April 30, 2013

Saying Good Bye To A Really Lucky Cat

Things you need to know. We have some best friends. Their names are Stephen and Libba. Libba is a vet. 

There is a cat of legend from Chris' childhood. A black Tom cat named George. George was more dog than cat. He followed Chris to school every day and would sit outside the window of his classroom. Before George died he hugged all of his people good bye and disappeared.

We lost our cat Lucky yesterday. It was very sudden and very sad. 

Lucky came into our lives very unexpectedly. With four dogs, one cat and a baby on the way the inn was full. We had no real intentions of adding another pet to our family. 

One early Fall afternoon Chris and I went to Holly Springs to visit our friends. Libba had a few patients to check on at the clinic before we all went to dinner. Being a former vet tech I informed Chris that I was going to ride with her, "just in case she needed help." I knew there was a litter of kittens there and had heard that there were a few orange and white tabbies. I've always wanted an orange white tabby and thought maybe there would be one that I could convince Chris to take home. 

After we arrived at the clinic and visited with the kittens for a bit Libba said, "You've got to come see this little one. She's so sweet and sad." I walked over to a cage and inside was a tiny black kitten with bright yellow eyes. Libba told me that their preacher, Bruce, found her outside the VFW starving, full of fleas and worms and unable to bear weight on one of her rear legs. Bruce brought her to Libba. The leg would have to go, but Bruce agreed to pay for the amputation, spay and shots if Libba could find her a home. It would be a long shot. Black cats are a dime a dozen and hard to adopt out under the best of circumstances.

As I peered back at the kitten currently staring at me she made a mewling sound, made her way to the front on the cage and started purring so loudly you could hear it in the next room. I fell for that tiny neglected kitten instantly. Somehow I convinced Chris that she was so much like George and that she needed us as much as we needed her. Being a smart man, and recognizing that denying his pregnant wife the rescue of this baby animal would be a bad idea, he agreed. We would name her Lucky and wouldn't that be a funny name for a three legged black cat (as if we were the only ones clever enough to come up with that)?

After a small miracle and lots of steroids and TLC Lucky regained the use of her lame leg and about a week later came home to us. The first few days were a bit interesting and fur occasionally flew as she adjusted to her new brother and sisters, and they her. However, it became very clear that giving Lucky a home was a good idea. She proved to be the sweetest most loving cat. She always wanted to be in your lap, wrapped around your neck or getting her belly rubbed. Like George it was clear she was more dog than cat. She had nerve damage from whatever trauma caused her to be lame as a kitten and her tail dragged on the ground and she had trouble retracting her claws, but we didn't care. We loved her dearly. I told her (as I tell all of my animals) that she was really Lucky. She fell into roses and didn't do anything to deserve it.

Yesterday after mystifying Libba and her associates Lucky died. Sunday morning she began meowing pitifully and started throwing up. After a few text and phone consultations I called in the favor of having a best friend who is a vet and picked Libba up and headed to the clinic around 9pm. All of the radio graphs and blood tests were inconclusive but it was clear we had a very sick kitty on our hands. The only thing she tested positive for was a UTI. After hooking her up to IV fluids and giving her a few shots of antibiotics and some meds for vomiting I headed home. Before I left I made sure she was curled up in her blanket from home and reassured her over and over that we were not abandoning her, that we loved her and once she was fixed up she'd be back at home with us. Maybe some people think I'd be silly to have a conversation with a cat, but I truly believe that animals have feelings and know on some level what we are trying to express. They know the difference between comfort and anger. I was so worried she would think she was being abandoned on top of already feeling terrible.

The news yesterday morning wasn't good. She'd deteriorated over night. After a few more tests the diagnosis was still unclear. Lucky's health continued to decline throughout the day while Libba sent me text updates. Libba said she would hold off on euthanasia just yet. I told Chris if she made it through the night, but did not improve and there was no clear diagnosis that we'd have to make a decision on euthanasia. I couldn't prolong her life for me (or anyone else) if it was clear she'd not pull through and was in pain. I made arrangements for care for Evie and planned to go to Holly Springs either to visit her or be with her as she died on Tuesday. I've held countless animals as they've been put to sleep and comforted them when their owners couldn't. I was determined that if she was euthanized that she would die in my arms. 

I turned out that I needn't have worried as Libba and I spoke shortly after and I learned that Lucky was already gone. It was incredibly sad. Libba offered to autopsy to try and determine cause of death, but really, it won't bring her back. It won't let me hear her purr again. So I guess we'll never know. 

One thing I do know though is that for her name and all the times I would tell her that she was lucky to have found us, that she had a great life for a former dumpster cat, we were the lucky ones to have her in our life even if it was only for a short while. 

Be peaceful Lucky Cat. 

"You will always be lucky if you know how to make friends with strange cats."
-Colonial American Proverb-