Saturday, April 09, 2011

Testing Our Strength.

I want to be strong. These past few weeks have tested that, for me and for Scott.

We have two cats, Kasha and Hunter. Hunter is a big, strong, awfully affectionate kitty. He makes friends with everyone and has no fear. Kasha - ehh, the polar opposite. Sixteen years old (or more - we're not really sure), had medical issues as a kitten, and has always been our "scaredy-cat". Hides out in the bathroom closet, runs from everything, afraid of her own shadow. Both cats are STRICTLY indoor cats. They're okay with that. Hunter may want to peek outside when the door is open, but Kasha - no thanks. Needs her home, her security, her places to hide.

Kasha has been missing for two weeks now. We couldn't imagine where she had gone. A senior cat, we were afraid she had gone and hid someplace, ready to make her peace with the world and pass away. We searched everywhere. Tore the place apart. No Kasha.

Then we realized that we had a dryer delivered the last day we saw her. The basement door was open for quite a while. What if she had been in the basement, freaked out, tried to run up the stairs and - with the door open and blocking her path to the kitchen - ran outside? Impossible. But, the only answer.

We posted fliers. Talked to all the neighbors. Posted, pleading, on neighborhood blogs. No answer. No one has seen her.

The weather has been typical Seattle spring. Not too cold, but wet, ugly, unfriendly. She hasn't come home. We don't think we'll ever see her again. We sob, thinking of her alone, terrified, cold, hungry, too scared to let anyone help her. We go on, trying to keep our hopes alive. She's our baby, one of our kids. She's missing. We never thought we'd see her beautiful, fragile face on "Missing Pet" fliers. We don't eat or sleep or work well. She's gone.

Last Thursday was Scott's birthday. I bought flowers, photography books since he's really getting into that, bought steaks for dinner. I started dinner before he got home, arranged the flowers with his gifts and cards placed just so next to them.

We have two dogs, Stoli and Kali. Kali is big and strong, five years old, a strong warning bark and protector of the the universe (our universe at least). Stoli - not so much. She was, in her prime. The runt of the litter, but sleek, agile, fast, athletic. She would catch low-flying birds swooping across the back yard, leave them as gifts on the back step, I love you, I hunted for you.

She's fifteen years old now. Half blind, half deaf. Her back legs and her spine are giving out, so we carefully maneuver her down the stairs, keep her inside when it's cold out, pick up after her when she has "accidents" in the house. We take care of her now. She's our baby.

Birthday dinner cooking, Scott comes home, we let her in like we do every night to eat inside. She's not walking right. She falls. Something has changed.

Scott carried her out to the front yard to do her business. In horror, we realize she has no use of one of her back legs. It drags, her paw bent under, she can't walk. We start to cry.

Scott is off the next day. He drops her off at the vet, waiting by the phone. I'm at work, stomach in knots. It's an incredibly busy time at work. I dread going to the clinic, watching her die as we make that decision, and then having to go back to work. I don't like to talk about personal things at work, and I'm dying because I have no support. I tell one of my co-workers, another animal lover, she tells me she's so sorry. I wait for the phone call.

Scott calls later, Stoli may have had a stroke. They're not sure. Dogs recover easier than humans from strokes, the vet says. But her spine is deformed, discs out of place, she's an old girl. She seems okay, to the extent she can be. They give anti-inflammatory drugs, pain medicine, send her home. Scott carries her to the car, carries her inside, carries her upstairs. She'll be around a little while longer, but no more walks. No more getting up and down the stairs. No more puppy.

She's doing okay - still has an appetite, still love chewing on the new toys Scott bought her, still loves smelling the grass and the air. But we have to carry her in and out, up and down, steady her and be her leg while she pees, poops, eats.

I wonder if I have the strength for her.

But we do. We do whatever we need to do. We'd do whatever we need to do for any one of our kids, at any time. We'd probably lay down our lives for them. Really.

So we grieve for the fact that Kasha is gone. We grieve for the fact that the young, athletic Stoli is gone. We grieve for Hunter, who doesn't know why Kasha isn't there to play with anymore, and for Kali, who is out in the back yard alone all day. We go on.

But part of us doesn't. Part of us dies, and we grieve.


jo said...

I am so sad for you and for Scott. Animals are so much more than just pets. They listen and love without judgement. They are, indeed, your children. *hugs* I'm so sorry that you have to go through all of this, all at once.

Dogeared said...

I'm sorry you're both hurting so much. I hope it's some consolation that they have both reached good ages (especially Stoli - 15 years for a big dog is quite amazing, and a sign of how well you've looked after her).

You two have loved all your animals an incredible amount, and they've been lucky to have you (as you have been to have them).


Kelly said...

Ughhh... I feel your pain... pets are so great to have, but so hard to lose too... take care and know they love you as much as you love them...

Cassandra said...

We don't know each other, but one of your friends is my cousin, Susie Johnson. I stumbled across your blog and read your post. I lost my cat of 17 years one month after my son was born in 2009. He suffered from multiple strokes, losing all of his function along the way. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever had to go through. Then one year later, our English Bulldog of 9 years developed a lump on his neck. Within a month he was suffering and had to be put to sleep. My husband and I grieved for months afterward. It will be one year ago since we lost him next week and it still hurts. I want you to know that as a fellow animal lover, we are all connected. We all feel this sort of pain and anguish when we lose them. Don't ever feel you are alone or feel stupid for how you react. If you've been lucky enough to be blessed my an animal, you're unlucky enough to feel the pain and sorrow of loss at one point. I believe animals are put into our lives for a reason. My cat prepared me for being a mom - eerily so. There I was, caring for something that needed me for everything. I suddenly realized his life had served a purpose and his death was much easier to take. Hang in there and know that we all share in your sadness and sorrow.

Aimee said...

I'm so sorry, guys. Watching one of your children in pain...missing them. It's beyond hard. Sending you all strength.

Matt said...

Thank you all for your kind comments. Yes, we have been blessed to have them for so long. It's supposed to be forever, though. Someone got it wrong.

Cassandra, your note was especially sweet. Susie also sent a nice comment on Facebook. I understand what you have said, and there is comfort in it.

Thank you all for being such wonderful friends. It's much needed and much appreciated.

Sizzle said...

I am so sad to hear this. My heart breaks for you and Scott. I would be out of mind with worry and grief if anything happened to my cats (have been, actually). And when my dog was sick, we poured money to save her but the cancer was too strong. I am holding you all in my heart and sending you love.

Curtis said...

Good thoughts to you from Missouri.

Beth said...

Matt, I am so very sorry you and Scott are going through so much right now. It isn't fair to have so much piled up on you at once. Y'all are in my thoughts and prayers.

Coaster Punchman said...

Oh Matt, I'm so sorry. I know all too well the heartbreak when a cat disappears like that - has happened to me several times. And your poor sick doggy --- hopefully you can take a little comfort in knowing how much happiness you gave them by giving them a warm loving home.

Anonymous said...

I found it hard to write anything (here or there) to you guys. But I think I can say now "I am sorry that this happens to sweet loved animals!" and hugs to you all.

cb said...

I'm bawling as I read this. I'm so sorry that you are going through this-- the worst part of pet ownership.

I'm giving my little girl Phoebe some extra love right now.