Compassionate Choices

Stella’s last days were hard. People told me, “You’ll know when it’s time.” I wondered. But in the end, I did know. On January 13 I noticed blood in her urine. We took her to the vet and they did blood tests and urine culture. She’d lost two pounds in four months. A few days later we had a diagnosis of urinary tract infection. So we began antibiotic treatment. After a week, there was no improvement, and instead, I noticed Stella starting just to lick the gravy off her stinky wet food rather than eat it.

By Friday the 24th, she couldn’t keep much down. She’d eat — she was hungry — only later to vomit. She felt more frail than usual. On Saturday, when she puked at least five times and even if it was just water, I knew it was bad. A visit at 4:00 p.m. to the vet showed she’d lost seven ounces since the 13th. We had an x-ray done; evaluation showed a lump on her lung. (Later examination by a radiologist also revealed tumors in her bladder, hence the blood.)

The vet gave options. We could send Stella to emergency care for fluids and stabilization and then have her transported back to them on Monday for biopsies. Or we could give her subcutaneous fluid and an anti-nausea shot and take her home to say good-bye. Without a biopsy there was no absolute answer, but her guess was that it was probably “Cancer, cancer, or cancer.” The choice was obvious. Stella was 17. She was tired. I wouldn’t put her through hell just to satisfy my curiosity or to chase a fantasy of a cure.

So we brought her home. We snuggled. She stopped eating. She stopped acting hungry. The only thing she wanted to eat were treats, but they didn’t stay down. All day Sunday we hung out on the couch, and she slept on me both nights. Sunday night she kept vomiting, but there was nothing in her.

On Monday I took her outside. She toured the back yard, sniffing corners, chewing grass, lying down and listening to birds. After an hour she was done and went inside. I lay on the couch with my face next to hers and looked into her eyes. She purred constantly. At one point she cleaned my hand, which was one of her many ways of expressing fondness. She was tired, uncomfortable. If I let her die a natural death, it would likely be by starvation. I wouldn’t do that to her. At 4:00, the veterinarian and his tech came to our house. Hub and Claire were also at home. They inserted a catheter, gave an injection to make her sleep, and then another injection to stop her heart. So fast. Irreversible. I cried.

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Claire and I waited in line for school to start. The mother of a classmate approached and held out a ceramic cat statue to Claire, saying, “Z made this for you because you’re sad about your cat dying.” Claire said thank you. She’s six, and she hasn’t cried much about Stella. She’s got more questions instead, and her grief is coming out behaviorally — intense anger, low flashpoint, general contrariness. And the occasional comment, such as, “I don’t like this house anymore. It doesn’t have any pets,” and “I miss Stella. Why did she have to have a shot that made her die?”

But this gift, and the kindness that prompted it, brought tears to my eyes. This little boy was at Color Me Mine and decided that he wanted to make a gift to console a friend. Bless his huge empathetic, compassionate heart. Claire will cherish this statue. It sits prominently in our dining room.

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I miss the thump-a thump-a thump-a of Stella going down the stairs. I miss the click click click of her toenails on the floor. I miss stroking her as I walk by her sleeping body on the sofa. I miss the yowling when she was hungry, or lonely. I reflexively look for her to bring her up to her room at night and then realize she’s gone. I feel the absence of her energy in the house. I miss talking to her.

So this gift from a little boy to my daughter? It’s priceless — and cradled deeply in my heart.

kitty gift
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2 Comments on “Compassionate Choices”

  1. Lorianne Says:

    What a sweet gesture.

  2. Mom/Grandma Says:

    I can only repeat my comment from the flicker photo … what a beautiful empathetic gift from a very young soul who may pass into adulthood and carry it with him.
    May God bless him!

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