June 12, 2009

Goodbye, too soon

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We'd been a couple for less than 6 months when we decided to add another member to our family. He was only a few months old, with black hair and big eyes. We had to involve our Mom in our plot, to pick him up since we weren't technically allowed where we lived.

He was the perfect kitty from the start. There was another kitty in the shelter named Piper, and we stole it's name because we liked it so much. A small ball of curious black and white with huge paws, he loved to be petted and held, but wasn't too needy.

In his whole life he only went to the bathroom outside his litter box three times. Once when he was a kitty and Justin was cleaning his litter box in front of him. Once because he was locked in a bathroom - and he went in the tub. And once last week after I upset him by forcing the pills down his throat.

For both my husband and I, he was our first pet since we'd left home. We were both only 19 years old when we got him. He was always a pretty cat, even when he got up to 18 pounds. We loved his giant-ness. He had six toes on his front claws, and it gave him a weird kind of human quality.
When Sam was born, Piper weighed twice as much as he did. We would watch them lying near each other on the couch and laugh. Sam was curious about Piper, and he was the most patient cat ever. He hissed at Sam a few times, and once batted at him, but without his claws. He taught Sam what he didn't like without ever biting, scratching, or scaring him. He would act annoyed, but moments later we would catch him swishing his tail, teasing Sam into playing with him.

A few months ago we started to notice that Piper was losing weight. At first we thought maybe it was healthy, but it got to the point where it obviously wasn't. Justin heard him coughing a few times. We finally took him in to get some bloodwork done, and that night at home we noticed how labored his breathing was. We called the vet the next morning and Justin took him in for X- Rays.
It wasn't good news. I never got to see the X-Ray, but Justin did. In the large spaces of his lungs that should have been dark, instead there were hundreds of spots. Fuzzy, white, and invasive. Something was seriously wrong. They did a biopsy. When he came home, he had a patch the size of a business card shaved from the fur in his side. The prognosis wasn't good. Piper either had lung cancer, or an advanced fungal infection. We started him on anti-fungals and anti-biotics.

Without spending hundreds of dollars for testing, there was no way to know which it was for sure. All we knew was that if it was fungus and it was still treatable, he'd improve within a couple of weeks. Pills, the only bite he ever gave one of us, forced feedings and watching him struggle to breathe came after that. He still wasn't eating on his own. We didn't want to lose him. But both Justin and I have had instances of asthma in the past, and watching him struggle to breathe, we knew that he was suffering. If the pills were going to work, there should have been improvement by now. Instead, he was dehydrated.

"I don't want to make this call" is what Justin told me this morning. But he did it. We went in. We weighed him and he'd lost another pound. IN TWO WEEKS. 10% of his weight, gone.

He was too young. He turned 9 last week. It was too soon. I hadn't let myself feel it up until today. I thought that I might as well wait until it was real. When I told the vet that he'd stopped coming to sit in my lap or lie on my chest every time I was relaxing on the couch, it was real. When Justin and Sam left the room, it was real.

I held him after the first shot, as his body became still. I petted him. My tears fell on his fur. I whispered that we loved him. I told him how good he was, and how sorry I was. I wished I could tell them to stop. Despite his state, I swear I heard him softly purr as I stroked his fur, almost inaudibly. The second shot came and he was gone. I let my weight fall back into the chair as they took him away to put him in a box.

Sam is too young to understand, we told him that Piper is gone, and he seemed to understand. But I still wonder if he'll ever ask about him. I imagined that Piper would be the first pet he'd remember, one of his two very early childhood pets. Now I wonder if he will even remember him at all.Afterwards, I carried him to the car. Somehow he seemed heavier. Waiting for Justin to get something from the house, I opened the box and stroked his fur. Still so soft, still our friend, our little guy. Still so hard to say goodbye.

We drove out to Justin's Dad's property and walked through the woods and found a spot for him. Under some trees, in a spot where we can visit later if we want to, Justin dug through the wet chunky dirt, and we laid our friend to rest. Moss and daisies cover him now. I still can't imagine that he'll never beg for food again, he'll never rub his head against mine, he'll never cuddle up
between us in bed at night. I can't imagine that he's really gone.

Click any picture to view full size. More photos here.

12 comments :

Scott said...

Oh Rache... I'm so so so sorry. My kitty sits curled up on my lap while I'm reading this and I can't imagine life without him as he sits here purring, "getting in the way" as I so often accuse him of. They're with us for so long and are so devoted to us...

God bless you and your family.

Dumblond said...

I'm very sorry for your loss.
I'm not really a cat person but I do love my furry friend Buster The Dog and even though he drives me nuts, when his time comes around...I will be a complete mess.

Chris said...

I'm so sorry Rachael. =( So very sorry.

Kori said...

This post is a beautiful tribute; it is SO hard, it truly is.

Maggie's Mind said...

My heart breaks for you, and tears are rolling down my cheeks. I can't imagine. I dread that day at our house. I hope you find peace in knowing that you gave Piper a truly wonderful life for all those years, and his life was spent experiencing the kind of comfort and love all kitties deserve.

Kat said...

I am sooo very sorry. We lost one of our cats about two years ago, right after we moved into our new house. It is such a loss.

We have always had cats...and that is one of the hardest things about pet ownership is knowing that their lives are not as long as we would like.

As for your children...my kids are too young to remember some of our pet. But we have lots of pictures. And some of them are framed. Pictures of them with the girls. Helping to put their crib or stroller together. And with those pictures...the girls swear that they DO remember those kitties.

Again...sooo very sorry for your loss!

Immoral Matriarch said...

Aww :( I'm sorry!

Dawn said...

Oh the sadness. Beautiful tribute post.

Nap Warden said...

So sorry for your loss...

Michelle Sybert said...

I am so sorry for your loss...

Enz said...

Lovely post. I'm sorry for your loss. Hugs.

Emmy said...

Really sorry to hear about Piper. He seemed like a great cat. I think you have a lot of wonderful photos of Piper, they will be great for remembering him.

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