobility over time and moved around the apartment as "Wobbles the Cat," even getting up onto the bed and couch, first with help of steps and then a ramp of cushions. However, he began to depend on us more and more.
On Halloween, he had another set-back, reducing his mobility even more. Finally, on December 23rd, I came into the living room in the morning to feed the boys and start the day only to find Dodgy on his couch crying and crying. He was unable to sit or stand on his own and for the first time - he seemed to be in pain. The vet came into the clinic an hour before opening hours to see him and after her exam, gave us various options for tests, possible MRIs or ultrasounds of his heart, and various medications we could try to keep him going through Christmas. Only when pushed to be brutally honest did she acknowledge that the very best result we could hope for would be that he returned to how he was the night before. And that chance was slim. Her best guess was that he had a stroke, perhaps caused by another clot.
I remembered a time about seven or eight years ago when my beautiful black mare "Babe" was worsening with a chronic disease. I'd be caring for her through her decline for over two years and in a conversation with my husband about when it might be "time" for her, I defended her by noting that she still had a few good days each week. When my husband asked me if I wanted to wait until she only had bad days, I realized that she would never become a new blossom again. I was only watering a brown plant. She was never going to GET BETTER, and instead of preserving her life, I was only prolonging her inevitable death out of my own reluctance to say goodbye, out of guilt, and out of fear of my own pain and sadness. These weren't the right reasons.
So instead of exploring all the options and their accompanying false hopes - I remembered Babe's lesson. The vet gave Dodger a pain reliever and sedative to help him feel more comfortable, told us to take him home and just be with him and then come back mid-day with our decision. He spent his last hours on our bed with us and with Toby, the sun streaming through the window from a blue-sky winter day to warm his fur and old bones. I talked to him, we looked each other straight in the eyes and I just petted him and petted him and petted him. He was relaxed and breathing easily, but the pain reliever had only slightly muted his cries. With that, we knew our decision.
It seemed impossible to know when to stand up, when to put him in his carrier, when to point the car back towards the clinic. It just seemed easier to sit there and stroke him for one last minute. But eventually we did move. My husband and step-daughter were there with me as the vet talked us through the procedure. When he took his last breath, he was already in a deep sleep and felt nothing. The people he knew, loved and trusted were right with him until the end, which is the most any of us can hope for. For the second time in just over a year, I said goodbye and asked for the forgiveness from someone I loved as much as any human family member.
I will leave you with pictures spanning nearly two decades of memories. He was our Dodger, Dodgy, D-Man, Dodger-Gee (after we watched "Slumdog Millionaire"), Heavy-D, and briefly for an unexplained reason after watching the History Channel, Robert E. Lee. The man in the gray striped pajamas.
|With Nutmeg in his favorite spot.|
|Always the mom-cat of the family, Daphne seeing to Dodger's hard to reach spots.|
|Dodger (left) and Daphne learning how to heat the house.|
|The only kind of mouse he ever caught.|
|Cool-cat at Christmas years ago with his luxurious ruff.|
|Spring time under our blooming plum tree. We sprinkled Daphne's ashes in this garden this summer.|
|After a good BBQ, the grill-licking and napping commenced.|
|All an old guy needs is a basket and a sunny spot in Mexico.|
Signing off for now,
Tabby in Tow