M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Friday, November 12, 2004  

Kitty Down

Trash and I don’t have favorites when it comes to our cats. We love them both equally, just like you’re supposed to. It’s not like Strat is mine and Orca was Trash’s.

But they didn’t know that.

Our family grew to five last month, and now it’s back down to four. We keep expecting to see her, curled up on the bed or the sofa, or as a dark hump in the sock basket. This morning, a black skirt had slipped onto the floor in a place where she usually walks, and for half a second I thought it was her. Every time M. Tiny makes a gasping or wheezing noise, our hearts clench in reaction to this random repetition of the last sounds Orca made. It hurts so much. All the cliches are true. The house feels emptier. I feel emptier, like ten pounds of furry flesh were ripped out of my chest.

Trash, of course, feels worse.

November, 1991. Trash and I, married nearly two months, are out and about and we have a little while before she has to catch the bus from our Uptown neighborhood to work. We decide to kill a few minutes in the pet store near Calhoun Square. We make a deal that we will not buy anyone. Trash just wants to look at some cute animals.

Please don’t lecture me about pet stores. We know all about them now.

Orca had seen three separate veterinarians in the past few weeks, including the Vet-Friend, and we followed all of their instructions to the letter. We didn’t want to make the same error we’d made with Strat, waiting too long to get her seen and treated. We tried to learn from our mistakes. Now we just have more mistakes to learn from. Waiting too long to bring your cat in is a mistake, as we already knew. As it turns out, waiting too long for a prescribed course of treatment to take effect is also a mistake.

We doubled Orca’s Lysine dose, just as the Vet-Friend suggested. But after a day, it didn’t seem to be taking effect. The VF was going to squeeze Orca into her after-hours schedule on Wednesday night, to give us a third opinion, but Orca’s increasingly labored breathing, coupled with the fact that she was starting to hang out by herself deep in Trash’s closet for no reason, had us worried as of Tuesday evening. I called the VF and asked if there was any way we could get her started on antibiotics right away. The VF made some phone calls, and within the hour I was making runs to both Walgreen’s and the local pet clinic she and Strat go to regularly. She had her first doses in her by seven p.m.

Trash lays eyes on a cage where five or six tiny little black-and-white kittens are frolicking together adorably. She is instantly in love. “Strat needs a friend!” she tells me excitedly. I’m doubtful. “This is what I want for my birthday,” she insists. “Nothing else.” I know right then, deal or no deal, that we’re not walking out of there empty-handed.

At nine o’clock, Orca’s breathing was already better. The wheezing hadn’t gone away, but she wasn’t breathing through her mouth any more either. I pointed this out to Trash. She smiled. Later, Trash took a few minutes to sit down in front of the love seat where Orca was curled up and pet her and tell her she loved her. This happens regularly anyway, with both of us and both of the cats, especially lately. It’s important. Somehow it seemed more important this time.

Remember the scene in Raising Arizona where Nicolas Cage takes all of the Arizona Quints out of their cribs and lets them crawl around the nursery so he can pick the best one to kidnap? Imagine the same scene in a pet store instead of a nursery, with five or six black-and-white felines instead of five humans, and an increasingly lovestruck Trash instead of Nicolas Cage, and an increasingly irritated pet store staff and incredibly patient new husband instead of nobody else.

I gave Orca her second dose at around eleven-thirty, right before bedtime, as the VF had suggested. I’d been spending the past week and a half shoving chunks of horse pills down her throat. This pill was one-quarter of a tiny caplet, no bigger than one of M. Tiny’s fingernails.

Orca got upset. Really upset. Normally she’s been flattening her ears and running away after I do this. Not this time. She dropped into a crouch and started gasping through her mouth. Trash and I watched this for about a minute, hugging her and petting her and waiting for it to pass. It didn’t. I got my shoes.

“Where are you going?” Trash said.

“I’m taking her to Emergency.”

We’d picked up her chest x-rays and medical records from our regular vet so we could show them to the VF at her Wednesday night appointment. I grabbed these off the kitchen table, put Orca in the carrier, and headed out the door. Obviously Trash had to stay home with our new son; bringing a preemie to an animal hospital was out of the question. Trash told Orca goodbye as if it might be the last time she was going to see her.

I didn’t think there was much chance she’d be right.

Four or five tiny black-and-white kittens swarm over us in the pet store, tripping on our feet and rolling on the floor, the unspoken words pick me! Pick me being signaled from every whisker. One tiny black-and-white cat is much more interested in exploring the store than us.

I’d left without a totally clear idea of where the emergency vet actually was, other than that it was north and west of our house. Trash got online as soon as I was out the door and found the address, then called me on my cell phone to tell me where to go. There are actually two in the area. One is in Golden Valley, which is the direction I was headed. The other is marginally further away in Eden Prairie, a southwestern suburb that I can still get lost in despite having worked there for several years. I didn’t think I had time to get lost. I was already on my way to Golden Valley, so Trash gave me that address, then told me she was going to call and tell them we were coming.

She called back a minute later, when I had the sign for the emergency clinic in sight. She said they sounded worried and had asked her how soon I could get her in. “Right now,” I told her.

I parked none too neatly and ran inside with Orca’s carrier in one hand and the big manila envelope from the vet’s office in the other. I said the words “Respiratory distress” to a nurse, whereupon she and both items disappeared instantly behind a door marked “Staff Only.”

Trash and I pick up and hold all five or six of the tiny little black-and-white kittens, one by one. All of them are sweet and affectionate and loving, full to bursting of pick me! Except the one that’s full to bursting of put me down!

“This one,” Trash and I agree.

In an exam room, I filled out a few short forms, and was left to sit by myself for a while. I don’t remember the order of everything. The emergency vet came and told me they were putting Orca in an oxygen cage and giving her some medicine to help her breathe easier. I handed over Orca’s prescription bottles. Trash called to ask what was going on. I told her what I knew, which wasn’t much. Something about asthma, which had never been mentioned at any of her previous visits. We’ve been treating her like she had an upper respiratory infection this whole time, because that’s what they told us she had. But now she was having what looked like nothing so much as a full-blown asthma attack. I started to get a little scared. I realized there was a possibility that I might be calling Trash tonight to tell her our kitty had actually died. Again, I’m not sure about the order.

At some point I relocated out to the waiting room. Conan O’Brien was on by now. Fatboy Slim was playing. In retrospect, I’m glad his new song was terrible, because if I had to carry associations between that night and a future ubiquitous smash like “Praise You” or “Rockafella Skank” with me for the rest of my life, I don’t think I could take it.

“This one” has a built-in snarl of white fur over her upper lip, another white marking that looks like a blowhole on the small of her back, and a fluffy white shirt front and socks. It’s like she’s wearing a tuxedo that’s too small for her so it split up the back, which would be a very small tuxedo indeed. She also has little patience for anything that isn’t her idea. We figure that if we’re going to bring a tiny kitten into a house where an adolescent and fairly large cat has already established his primacy, she’d better be able and willing to defend herself a little.

Carson Daly was on by the time the vet came out to tell me what medications they’d given Orca, and that she was going to have to spend several more hours in the oxygen cage. She told me to go home and get some rest, because they close at 8:00 a.m. and I would have to be back to pick her up before then.

I went home to Trash and Strat and M. Tiny. Trash took care of the diaper changes and feedings for the rest of the night so I could get some sleep and be sure to get back to the emergency clinic in time to bring her home and get myself to work. At 6:00 Wednesday morning, she called the clinic and they told her that Orca was doing tons better. She was breathing easier, and we’d be able to take her home as long as someone stayed with her. Which someone would, since Trash would be home with M. Tiny for the day anyway. Trash woke me to tell me this, and I felt better. This was, more or less, they way things were supposed to happen.

We pay for our new kitty and I walk Trash to the bus stop. Along the way, a young couple notices the meowing cardboard container I’m carrying and asks to see what’s inside. I draw breath to explain how we don’t want to risk losing her or have trouble getting her back in.

“Sure,” Trash says.

Highway 100 is a parking lot at 7:00 a.m., so I left before then, giving myself forty-five minutes to make a drive that had taken me less than fifteen the night before. Not that I had strictly obeyed all of the more esoteric provisions of the traffic code the previous night. Or indeed all of the intervening traffic lights.

I got there a little before seven-thirty, and the vet from the previous night came out to give me the good news that Orca was doing great. She wasn’t even in the oxygen cage any more. She just had to get Orca ready, and they’d be out in a minute so I could take her home.

It was more than a minute.

When the vet came back out to the waiting room, it was to tell me that just getting Orca ready to go had stressed her enough to set off another asthma attack, and her breathing was again as bad as it had been the previous night when I brought her in. They’d popped her back in the oxygen cage and given her another round of meds, but she wasn’t responding to anything and they couldn’t keep her there indefinitely. It’s a night-only clinic, you see. During the day it’s something else and all the emergency patients and vets have to be out by 8:00.

It was 7:40.

An angry black-and-white fuzzy head pops out of the daylight-crack between the flaps in the cardboard box. The white whiskers contrast starkly against her black face, the ears are laid back in annoyance, throaty meows issue forth from beneath that badass/adorable little snarl. I have trouble getting her head back in the box. The young couple agrees that she is lovely.

After they’re gone, I tell Trash, “Let’s not do that again.”

“Open the box, or go into a pet store?”

“Either one.”

Trash never goes into a pet store again.

Our pet clinic is six blocks away from our house, but I didn’t want to bring Orca back to the vet that had misdiagnosed her in the first place. I didn’t want to bring her to VF’s clinic, the better part of an hour away even without rush-hour traffic. I wanted to bring her to another clinic not far away from where we were, in St. Louis Park, run by another friend of Trash’s sister. But they don’t have an oxygen cage, so that was out.

The clock was ticking, and Orca wasn’t improving. They let me come back into the Staff Only area to “visit” her, which amounted to peering in at her through the glass door of the oxygen cage, a wall-mounted cubicle a yard per side. She saw me, and meowed in her silent way. She came to where I had my shaking hand pressed against the glass. I watched her mouth working as she struggled to breathe. The vet confessed that she had tried everything she could think of and she was stumped.

“Is she going to die?” I asked her.

She took a while to answer. “Not this minute.”

I stopped being only a little scared.

I couldn’t stay back there with her. I wasn’t even supposed to be there in the first place. I went back out to the waiting room and consulted by cell phone with an increasingly upset Trash. The emergency vet had a suggestion. The other emergency clinic, the one in Eden Prairie, has a cat ambulance with a portable oxygen cage. They could come up and get her and bring her to that clinic, which is a 24-hour facility.

I bitterly regretted my decision to come to Golden Valley the previous night.

I talked it over with Trash on the phone. There was a lot to weigh. The drive to Eden Prairie would be over a half hour, and Orca hates riding in anything. She’d be with strangers. When she got there, they wouldn’t be able to do anything that the Golden Valley vet hadn’t already done. Orca was already full of pure oxygen, albuterol, steroids, basically everything short of a Pulp Fiction adrenaline needle through the sternum. And there was no guarantee that after dropping God-knew-how-much on a cat-ambulance ride and another indefinite stay in an emergency facility, that she would recover anyway. As the emergency vet told me, anything we did at this point carried risk. The only thing that was certain was that it was now well after 8:00 and she couldn’t stay here.

I came up with the “solution,” and I take full responsibility for what happened. I would drive Orca to our own regular vet, six blocks from our house. That way she could at least be close to us, and among vets and vet techs that she knew. We’d just have to keep her away from the vet who had missed her asthma, and make sure she got Strat’s vet, Dr. M, instead. It was 8:45 by now, and I guessed the worst of the traffic on Highway 100 would be over. The emergency vet would call ahead to let Dr. M. know we were coming, and to have the oxygen cage ready. Orca had survived the drive last night; I figured she could survive another, if I didn’t fuck around. I estimated it was about a fifteen-minute drive under normal circumstances, and I was determined to make it in ten.

I now think I only had about five.

Trash catches her bus, and I take our new cat home. I leave her cardboard carrier in the hallway and let myself into the apartment. Strat greets me in the foyer.

“Hi, Strat!” I say excitedly, petting him with great enthusiasm. He responds in kind, as happy to see me as a laconic puppy.

There is a muffled “meow” through the apartment door. Strat turns his head.

“Hi, Strat!” I reiterate, and he turns his attention back to me. Until there’s another muffled “meow” from the hallway. The next time he turns his gaze to me, it is distinctly quizzical.

“Let’s go in the bedroom,” I tell him, and scoop him up to do just that. Once he’s safely sequestered, I bring the box in. This time I don’t need to worry about getting the cat back in after I open it.

I paid Orca’s bill and brought her paperwork and x-rays out to the car. I moved the car as close to the door as I could and left it unlocked with the keys in it and the engine running. I went back into the clinic. The receptionist saw me come back in and called to the back room: “We’re ready.” A minute later a veterinary assistant emerged handed me Orca’s carrier, with her gasping inside it. I heard the assistant’s “Good luck” Dopplering away behind me as I returned to the car at a dead run.

As it turns out, Highway 100 at 8:50? Still a parking lot. Fuck. FUCK!

I have to go to work myself a few hours later, and I leave the cats sequestered from one another in separate bedrooms. The new kitty is turning out to be quite shy, insisting on hiding from me under the bed. I can’t have that; I want to make friends with her, and now. I’ll explain as much to Trash when she gets home that night to find most of our possessions stacked around the bed frame so the new cat can’t escape underneath it.

Ever find yourself in a traffic jam and almost wish that you were in some kind of emergency so you could zip past everyone on the shoulder? Take it from me: don’t wish that. Don’t ever, ever, wish that.

I didn’t even bother trying to merge into traffic. Luckily the shoulders were clear, but I still didn’t feel safe going over fifty. And the on-ramps were a little hairy to negotiate, what with people merging in slow motion. I threaded through, however, angry horns going off behind me.

Meanwhile, beside me in the shotgun seat, I had Orca’s carrier door open and my right hand on her prone body. Her mouth was open as she laboriously sucked in air and pushed it out. Her side was rising and falling.

And then it wasn’t.

I can’t describe the sound I made.

I forget how many days you’re supposed to keep cats separate from each other in the same house before you introduce them to each other. I do know they aren’t separated that long.

Strat doesn’t take to Orca, as we’ve agreed to call her, right away. She hides from him. We hold on to him when she goes to the food dish and the litter box. At a fraction of his size, she knows she’s no match for him. But occasionally he does catch her out in the open and a chase ensues. It always ends the same way: he catches up to her, and when he’s in striking distance she flops over on her back, all eighteen claws pointed straight up at his throat, chest, and belly. Suddenly he has second thoughts about whether striking distance is someplace he really wants to be.

“We chose wisely,” Trash and I say.

There was a gentle vibration still going on under Orca’s hide, and I seized on it as a potential sign of life. I begged her to hang on, just please hang on, just another minute, we were almost there, just please hold on for us. I kept begging, even after the vibration stopped. And now that we were off the freeway, I drove faster. I didn’t know if it was possible or feasible to resuscitate a cat that had just stopped breathing, but I was sure as hell going to find out.

By the time I barely parked the car outside our vet’s office, nine minutes after leaving the emergency vet, I was crying like an asshole. In fact, everything in this entry from now on that isn’t in italics, just assume I was crying like an asshole. The car’s passenger compartment reeked of smoldering brake pads and my panic-sweat. Without bothering to shut the carrier’s door, I snatched it up and carried it inside as if it were on fire. They knew I was coming, all right; a receptionist ushered me right through the “Staff Only” door, where I was met by an urgent-faced technician in scrubs. She immediately reached in through the carrier door and pulled out Orca’s motionless body.

“Shit,” she said.

The technician rushed Orca through another door marked “Surgery,” announcing, “I have an emergency! Everyone out!” A team quickly exited the room, carrying a confused-looking ginger cat, and the door closed behind the tech who was carrying Orca. Dr. M. appeared out of nowhere, wondering why Orca wasn’t in the oxygen cage if I was there. I directed Dr. M. towards surgery and tried to ignore the way her expression went instantly sad. I was led back out to the reception area.

I called Trash on my cell phone and told her I didn’t think our girl had made it. It was less than a minute before the vet came out and confirmed my fears. Orca was DOA. I told Trash. And there’s where it gets sad.

Within two weeks, Strat and Orca are best friends. They snuggle together, he gives her baths, they wait their turns and don’t try to steal from each other when we give them treats. They just don’t seem to know who’s in charge. This is a question that will plague them for the next thirteen years.

Trash was devastated. Whenever someone dies, whenever there’s a tragedy in her life, Orca sees that she’s crying and jumps up on her lap to comfort her. But obviously not in this case.

None of the standard things you say to comfort people in this situation apply here. Even though she was sick, we didn’t expect her to die of it. We were trying to take care of her. We didn’t have enough time to prepare ourselves to lose her. She was only thirteen, and otherwise healthy.

And of course part of me will always wonder if she could have survived that ambulance trip to Eden Prairie and whatever would have come after it. Naturally Dr. M. told me I’d done everything I could, that I shouldn’t beat myself up over it. Later, VF told me the same thing. Cats and asthma attacks are a dangerous combination, VF explained, because the breathing difficulty frightens the cat, which stresses her out and makes it even harder to breathe, initiating a vicious circle that sometimes even the best care can’t break. I hope she’s right, and that my failure at least served to spare Orca further suffering.

The best thing we can say is that at least she got to meet M. Tiny, although by no stretch of the imagination did they bond in the ten days they spent under the same roof. But just a night or two before, all five of us had been gathered on our bed for a short time, mainly by coincidence. We had a little roll call, a moment filled with hope and promise for our family and the future.

I don’t know what happened to that ginger cat, but they gave me all the time I needed in the surgery room with Orca’s body. I stroked her fur, kissed her, told her goodbye from all of us, and left, in much less of a hurry than I’d been in when I’d arrived.

“Have a good day,” the receptionist told me as I left with the empty pet carrier. That was probably the only thing she could think of to say, and she probably beat herself up over it for the rest of the morning.

Trash met me at our front door, red-faced from crying, and hugged me tight. We told each other we were sorry. My mom was also there. She had just had to put her own aging dog to sleep a couple of weeks before, so she had an idea of what we were going through. I’m grateful to her for sticking around and babysitting M. Tiny for the rest of the day so Trash and I could mourn.

“I wish they could make her a vampire cat, so she could come back to us,” Trash said, not completely unseriously.

“There are some,” I pointed out tearfully, “who would say that had already been done.”

Orca lives with us for thirteen years, almost to the day. Longer than I’ve been doing this blog, longer than any job I’ve ever held, longer than we’ve lived in this house, longer than I’ve known most of the friends I have now. Longer than I went to public school. Almost as long as our marriage. She’s part of our life, part of our home, part of our family. Part of us. So many things make her special: the way she comes running when Trash sings badly and loudly; the way she finishes Trash’s glasses of milk by sticking a paw into the dregs and then licking her pads; the way she holds down one of Trash’s hands when they snuggle in bed; all the mornings I wake up with her on top of the covers but wedged between my knees; they way she won’t accept love or affection from anyone but Trash, me, and veterinarians. Someone once said that cats are the soul of a house, and I believe it completely.

After a while I went upstairs to our bedroom, where Strat was lying by himself on our bed. Trash hadn’t told him yet, but he’d known something was up from the moment I’d bundled Orca into her carrier less than twelve hours before. I lay next to him on the bed and petted him.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

He sniffed my fingers. I hadn’t washed them since I’d left the vet’s office. He sniffed them a long time.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

And I am.

posted by M. Giant 7:47 PM 41 comments


I'm sitting here crying, and I don't have the words. I'm just so incredibly sorry. The only thing I can think to say was that she was with you, knowing you loved her, knowing you were doing your best for her, just as you and Trash had always done. No pet could have asked for more love than you gave her.

All the best to you, Trash, M.Tiny and Strat.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 12, 2004 at 8:14 PM  

I'm not ashamed to admit that I wept as I read your blog tonight. I wept for you and Trash and M. Tiny and Strat. I wept for my own dearly departed Cheetarah, gone from this world more than four years ago and still missed every day. I wept because I rushed my other cat to the vet last weekend and am so thankful it was a minor problem. Words cannot convey the depth of empathy I feel for you and your family. "I'm sorry" seems so trite, but it is heartfelt, nontheless.

By Blogger rayvyn2k, at November 12, 2004 at 8:37 PM  

I am just sitting here crying. You were able to put into words something that I myself have not been able to write about for seven years now. I need to find a tissue.

By Blogger a Carrie, at November 12, 2004 at 9:34 PM  

i lost my own poor little kitty in july, after 12 years, and i still miss her when i'm going to sleep and she's not curled up at the end of the bed. i'm so sorry.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 12, 2004 at 9:39 PM  

My condolences. You did absolutely everything you could, and you were with her in the end. We'll all miss her as much as you will.

By Blogger Rebecca, at November 12, 2004 at 10:30 PM  

I'm so, so sorry. You (all) will be in my thoughts tonight and tomorrow.

-- Laura

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 12, 2004 at 11:33 PM  

Man, I don't think I've cried this much in a long time. Your writing is amazing and you captured the emotion, the wonder, the love that is a pet so well with the past and further past references.

I'm SO sorry. You all are in my thoughts and prayers. And like I said in the comments last time and like you said here, it's so good he got to meet M. Tiny!

By Blogger DeAnn, at November 12, 2004 at 11:46 PM  

I'm so, so sorry.... I've lost kitties before, and it hurts so much. But it sounds like you did everything you could, and you were there with her when she died, and she knew all her life that you and Trash loved her. Now, she's up at the Rainbow Bridge, watching over you, and breathing fine, happy and playing with the other kitties there. My teary condolences to you, and especially to Trash. My heart goes out to you both.

By Blogger ThatGrrrl, at November 13, 2004 at 4:51 AM  

Thank you so much for sharing that painful time. As hard as it had to be for you to tell, you described exactly what I went through a couple of years ago. I came to realize that I will always second guess myself, even though every decision I made seemed to be the right one at the time. I have a feeling you have that problem too. Just remember, if you had gone to the Eden Prairie vet, you may have gotten lost, Orca may have died there, there may have been the same ending just in a different location and you would end up questioning your actions then, too.

You did the best you could. I would have made the same choices. Orca knew you loved her, and you were with her at the end.

My heart goes out to you, because I have felt what you are feeling. If there was anything I could do for you, I would do it.

Please just know that we are all here with you, and take comfort in Trash, M. Tiny and Strat.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 13, 2004 at 4:52 AM  

The tears welled as soon as I saw the title. My heart and support go out to you, Trash, M.Tiny and Strat, and everyone that Orca touched. You write so fondly and well that it's almost (but clearly not quite) like you're all part of my family. May you find comfort in all our support and love, and know that we will miss her too.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 13, 2004 at 5:04 AM  

I am SO incredibly sorry. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

*hugs you lots*


By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 13, 2004 at 5:30 AM  

Oh my gosh. I just don't know what to say. That was so beautiful. I am so sorry about Orca.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 13, 2004 at 7:01 AM  

Not that the love of a whole bunch of people you've never met will help at all, but my heart does go out to the whole bunch of you right now. As a pet owner, I know how much losing an animal hurts. You guys will be in my thoughts.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 13, 2004 at 7:08 AM  

Oh, thanks so much for sharing the story of your lives together with Orca. It was so beautifully written, it brought me to tears, and that doesn't happen easily.

I had to put my cat of 14 years (I'm 20 years old, to give perspective) to sleep last year, she was severely diabetic, and she had a large tumour in her pancreas, but I am still wracked with guilt.

Know that you did everything you could for your little friend, and know that you gave her a wonderful life in an obviously loving home.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 13, 2004 at 8:00 AM  

I'm so sorry, guys.

By Blogger Linda, at November 13, 2004 at 8:44 AM  

Actually, I think the kind words of a lot of strangers helps a lot. I'm coming up on the year anniversary of the death of my dog Sophie at only seven...she had been sick all year, we were in and out of the vet at least once a month, and nobody found out it was cancer until the day before thanksgiving. She died nine days later. I cried when I read this just as I still cry when I think of her.

There are a lot of hard things about losing a pet. One of them I think is that people are a lot less interested in hearing you talk endlessly about them and how they were and what they did than the are when you lose a person. The other is that somehow pets seem more like limbs almost - I always knew where Sophie would be in the house (it was never far from me), and every time I look to those places I still have to catch my breath. There's just such a missing-ness to it. I've lost a lot of people in my life but I've never missed anything or anyone as much as I miss her. I can only imagine that this is some fraction of what it must feel like to lose a parent.

This year I'm skipping thanksgiving, since that was the day I brought her home from the hospital for the last time, and it was the last time she ate anything at all - a tiny piece of turkey. I have informed my cat that he is not allowed to die for an extremely long time, preferably after I myself am dead. My puppy Ruby - I couldn't stand not having a dog at all, and she has been warm comfort and she now has her own places where she always is, some the same as Sophie's, some just hers - is entrusted with the task of living much longer than Sophie did.

The only word I've managed to come up with is heartbroken.

So, my heart goes out to you guys, and I know also how it is to want the grief to subside, at least a little bit, but at the same time not want that at all, because our pets leave so little behind that to lose the grief can feel like forgetting them. It breaks my heart to miss Sophie as much as I do, yet I hope I miss her this much for the rest of my life, because she deserves that.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 13, 2004 at 11:01 AM  

I am so sorry, M. Giant. All of you have my deepest sympathies.

I think I'm going to log off the internet now and go hug all four of my cats and tell them how much I love them.

By Blogger Carol Elaine, at November 13, 2004 at 12:06 PM  

I only started reading your blog fairly recently--just, in fact, a couple weeks after I had to put my beloved Ruby Tuesday to sleep at the age of 15 and a half (brain tumor, not asthma, but I can relate so much to everything you wrote here). I'm so, so sorry.

Shell (shellmidwife.livejournal.com)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 13, 2004 at 12:14 PM  

There are no words but what a lovely tribute to your family and your little kitty with her too-small tuxedo. I'll be thinking about you all. - Trish

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 13, 2004 at 1:18 PM  

Of course words can't express fully the sorrow you feel when you love a beloved pet, although yours come very, very close. I'll just leave you with the highly inadequate: "I'm sorry," knowing it can never be enough.

By Blogger Fraulein N, at November 13, 2004 at 2:17 PM  

I am so sorry for your loss...my heart goes out to your family...I know how hard it is to lose such a precious member of the family. Your story made me cry, and I will be sure to hug my kitty Maddie a little tighter tonight. Again, so sorry.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 13, 2004 at 7:28 PM  

At the risk of pointing out my own foolishness, I just realized that I DID NOT comment on M. Tiny meeting Orca in the previous comments and then I said I did. Well, I did write something about it, then I thought, "They might think I'm an idiot for saying M. Tiny actually got to know Orca, since M. Tiny is, well, tiny." So, I deleted it. Then I forgot.

I'm stupid. But you are not, thank goodness.

And you have a fabulous family, with awesome memories of Orca (and by the way, it's so wonderful that you have a picture of M. Tiny with Orca in it so that you will always have proof that they met!).

Thanks for sharing your sad tale with us. I hope it was cathartic, and I hope that you all can learn to just focus on the wonder that was Orca and how, now, she can breathe freely. At least in my belief system!

By Blogger DeAnn, at November 13, 2004 at 8:09 PM  

I'm so sorry. Try not to question your decisions... I went down that road after rushing my dog to an emergency clinic at 2 in the morning, and losing her later that day. The "what ifs" are infinite, and there is no way to tell if things would have been better or worse had you acted any differently. Just know that you were with her at the end, touching her, and that is no small thing.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 13, 2004 at 10:45 PM  

I'm so sorry.

By Blogger Joanne, at November 14, 2004 at 12:12 AM  

Hey man, I just wanted to give an e-hug to the whole giant family. My doggy went missing 5 weeks ago, he's never stayed away longer than a night and he was pretty old. Losing a pet is so hard, but in a while you'll be smiling again remembering all the things you wrote in italics and all the other stuff too. Sorry this is so clumsy, but lots of love, Róisín xx

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 14, 2004 at 9:37 AM  

Guys, I am so very sorry. That just breaks my heart. I'll be thinking of you.

By Blogger Julie A., at November 14, 2004 at 10:18 AM  

Oh. Dear.

I'm sooo sorry. The loss of a pet is one of the most devastating life experiences anyone can go through.

You really did do everything you could--those were truly heroic efforts. But... somehow that makes it even harder, doesn't it? I can feel you beating yourself up through the power of your writing. Please believe me (and all of us who comment here) when I tell you that you did all you could do, but sometimes that just isn't enough. That sucks.

It was her time. It was nowhere near time for you and your family, but no matter when it happens, it is never the right time for the loved ones. I know this. I've had pets leave me both through sudden accident and through long fights, and the feeling remains the same.

You can't weigh grief.

I think all of us who faithfully read your writing feel a little piece of your and your family's loss. That is the power and the gift that you have. We share your grief, but it doesn't make it lighter. It just might make it a little more bearable though. Please know that you and your family are in our thoughts, prayers, and dreams.

Love to you all.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 14, 2004 at 12:49 PM  

M. Giant, M. Tiny, Trash and Strat-

You all have my deepest sympathies. I know it doesn't make the pain go away, but do know that we're all thinking of you, and are sorry to hear that Orca's gone.

You're in my thoughts-

By Blogger Special Sauce, at November 14, 2004 at 5:15 PM  

I'm so sorry. Take care.

By Blogger Cate, at November 14, 2004 at 7:50 PM  

I've held back on saying anything, because anything I say will sound awkward and insufficient, at least it will to me. But I hope you know how much I'm with you.

People have said some beautiful and knowing things here. I think it's absolutely right, to say that at the end, there is very little that is more important than having the hand of someone who loves you. Even with the fear that was with you, the kindness got through. I think that the stories in the small things say wonderful things about Orca, and the people she spent her life with.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at November 14, 2004 at 9:25 PM  

I am so, so sorry. I have mentioned it before, but we lost a pet last year, and I do know how hard it is. This is almost exactly a year ago that one of our beloved kitties was found hurt, and spent two weeks recovering before going into liver failure - which we didn't discover until it was far too late to save him.

Please, please - try every time that you feel doubts and recriminations bubble up in your grief - please remind yourself that you and Trash absolutely did the very best you could for Orca. You did everything you could, and trust that Orca knew that. Stop yourselves from beating yourselves up too much about what you could have done differently - if you knew then what you knew now, maybe you would have. But that is a different story - and you did the very best you could by Orca.

Small comfort as it may be - I am glad to hear that Orca was able to be with one of you, and that she wasn't alone in a strange vet clinic.

Thank you for writing, and thank you for sharing. My most sincere condolences to you, Trash and Strat.

- JeniMull

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 14, 2004 at 10:35 PM  

I love you guys.. and I am very very sorry

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 15, 2004 at 6:01 AM  

I saw someone driving on the shoulder, speeding, this morning at about 8:20, and I thought about how you were in that situation. I'm so sorry that you were, and that it turned out so sadly. I hope the person I saw was just impatient and not in dire straits.

So sorry for your loss.

By Blogger T., at November 15, 2004 at 6:51 AM  

My poor little boy (only 2 years old) became ill quickly and died at the vet's the same day. Slowly the what-I-should-have-done-differently thoughts turn into the what-a-sweet-boy-I-was-blessed-to-have thoughts. But, oh, so sad for so long.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 15, 2004 at 8:52 AM  

I am so so sorry for your loss. I read your blog often, and was so happy for you when you got to bring home M. Tiny...

Be well, and give yourselves time to mourn...

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 15, 2004 at 9:08 AM  

I've shut myself in my office, crying hard.

I put my nearly 13-year-old Petunia down, not quite a year ago, after the vets tried everything they could against her pancreatitis. It was my birthday, three days before Christmas. A dark and horrible time that I am remembering much too well, now.

And I know well that nothing anyone can say is much comfort, certainly not comments from a stranger on your web log. But I wanted to say, like everyone here, how sorry I am for your loss...pets are as much a part of our families as blood relatives, and frequently a hell of a lot more loveable. Don't let anyone make you feel foolish for grieving, and try not to doubt yourself, though I know well how easy that is.

You and Trash and Strat and M. Tiny, even briefly, gave Orca a happy life and a loving home. Thank you for doing that, for one more kitty out there...and thank you so much for sharing Orca with your readers--her feistiness and her habits (I cracked up at her response to loud, bad singing--we had one that did that, too, only she'd aggressively approach to get you to stop making that NOISE)...and her departure. Through your words, you allowed us to enjoy her, and to grieve with you at her death. I'm grateful for the opportunity.

By Blogger Kim, at November 15, 2004 at 11:54 AM  

I am so sorry about your loss. You went above and beyond the call of duty to get her help, and the fact that you were petting her at the end must have given her some peace. I know that's slim consolance though. Just allow yourself to grieve Orca.

By Blogger Her Ladyship, at November 15, 2004 at 1:07 PM  

I'm so, so sorry for your loss.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 15, 2004 at 5:35 PM  

I've been trying to post for a few days, and I can't come up with anything better than anything anyone else has said. I'm so sorry for your loss. -- sobell

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 15, 2004 at 6:55 PM  

I'm so sorry.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 15, 2004 at 10:17 PM  

I almost never cry.

However, I hadn't made it halfway through your story before the deluge came. I worked through a quarter of a box of Kleenex. And then I realized that your sadness is a thousand times worse than mine.

M. and Trash, I'm so very, very sorry for your loss. I know your hearts are heavy with grief from the loss of a family member, and the words of myself and others are small comfort, but the condolensces are there. My best wishes to your entire family.

I have a black-and-white cat of my own... I think when I get home, I'm going to hold her close and never let her go.

By Blogger Avatar, at November 19, 2004 at 5:11 PM  

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