Posted by: Dahni | March 26, 2008

Angie – Preparing for a Loss

AngieCatInABox

Angie – Cat in the Box  (click twice for larger view)

© 2008 03/26/08

By Dahni

   Our oldest cat Angie is nearing the end of her life and we are preparing for her loss. I suppose this blog is for Jonathan that asked for a picture, for myself in preparation of not having her around and for anyone that may find themselves having to face a similar situation.

   To begin, Angie is pronounced [On + gee]. When we got her, her name was Angel, but we did not think she was much of an angel, so Susan knew the French word for angel to be Ange pronounced [eyn-juh l]. I guess I had a problem with pronouncing that so, Angie just stuck, very much like she and I have become stuck to each other. This was not always the case.

   The picture above really just kind of tickled me. Angie climbed into an open and empty box on the living room floor. It reminded me of opening a present and in this case, the present was, Angie. I snapped a pic. then added the little gift card seen as if she had sent herself to me. Figuratively speaking, she did!

   Now some may believe a pet is their best friend or a member of their immediate family. Others may believe they are nothing more than animals. I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

   For those that believe an animal is ‘just an animal,’ I think there is a tendency to try and avoid some emotional attachment, specifically pain. To view an animal as ‘just an animal,’ is like saying it is just a rock. What kind of sentiment can one have for a rock (unless you are a little kid or there is some great memory associated with it)? If a pet is just a something, then it follows that they do not have feelings or thoughts and unique personalities like us gifted human beings. But an animal does think and they do feel, and they do have personalities. If you think or treat them as not having these, you are deceiving yourself. Still, it may appear easier to deal with a loss of something that you perceive to be only a bother, a chore, a have-to-do or ‘just an animal.’ Having gone through this personally and in dealing with this now, take my word for it that to try and prevent any emotional attachment or to view an animal less than they really are, AINT GONNA HAPPEN! Even if it could, there is still the most important issue that must be considered. Read on.

   I grew up with animals and mostly cats. I had the twin experiences of life in the city and on the farm. Vets in our day were mostly those that dealt with larger animals like a cow or horse. Cats and dogs were taken care of by the rest of us from knowledge passed down to us or the animal through its own instincts, would do what it needed to do.

    Over population was left up to everyone to control before having them spayed or neutered became common. When an animal approached the end of its life it would just go out the door one day and not return. We would just pretty much ‘know,’ what had happened. This was the way it was in my childhood, one cat would disappear and then another would show up soon to replace them. This somehow seemed like divine providence, as the hurt from having lost one was alleviated by the new cat that needed our attention.

   We did have some common backyard, shoe box funerals I can still recall. There was one time a car ran over one of our cats, right in front of me. The car stopped and I thank them here and now for their compassion, concern and for taking responsibility. Our mother and sister inside heard the squealing tires and just ‘knew.’ By this time I must have been around 19 or 20 and there were veterinary practices and the Humane Society all in operation. The cat was still alive, but I knew it was only a matter of time. I will never forget the faces of my mother and sister as long as I live. They ran outside and were hysterical as I cradled the cat in my arms. My thoughts and feelings were mostly for our Mom and sister.  They could do nothing and thought she was dead. They went back inside and could bare no more to see our cat like this. I could do nothing.

   I prayed. Her tail twitched and I went inside and got my Mom and sister. We drove to the vet and waited. The vet later explained that he had just treated another cat with far less injuries than ours and it did not ‘make it.’ We were told the best thing to do was to put ours to sleep. I yelled at the vet, “Our cat will not die; you just treat her as best you can.” Our cat lived! You can believe what ever you choose to believe as to why. Still, if there is life it is inevitable that death will one day occur. Our cat lived for quite some time after this and one day disappeared as most of all the others had before, and we just ‘knew.’

   All our cats were for the most part, outside cats. Angie except for an occasional exploration of a timed and supervised excursion outside in warm weather, is an inside cat. Being indoors and under our roof, she is our responsibility. This is the main point when dealing with animals, responsibility.

   I spent years in the carpet and fabric restoration industry and was considered an expert in the field. I know something about health and contaminates produced by animals. I know there is no way to totally remove specifically, cat urine. Knowing it is only a matter of time before some accident of many types of things will happen and having consulted with many and that I have tried numerous times and unsucessfully to decontaminate areas, I became adamant against having a pet in the house. Having been to a home of a lady that had 20 cats all living indoors and using her living room as their bathroom and having to finally tell her this was inhumane and unsanitary and I would no longer clean her carpet, I became adamant against an animal living in the home. Having had to decontaminte a house where a lady had died for weeks before she was found and had 100 cats also dead that had been living with her, I became adamant against having a pet of any type or under any circumstances, living in the home!

   Sorry to be so graphic, but you need to understand where I was coming from, before Angie came to live with us. Like a friend of mine who named her horse Novajo which was so named because her husband said of a horse as I did of a cat that there was, NO WAY a horse or a cat was going to come into our lives. By the way, she got the horse, her husband is gone and Angie came to live with us!  🙂

   I had helped this same friend, Gaylene, move and I got stuck in taking care of her sick little scrawny kitten named Anaken, she recently found and adopted. I had to protect him from 5 dogs. He stayed in the room I was in. I became in essence, Anaken’s mother and this is another story, but Anaken softened me up for Angie. By the way, Anaken later ran all the dogs around.  🙂

   Despite my knowledge, feelings and verbalizing about all of this, Susan wanted Angie to keep her company, before we were married. My compromise was that Susan had to take care of her, feed her, clean up her mess, scoop and change the litter etc. I was not going to get involved. Angie was Susan’s cat and for the most part, Angie did not like men, especially me. This probably hurt my ego, but I didn’t care, I was not getting involved or getting attached. That was years ago and as they say, those were ‘famous last words.’

   Susan has kept her promise, but the harder I tried to not like Angie, the less it actually worked. Over the years she has become more sociable with other people even though she mostly acts like a prima donna little bitch. She is independent, does not want to be picked up, and would usually get up and walk away from you if you got too close to her face or invaded her space, but…

   …but ask Susan whose cat Angie is and she will tell you that she is mine. I guess actually, I belong to Angie. Angie comes when I call her. She talks to me (a lot), and I talk to her in some cat sounding language she seems to understand. She looks at me, not staring or looking at me, but looking into me. She will take a nap with me. When either Susan and I are in the shower, Angie jumps up and sets of the toilet seat. I guess she likes the sound of running water or the steam? Angie also likes to jump up on the little table beside my computer when I’m working and just hang out with me. She loves for me and usually only me, to rub her tummy, even now when she is not feeling good. Before she became ill, she would curl up underneath our piano at my feet whenever I played. She is perhaps my biggest fan. Apparently, she likes my music and would stay there and listen until I stopped playing and then get up and wander off. All of this affection she has given me, me who has not cared for her as Susan has and me who basically wanted nothing to do with her. After all, she is ‘just an animal’ that will mess up your life, your home, your clothing, your mind and will one day break someone’s heart even if you think it won’t be yours. Yeh, right.  🙂

   Angie obviously has gotten under my skin and I underneath hers. It is pointless and impossible to try not to get emotionally involved. It only hurts the more later if you try to be unattached or to detach. I only wish I could have prepared sooner and was in touch with my feelings long ago. It would have made the preparation less stressful on me. But, life is tough and life is hard. We do not always get to predict or get to pick and choose what we will feel. As long as we live among the living, there will be joy and there will be sorrow. The other side of joy is sorrow, but the other side of sorrow is joy. This has never failed throughout my life! It has always been like when we lost one cat, another one would seem to just show up out of nowhere. That’s the joy to come when we are in sorrow.

   Angie in people years, as best as can be determined is, around seventy six. She has lived a pretty good life and particularly this past year prior to her illness. We had placed her on a product called ‘Pet Health,’[1] a natural product containing a combination of antioxidants and glucosomine for joint health. The results have been no less than astounding. Her energy levels blew through the roof and it often sounded like a freight train running through our house, at all hours of the day and night. Our other cat used to just irritate Angie and chase her. After a few days of ‘Pet Health,’ 1 Angie started chasing her. Oh, just in case you think this was a fluke, we give the same stuff to the other cat and get unbelievably good results with her as well. Another cat? Yes and she is another story that I will not get into here.

   Looking back to a little over a month ago, I now understand some of the unusual behavior I saw in Angie. We have a powder room just off the kitchen wherein lies a rug upon the linoleum floor, and she hung out here. Susan brought home a box of recorders (like flutes), to wash in the dishwasher for her music classes in school. She set this box in a corner of the kitchen floor. Angie decided it was hers and Susan took back the cleaned recorders to her school, but left the box. The bathroom, the box and the kitchen became Angie’s living quarters mostly.

   The other thing I noticed was her appetite had become voracious. This ever-eating thing made me mad and I told her so. I distincly said, “This is not some Denny’s Restaurant open just for you 24/7, Angie!” She looked at me, she listened to me, but did not pay any attention to me.  🙂

   We are fortunate to have a service where her vet actually comes to our home. Before this, we tried to transport Angie in a carrier in our car to the vet. It was next to impossible. Every orifice of her entire body and I suppose others I did not know she had, all opened up. In two words, Angie gets extremely, ‘car sick.’ Our veterinary house call service has been and is, a Godsend to prevent this, but so much more!

   Angie’s behavior happened to coincide with the time of her annual checkup. Her Dr. Murphy came as appointed and I thought the examination went really well.  It is so often that we hear only what we want to hear and not what we do not. Dr. Murphy saw some potential problems due to her age and suggested we have a complete blood workup performed by the lab. I just took this as an unnecessary and expensive option. I was wrong. Not even a week later, Angie had developed swollen gums and a runny eye. She stayed mostly in the powder room next to the kitchen and was not eating or drinking. When she did walk, it was very slow and she acted like she was spaced out. We had to rush her to an after hour animal hospital on a Saturday. She was treated for a possible infection due to gingivitis, having lost several teeth and was only eating soft food. Angie was dehydrated, and the exam showed one of her kidneys to be enlarged. The vet suspected kidney disease and recommended the blood work to be done just as had her own Dr. Murphy, not a but a few days earlier.

   She was given an antibiotic to treat her infection, given fluids by subcutaneous injection (under the skin), and a blood sample was taken. There was a point when both Susan and I thought we would be going home that day and we would never see Angie again. But once we were home and a few hours later, her condition seemed to somewhat improve. There is no way the antibiotic could have been a factor. It was the added fluids.

   Next I found myself apologizing to our vet, Dr. Murphy, for my failure to understand what he had tried to communicate to me during Angie’s annual exam, just days before this. I had to assure him that this had nothing to do with his ability or his service. I had to assure him that what had just transpired was not an attempt to get a second opinion. The problem was my ears or brain not being able to hear or listen to him in the first place.

   The following Monday, the lab report came back and showed that Angie has both kidney disease and problems with her thyroid. One of the principle functions of the thyroid is to regulate the body’s temperature. Angie was hypertensive and had developed a heart murmur. This is the reason her appetite was so voracious earlier. The thyroid issues could be controlled with medication in the form of a tuna or liver flavored pate, for the rest of her life. I am surprised that Angie prefers the liver over the tuna flavor!

   Unfortunately, short of a transplant, there is nothing that can be done about the kidney disease. This disease is believed to be hereditary. It remains only the issues of comfort and of time. As to comfort, the extra fluids given, help her secrete the toxins and poisons from her body. These are what made her appear to be ‘spaced out,’ and caused her to withdraw to a quiet and dark place. It has been explained to my satisfaction that she felt like what we feel like in having a very bad headache or a hangover.  

   Our vet, Dr. Murphy, was called and he came to our home and brought all the materials needed to administer her fluids, twice a day for a week. He showed us how to implement the procedure and was very patient, caring and professional. This is also true of his staff especially Kim and Amy, who have dealt with much of the same as we are now. Their personal experiences with their own cats and their patientce and compassion have helped us greatly in preparation.

   I had spent years in the medical field and have given IV’s etc., so poking my cat with a needle under her skin and giving fluids should be no problem for me right? Wrong! I have gotten very good at this, Angie never moves or says a word, it is helping her become more comfortable, but I just can’t get used to it. It is stressful and it is a lot of pressure to me.

   She still comes to me and is moving better, but she is not eating or drinking much that I am aware of. She spends most of her time sleeping and tries to find other dark and quiet places to hide in. I honestly get a little nervous when I can’t find her. I honestly wonder sometimes if she is breathing or alive when I do find her. Sometimes she surprises me and I will find her sitting in the sunshine shining through a window. Maybe she is getting her Vitamin D? It has been warm for a few days and maybe I should not have, but I let her out for a little bit. Today she stood at the door and asked to go out. I gave in and went with her. There was no problem getting her back inside. She loves to go outside and I just try to do what may help her or that which might give her some measure of comfort and joy.

   There is a regular diet for cats with kidney disease, but when she won’t eat, we try and rightfully so, anything. Sometimes it’s the juice from a can of tuna with very little meat. Sometimes it’s Gerber Baby Food (2nd stage), either chicken or turkey, both with gravy. Sometimes we try her regular food she ate before. All of these we try and usually we add water and make it almost like soup. Sometimes we mix stuff. Sometimes something works and sometimes nothing does. I have placed as many as 3 different things in three different bowls, to give her a choice and see if she wants to try. One just has to try.

   Angie moved slowly down the stairs to the basement where the litter pan is located, but continued to go down. I thought some exercise was better than none and even though I felt sorry for her, I did not make a change. I should have moved it upstairs sooner.

   Our pet never pees in the house? How many times have you ever heard that? I do not know, but how many people do you know that never lose money in the casino? It seems neither of these two events ever happens until they happen to you. I was on the phone in the living room and Angie marched in, went to the corner and did her thing, right in front of me. She was neither in a hurry or embarrassed. It all seems natural for her, but it still was unusual behavior for her. This is due to how she feels and nothing more. Sure, it’s my fault for giving her extra fluids, right? I should know that when you ‘gotta go,’ you just ‘gotta go.’ It’s my fault for not moving the litter pan sooner? I have since moved one of the litter pans (we have two cats), to the powder room next to the kitchen. Don’t you know the other must be thinking, “Cool I can use this too and I don’t have to go all the way downstairs!” Speaking of litter, it must be to cats, like running water is to some humans. It seems like whenever you change the litter for a cat or run water for a human, someone is going to use the bathroom.

   Some people have had cats diagnosed with kidney disease that have lived for four years. It is not uncommon to see them live for two more years after their diagnosis. There are many variables, but only this is for sure, when it’s time, it’s time.

   There are other things we could do like, having a very expensive diagnostic test performed, which will show the actual percentage of deterioration of the kidney. This may only give one an idea of how advanced the disease is and may give a tiny clue as to the remaining life expectancy. Nothing is conclusive. We could have Angie hospitalized to administer the fluids and any medication needed. If this were you, what would you want? Would you rather be at home or with strangers in a strange place? We could possibly have a kidney transplant performed and even though the operation is possible and if we could afford it, Angie at her age and in her present condition, may not live through the operation. We have chosen to do the best that we can do.

   I share these things not to sadden or depress you, but that you may come to understand some of the symptoms, should you face a similar situation. These things that I have shared are what to look for should the behavior of your pet change slowly or suddenly. In short, when they stay in one place that is dark for a long period of time and slow or stop their eating and drinking routines, they are there because they are sick or may be preparing to die. Remember about the cats I had when I was growing up? We opened the door and they just did not return. We did not open the door because we knew they were sick or dying, but they wanted out and it all seemed normal. Still, Angie is an indoor cat and we are aware now of what’s going on with her. Letting her out alone would be cruel and inhumane.

   Preparing for a loss is never easy. It is never easy to prepare to say goodbye. You do not know what, where, how, when or maybe not even know why, but it will occur. It will happen, as this is the way with all living things. I prayed for one cat and it lived for several years. I pray for Angie. Why did one live and Angie may not live much longer? I do not know. Still you do the best you can and you prepare.

   When the time comes, you could end the life yourself so that the animal no longer suffers. Before you think this is too cruel or inhumane, you must first know the situation and the heart of those involved before you judge them. Remember, I lived in the city and experienced farm life when I was a young boy. Vets were scarce and may only have treated large farm animals then. Animal population and sickness, disease and even death were often handled at home or on the farm by those that had the animals. This is not even a matter of whether or not they knew or know what they were or are doing. It was all they knew then. Today, there is much more understanding and professional help available.

   You can open the door and let nature deal with this. If your pet is pretty much an outside animal and you just let them out one day and they never return that’s one thing. But if you know they are sick or dying and you let them out, that is cruel and that is inhumane.

   Even though you may not like someone around if you were dying, what about them being able to say goodbye to you? If we wanted to live alone then we should live alone. If we live alone we will most likely die alone, like the lady with her 100 cats, but someone will probably find us dead like they did her and her 100 cats. That had to be really traumatic on those that found her and her cats! Dammit, go check on your neighbor. Don’t know them? Meet them! Otherwise I think that’s cruel and inhumane too.

   That lady was not alive to care for the cats she most likely loved and they all died after she did. That is cruel and inhumane, intentional or not. We are talking here though, about a pet that does live with us. So imagine how frightened you might be. Wouldn’t you want to be with someone that loves you?

   Today, chemistry has provided the most humane method to end life that would otherwise terminate itself in fear, terror and pain and perhaps even long drawn out suffering. The procedure is quite simple. One injection puts your pet to sleep. You can even hold them in your arms. Trust me, the needle stick is not felt like we humans feel them. Very soon the animal is quiet, then calm, then peaceable and then finally, it is fast asleep. At this point the animal feels nothing and is not aware. The second injection is given, ending its life without event.

   Cremation is far more sanitary than burial and you can even have the cremated remains if you are so inclined. Susan and I have discussed all of this and are prepared for it when the time comes. We do not choose to have her ashes. We are fortunate enough to be able to have this done in our home and I will be the one to hold Angie in my arms. I would prefer to know she just died peaceably in her sleep and to find her one morning, than have to ‘put her down’ and die in my arms. Sometimes we do not always have the choice and must do whatever it is we have to do.  

   Some may want to bury their pet in the backyard like we did as kids. Some places have ordiannces against this, so if you are inclined to do this, know your laws or keep your mouth shut and make sure you are not seen. Then do not talk about it, EVER to ANYONE, unless you are absolutely confident in their discretion. No, I did not just suggest that anyone break any law!!!

   It has been long in coming to get to this point. Every story has an ending. Every story should have its main point and mine will now be shown here at its end. 

   As I write this now with a tear in the corner of my eye, I think you know how I feel, but this is not what is most important.

   It really does not matter how I feel or how you may feel. It does not matter that Susan is the one that brought Angie into my life. I could blame Susan for this and perhaps I have had a thought or two that led me to think this for a moment, but you cannot stop your feelings. It does not matter that there may be feelings to consider, other than my own; other people and other animals. What really matters is doing the right thing. A pet living with you or I is our responsibility. That’s it! All we can do is the best that we can do to help them and to make them as comfortable as possible for as long as possible, by whatever means we can, until the time. When they reach the point where recovery is not happening and they are continuing to worsen, then we need to help them to no longer suffer. My prayer is that God will intervene and that Angie will just either be restored to health or that she is taken peaceably in the night. But I will hold her if I need to. And what about you, when will you plan and how will you prepare for a loss? 

Just Imagine,

Dahni


[1] ‘Pet Health’ – Leave a comment and ask me about this product if you are interested and I will send you some information by email.


Responses

  1. […] the whole thing over here This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008 at 6:24 pm and is filed under […]

  2. […] Let the author know what you think, contact them and continue reading, here […]

  3. What a wonderful eulogy. I know she’ll be missed…………treasure the time you have with her.

  4. […] https://dahni.wordpress.com/2008/03/26/angie-preparing-for-a-loss/ […]


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