Little Heart

All through college, I always wanted to get a dog.  But I worked while I went to school, and it didn’t seem fair leave a dog home alone so much.  Then I finally graduated and got my own place, but still, I worked a lot.  I always had at least one cat, though, and I got to thinking – what if there was a very dog-like cat out there?  What a great compromise!  The ease of caring for a cat combined with the great companionship of a dog.  I started doing some research, and I kept coming across a breed of cats called Abyssinians.

I found a breeder in College Station and started talking to her and saving my pennies.  Finally I got to bring my little girl home.  I was so thrilled to have finally found the perfect pet!  Only … Lila was prissiest little cat I’ve ever had!  She was cat through and through.  Although she didn’t turn out to be the hybrid dog/cat I was looking for, I found the perfect companion.  The very first time I held my new little kitty up to my face, she leaned her nose out towards me as if to give me a kiss on the bridge of my nose – and bit me playfully right between the eyes.

One of the traits that Abbys are known for are their devotion to their owners, and in that area, Lila was no exception.  From the start, she wanted to be wherever I was, all the time!  When I was in the kitchen, she was on the counter next to me.  Whe I went to the bathroom, I had to be careful or she’d leap on the toilet before I could sit down.  She had a knack for falling into … everything.  Usually the toilet, my bath, in the sink.  I was constantly rinsing and drying that kitten off.  When I got ready to leave the house, she’d stand on the counter next to my purse, then leap on my chest when I picked up my keys.  Sharp as a tack!  She owned me right from the start, and I called her my Little Heart when we’d snuggle in bed at night and I’d love on her ’til either I fell asleep or she’d get tired of it and would end up nipping me on the nose or hand (our nightly ‘make-out’ sessions :)).   I have loved all of my pets in my life, but I can’t imagine there has ever been another human/animal pair so perfectly tailor-made for each other as us two.

All her life Lila LOVED to carry things around the house, especially her toys.  She’d carry them one-by-one up the stairs to the bedroom when we went to bed, then back down again when we got up in the morning.  Fuzzy flip flops and slippers always disappeared, even when they were as long as she was!  Davie’s socks and hairbows and any small stuffed animals would vanish in a minute.  When she brought something new into the room, she’d give this funny little trill meow to let us know there were toys there just in case we’d like to play with her. 🙂

Lila was with me through some of the hardest years, and then some of the best years of my life.  Those lonely years after college when I was searching for a partner, a husband, but was really just kissing a lot of frogs.  Boyfriends came and went.  We moved several times. And then I began to have a career rather than just a job.  Finally I met Troy.  We introduced dogs into the family.  We fostered sick animals.  And then we brought a baby home.  Through it all, it seemed like Lila could always read my mind.  She was there with a gentle nuzzle when I was down, cuddles when I needed some love, and always ready for a good game of catch the laser light dot.  She was always so small, we’d call her Mouse or Minnie Mouse, and she loved it when I’d sing the Mickey Mouse song to her while lovin’ on her head (only we changed it to M-I-N-N-I-E, M-O-U-S-E!).

Through it all, Lila was my girl.  Usually Abbys are outgoing social butterflies that will attach themselves to anyone who will show them attention at the moment, but Lila was different.  She wanted to be with just me.  I think it took her a good year or two before she’d let Troy pet her, but for me, I was never without her.  She sat on the counter and drank out of the sink while I brushed my teeth in the morning.  She reminded me to refill her food dish.  She came running to the door when I came home.  She napped on the back of the couch where I sat in the evenings.  Then at bedtime, we had “make-out” time before finally settling down to sleep.  I usually start out falling asleep on my side, and she’d lie on my shoulder and purr in my ear.  Eventually I’d sort of settle forward so I slept more on my stomach.  Once I rolled that way, she’d move down and curl up on my hip with her head on my butt.

Over the past year, though, we haven’t enjoyed our routine as much.  I had a hard time sleeping while I was pregnant, and I tossed and turned a lot.  I spent a lot of time throwing up instead of having our “make-out” sessions or playtime.  I didn’t feel good and I pushed her away too often.  She began to sleep under the bed more than on my back.  Then the baby was born, and even more of my attention was turned away.  I knew Lila was due for her shots and check-up, but it fell to the back of my mind.  I thought she seemed skinnier than usual, but she was always a very small, skinny cat, and I decided it was all in my mind.  I think now maybe I knew then that something wasn’t right, but I didn’t want to admit that anything could be going wrong with her.  Maybe I stuck my head in the sand.  Maybe if I had taken her in when I was supposed to, a year ago, maybe things would have turned out a little differently.

On Friday I thought Lila seemed a little lethargic, so I decided to keep an eye on her.  On Saturday, her nose was a little crusty and I thought, aha! she’s an older cat and she has picked up a little kitty cold!  I cleaned her little face and decided to make an appointment for her on Monday (our vet is closed on the weekends).  Get her started on some antibiotics and get it cleared up.  Only, Lila never goes outside, so where would she have been exposed to a kitty cold, you know?  On Sunday, it became clear that she did not feel well.  She was sleeping almost constantly, and wobbled when she walked.  I brought her dishes and a litter box just for her up to our bathroom, so she could have all her conveniences close to me.  I fed her tuna and she ate and drank and used the box, so I thought that although she was undoubtedly sick, the vet would be able to fix her up with some fluids and antibiotics.

Mom took her to see Jeana first thing Monday morning.  Jeana has been our vet for over ten years, and her parents are close friends with my parents.  She’s always been so good to us.  Jeana called me to let me know that it didn’t seem like a cold, but Lila had some ulcers in her mouth and needed to have her teeth cleaned.  Her biggest concern though, was that in the past two years, Lila had lost almost two pounds.  Two pounds is a lot on a cat!  How could I not have noticed?  It must’ve been so gradual, she was always so slim, but still, I feel so horribly guilty that I hadn’t noticed.  She slept on my back every night, for Christ’s sake!  Geana decided to do some lab work to see what was going on.

At the end of the day, I got the bad news.  Lila was in kidney failure.  Her kidney enzymes were off the charts.  This caused acidity, which was causing the ulcers in her mouth.  It didn’t look good, and Jeana told me that it ‘wouldn’t be the wrong decision’ to let her go, but we could try fluids and dialysis for 48 hours, then repeat the lab work.  I decided on that option.

I knew if the news was bad on Wednesday and we had to put her to sleep, I couldn’t be there.  I feel like a shit because of that.  But I knew I would be so distraught, my cries would only cause Lila distress.  So even though I was hoping for good news on Wednesday, on Tuesday I left work a little early (with permission, of course), and headed to the vet to spend some time with my girl.  As soon as I leaned into her cage, she lifted her little head and leaned towards me – and bit me right on the bridge of my nose.  Atta girl.

The staff was beyond wonderful.  They let me stay and hold her for over four hours.  They brought me a stool so I could sit by her cage.  They all stopped by to give her kisses and loves.  I sang her the Minnie Mouse song while she napped in my arms.  They let me stay while they closed the doors and began to clean up at the end of the day.  Jeana needed to check Lila’s IV connection and give her some shots, and I noticed that the vet tech, Pam, was especially attached to Lila.  Lila has never been into anyone besides me, but she lay content in Pam’s hands.  Pam kissed her all over her head, just the way I do, in all the places I love, like right on her forehead, and on her little nose, and the soft spot just behind her ear.  I love Pam for loving Lila the way I did.

On Wednesday, Jeana found her bloodwork was slightly improved, but not significantly.  She was getting thinner and weaker.  Her mouth was starting to hurt her terribly.  We could go on another 48 hours and try again, but it was most likely not going to get better, Jeana felt.  And even if we could get past this hurdle, she would need regular IV fluids daily, and bloodwork at least every month for the rest of her life.  And then there was the matter of her mouth.  They would have to put her under to clean up her mouth, and she probably wouldn’t survive the anesthesia.  And even if she did, there was still the matter of the weight loss.  Jeana suspected cancer, which is common in Abbys.  She could give her an ultrasound to try to confirm if there was cancer, but she was reluctant to put Lila through it.  Jeana was gentle with me but was more forthcoming with my mom – Lila was suffering and in pain, and it would pain Jeana to increase and prolong her suffering. 

I couldn’t bear for Lila to leave us without family with her.  My mom, my angel and best friend, stepped up for me once again.  This is how she told me it happened:

Mom and Jeana decided to meet at 3:30 in the afternoon.  Mom took Davie and my nephews to the clinic with her, but she just told the boys that Lila didn’t feel well and they were going to cheer her up.  (In fact, we still haven’t told the boys … I think they’re waiting ’til I’m stronger first.)  Cayle and Andon gave Lila gentle kisses and loves, then they went out to the playroom in the waiting room to play.  Mom stayed and loved on Lila for another 20 minutes or so, then they could all tell she was worn out and wanted to sleep.  She curled in a little ball under her blanket.  Jeana felt this was the perfect time, but mom was holding Davie so Pam came to help.  Pam climbed up all the way into Lila’s kennel and covered her with kisses and hummed softly to her.  Mom said Lila lifted her chin for kisses but was too tired to open her eyes.  Jeana injected the solution into Lila’s IV, and she slipped away while she slept,  and mom and Jeana and Pam wept softly, and Pam didn’t stop kissing her ’til she was gone.  Then someone took Davie, and mom loved on Lila a little more and said goodbye.

At work I went to the bathroom, and fell apart, and cried so hard there were tears and snot and saliva all over my face and all over the floor and I felt like my eyes would pop out of my head from the pressure.  I don’t remember the rest of the day, or how I got home, but then I was in bed and mom told how sweet it was when Lila passed, and I’ve never felt so grateful to anyone as I did to mom and Pam right then.

I know the kidney failure would have happened no matter what.  But if only I had taken her to the vet a year before, she wouldn’t have died in such discomfort.  We would’ve discovered her weight loss sooner and would’ve had her teeth cleaned.  The kidney failure would’ve still caused some ulcers in her mouth, but she wouldn’t have had to suffer as much mouth pain as she did.  Also, if the renal disease is mild, it can sometimes be managed with diet for a while.  We could’ve started her on that special diet, and maybe she would’ve stayed with us another year before she got really sick.  What I would give for that extra year.  She was my little heart.  I should’ve been as in tune with her as she was with me.  I should’ve taken better care of her.  I owed her at least that.

In the past couple of days I’ve been reading theories on whether we’ll see our pets again in heaven some day.  The common belief was that since pets do not have a soul, they aren’t able to be saved, and thus, won’t be in heaven.  But there are many who don’t agree, and there are verses that refer to all of creation in heaven, man and beast.  Others feel that there will be animals on the new earth and in heaven, but they may be newly created animals, not our own pets from our lives.  But I like what author Mike Dubose says:  “As for me, I believe that God will restore our beloved pets for us in Heaven, not because they have souls, but for our pleasure.”  That sounds right to me, that a loving God who created Lila as my perfect animal companion, my furry soulmate, would reunite us in His presence.  And for Lila it will have been a just a blink of an eye, just a moment, and she will not  even have had time to miss me at all.  And for me, my Little Heart will stretch her little face towards mine, and nip me right between the eyes, and my heart will be whole again.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. lifebytheday
    Aug 11, 2011 @ 20:52:34

    I’m so sorry that you lost your Lila girl…I’ve been thinking of you, hope Davie is giving you lots of hugs and cuddles to get you through!

    Reply

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