This post is a departure from my recent posts. Normally, I try to get my point across without being very wordy – and that is my way. But sometimes, rarely, it seems that I have a bit more to sayand this is one of those times. My heart is brokenand this forum appears to be my best way to process this pain.
This morning as I enjoyed my quietude with my furry friends, I thought my biggest concern would be whether to go for a bike ride or mow the lawn today. I did not know that my best friend would leave this world. I didn’t know she was suffering. She had slowed down a bit recentlybut she was eight years old – not ancient for a cat, but not a bad time to slow down a bit. In a house full of animals and two ancient ones with their rickety bones and fuzzy thinking – it was too easy to overlook that she had not been sleeping with me in the bed for a week or so. Their health problems were so blatantly obvious and urgent recently, I hadn’t really noticed that she wasn’t coming around much. She didn’t come downstairs at all this morning.
When I went upstairs and she was laying on her side at the top of the steps, I knew there was a problem. She never laid like that. Her breathing was labored. She was dehydrated. It was 5 minutes after the vet’s office closed. We had piggy-backed her in on one of the ancient’s appointments last week because we were afraid she was limpingbut the regular vet was on vacation and the replacement gave her a clean bill of health. No joint problems, no toe pad issues – all clear. She was so happy to get home that day.
As I paged our regular vet and I waited for her to call back, found a clinic that could see her right away and I scrambled to get my sandals on, find the cat-carrier and my car keys.
“Yes!” my vet said when she called. “Get her to a doctor right away. If she is having a hard time breathing, it could be serious! Don’t jostle her or upset her,” she told my partner. “If she is in heart failure, she could go down very quickly.” My partner did’n’t share that with mebut I overheard it. I knew this was serious. Ginger never laid like that on the floor. Her little meow let me know she was weak.
At the vet’s office, the x-rays showed us the worst: a large mass in her chest with fluid all around it. The fluid they drew was bloody. Her little lungs were nearly collapsed as the tumor crowded them for space in her tiny chest cavity. The vet said she wasn’t fighting or struggling because she knew she had to conserve her energy. She couldn’t take an upset. Any breath could be her last.
She looked up at meand I could not bear the thought of her suffering another moment. This little cat who had given me so much love and affection – made me feel so special – was looking at me with those beautiful, deep green eyes.
“She doesn’t have long at all”, the vet said. “It could be anytime.” Did we want to take her home and think about it? They would draw more fluid off her chest, if we did. Do I want to subject her to more needles and the much-hated car rides – just to spend a few more hours with her? She already can’t walk far without laying down – her little sides pumping in and out wildly.
She is looking at me. I cannot let her suffer. I cannot let her suffer.
There were times when her affection for me was almost overwhelming. She would launch herself at my shoulder from her perch on a cabinet or a chair – then drop down into my arms and let me hold her like a newborn baby while she smiled and purred. She would sleep so close to me in the bed that I almost couldn’t move sometimes. She would crawl onto my chest and rub her little cheeks on mine and purr. It was sometimes hard to do anything but love her. I had to put a door up on my studio to get any work done.
I was not raised with that kind of affection. We were pretty stand-offish, really. But Ginger knew that I really always wanted that very kind of affection – someone to think I was the end-all. I basked in the love that she was absolutely unafraid to show. She made me feel as special as I am. I miss the warmth of her little body but her energy and love are with me forever.
I promise to take a page from Ginger’s book and not be afraid to give or receive love and joy in this world. I celebrate Life and Love in all the wonderful ways it manifests but tonight I do it in honor and memory of my best friend, sweet Ginger. I miss you powerfully.