Monday, April 13, 2015

A Death in the Family

My dear cat Chloe fell asleep for the last time last Friday.

Here's how we met. Chloe lived with three other cats in a house. I met a girl who lived in a room in that house. I'd go over to visit her and Chloe would come into the room and hang out with us. She would jump on my hip when I was laying down and just sit there, content, purring like mad.

Even then, she was partial to me. She could come to visit us, but she would sleep on my side of the bed. She'd rub her face up against me and I'd just pet her and pet her. We connected with each other instantly. She adopted me: I didn't adopt her. She chose me.

Chloe hated the other cats in her house. She became a bit of a thug - she would hiss and slash at the other cats when they walked down the hallway. When that girl moved out to move in with me, Chloe came with us. That girl became Mrs. B, of course.

According to her former staffer's best estimate, Chloe was six when she came to live with us. I put her in a carrier and drove her to her new home - a cinder block one-bedroom apartment. She looked around, saw that she was the only cat in the house, and began purring madly. She was home.

If the math was right, Chloe was twenty years old when she finally left this mortal coil. She stayed with us through four moves, and when I moved into my own apartment, Chloe came with me.

She was frail. Her hips were especially painful. She had hip dysplasia - her hips would slip out of joint. Also arthritis. There were days when she could barely walk across the room. She couldn't jump anymore. The kitty who used to jump up on the bathroom sink couldn't jump onto a foot-high couch.

I had cat stairs - one so she could get onto the bed, and a shorter set of stairs so she could climb onto the couch. It helped. Not enough. But the stairs helped.

She had other stuff. She had the inevitable thyroid problems. She had chronic renal disease - that was diagnosed a couple of years ago. One of her kidneys seemed to have stopped functioning completely.

Because of the kidneys and everything else, she became dehydrated easily. I was giving her fluids every other day, plus pain medicine once a day. Plus kidney medicine. Plus glucosamine in her food.

At some point, it just wasn't enough. None of it was enough, because cats get old, as we all do. Cats get old, and at some point, their life becomes just existing from day to day. One of my friends asked me if there was joy left in her life.

I like to think so. I don't like to think that she was just existing. She still ate. She still curled up with me - even when she could barely move on the bed, she would curl up next to me and purr her soft, fragile purrs. She loved being cradled and she loved being next to me. And Oliver. She was a snugglebug to the end.

Chloe would follow me from room to room, waiting for me to stop moving so she could sit down next to me. She always did this; even when she was at her weakest, she would do that. I was always her person.

Last Friday night, she fell asleep, and she was gone Saturday morning. Her body was still there. But Chloe had moved on. She was someplace where her hips didn't hurt, and where I didn't have to poke her with needles and fill her up with fluids like a water balloon. Some place where she could frolic and be free and joyful and happy.

I buried her in the backyard with one of her crinkly toys. And I cried. I cried because I missed her, and I cried because I was relieved. She was finally free of the pain and the suffering. When she decided she couldn't take anymore, she just let go.

I did the best I could with you, Chloe. It was an honor being your person and your staff. I hope you have sunshine and warm fuzzy blankets and grass to roll in. Thank you for giving so much of yourself to us and for filling our lives with joy. We will never forget you.


non sequitur said...

I'm so sorry you lost your sweet little cat. It's hard to lose a family member like that. But it sounds like she stayed with you as long as she could. I know that doesn't really help to know. It still hurts. They curl up into our hearts and stay there even when they're gone.

Phil said...

Very nice tribute.