What's Not to Laugh?

Almost everything about aging–except grave illness and death–can be funny as well as disturbing. I try to find the funny and help us all get through it!

Archive for the month “July, 2014”

Cat shopping

Nobody likes to be sad and melancholic, and my husband and I have been feeling that way for over a week after the loss of our adorable cat Maude. We could do the practical thing, the smart thing, like wait to adopt another cat until 1) we have the carpet and furniture cleaned, 2) we make up for the travel we missed when Maude was sick, and 3) we give ourselves a breather and a chance to deal with the loss. But who says we’re practical and smart?

We’re lonely. So yesterday we drove around for hours looking for cat shelters. I didn’t realize that adoption hours are restricted to, say, 4:00 p.m. until 7, or 9:00 a.m until noon. We turned up at the wrong time at two different places. There was a third we identified, but I read several negative online reviews and decided we should skip it.

The one that was open for pet viewing at the time we arrived there happened to be the shelter where my family and I adopted a cat in the 70s. He wasn’t a great pet, but that’s just the chance you take when you adopt a kitten. We walked inside, and since we had been in the car so long, I had to use the restroom. I asked the guy reading the newspaper at the front desk if they had a public restroom. “We do, but it’s not working,” was his reply. This set the tone for my impression of the place. I had no memories of what the shelter looked like long ago, but yesterday the smells and overall seediness of the place were off-putting. We looked at a few sorrowful cats in their cages and then got out of there as fast as we could.

We went for a late lunch and discussed our options. It was unanimous: We would go to the 4 till 7 place in the early evening.

That place was Heartland Animal Shelter, only a short drive from home. What a difference! First, they ask you to sign in and wear a visitor badge. Before seeing any of the animals, you must wash your hands. I was impressed.

When we walked into the young and adult cat area (there’s a separate space for kittens), most of the cats were out of their cages. That serves to give the cats some needed exercise and allow potential adopters to interact with them. It was hard to keep track of who was who since they were out of the cages that were marked with their names, ages, and personality traits. The shelter volunteers name each cat they take in unless it was someone’s pet and already has a name. Some of them are funny, like Purris Hilton, Spazter, or Cindy Clawford. Some are cute names that we would probably stick with if we adopted that cat.

We spotted one that we had seen online—a gorgeous girl who is now 7-and-a-half years old. We wondered if that was too close to being an “old” cat who is more likely to become ill. We’d had enough of that worry and expense for a long while. But she is lovely and gentle. She’s also very large. We got used to our little princess Maude, who was never more than 10 pounds. Then there were a cute pair who must be adopted together. Could we handle two cats? Two litter scoopings each time, two times the food, two times the vet bills? Maybe not. But there’s the advantage of not feeling so guilty if you return home a little late because, after all, they have each other for company.

We were nowhere near a decision, although the 7+-year-old was a favorite. We took an application home and said we’d return this evening. I had a hard time falling asleep last night. I tried to imagine one of those cats in our home, and kept thinking about Maude. Each cat is different, and we need to accept that.

So where are we in our decision? Not much further ahead. We’re going to Heartland this evening, and we’ll see what our hearts tell us when we view all the sweet felines again. Watch this space.

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About loving and losing

It’s been a month since I’ve posted anything, and although I’m usually a slacker when it comes to non-work-related writing, this time the reason is valid. I’ve been too busy—and too sad—taking car of a dying cat. This is also the reason Maude hasn’t given her opinion in recent weeks. She’s just too ill.

We’ve been to a lot of vets, including oncologists, to no avail. They have helped us help make Maude more comfortable, but there’s nothing they can do. Radiation and chemotherapy likely won’t cure Maude’s squamous cell carcinoma and will likely make her sicker. We nixed both options. So we’ve been using a regimen of a painkiller (morphine-based) and an appetite stimulant, which hasn’t always worked.

Our house has become a hospice and, as my husband puts it, a “hazmat” site. Maude’s cancer-related abscess keeps draining, and we try to keep up with it and wipe her face and other parts of her that have caked because the liquid falls on them. In between our loving sponge baths, we pet her and at times sing to her. She seems to like our singing—or maybe she’s too exhausted to move away and try to cover her one good ear. My husband’s favorites are “Stormy Weather” and “Summertime.” I lean toward Broadway musical numbers and 40s standards.

Maude has been losing weight. She’s just over 6 pounds but was nearly 10 pounds when we took her in 15 months ago. You can feel her bonyness when you stroke her back. She also lost her ability to “meow” and could only occasionally make low sounds that remind me of duck calls. Now, she makes no sounds at all. I could go on but it’s too depressing. The truth is that she’s failing, and we know it’s time to put an end to her suffering.

Last night, she seemed on the verge of dying, and we decided that we would call the vet today and bring her in to be put down. We have both been distraught over this, but we finally felt that to not do it is inhumane. Once the decision was made, it was a little bit easier to take, but I still had a hard time falling asleep last night.

This morning, after getting ready for work, I braced myself for what I might find when I went downstairs. I peeked under the dining room table where Maude had spent the last 24 hours, and she was awake and looking at me. When I went into the kitchen to start the coffeepot, I turned around, and there she was, standing and waiting, maybe for me to put down a plate of food. I did that, and she went right to it and spent the usual two minutes lapping up the most minute amount of Trader Joe’s Tuna for Cats before walking away.

Within a moment, she was nowhere in sight. Then my husband came downstairs and told me Maude had come up to the second floor. Really? This cat that was on death’s door last night walked up the stairs again? I looked at him and said, “I guess we’re not taking her in today.” He agreed.

She went upstairs to find another hiding place, and that too indicates pain and suffering. So we have to do this. But when? Not today. Maybe tomorrow. Or Friday. Or Saturday. Whatever day it is, we know every pet owner who had to make this decision was as grief-stricken as we are now. But every day of our time with Maude, even the difficult ones, was precious. We loved and will lose. And then, sentimental fools that we are, we’ll probably take in a new adorable companion. One, I hope, that will live a healthy long life.

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