I have to apologize for so much time passing since my last posting, but a lot has happened in our household. One of my beloved kitties fell sick and died.
Many people would call it silly to so mourn a cat. For some reason cats have found themselves at the bottom of the pet totem pole. Even CAH is a self-proclaimed cat non-lover, and to his credit, he has accepted his feline “step-kids” much better than one would expect from someone who claims to detest cats. He probably knew that not doing so would be relationship suicide.
In my decade+ in animal welfare, many cats have come and gone. I have fostered more cats and kittens than I can count. I have always had my core group of resident cats and the matriarch was my little darling; Sabrina.
Sabrina made her entrance into this world on April 3rd, 1997. I “rescued” her mom, Jasmine, from a questionable pet store, not knowing she was already pregnant. Jasmine ended up having 4 kittens under my bed: Simba, Flower, Faline and Sabrina. Simba and Flower were re-homed when they were weaned and my boyfriend (at the time) and I kept Faline and Sabrina. We mainly kept Faline because she was a bit sketchy and happiest with her mom, Jasmine, and her sister, Sabrina. We knew that re-homing her in a strange place would stress her out, so she stayed. When me and the boyfriend split, he took Faline and I took Sabrina and Jasmine.
From the very beginning, my little Sabrina was the light of my life, apple of my eye. She was one of those cats who acted like a dog: super laid back, liked water, loved other cats and dogs. She was truly an outgoing kitty. Even those who didn’t like cats loved Sabrina.
Perhaps the reason that Sabrina means so much to me is that she (and her mom, Jasmine) was my constant through my crazy 20’s. She’s been there through umpteen moves, umpteen breakups, tears, struggles and joy. Like most people in animal welfare, I made a pittance. Animal welfare is a labor of love. I’ve lived in so many different rentals over the years, and through it all, I promised my kitties, especially my longest resident Sabrina, that someday I would own a house and tailor it just for them. I had dreams of a beautiful outdoor kitty aviary, kitty-friendly shelves in the house – a whole set up. Someday, I’d pay Sabrina back for all she was forced to go through with me.
Someday never came. And I think that is what pains me the most.
About 3 weeks ago I noticed that Sabrina, now 15, was looking thin and her muscle tone appeared to be wasting. We ran blood work and her liver values were high. The vet was optimistic that it could just be an acute issue and we started a two-week run of a few different medications and some fluids. Last week was the end of the two weeks and the night she received the last of her medication, she stopped eating. I had noticed her eating was slowing down and had taken to hand feeding her. I took her back to the vet and we decided to start steroids and see how she did. By the next morning she had declined significantly. Before long she was clearly starting to go into respiratory distress, so we rushed her to the vet and had her put to sleep.
Oddly enough, we had been expecting our dog Smidge to pass away. She is about 16+ years old and has been in heart failure for 2 years. We felt sucker punched by Sabrina’s passing. Mostly I feel that this is the end of an era; me and my girl. And I never got to keep my promise to her because my husband and I are still renting, and I am heartbroken over that.
Being in this profession I know that everyone grieves differently. I’ve quietly taken myself through the stages of loss: denial, anger, guilt, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is an odd perspective to be intimately familiar with the grieving process and pet loss, having seen it so many clients over the years. I could look at my thoughts and behaviors and say in the back of my mind, “You’re bargaining, Jess.” It did help, because it allowed me to cut straight to sadness and acceptance. But regardless of this perspective, I cannot escape the fact that this pains me to the core of my being. I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for the last 3 weeks and I can’t remember how to breathe again.
I’ve always thought that part of the pain of loss is that human beings are such creatures of habit and so when we lose a pet (or any person of significance), the biggest adjustment is changing our routine. Even after Sabrina died I found myself automatically thinking that night, “Oh I have to give Sabrina her medication” before remembering that she is gone. It is much like a break-up. So that is how I handle the loss of a pet – I establish new routines. That can look like rearranging the furniture, getting a haircut, trying a new workout. I imagine that there is a little tunnel in my brain that is expecting to go one route, but entertaining that route will make me relive the hurt. I like to create new tunnels.
But this does not mean that I forget. And I will never forget my sweet little kitty, Sabrina. She was a wonderful kitty and she has a large piece of my heart.
Goodbye, my little love. Thank you for choosing me. I love you.