An Unexpected Death Watch:
I tried, I really tried to make him well again! I knew my boy cat, Hercules, wasn’t well. He had dropped a lot of weight in a short period of time. His little spine felt like a dinosaur skeleton. He was lethargic and vocally complaining a lot.
I took him to the wonderful vet, Dr. Brenda, and we did everything. Some things we did twice. She was very accommodating, even though she knew by palpating the mass in his abdomen, looking at the x-rays and the blood tests, that, in all likelihood, he had lymphoma. But she bore with me as I asked for yet another round of antibiotics, for more tests, for more ex-rays, ANYTHING to somehow make it not so.
Finally, this past Wednesday, we both realized she needed to open up his abdomen to see what this was, if it had spread, if it was removable. She sent me on errands around town rather than have me drive back up to the ranch. But in just a few minutes, by the time I had filled up my truck at the gas station, I had a call from her asking me to come immediately back to the vet’s office so I could see the mass for myself.
Most vets wouldn’t have invited the patient’s “mom” into the operating room, but Dr. Brenda had already observed my ability to watch surgical cutting, gore, and spewing blood when I remained present for Baby Doe’s leg “boo boo” surgery. She knew I wouldn’t faint at the sight of Hercules’ open abdomen 😦
What I did see in my precious boy’s abdomen was the largest, ugliest, most grotesque, hateful mass imaginable. It surrounded his intestines, it made viewing some of his other organs almost impossible. For me, it was “hate at first sight”. Dr. Brenda was right there with me, hating this hideous monster of a mass in my boy’s belly.
She gave me the choice whether to sew him back up and let him live out what was left to him or to give him the meds that would let him gently drift over the rainbow bridge.
After ascertaining the pain management options available to him, added to the fact that he had still been eating, drinking, trotting around with his tail straight up and cuddling with massive purring, I had her sew him back up.
Many might disagree with this decision, but as long as he wasn’t suffering in pain and he was still vibrant enough to get all the love and goodbyes that we all needed to give him, I would wait with him for when he decided it was time…
And so, now, it is just a matter of time. At the first sign of no appetite, hiding out, and pain in his eyes, I WILL do what is necessary.
In the meantime, there is one room in which he likes to hang out by his water fountain. I’ve been putting a blanket and pillow on the floor at night to sleep next to him for the few nights I probably have left with him.
My grief is almost unendurable. He has been an amazing companion.
I tell his story on my other website Christine Hendler’s Blog in a May 2014 post titled A Tail of Four Cats as well as a description of what I now realize was the beginning of his cancer in an October 2014 post titled Try To Remember The Kind Of September…
In most of my posts, I try to find the lesson to be learned in the experiences I have. In this experience, here’s what I’ve learned.
First Lesson: My neighbor, who is a tough Wyoming cattle rancher, and who checks in on me regularly ( I think he can’t quite believe a petite, blond girlie girl is managing and living on 80 acres all by herself), actually reacted with kindness and complete understanding when he came by the other day and all I could do was sob (ugly sobbing, believe me!) He actually praised my ability to let out my sorrow rather than hold it in. Who knew that even the toughest cowboys “get it”.
Second Lesson: In horsemanship discussions, it is reiterated endlessly that one has to be the leader that one’s horse can trust. Being herd animals, horses look to the leader (whether horse or human) they can confidently follow. For me, this has been an ongoing challenge in learning about “true” leadership. I often berate myself and feel like I will never get to that point that is so prettily written about in the articles and books I read.
On the night I realized that Hercules is indeed dying of cancer, I was having a heck of a time removing the eye mask that Baby Doe must wear daily, since her light eyes could be severely damaged by the sun.
She was in one of her mare-ish Princess/Diva Doe moods and having none of it. Finally, in my anguish, I said to her “Look, Baby Doe, Hercules is dying and I can’t handle you and your f—ing Diva ways tonight so f—ing let me get this f—ing thing off.” At which point I broke down sobbing and couldn’t stop. She slowly turned her head to look at me, took a step closer, bowed her head and touched my shoulder with her nose and invited me to get the mask off without any trouble whatsoever. (By the way, any horse person who tells you they’ve NEVER dropped the “F Bomb” with their horse is not exactly telling you the full story…:)
I learned that leadership equals honesty. Horses never lie and one can never lie to a horse. They know. My anger and grief were my truth and she responded to that truth.
My worry about Hercules, the horses, the ranch and my loved ones, is so intense these days that my forehead needs botox! 🙂 But I still have tremendous faith in God.
I choose, now, to sit in a place of love and gratitude for my beloved Hercules. I choose, now, to wait with him for the moment he tells me, “It’s time. I’m ready.”
I choose, now, that he and I will watch for death…together.