These posts from my defunct Cat Saturday blog (yes that got shortened to Caturday!) were exhumed from the Internet Archive circa 2008- 2010, but timely for Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day on August 28.
I’ve edited three posts from September 2010 for the most useful bits for anyone interested in pet loss. Over the past 13 years, I’ve experienced more than my share of pet death from my own, to clients and our extended community. May they bring a smile of recognition or purrs of insight. But first a poem I wrote, a Haiku.
Early September 2010
Cats are very clever at hiding symptoms, which is all the more reason for elderly cats to have more frequent checkups. We will hydrate Coco and give anti-nausea meds for the next three days, and reassess. If she doesn’t begin eating, the prognosis isn’t good.
Coco after her treatment on Friday.
She has lost three pounds. That’s huge. It’s like me losing 50 lbs. She peed the bed again last night and is sluggish. I’m doing Reiki on her and calling on my angels and animals totems for comfort during her transitional time. I am trying to stay present and enjoy our last days together. Easier said than done.
For months, Coco has grown more remote and distant from her cuddle buddy and bro Merlin, but this week he stepped up to the plate and slept with her. He knows what’s up. Merlin ironically has never felt or looked better. This summer was his second kittenhood and he enjoyed it immensely.
It’s amazing how littermates can have divergent destinies, but then again, look at our own human siblings. The question is; what will happen after Coco leaves. Will feral boy Domino decide to come inside? We made a little more progress this week. Adopting a new cat is not on the agenda but maybe fostering?
Who knows? Adopting another pet is the last thing anyone about to lose a beloved pet should think about.
Our vet, Rich Goldstein at Mobile Vet Squad had to euthanize his beloved cat two weeks ago after a long battle with cancer. I asked him how he knew when was the right time.
He said, “You just know.” I chatted with some friends about the same thing and everyone said, “You just know.” I’m going to trust that when the time comes, I too will just know.
My intuitive communication with Coco revealed she’s ready to go to the rainbow bridge soon.
But something that I haven’t seen discussed is the role of spouses or significant others and sick pets. I feel adamant about monitoring the quality of a pet’s life and not prolonging it needlessly.
Nothing drives me crazier than seeing a loved one suffering. But what happens when one spouse wants euthanasia and the other doesn’t?
A very ill or dying pet can drive a wedge between couples and I’d suggest talking about a contingency plan, long before the stress of a real illness.
I’d also suggest pre-planning euthanasia and post dying details. Burial or cremation? Any ritual or funeral? The time to figure out if Fluffy will fit inside a shoebox is best planned in advance. Ditto where in the garden to bury them and whether your shovel can dig through frozen ground. Been there done that with stressful results. If possible have a plan and a Plan B.
My way of making peace with death is to plan and prepare, but everyone faces illness and the possibility of death differently. I was ready to send Coco to the rainbow bridge today, but I changed my mind. Who wants to play God and put down their pet on 9/11? Not me. My husband was so triggered by Coco’s rapid decline he’ll do anything to keep her around. With the vet’s advice we’ve reached a comfortable compromise.
Meanwhile the grieving process has begun in earnest and I’m grateful for the long reprieve from the last time, fifteen years ago when my dad died. The “walking in underwater” heaviness feels the same. I’d forgotten how utterly exhausting grieving is. It seeps into the waterlogged bones. Stay tuned…Your prayers are welcome.
Rest In Peace Coco
Edited for National Pet Memorial Day 9/11/11.
Thank-you to everyone who said I would know when it was time to put Coco to sleep. It happened in a flash and an enormous weight has lifted. She made it clear on Monday night, it’s time and the vet came to our house yesterday at noon.
You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day, a kinder vet or a more meaningful ritual/burial. I will blog about it with some last photos at this week’s Cat Saturday.
Thank-you also for the support on every level: from calls, messages, long distance healing, Reiki and prayers. I hold you all in my heart, which by some miracle feels a thousand times bigger.
Coco got her Wings!
I believe in omens. I also believe the many pets I’ve had entered and exited at pivotal junctures in my life. Two weeks ago today I broke my baby toe. I took it as a painful wake-up call and (being the intuitive that I am) knew that pain of a different sort loomed.
If you are a regular visitor here, you’ve heard that my dear Coco died this past Tuesday. The memorial photo was posted on Wednesday. So much has transpired in the past week, on every level, I feel compelled to write down as much as I can before the nuances fade. Today’s post, long as it is, is a mere “just the facts” version.
Last week at Cat Saturday it was all about waiting, nursing, hoping and praying, but ultimately surrendering. You can only keep death at bay for so long. The question on my mind 24/7 was: When?
When is the right time to end a pet’s life humanely? On Sunday, it looked grim. Coco ate no more than a morsel, drank water, peed in bed, unable to walk even to a kitty litter in the bedroom. We emailed the vet who agreed to come on Monday to perform the at-home euthanasia.
Then, she rallied as palliative care patients often do. The last hurrah. We canceled the appointment and chewed our nails. She managed miraculously to climb to the guestroom on the third floor and use the kitty litter!
Her every wish became our pleasure. On Monday, she napped in the warm sun next to the herb garden. She happily lapped water, ate a fresh catnip leaf and enjoyed (as she always did) a gentle brushing in the sunshine.
The one thing she refused to do was pose for the camera. The rare time she opened her eyes, she’d move her head, and after a few blurry attempts, I respected her wishes. I was thrilled to accidentally get all three cats in one shot, one last time ( Domino in the distance).
Marg, one of my cat blogger friends said, “Look in the eyes. She’ll tell you when it’s time to go.” Easier said than done when she rarely opened her eyes anymore. I kept looking and asking. “Are you ready to go tomorrow?”
After a shamanic journey with both Merlin and Coco nestled in my arms, she looked at me with her foggy blue eyes and nodded her head, yes. Our dear vet, Rich, agreed to visit at noon on Tuesday.
Since the original appointment was for Monday, we’d prepped everything on Sunday. A pine cognac crate was the perfect size for a coffin. I found some luxurious fabric suitable for a kitty queen. Hubby dug a grave by the old barn. I gathered candles and incense, wrote an eulogy of sorts.
There was nothing more to do but make Coco as comfortable as possible and squeeze in as much love and not sadness.
Merlin, her devoted brother and best friend for almost sixteen years, said his final goodbye here. We thought it best that Merlin not see the vet arriving or leaving. Merlin is due for a check-up soon and we didn’t want any negative association.
Tuesday was a perfect late summer day, warm and sunny. I decided to take Coco outside one last time to feel the sun on her face and smell the grassy earth she loved so much. She basked in the sun, absolutely serene and dignified as any empress. I’d prepared a makeshift altar on the picnic table and smudged her with sage and frankincense.
Since she was already so comfortable, we thought why move her into the mobile clinic? Everything unfolded with divine clockwork. The mobile clinic arrived. The vet walked over to see Coco and we agreed that it was the perfect spot. Most pets are euthanized in a cold clinic after a stressful car ride. What a relief to spare Coco (and us) that trauma.
My husband went inside the clinic to take care of the paperwork. Coco kindly gave me one last look and I thanked her for fifteen wonderful years.
The assistant gave Coco a sedative and Dr. Goldstein, with the utmost compassion, talked about what was going to happen and what to expect. They left us alone for a few minutes while the sedative took effect and we said our final good-byes. The final shot was administered, and a few seconds later at officially 12:47 Coco exited peacefully.
We cried of course, but the beauty and grace of the moment transcended the pain. Dying where one most enjoyed living is as good as it gets.
After a brief chat, the vet quietly left, and we brought Merlin out to say his good-byes. I believe the opportunity for a pet to see and smell their dead companion helps with grieving. Merlin walked straight over, sniffed her and promptly walked away. No fanfare. He just knew the furry form lying there was no longer Coco.
A simple but meaningful ceremony preceded the burial by the barn. The exact spot is where (for over a year) I’ve photographed the beautiful wabi sabi progression of decay of this old chair. Wabi Sabi, the Japanese aesthetic, values the beauty of impermanence.
Merlin showed no interest in the burial or visiting the grave site since then. At least not so far. It’s as if he knows her spirit is long gone.
For almost sixteen years, it was always Merlin and Coco, Coco and Merlin. Inseparable. The Siamese twins.
In more ways than I can say, it marks the end of an era.
Much to my relief, he has yet to search inside the house for her. I half expected him to be wailing into the night for her as he had on many nights, but no more.
Domino remained conspicuously absent all day on Tuesday. Perhaps he hid in the bushes observing from a distance. When he finally appeared in the evening, he gave me a knowing look.
Since then, Domino has tried to play with Merlin, but Merlin is in deep mourning. He’s eating well, but won’t leave the darkness of the duvet unless I carry him outside twice a day. Once outside in the sunshine he perks up and we talk. He likes the sun warmed heat of the picnic table near Coco’s transition spot.
On Wednesday, while we sat on the table, I asked for a sign from the beyond.
A few seconds later, a female cardinal appeared on a branch nearby.
I asked out loud, “Are you Coco? If so, can you come a little closer?”
The bird flew closer and perched on a branch about ten feet away.
I dared to ask again, “If you are Coco, can you come a little closer?”
The bird instantly flew past my face, not three feet away and disappeared north of the garden.
Merlin and I looked at each other and I smiled.
Here we are almost 13 years later and Coco still visits me as do all my OTRB cats at different times, places and forms.
It’s a comfort to know pet death is inevitable but their loving presence is always saying, I’m still here.
Like more Rainbow Bridge Wisdom? We have lots like. Shamanic Feline Messages or Purrs From The Rainbow Bridge