My cat Annie passed away a week ago today, in the very early morning.
I've written about her before - my angel kitty, 17 years old.
I've put off writing this entry, thinking I could write it more easily if I waited.
This appears to be a futile strategy.
She had kidney disease. The vet said she was defying her numbers as the kidneys said there was almost nothing left of them, and yet she still acted like a cat who was feeling pretty good.
And then there was nothing left.
Her kidneys could not keep up with the lightness of her spirit.
It all happened fast, and I thought there was still a chance. Her rapid decline started with what seemed to have been a stroke, which is why I still held out hope - a different symptom, maybe, but not the end. After the stroke, she was unsteady but still walking in a waddling sort of way. But she always had walked like that, with a swing of the hips - this was just more pronounced. I also felt pretty clear that she wanted me to give her the chance to rebound. She was drinking, trying to eat. At one point, she took her little paw and curled it around my finger - like she was holding on, to get better. And when I took her to the vet, and told him I was trying to let her come back from this episode, she waddled over to her pet carrier and got into the bag. "What she said," she seemed to say.
Then I thought, I am making this up. Really, I'm just holding on because I can't stand for her to be gone, and I'm looking for signs to convince me to hold on. But I have always promised her that I would let her go when it was her time. It had been 15 years, that she was in my life. She was 17 1/2 now. Maybe it really was time. I didn't want to break my promise.
So on the Friday night before she died, I asked for a dream. I had a dream about my mom's husband Jim, who passed away a few years ago. He came for Annie. She wouldn't go with him. It comforted me. Whatever was going on, Annie wanted to do it on her terms. And I wanted to let her do that.
When the vet called that morning, she was still drinking water - or trying, with limited success on her own (and then I helped her, and then she could). They said to see how the weekend goes.
Saturday night, as it just did not look good, I held her. I didn't want to hurt her, but I didn't want to miss the chance to hold her one last time. She seemed so glad that I did. She put her little paw on my cheek, like she always did. She patted my heart. I had my other cat Alex curl up beside me. She was so weak, but she shifted her weight across me so that she was close to him, and she put her little paw on his back. He let her, and stayed right there.
I put her in her pet carrier - a place she always found comforting - and slept next to her as she slept, petting her often. About 12:45 a.m., something went up her - her soul? - I saw it - and then she meowed, once, almost as if in surprise, and was gone.
I'm sobbing as I write this. I'm still so sad that she's gone. She was the anchor of our little family. Cat Alex has been really mopey, lying in all of her favorite places. I am trying to keep him comforted
But I feel like we did good, Annie and I. As dying goes. She had discomfort but no real pain, I think. Conventional wisdom would have said that I should have had the vet put her to sleep. But she didn't seem to want that - whenever I checked in. And I was not about to let the vet take her life from her, or that way, if that was not what she wanted. "We will do it our way," Annie and I said. And Frank Sinatra nodded from afar and said, "Let them."