Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Appreciating the Time

This is little JJ. An old boyfriend and I got him 15 or 16 years ago from the Oregon Humane Society. The name on the crate was "John," but I was dating a John, and his two best friends were also named John, so we decided on John Jr., or JJ. And apart from a few years when my brother graciously kept him while I was in Japan, JJ and I have been together ever since the then-bf and I poked our fingers through JJ's crate at the OHS, and he rubbed his face up against our hands and started purring, saying, "Yes, I think you'll be perfect. I choose you."

JJ has flown to New York and back with me, and he's lived in the condo I bought, and several apartments before and after the condo. He's seen me through a bachelor's degree, and a Masters and a half, and three different banks. For the past few years, he's been totally blind but completely trusting, as he's navigated his way around a pretty large space with furniture I never rearrange. He loves taking all-day naps in the chairs on the balcony if the sun is shining, and at night he sleeps on my pillow or in the crook of my knees.

JJ stopped eating almost completely about 10 days ago. I started closely monitoring his intake and output, and eventually noticed weight loss. My vet made a house call yesterday to check on him, and it wasn't good news. That was no surprise, but my heart is broken. The vet suspects a tumor and liver failure. The liver failure is giving his usual snow-white coat a slight yellow-tinge, which I mentioned to the vet but said it might be something I was imagining. No, not imagining it. I'm surprised how hard it is to believe that this is happening, that I'll have to say goodbye to my little buddy. I'm finding it almost impossible to believe and to accept.

The doctor gave him 1-2 weeks at the most, but I've noticed a decline since yesterday, so I don't think I will have two more weeks. I feel a bit tortured at wondering if I should be doing more for him (there are a few options of treatments to try to get his appetite back, diagnostics to see exactly what type of tumor it is, etc.) because maybe something relatively simple will give him another few good months or a year - that, and feeling strongly that I don't want to scare him or put him through any pain or unnecessary discomfort. I'm afraid I will have regrets once he is gone.

I already have regrets about times I've been impatient with him, and of all the hours I work and the travel I've done that has left him alone for long periods of time (although when I travel, he is under the care of my BFF who treats him very well and doesn't just pop in to give him food and change his litter box - she comes to hang out and watch a movie whenever she visits him). Make no mistake - the cat has been well cared for :) But I absolutely regret every single non-tender gesture I've ever made toward him. I don't know if it's possible to get to this point and not have regrets; I've never been here before.

I am watching for any signs at all of pain so I know when to call the vet again. If I need the vet during the hours the clinic is open, they will come and euthanize him here so I don't have to put him through loading him in a carrier and taking him in the car. I'm grateful for that, as I think it would be best for him. Even when healthy, the blindness made those things especially scary and traumatic for him. But I've wondered if I can handle the memory of having that happen in my apartment.

I'm sorry for all of the detail. He's the only pet I've ever had and I feel very lost in all of this sudden seriousness. I'm not sure what you do in these situations except go through them.

So for now I am just spending time cuddling him, holding him and crying, appreciating every nudge and tiny purr, thinking of all the joy he's brought me over the years.




  1. Dear JJ

    Thank you for being there and looking after LSL for such a long time, sticking with her from one coast to the other before guiding her safely home to Portland. Thank you for keeping her company and trusting her to always return to you, whilst giving her the freedom and independence to travel. I know she has been concerned about you for a few years and that she'll be in pieces now that you're getting ready to leave, but she knows you've had a good, long life and have been loved so very much. The thoughtfulness and love she shows you in little things, like not rearranging the furniture, is also there in her decision to forego traumatic interventions and ensure your passing is as gentle as possible.

    We humans often go to ridiculous lengths looking for love from someone else, but the true miracle is to find unselfish love for another growing inside ourselves. Thank you for allowing LSL to share your life and love you. She knows you love her.

    I wish I had met you. Thank you for looking after my friend.

  2. I'm so sorry to hear this news. I've lost a loved pet before and understand the sadness. They are dependent on us and completely ours and offer us companionship deeper than most people we know could ever find the time to give. If animals can feel love, and I believe they can, then hold onto the knowledge that your JJ loved you and enjoyed as special an existence in your life as you had in his.

  3. Oh no. Not JJ. :( What a sweet cat he is. I'm so sad for you, K. I know how hard it is to lose a pet and to linger in those days replaying all the moments with them, good and bad, before they leave. I am sending you both lots of love.

  4. Oh, sweetie. This, for me, is always the hardest part of loving a pet, the fact that they don't live as long as we do and how to make sure they leave us as painlessly as possible while we really wish they wouldn't go at all. When JJ goes, though, he will be with my Spider, and you must know that he was lucky to have picked you to be his.