(with apologies to Charles Dickens)
It has been the worst of times and the best of times at the Trudel house this week. On Wednesday night during choir practice, Julie called to tell me that our 16-year-old cat, Snowflake, was having trouble walking and kept falling over, sometimes dragging one leg. As she described Snowflake’s condition, she was upset, and she said, “Mom, what should we do?”
A little over a month ago, Snowflake started walking funny, with her hind legs going sideways when the rest of her body was moving forward. I took her to the vet, who X-rayed her and didn’t find any real explanation for the walking except that she was constipated. Snowflake had a couple of compressed vertebrae, and the vet discovered she had a heart murmur. She recommended that I get some Miralax and mix it with Fancy Feast cat food (uptown stuff for Snowflake, who’s always eaten dry food) and that I give her 1/2 of a baby aspirin. She gave our kitty some fluids intravenously, and Snowflake made a quick recovery.
About three weeks after that, I saw a picture of a beautiful 3-year-old striped tabby on a Facebook post from one of my friends who’s an animal lover. The same veterinary clinic (PetMed) that had treated Snowflake was seeking homes for several kittens and “Miss Lily,” the brown and black tabby. I took one look at that picture, and my heart was captured by that beautiful cat. I thought how people would be so much more likely to adopt a kitten rather than a grown cat. And her luminous green eyes said, “Yes, come and get me.”
So after work that day Daniel and I headed off to PetMed to pick up Lily. We brought her home and carefully put her in our dining room to keep her and Snowflake separated. Snowflake was not happy with the new intruder in her territory. She and Lily had several midnight rumbles that first week, the first when Lily pawed open the pocket door between the dining room and kitchen. The other two times Daniel accidentally let Lily out of the space where I moved her after the first encounter (Julie’s bedroom and the hall between it and the bathroom).
We thought that Lily was the aggressor until one day when I put a leash on her and casually walked through the living room with her. Snowflake jumped off her perch on the couch and attacked Lily. Fur literally flew as Lily defended herself.
I thought Snowflake would adjust to Lily after a couple of weeks, so I was a bit nonchalant about their not getting along … until the Thursday of the second week when Julie called me at work. “Mom,” she reported, “Lily scratched Snowflake in the eye, and there appears to be a piece of skin hanging under her eye.” I decided at that point that it wasn’t worth the stress to Snowflake to keep Lily. I left work intending to take Lily back to PetMed, only to discover that I’d locked my keys in the car. So John and Julie did the “evil deed” (PetMed had told us, kindly, when we adopted Lily that if it didn’t work out between her and Snowflake, we could bring her back). I was a little sad about taking Lily back but felt like it was the best decision for Snowflake.
Back to this past Wednesday night, August 15. “Julie,” I said, “there’s not a whole lot you can do for Snowflake. She’s old, and I think she’s dying. Just be with her and comfort her.”
I left choir practice a little early and headed home. I found Snowflake in worse condition than she had been on July 9, her first episode of being unable to control her back legs. That night I slept in the living room couch with Snowflake nearby on the floor. I could barely sleep. I thought of the many times that sweet kitty lay beside me when I was sick.
On Thursday Daniel, Julie, and I headed to the vet’s. John couldn’t go, as he was substitute teaching. Daniel and Julie knew we needed to end Snowflake’s suffering and though it was hard for us, it would be the kindest thing we could do for Snowflake. The vet was compassionate and gave us plenty of time to say good-bye to our beloved pet. We all cried as we petted her and waited for the sedation shot to take effect before the vet would administer the final shot that would end Snowflake’s life.
Afterward we took Snowflake’s remains home in a cardboard box on which someone had lovingly written her name and drawn a heart. We chose a spot under a cedar tree in our backyard to bury our sweet kitty. We all took turns digging the grave and then shoveling dirt back into it. I think all of us were emotional wrecks for the rest of the day.
I went to work about 1:00 p.m. and dreaded coming back home. When John and I sat on the couch to watch TV, it was hard not to see some little white ears perked up, checking to see if I’d settled enough for Snowflake to stretch out on my lap.
On Friday I called PetMed and asked if they still had Lily. The veterinary assistant said, “I think so,” and went back to check. I was delighted when she told me Lily was still there, 8 days after we’d returned her. I told her I would come get Lily the next day.
Yesterday morning, after preparing the kitty litter box and vacuuming the living room (I didn’t want to scare Lily with the vacuum cleaner the first day), I drove to PetMed. She was not quite as friendly as she had been the first time I went to get her. I am not sure whether she was a little sore at me or just out of sorts because of the cat in the cage next to her (it kept growling and hissing).
We got home, and Lily immediately went to Julie’s room. In a few minutes, she came out and timidly walked around the house. She hid under beds, venturing out every now and then. After all, there was a lot going on. Julie was packing to go back to college, and there was a lot of running back and forth. And some of our relatives came over in the afternoon.
Today she’s much more at ease, has jumped on my lap a couple of times, and is enjoying having the run of the house. We will always miss Snowflake, and Lily won’t replace her. But I’m sure glad that she was able to come home and stay with us. A house just seems incomplete without a kitty.