My apologies for not getting this up last night, but things are complicated in our house at the moment. This last chapter was more difficult to write than I expected, bringing with it many tears. However, along with all the heartache and grieving, we are also closing on our first house next Wednesday, and moving on the Friday after. So, after working my normal job, I then spent most of last night trying to finish packing my office in preparation. I apparently used myself up on that, not realizing I needed to leave a little to get through my post. When I couldn’t even get through the first paragraph without crying so much I couldn’t see my monitor, I decided bed was a better option at that moment. After some much needed sleep, and half a box of tissues, here is the belated post.
Ziggy’s condition continued a slow, downhill slide the last day. He basically stopped eating very much, and his drinking slowed to just a drip now and then. His litter box went unused, except by Treelo.
Treelo was so interesting during Ziggy’s last days. She knew something was wrong, which is not surprising. Anyone who’s had animals knows they are very sensitive to the emotional state of their people. Case in point, I’ve had all three of them come and snuggle up to me when I am sick, even on a hot summer day when they would not do so otherwise. They know. And Treelo knew things were not right with Ziggy. She would not leave the immediate area where he was. She was never right in the middle of things, but stayed on the periphery all the time. She did hiss at him when he first came home, I think because he “smelled funny” with all the things the clinic had used on him. But she stayed close around the whole time he was home with us.
Given his obvious decline, we had no choice but to accept that we had done the right thing by making the preparations to help him on his journey. However, Wednesday morning came much too soon.
We made preparations for the vet’s arrival, not knowing exactly how this all worked as neither of us had been through an at-home euthanasia. We covered the coffee table under the window with Ziggy’s favorite blanket, a piece of tan polar fleece with kitties all over it. It used to be folded up on the cushion of the chair he always liked to sleep in. We felt that would be comforting for him. We moved the kitty tree where it was in line to see the table, figuring Treelo would probably join us at some point. She immediately decided that was the best seat in the house and parked herself in the top perch.
As the morning progressed, I spent a little time working on my laptop at the kitchen table, trying to keep up a little bit with work remotely. I know, it sounds callous, but it allowed me a little time to focus on something other than events to come. While I was sitting there, I suddenly felt something rub up against my leg. I looked down, and with some genuine surprise, found Ziggy. He had wandered over to see what I was up to, true to his curious nature. I rubbed his head and spoke softly to him, asking what he was up to. He jumped up on the chair next to me, then onto the table. He came very deliberately and sat down next to my laptop and looked me dead in my eyes. Ziggy was not one to come and look intently at you, unless he wanted something. I began skritching his neck, where he always liked, and he leaned into my hand and enjoyed the attention. He then flopped over on his side, as was normal for him when he was getting attention and wanted it to continue. After a couple of minutes of loves, I moved my hand back intending to close my laptop so I could pay more attention to him. He reached out and put his paw on my arm. I broke down. I had the feeling at that moment of him saying, “It’s ok papa, you do what you need to. I’m ok.” I stroked his leg and paw, and cried my eyes out. My wife soon discovered me, and came to comfort me…but she broke down as well when she saw me holding his paw. As my wife put it sometime afterwards, one year was just not long enough for “forever”.
The vet (who I will call the “doc”), came around to the house right on time. She was a very nice person, and I appreciated her demeanor from the beginning. Treelo, of course, had to come meet this new person. She’s the social maven of our family and takes it as her solemn duty to greet every guest that comes to our home…whether it’s our extended family, friends, the TV repairman, whoever. The doc asked if Treelo liked catnip, to which I replied, “Is a fat puppy heavy?” She pulled out a small, heart-shaped tin filled with some of the freshest catnip I’ve seen since we used to grow it ourselves. She took a pinch out and set it in front of Treelo, who immediately began snarfing it up. What a good way to get everyone relaxed immediately.
The doc then got to meet our Ziggy. She remarked at how big a boy he was! Being a Maine Coon mix, he was a very
large kitty. When we first brought him home we had him quarantined in our guest room. At that time, one of the beds in there was a double (or full) size. When Ziggy stretched out, he could almost go edge to edge across that bed. Remarkable.
Ziggy had been laying on the kitchen table, and the doc set the whole tin down in front of his nose. He perked right up, and buried his face in the tin. She explained that in her opinion, catnip was a somewhat overlooked drug in the cat world. We let Ziggy have his fill, after which he laid back down on his side. You could just see the little smile on his face!
The doc then began to explain to us the events to follow, and how things would work. She then asked if it was ok to go ahead and do the little bit of paperwork needed before we got started. So while Ziggy enjoyed his catnip euphoria, we took care of the details.
Now, I understand some people have a bit of an aversion to the description of the process of euthanasia, so I will not share the rest of the events in their entirety. However, I will share a few notes of interest. Treelo did join us and was there through the end. She watched the whole proceedings from her perch on top of the kitty tree. My wife and I were with him all the way through. His passing was very peaceful, lying on his blanket in front of the open window. He got to hear the birds and enjoy the light breeze from outside one last time.
When he was gone, the doc brought in a very nice basket lined with soft sheep’s wool, and so very carefully laid him in it. She then tucked him in with a nice silky blanket, and he looked so much like he was just sleeping. She took such good care of him, all the way through. She then asked if we had anything we wanted to send with him, and I handed her a small coil of the thin blue cord that was his favorite toy. She tucked it in with him and said she would make sure it made the journey.
The doc asked my wife if she’d like to carry him out, which she did, with tears in her eyes. When we got to her station wagon, which she backed into our driveway, the doc opened the back and she had it all decorated with wonderful blankets with kitties on them, lots of pillows and a special place in the middle sized just for the basket. What a superb touch…it just shows how much she cares about her job. In fact, she talks about this as not being a job for her, but rather her calling in life. I can’t imagine doing that myself day in and day out, and I applaud her for being able to.
We set Mr. Ziggy in the back and my wife and I both kissed his head one last time and said our good-byes. The doc then asked if she could give us both a hug. We both happily hugged her, and thanked her for what she had given both us and our beloved Ziggy. We said our good-byes to her, and then I put my arm around my wife and led her, slowly, back into the house. When we were safely back inside, the doc departed, and we hugged and the tears flowed like a thunderstorm.
Ziggy, as some of you may remember from my posts to The Adventures of Space Paws, was individually cremated and returned to us. My wife still sleeps with Ziggy’s blanket on our bed. We had the doc make a paw impression in clay for us, which we got back with Ziggy’s cremains. The polymer clay she used is the same color as the blue cord he loved to play with so much. And, his urn has not left my wife’s bedside table since we brought him home. Once we are moved and settled, we plan to purchase a nice wooden box with a spot for a picture on the front to keep his cremains in. It will have a place of honor on our home until we depart this earth.
I did get one piece of interesting news just today. We sent an email to the director of the shelter we adopted Ziggy from the day before he departed, to let them know his status. We figured they would want to know, again so someone else maybe doesn’t have to go through what we just did. The director sent us a note back the next day saying they would put a note in his file and pass the information along to their resident vets. We thought that was the end…but it was not. We got an email today with more information on Ziggy. Apparently, he came into the shelter from a hoarding situation. We don’t know any more than that, but it is very possible he was infected shortly before his rescue by the shelter. We’ll never know. The director also offered that if we wanted to adopt another kitty in the future from them, they would be happy to waive the adoption fee for us. Now, as nice as that is, and I do appreciate the gesture, I won’t take them up on it. They struggle for every donation dollar they get, and it is not a hardship for us to pay the adoption fee. So, we will certainly look at adopting from them again, but we’ll pay the fee. The kitties deserve it.
In all of this, I learned a couple of life lessons from our Ziggy. One is to just be calm. Take things in stride, don’t let the hustle and bustle of life get you all wound up. I think he was the calmest cat I ever met. That’s not to say he didn’t play hard…he did! But he knew it was just play. I never saw him rattled or uptight over anything. I like to think he just wanted to experience everything life had to offer without prejudice...both the good and the bad. I aspire to be more like him, in that respect. Not to shy away from something, even though you know it will be sad, or painful, or not very pleasant. Everything that happens to us in life shapes us in ways both visible and not so visible. And we should embrace those changes, as that is how we learn and grow. I plan to learn and experience all I can from now on, no matter what. And I will say his name out loud every time I think about shying away, to help me remember.
He, like most cats, knew the value of a warm lap (or chest or neck) in the winter, and a cool, quiet spot in the summer. I know he valued his relationship with us, probably in ways I don't even have a clue about. Even when he was sleeping, you always knew you could stop and rub his head and he would open one eye and purr loudly. All as if to say, "Oh, it's you. Thank you for the loves. I love you too." And then he would stretch, sigh and go back to sleep. I know we've all heard this at least a thousand times, from all sorts of places. But, I think it bears repeating, if not for you than for me. Take advantage of the time you have with loved ones and friends. Enjoy their company, learn all you can from them, and do your best to continually show and tell them how you feel. You just never know when the time will come that you will no longer have that opportunity.
Another lesson I learned I eluded to earlier; the value of play-time. He was always up for a game of chase-the-blue-cord, or why-can't-I-catch-that-stupid-red-dot with the laser pointer. He never said, "Come back later, I'm busy." He was always raring to go. We all get wrapped up in our own lives, and sometimes don't remember to take time out to just have fun. You don't have to have a reason...just go be silly and have fun. I'm very lucky to have a wife that I can be silly with, and I hope one day soon, when I can finally remember Ziggy without the tears, to feel like I can be that way again.
I cannot stress enough the value of FIV and FeLV testing. I know, I know…you’re saying, “But, they DID test him and it was negative.” Yes, however, he just happened to slip though somehow. Maybe if we had taken him in a couple of months after we got him, maybe we would have discovered the problem and things might have been different. I know those illnesses are incurable now, but with treatment we possibly could have prolonged his life at a reasonable comfort level. It’s all academic at this point, but I will make my point again. If you adopt a kitty, good for you. Just make sure you get them tested. And don’t test right after someone else has done one…wait two months and have them tested again, just to be sure. Please don’t repeat our mistake. I know I won’t.
We're all unique, and it would be a very boring place if we weren't. But, I wish Ziggy wasn't so unique. At this moment, I would very much like to have another one just like him. He was a perfect fit for our little family, in every way that matters. I know it isn't possible, and I know that at some point in the future, we will adopt another little life that needs rescuing who will be different in many ways. And they will also become an integral part of our hearts and lives. But, for now, I'm selfish...I want my Ziggy-Bean back.
I have one final wish and it is for myself and my wife. I hope that we, upon our own passings from this earth, will be able to meet up with Ziggy at
Vaya Con Dios and R.I.P.