Tag Archives: grief

Saying Goodbye

Nine years ago, while still working as an LVT in general practice in Richmond, VA, I was solidly a dog person. I swore I would never have a cat. Not a cat person, nope, not me. And then along came Milo. He was young, maybe 6 months, a battered and broken orange tabby transferred to my clinic from the local emergency hospital. He had been found on the roadside by animal control officers. He had a fractured hip, fractured pelvis, horrible open wounds on his back legs and a raging fever. He wasn’t stable enough for surgery yet. Three times daily, we got him out of his cage, nestled in a little cat bed, and flushed his wounds with Betadine. He purred the entire time. PURRED! I was amazed. Two surgeries later he was still just as happy and seemingly grateful as could be. And I was smitten. He came home with me under the auspices of “fostering.” Not even I actually believed that fib.

He immediately became fast friends with my dog, Leroy. He learned to be a cat via a dog, so he was not like most cats. He was always friendly and ever agreeable and loved to play with the dog, “hiding” on the couch as Leroy ran past and then springing forward to swat Leroy on the butt (claws always in, of course).

About a year after coming to live with us, it became apparent that the injuries Milo had sustained were going to have lasting ill-effects on his health. His fractured pelvis had healed in such a way that left him with a pelvic canal less than an inch wide. To put it bluntly, it was hard for the poor little guy to poo. We managed his problem with medication pretty well for over a year but things began to worsen. His poor colon was no longer functioning properly and surgery was required. So we went for it, knowing that it might not solve the problem. In fact a board certified surgeon told me he didn’t think it would. But miraculously, it did.

And Milo did great…for about 6 months. It was around June of 2007 when I noticed that he was really obsessed with water, like to the point of being obnoxious about it. Being a vet tech, I became concerned, so I checked his bloodwork and was floored when his kidney values came back sky high. I now had a 4-year old cat in chronic renal failure (CRF), something that typically only happens to geriatric felines. As always, Milo remained happy and compliant for treatments, which included subcutaneous fluid administration (giving him fluids under the skin) and pills. He appeared to be a completely healthy cat, not at all sickly looking. He was even a little on the chubby side.

He kept up his relatively healthy status for several years before it became apparent that additional treatment was needed. We shelled out big bucks to see a kidney specialist in the suburbs of Chicago and even more money on specially compounded medications. He rallied once again.

But a few months ago, CRF finally caught up to him. He started looking like a “kidney cat”…skinny with disheveled fur and a complete disinterest in cleaning himself. He began to get pickier and pickier about what foods he would eat until he was refusing just about everything. He was quickly losing muscle mass and was urinating in random places around the apartment. In a last ditch effort a few days ago, I gave him an appetite stimulant. Not only did the damn thing not work, it made him horribly agitated. He wandered around the apartment howling and confused. It wasn’t worth giving another dose. He was weak from barely eating and looked miserable. I couldn’t let my little friend endure this suffering any longer.

Last night, I met his amazingly kind vet at the clinic just before closing. My roommate was there, as was a dear friend who knew Milo well, along with my wonderfully supportive girlfriend who had listened and held me as I cried and talked through the decision all weekend. My ex-husband even came to say goodbye. Milo and I were surrounded by love as he went quietly and peacefully to sleep.

I wish that I could have taken him home to Richmond so his friends there could have seen him one last time and his vet (and my friend) who saved his life could have helped him leave this world. They were all there in spirit, though, sending me love across the internet, lifting me up. I am sad. I will be sad for a while. Milo was such an amazing, resilient cat and I feel like I was robbed. Nine years wasn’t nearly long enough. But I’m lucky that I had him at all. It was Milo who created this Crazy Cat Lady. And I won’t ever forget him.

photo by Eileen Baldeshwiler

Finding the light

Chicago has been experiencing a bizarre yet beautiful early spring over the past few days and before that a blessedly mild winter. In spite of nature’s kindness, though, things have felt dark. The Chicago queer community lost a beautiful spirit this week to suicide. Just last month, a good friend’s boyfriend took his own life. My heart is heavy with these losses, not simply because of the hole they leave in their communities and families but because I know that dark place, that hand that pulls you under. I know how hard it is to break free from its grip. I’ve been there. Sometimes I’m still there. Ultimately, I’m among the lucky ones who had the ability and the support system to fight my way back. It’s heartbreaking that these two young people did not have that chance.

If you know someone who is suffering, please don’t let them do it silently. Don’t wait until it’s too late to celebrate their life. Boost them up while they’re still around. Tell them they matter. Offer your support. Reach out to them and help them find the resources they need to survive. Make it known how important they are to you. I’m not saying that will turn the tide. It’s never that simple. But you owe it to them to not stay quiet. We owe it to each other.