This is an extremely long sad post that details the last hours with my Gypsy cat. If you are a real pet person it will probably be too difficult to read, but I am a blogger and I need to write about things like this for myself.
I wonder how long it will be before I start marking time since Gypsy left me. Yesterday was filled with observing 2 hours, 4 hours, 9 hours, 12 hours. It has now been 24 hours. How long will the count go? Weeks, months, years?
Right now I can only think of the last hours we spent together (there is the time thing again). It is amazing to me how fast this happened. If you had told me last weekend that Gyspy would be gone this weekend I never would have believed you. It started Wednesday morning when I noticed that she had peed on my bed. We went to the vet that afternoon and ran blood work and a urine test but even then I really didn't think things were that bad. She seemed a little out of sorts but both the vet and I thought the urine test would show a urinary tract infection. Thursday afternoon he told me it did not show any infection. He gave me some tips to maybe make things easier for her (setting out a second litter box in the bedroom, getting one of those ramps for old animals to get on and off the bed, etc.). I don't think I really thought about her passing then either but when I was leaving work I took the picture I had of Gypsy off of my desk and brought it home. Some little part of me somewhere deep down knew.
When I came home she did not greet me at the door. She would always come from the bedroom when I walked in, but Thursday she did not. I walked into the bedroom and she was sitting on the corner of my bed, legs tucked underneath her and she just sat there looking at me. I started backing away and sobbing no, no, no right then because that little part of me that knew began to bubble to the surface. I called the vet and the doctor called me back in an hour. He told me to give it a night and see. I mostly left her alone in the bedroom although she did come out to eat and sleep on the sofa. I spent Thursday night crying in the living room and periodically going into the bedroom to tell her how much I loved her and how much she meant to me.
I woke up at 4 a.m. on Friday morning. Normally if I come wide awake, no matter the time, she comes up to me so I could pet her. She just continued sitting on the bed looking at me.
I called the vet when they opened and made the appointment for 9:15. The morning was spent watching the clock (an activity I am repeating this morning). A little before 9 I got dressed put her in the carrier and left. I think at this point I went into some kind of self protective numbness and shock. For years I imagined having to take her in, imagined putting her in the carrier and driving the streets to the vet and my mind reeled at the possibility. Yet there I was doing it.
I cried of course when I got to the vet and while I was in the waiting room but it wasn't sobs. I was placed in my normal examination room but they had put a big fluffy blanket on the waiting table, removed the scale and put out a box of tissues. They had made preparations for my Gypsy. When the doctor came in I was surprised that I was able to talk. Again that shock and numbness was protecting me I guess. The doctor has described the procedure the day before but he reviewed it with me and I signed the paperwork. The saddest part was taking Gypsy out of the carrier. She did not want to come out, but then again she never wanted to come out when she was at the vet. Once she was on the table she sat there, all typical vet behavior. The first shot he gave her was to ease pain and relax muscles. He told me she may lick her lips and make mouth noises and she did. He also told me that after that shot took effect she really would probably not realize if I was there or not and he was right. Her body slowly relaxed and I scratched her ears and pet her and told her again that I loved her.
After about 10 minutes they took her away to put catheters in to help administer the final medication. When they took her out she was so glazed over that in my mind that was it. While I waited and could hear some of the work they were doing, a tiny part of my brain was saying never mind, I changed my mind, let's not do it. But only a little tiny part. I knew that it was impossible to go back and I also knew it was the right thing to do. I could hear some of the conversation next door and could tell they were having problems putting in the catheters and while it agitated me it didn't freak me out or send me spiraling emotionally. That could have been the numbness and that part may come back in my "anger phase" but right now I think when that first shot took effect and they took her away Gypsy's spirit had already left.
The doctor brought her back in a few minutes before 10. All through this process he kept asking me at each step if I wanted to stay because he knew I was very undecided about whether I could handle it. I shook my head that yes I wanted to stay. He set Gypsy on the table so she was facing him and told me I could pet her. I'm glad he set her that way so I would not see her eyes. He told me as he administered each shot. After the second shot it really was seconds before he said she passed. He left me alone then to say my goodbyes. I peeked my head around to look at her face because part of me really needed to see that she had passed. I only looked for a second at her glassy eyes and went back to the other side. I scratched her ears, and pet her body and rubbed her belly. I wasn't crying, just repeating these motions over and over and just telling her again that I loved her. After a minute or two I realized that I could stay there forever doing that but I had already said everything I needed to say the night before. It took a lot of will power to knock on the window to let the nurses know I was leaving. I scratched her ears one more time and walked out.
I had already spent part of Thursday night and Friday morning going through my computer moving pictures around. I'm so glad I did it before because I found those wonderful pictures of a healthy and fat Gypsy. When I got home I cried but then I sat down and wrote my blog post. I edited photos and did my posting. I felt strangely calm. I even went to pay rent and called my apartment office about an issue. But as the afternoon wore on the numbness started to go. There were a lot more bouts of sobbing, keening, gasping for air followed by many moments of sitting quietly. I finally slept for about an hour and a half late in the afternoon. Every time I looked at the clock and marked time I was amazed and dreaded the fact that time was moving at such an incredibly slow pace.
I mostly stayed curled up on the sofa. At one point I tried to walk into the bedroom and I nearly collapsed from the sobbing. I understand much more about the denial part of grief. It isn't that you don't know but a little part of your brain can pretend that they are just in the other room and she was not. It was a difficult evening.
I didn't think I was going to sleep in my bedroom but I ended up hitting another numb phase where I moved some of her stuff around including the towels on the bed. When I went to move the one that she mostly stayed on since Thursday afternoon I gave it a sniff and it smelled like pee. So she had again peed where she sat. It actually gave me a little comfort to know that I definitely made the right decision and it definitely was time.
I thought when the time would come it would be an obvious decline where she wouldn't be able to walk or would be obviously in distress or she would stop eating or drinking. Those things didn't happen. It was little things but now that I look at it and add all the little pieces up it really was an obvious decline. She could have had another month at least but it would not have been a pleasant month for her. Accepting this is going to be very important for me. I still have some doubt that it was really time but it is getting smaller with each passing hour.
Gypsy will be cremated and I will be getting her ashes back in a decorative urn. Again, I never thought I would do that. I always thought she would be buried up at my aunt's house in the country or maybe cremated and I would scatter the ashes. But when I was at the vet a few months ago I made final preparations, leaving my credit card information and signing paperwork to allow others to use it (been preparing for this for a while). I let them know I wanted her cremated and they showed me some urns. Most of the pet urns I see are paw prints or ones that have the name of the pet or picture and I just find those too depressing. But they had a white cat statue in the sitting tall position and I was immediately drawn to it. I don't want anything that resembles her too much but I am comforted by the idea that I can keep her with me (never ever thought I would be one of THOSE people but apparently I am). I'm not sure how I am going to handle picking the ashes up and I have been tempted to ask someone else to do it for me but one thing I've learned about myself the last 36 hours is that I am stronger than I realize. I have seen several people post in a pet loss forum that getting the ashes back really helped and I hope this is true for me as well.
It has been comforting reading comments of people going through the same thing and I appreciate all the comments from my friends, especially those true pet people. The Boyfriend is coming today to take some things away and do some cleaning and it will be a relief. I have tucked away her favorite cat toy but I do not want the rest of the stuff around.
I will get another cat one day. I grew up with cats. I basically went about 7 years without a cat during the time I was at college and the first few years in Houston. It is going to be a while though. I am going to let myself recover and give myself a little more freedom emotionally and financially that I did not have the last few years. It's funny looking back because it just became a way of life for me but there were a lot of things I changed in her later years to accommodate an older cat. I don't regret any of it for a minute and she was worth every sacrifice and every penny but I do look forward to having some healing time.
I started writing this post before the 24 hour mark and have been watching the clock with each paragraph as the time closes in. I truly hope the clock watching will stop soon. It was helpful to write this out. I have learned long ago that I need to write things down to get them out of my head. I hope it works for this too.