I knew this day was coming. I've known it and feared it for over seven years. In some ways, I am relieved - strangely - that today has finally come and gone. Brian and I knew our little cat was with us on borrowed time, and as of today, that time expired.
It was her time to go. We had an emergency trip to the vet on Tuesday afternoon and it was there that the vet told me kindly, "It's her time." Brian and I had a long talk about it and decided to do what we could to ease her suffering. The cancer in her nose had moved to encompass her left eye entirely, and had grown so big that it was breaking the skin on the bridge of her nose. She had started scratching the area, and each time she did, she broke it open even more. She had also lost the ability to breathe out of her nose, and taken to hiding in the box spring mattress under our bed. She had also stopped eating almost completely.
It was this information that lead us to make the decision to say good-bye. While I am content knowing she is no longer suffering, I can't help but selfishly miss her. I want her to be on her corn pillow. I want her to be chowing at her food dish. I want her to announce her presence when she enters a room, and boldly jump onto someone's lap, fully expecting to be petted.
Emma was certainly an interesting cat, to put it mildly. She came into our lives the Monday after Mother's Day in 2002. She literally collapsed on Brian's front door step, a meager three pounds of small brown cat. I sat with her that morning while Brian ran to the 7-11 to get some cat food. We let her go, not sure if she would return, and by Tuesday night, she had found her way back to our doorstep. By Wednesday, Brian had a kitty litter, a cat bed, and a food dish in his apartment, along with a new roommate.
That is what surprises most people; Emma was never "my" cat. Brian and I had only started dating three months earlier and my apartment didn't allow for pets. So Emma moved in with Brian and I visited frequently. :-) By 2004, we had bought our first house and were all co-habitating happily. By 2006, Brian and I made it official and Emma went "national" since she was the image on the stamp used at our rehearsal dinner. (check it out...www.zazzle.com). In 2009, I found out I was pregnant 17 days before we found out she had cancer. And now, she stayed with us long enough to see me through bed rest and to meet our son. She was the best cat ever.
But she wasn't necessarily the healthiest cat ever. When she found Brian and I, we were penniless. I had just graduated from my master's program and was working three jobs before I earned my license. Brian was drowning in student loan and credit card debt from a tough few years earlier. The last thing we wanted to do was adopt a sick cat, but she was so cute and such a fighter, we had no choice but to continue her medical care. We joke that she picked us since we were the biggest suckers on the block.
It started with her teeth. In the summer of 2002, we noticed she was picking at her teeth after eating. The vet recommended we remove several of the rotted ones, only to receive a call during her surgery that they needed to remove ALL of them. And they were willing to give us a discount after the first seven. And so our ruthless, toothless little cat was born.
The vet cautioned us, however, and said Emma's white blood cell count was very high and she likely had cancer. We shrugged. It didn't change the way we felt about her or our "ownership" (I use that term loosely - I think she owned us) of her. The vet was also unsure how old Emma was, since her teeth were in such bad shape, but made a guess she was around 11-13 years old. Interestingly, Emma never aged -- every vet we visited (four clinics total), told us for seven years that Emma was likely 11-13 years old.
In the winter of 2002, Emma jumped into a bathtub we had just poured Drano in. Emergency trip #1 to the vet commenced. In the summer of 2003, her anal glands ruptured. This required two weeks of treatment at the kitty spa, where she sat in a whirlpool to avoid infection. In 2004, she had a stomach hernia removed. By 2005, she was diagnosed with kidney disease. By 2007, she developed pancreanitis when we were on vacation in Mexico, and thankfully, her cat sitter was keen enough to seek immediate medical attention.
2008 was a busy year for Emma, too. She was diagnosed with thyroid disease and fell into a vat of paint primer (my bad). Emergency Trip #2 to the vet, as well a phone call to Poison Control. By 2009, we were thankful our little cat was still with us, but we learned about her cancer diagnosis on January 14th, 2009. This was also the day I told my parents I was pregnant. This is also the day I told my sister I was pregnant, who replied, in a voice I'll never forget, "So am I." January 14th was a big day for our family.
As was August 18th, when our little boys joined us. But tonight is a day I'll probably never forget for a long time to come. We were with her in the end. She was swaddled tightly in a pink blanket and her corn pillow was tucked in with her. The procedure was quick and painless. And then...she was gone. I've spent seven years watching her breath, only tonight to watch her stop breathing. It was surreal and heartbreaking all at the same time.
I hope our little cat is somewhere in heaven, meowing up a storm and pushing the other cats out of the way at the food dish. (she was never one for manners). Brian and I have gathered her belongings and will put them in storage for the time being; he already registered with a burmese cat rescue organization. We figure that since we've helped (and loved) one little cat, we can open our home to hopefully many more.
Oh, and for those who are wondering where the North Korea reference comes from...in November 2002, we had just seen the latest James Bond movie (the one with Halle Berry and that ice castle thing). The bad guys were the North Koreans. Emma had just had some random vet-related procedure and was wearing an e-collar at the time (the lamp shade looking thing). She had a penchant for sitting in Brian's window, and we were still unsure how this vocal, highly social little cat had just wandered into our lives. We came up the with the rational (and highly plausible) conclusion that the North Korean's had sent her over to spy on us Americans, and her job was to find the softest people on the block to adopt her. She laid in the window to transmit signals back to the homeland, and the e-collar simply provided better reception. We've been happily harboring a North Korean spy for seven years, but we think she officially defected in 2005.
Scotty is a good reminder that life goes on. Brian and I got home after everything, and I went straight upstairs to pump. Brian turned on football. We both opened a beer and sat on the couch. We ate some pretzels. I've seen 'The Lion King' - I understand the cycl of life. We saw 'Marley and Me' over the Christmas holiday last year. I know pets (and people) die, but hope springs eternal. Our little baby boy is the best reminder of that. Ever.