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Friday, October 19, 2007  

Turning Turtle: Endgame

UPDATE: Turtle died peacefully tonight (Monday) at 6:30. My mom was kind enough to come over and watch M. Small so that Trash and I could both be with her at the end. Thank you all for your comments. And thank you to Linda for the flowers. They're beautiful, and Turtle thought they were delicious.

im in hevin, meetin ur granparentz

One of M. Small's bath toys is a little plastic turtle. It has a cord you pull, and then in theory the turtle's flippers spin, making it swim through the bathwater as the cord winds itself back up. During his bath tonight, I noticed it was broken. The two segments of the shell are cracked apart, and the cord is stuck in the full-out position. I showed this to M. Small, and asked what he wanted to do. He took it, and pulled on the cord, and nothing happened. He kept trying, but after a while he understood that there was nothing he could do. He gave it back to me and asked me to throw it away for him. Their time together was over.

Now, here's where, if this were some touching family drama, you would correctly call all kinds of on-the-nose, anvilicious bullshit. Because this just happened to be the same bath during which we explained to him that Turtle's gotten so sick that she can't live with us for much longer.

I know I haven't given any updates on Turtle's health for a while, but here's the thing: she's dying. Really, she's been dying since March and we've been postponing the inevitable. The steroids are literally the only thing keeping her alive.

It's been a long summer, taking her back to the vet every two to four weeks, hoping that we'd find the right combination of meds to maintain her red blood cell count up in the twenties (normal range is the thirties) without keeping her on a toxic level of Prednisolone. Nothing has worked. Every time we try to taper off the dosage, her CBC follows it right down.

Having that many steroids in your system for that long isn't good for you, even if you need them to survive. For one thing, she's over fourteen pounds now, on the frame of an eight-pound cat. She can barely get up the stairs sometimes, and half the furniture is beyond her reach. For another, it makes her crap totally soupy. Which I don't mind scooping out of the litter box so much, but at her current weight she can't reach around to keep herself clean, and it's starting to have consequences.

Today it came to a head. Friday is when Trash stays home with M. Small. While I was at work this morning, she told me that Turtle's hindquarters had become a disaster area almost overnight. And indeed, when I came home early this afternoon, the house smelled like a dairy barn.

I locked her in the bathroom with me and tried to clean her up, but she wasn't having it. And when I noticed that some of the smears on the damp cloth I was using were red, I decided to bring her in today. Besides, it was too big of a job for one person without the proper equipment. I mean, have you ever seen a cat with buttocks before?

Dr. P. had two techs with him when he came into the exam room, which never happens. "Yeah, you're going to need reinforcements for this," I said. He sniffed her tail end closely (which -- wow) and when I told him about the smell in our house, he asked her, "Are we going to have to start milking you?" Given her increasingly bovine physique, it almost sounded like a serious question.

He took her in the back, drew some blood, cleaned her up (which necessitated barber's clippers), applied a topical cream, and brought her back, telling me that she had developed a localized dermatitis. He sent me home with some oral antibiotics and some cream to put on her butt three times a day, starting a few days from now. To Trash and me, it seemed more serious than just a skin irritation. It seemed like she was literally starting to unravel from her asshole out. It wasn't just a poo smell coming out of there. It was the smell of decay. This can't continue indefinitely.

When Dr. P. called back later with the lab results for the blood he drew today, he agreed that we were pretty much out of options. Basically, the only thing we haven't tried is having her spleen removed.

Arguments against: she can't have surgery in her present condition. We'd have to get her blood cell count up to a normal level, which would require such a massive dose of steroids that she would almost literally shit her guts out (all over the house, I might add, which has a three-year-old living in it). After the splenectomy, she would be a hemophiliac for the rest of her life. And there's no way to know that the problem isn't actually in her liver, in which case a splenectomy would accomplish nothing.

Arguments in favor: it might help a little.

Dr. P. said he wouldn't put his own cat through it. Right now, she's not in pain. But she's not comfortable. She's not happy. She's not energetic. She's not playful. In other words, she's not herself. She hasn't been for a long time. We've done everything we can, and it's only going to get worse. She's going to keep deteriorating. Quickly. And soon.

So this is it. We're all going to take the weekend to say goodbye. We're keeping her on the meds for the duration, because if we discontinued them her red blood cell count would drop so low and so quickly that she would effectively suffocate. Kind of a shitty way to go. We'd like to avoid that.

This is completely different from when Orca died. That was so sudden, such a shock. This is something we've seen coming for months. We pretty much expected to be a two-cat household again by New Year's. It's sad, but it's not devastating. I think it also helps that we have another person in the house this time around who's so important to us. I mean, yes, he was there last time too, but we'd known him less than a month. At that time he was a very confusing, noisy, messy, needy new roommate. Our hearts are so full of him now that the loss of a cat doesn't leave the hole that it once did.

But at least back then we didn't have to explain it to him. He's not upset or crying or anything. He's just confused. We told him that Turtle is sicker than anyone he knows has ever been, and so next week she's going to go back to the kitty doctor -- like she has been all summer -- but she's not going to come back this time.

"But why?" he keeps asking.

Why, indeed.

posted by M. Giant 9:01 PM 25 comments


I'm sorry. That's a hard decision to make, but it sounds like it's the right one for Turtle. Poor baby.

By Blogger Cori, at October 19, 2007 at 9:13 PM  

I'm so very sorry. Never easy to have to go with euthanasia, but she'll be in a better place. I hope M.Small handles his first major loss well. Poor little guy.

By Blogger Bunny, at October 20, 2007 at 4:14 AM  

I'm so sorry. Having had to make the same decision before, I know how difficult it can be. You all will be in my thoughts.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 20, 2007 at 5:20 AM  

I'm so sorry. I have a 15 year old cat and I know how hard this decision is. But sometimes the hard decision is the right one for the cat.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 20, 2007 at 5:56 AM  

Man oh man, that sucks. I'm so sorry.

Going to go hug my kitties now. :^(

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 20, 2007 at 6:16 AM  

I'm so sorry. Though I've never met her, Turtle has a special place in my imagination (and everyone else's) through your chronicles.

To help M. Small through this, might I recommend "The Tenth Good Thing About Barney," by Judith Viorst? It's a children's book about the death of a beloved cat.

By Blogger Currer813, at October 20, 2007 at 6:24 AM  

I just went through this with my much loved dog, and my heart goes out to all of you. As my vet put it so beautifully, just remember you're NOT taking anything away from Turtle: you're giving her the gift of dignity and peace.

You'll all be in my thoughts.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 20, 2007 at 7:40 AM  

I'm sorry. This can't be easy, even if you know it's the right thing to do.

By Blogger Fraulein N, at October 20, 2007 at 9:25 AM  

I'm so sorry, loves. I know you and your boy will make it through, but what a sad thing. Such a dear kitty, too. Many hugs to all.

By Blogger Linda, at October 20, 2007 at 10:48 AM  

So so sorry. She's such a sweetheart. Say goodbye for us too.

Heidi & Erik

By Blogger Teslagrl, at October 20, 2007 at 11:12 AM  

I'm so very sorry for all of you. As everyone else has said, it is such a hard decision.

By Blogger lumenatrix, at October 20, 2007 at 12:25 PM  

I am so sorry about Turtle. I'm sure it will be a very emotional weekend for all of you.

When my younger son was 2 weeks old and my older son was 16 months old, my cat Lucy became seriously ill. After six months, we had to put the sweet little kitty to sleep. While we tried to do everything we could for her, it was hard to make time for a sick cat with two kids under two in the house. We miss her terribly. It was heartbreaking to put her to sleep, but becoming a parent does put a different perspective on pet ownership.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 20, 2007 at 1:31 PM  

My deepest sympathies, I am going through something similar with my Libby. She's 10 and we have battled feline CRF for 8.5 years. Right now we do hypodermoclysis (under the skin fluid infusions) twice a day, and 3 meds and syringe feeds...and it goes on and on. She's been on kitty hospice 2 months sunday.

It's the prolonged anxiety of it all that stings for me. I, like you, want to do what's best when the time comes and it appears you know your time has come. May you be at peace.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 20, 2007 at 7:13 PM  

So sorry it's finally happening. I lost 3 pets last year, each to various and sundry horrible ailments, and I watched every one be "put to sleep." Umm, maybe I just don't have kids, but all of that seemed pretty awful at the time. I hope it's as easy as it can be for your family; I hope your Turtle goes quietly and peacefully. And I hope that kitty butts are always clean in heaven.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 20, 2007 at 9:37 PM  

I'm so sorry. When I was 14 or so, my mother had to make the decision to euthanize our cat, whom she'd had since before I or my sister was born. I think being a parent actually made it harder on her, since she sort of thought of the cat as her first kid.

Of course, parenting kids who are way past the diaper and boardbooks stage is a lot different than being a preschooler's parent.

In any case, I hope Turtle has a good last weekend and an easy exit.

By Blogger Marissa, at October 21, 2007 at 8:33 AM  

I'm so sorry - it's never easy to do. I hope you've had a good weekend together. The photo collage/tribute is just gorgeous.

- JeniMull

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 21, 2007 at 9:09 PM  

Like everyone else, I'm so sorry for you today. A week ago today-- last Monday-- I lost my beloved kitty to a benign but inoperable tumor in his stomach. Food couldn't get past it, but removing it would have left him unable to digest food-- not a pretty picture. We chose not to wake him up from his exploratory surgery.

Having others in the house definitely makes it easier, but explaining to a child that their favorite pet isn't coming home is heartbreaking. Just know that you guys will be in my thoughts and prayers today.

If love means anything, it means putting someone else's best interests ahead of your own. That is a valuable lesson for young M Small, which he is way too young to fully absorb now. It hurts, but you know that you are doing what is best for Turtle and ending this before her quality of life deteriorates to nothing.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 22, 2007 at 6:09 AM  

I am so sorry to hear this. What a terrible decision to have to make, but I think you're doing what's kindest. My thoughts go out to you and I hope that you had a nice last weekend together.

By Blogger Her Ladyship, at October 22, 2007 at 7:03 AM  

I am so sorry to hear about Turtle, when my cat passed I read your Blog about Orca and it was such a blessing. Thank goodness this time you have the chance to say "goodbye'.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 22, 2007 at 7:59 AM  

I'm so sorry. We had to make the decision to say good-bye to a much-beloved cat about two years ago. It wasn't easy at the time, although we knew it was the only remaining option. We still miss him, but we know we gave him dignity and a peaceful passing with us with him.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 22, 2007 at 8:01 AM  

Awful thing to have to decide. I'm sorry for your family. It seems you're doing a great job trying to explain in a way that M.Small might understand, though. Thoughts go out to the Giant family.

By Blogger Tami, at October 22, 2007 at 11:39 AM  

RIP Turtle. May your name be a blessing.

By Blogger Bunny, at October 23, 2007 at 6:14 AM  

You're so welcome. I am happy to provide something pretty, and a nice cat treat for Turtle.

Hugs all around.

By Blogger Linda, at October 23, 2007 at 8:54 AM  

I'm so sorry. So long, Turtle.

By Blogger Sarah D. Bunting, at October 24, 2007 at 12:18 PM  

I hadn't read your blog in a few days and just now saw this. I am very sorry you have to say goodbye to your kitty. I have had to have several cats euthanized over the years, and it's always painful to know that you won't get to be with them again. But my experience has always been that a time comes when you know what you have to do to make your cat comfortable; it's the last and best kindness you can provide. My heart goes out to you.

By Blogger kmckee7, at October 25, 2007 at 3:15 PM  

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