Nov 16, 2008

The end of an era

My heart is so, so heavy.

Tonight we had to put our 12-year-old cat, Ellie, to sleep. She must have been feeling badly for some time, but we didn't know anything was wrong until Friday night. And even then, it wasn't severe enough to feel as though it was emergent; I was planning to take her to the vet tomorrow morning before work. She was just lethargic and was meowing loudly, more often than usual.

But tonight she suddenly was unable to walk, falling over when she tried, and she fell off the couch after Grayson placed her next to me as I fed Jake. I was immediately horrified and jumped up to take her to the emergency vet, feeling TERRIBLE that I hadn't decided to take her in the moment we noticed something was amiss.

Grayson ended up taking her in, saying that if a difficult decision had to be made, he'd be better off making it than I would. I felt like we needed to prepare the boys, somehow, so we sat on the kitchen floor at 8:30 tonight and petted her while I explained to them what was happening.

Nathaniel, our sensitive one, immediately started crying, saying he didn't want her to die, that he loved her and didn't want her to go away. It was one of my hardest parenting moments. Nothing I could say was going to make it any easier or was going to change the likely sequence of events that was about to follow.

Nicholas was a little more pragmatic about it ... "Well, she scratched me once." (And I don't think she ever did; I think she swatted at him without making contact about a year ago when he cornered her in a bedroom.) Nonetheless, he didn't seem to be that upset about it.

As Grayson loaded Ellie in the car, Nathaniel raced down the steps to the garage, flung open the door and tried to communicate through his sobs ... "Daddy, if the vet says Ellie is going to DIE TONIGHT, you have to CALL MOMMY and have her WAKE ME UP to tell me!!!" It was almost unintelligible. My heart was just breaking into pieces, enough for all five of us, it felt.

Through all of our tears, I got the boys in bed, and Nathaniel had a million questions, it seemed. "Is she really going to die? Will we get another cat? Is this going to happen to Scout one day, too?" (Scout is our 11-year-old cat, who, incidentally, will be doing his own mourning tomorrow.) Poor Nathaniel managed to fall asleep, eventually, calling out once more to make sure we'd wake him up once we knew what was happening.

Grayson called with an update about 9:15, saying that Ellie’s body temperature was only 94 degrees, and they were pretty sure it was kidney failure. At her age, that’s a pretty common diagnosis. They did some bloodwork and tests to determine the extent of her illness, and he called me back at 9:55 to let me know that her kidneys were functioning at about 5%, and her prognosis was very poor. By 10:00 we'd decided we had to let her go.

He was home by 10:30, at which time we tried to wake the boys to give them the news. We couldn't rouse Nick, but we got Nathaniel semi-lucid. He wasn't awake enough to get emotional again, which means tomorrow he'll greet the news as though he hasn't heard it yet, and he'll get upset all over again.

Over the past couple of years I’ve been dreading this sort of night. The kind of night where, out of the blue, you have to make a terrible decision about a pet, realizing that the next day your young kids will get their first real taste of heartbreak. That they’ll have to go to school, have conversations with their friends and teachers, answer questions, go to the bathroom, participate in story time … all the “regular” things they do every day, but with lumps in their throats and tears threatening to fall. Much the same way I’ll be feeling at work tomorrow.

It’s truly the end of an era. Grayson and I had been married only one year when Ellie came into our lives … a friend had rescued her from an abandoned mill south of Birmingham where she and the rest of her litter had been dumped. She was taking shelter in an overturned empty paint bucket when he found her, the only one of her siblings who’d survived.

She was quite a fighter, quite a girl, from the very beginning. We will miss you, so very much, little El.


Patrice said...

I'm really sorry, Katherine. I know how hard that must have been, and I know I've felt the same way and will have to feel it again sometime with my pets. They really are family. I'll keep you guys in my prayers. What a great, full life you gave her!

heather said...

Oh, I'm so sad for you. Big hugs, sweetie - to all of you.

heather said...

Oh, I'm so sad for all of you. Big hugs sweetie.

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