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I place the tissue against my entire face, muffling the sounds of my sobs as the tears flow down my face. I’ve just gotten off the phone with my veterinarian’s office. I made an appointment. An appointment to euthanize my kitty. She’s five months old.
I look up, an effort to suck in the snot and stem the flow of tears. It doesn’t really work. I look at my computer, which appears blurry, and read the information on it. Then I transfer that information into the scheduling system. I’m at work.
It probably wasn’t a good idea to call and schedule the death of my kitty when I’m supposed to be scheduling patients for physical therapy, but the vet’s clinic hours are my work hours, so I needed to just call and get it taken care of. I’m trying to get back to work and continue on, but it’s hard. I am crying. I’m at work and I’m crying. Lovely. I bet I look really good too. I’ve never been a pretty crier, if there is such a thing.
I knew this day was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier. You would think it would. Wouldn’t you? Or at least I did. Maybe if I hadn’t put it off for so many weeks, it wouldn’t have been so hard. But I couldn’t bring myself to make that phone call. She was running around, playing, eating, sleeping, just like a normal kitty.
What she wasn’t doing was pooping. She doesn’t poop. Ever. Sometimes her colon gets so backed up, her poop is forced out because it has nowhere else to go. So she wears a diaper and a onesie, since she has no control over that. This little kitty, that I dubbed Bob Dylan, has manx syndrome. A very severe case of manx syndrome.
She has no tail and the malformation of her spine has also affected her sacrum and the nerves around it, in effect, she cannot go to the bathroom. How fucked up is that? She was dealt a rotten deal. And it’s been hard for me to come to terms with.
My phone rings, it’s my mom “I’m here” she says. She has come to get me and Bob Dylan, to take us to the vet. I’m already crying as I place the kitty in the carrier and head down to the dark blue Chrysler Pacifica parked in the street outside of my apartment.
I cry on and off on the way to the vet, after I check her in, as I wait for the vet tech to come get us, after they take Bob Dylan to the back to get a line in so her death won’t be painful, and during the procedure; which takes a surprisingly short time. The vet and the vet tech are kind and gentle and sympathetic.
They tell me I did an excellent job and did all I could for this little kitty and she wouldn’t have made it this far without me. I sob into my mother’s arms and cry out “She was my baby!”
I feel as if I killed my baby. Did I give up on her? Did I truly do all I could? I know I did, but sometimes I still feel guilty, as if I could have done more. It’s still hard to cope with, to remember that she would not have had a quality life if I had not done the right thing and gently and compassionately ended it when I did. I DID THE RIGHT THING. I remind myself.
I say goodbye to the tiny little kitty, laying motionless on a cloth-covered steel table, I stroke her and tell her I love her and that she won’t have to wear diapers anymore and that I will see her again, as I wipe the tears and snot from my face. I’m a mess. But, hey, what’s new?
It just so happens that I am moving. The day I take Bob Dylan to the vet, is the last day at the apartment. So when I get home, I just keep packing and cleaning. There’s a long list from the leasing office on what we need to clean (including taking down the light fixtures and washing them), so there’s no time to waste.
I don’t have any time to pity myself. I cried enough in the car. I can cry later when I go to bed… But then, while I’m packing, I find some nightgowns. These nightgowns belonged to my grandmother who passed away in April. I had been in the middle of converting them into hospital gowns when she passed. In fact, I was at my sewing table, with just the finishing touches to complete on the last one, when my sister came in and told me about our grandma.
As I pick up the pile of nightgowns turned hospital gowns, that my grandma never got to wear and place them into a box, I lose it. I cry hard. I am crying for my grandmother, my kitty, for everyone I have ever lost, and myself. Because I lost myself a long time ago and each death reminds me of that. How is it that the death of a kitten makes me feel like such a failure? I have failed her and I have failed myself. I’ve lost Bob Dylan and with her I have lost another part of myself. Soon there will be no more left.
I pulled myself together after several minutes and continued packing. I cleaned and packed the rest of the day. My sister came home and we finished cleaning at about 12:30am. We left the apartment and although I will not miss that apartment in particular (I didn’t even decorate my room), it was where I cared for Bob Dylan.
She was a big part of my life for 12 weeks. Every day I gave her a bath, changed her diaper, fed her, and loved her. She cuddled with me, played with me, and loved me in that apartment. When I closed that door on the apartment, I felt it again, the closing of the door on Bob Dylan. She’s gone. Our home is no longer our home.
So, although I am the biggest sap when it comes to animals, my grief over this kitten seems to be more than just about her. Doesn’t it? I don’t know how to express it or how to deal with it. Have I been bottling up my grief all this time? What do you do when you realize you’ve hit rock bottom and you are not the person you once were? How do you get back to who you were? Or how do you get back to the path to be the person you want to be?
I’ve come to realize in the past week, since Bob Dylan’s death, that she was put into my path, brought into my life for this very purpose. To bring me joy, grief, and to make me question. Why would this happen to a little kitty? Why did I find her in that tree? Because of course I could not just leave her there, of course I was going to bring her home, fall in love with her, and take care of her. And of course I would be devastated when I found out she was not long for this world.
And what’s more, it was up to me to end her life in a good way, in a compassionate, and pain-free way. I would be upset and question. What the fuck? Why? Why do I have to make a decision to end her life? Why me? Why? What the fuck? I don’t understand. – Those were things that kept going through my mind.
And now I sit here, with a few fresh tears, a burning sensation in my nose, and a fist gripped around my heart, but a grip that is losing its strength, just ever so slightly and ever so slowly. And I will work to loosen its grip more and more each day because if I have learned anything from Bob Dylan it’s that you cannot be afraid to love (yourself included) just because you also face the possibility of losing those that you are choosing to love.
And when you lose your way, find yourself lost, broken, and beaten, it doesn’t mean that you are irreparable. You can get back up, find your way, and heal. Start asking yourself: how did I get here? What can I do to get to where I once was? Or to where I want to be? Because I know now, after some reflection and lots of crying that though I have lost a lot, I don’t have to lose myself when I experience a loss. And now I can work on getting myself back, it was a choice I made (unconsciously so) to lose myself, possible in order to (ineffectually) deal with my pain and grief, but buried deep under all that shit that I’m ignoring is the person I once was and the potential to be the person I want to be.
I lost my faith awhile ago, it happened slowly. But reflecting on it now, it coincides with my turn down a path that I have not enjoyed. I have often found myself angry, apathetic, unhappy, and unfortunate. Unfortunate in financial aspects, love, my job, and many other aspects of my life. I’ve refused to look at myself and my choices because I was afraid of what I would find. But I know there is a capacity to love; I saw it when I brought Bob Dylan into my home and heart. So how have I been neglecting myself? Particularly when I am always telling others to love themselves…
I should follow my own advice and practice what I preach: self-love. But first, I need to grieve and forgive myself for the missteps I have taken. Because I realize that that has been my barrier, I have been punishing and unforgiving towards my own self. I have always been forgiving towards others, but I am so harsh towards myself. Why is that? Maybe I will never know exactly why, but now that I know that I do this, I can at least try to amend it by staying conscious of it.
I have a lot of work ahead of me. The grieving process has just begun. I am still crying over Bob Dylan and now I am adding myself into that mix. I am grieving over the loss of my past self. Maybe if I forgive myself, I can start to unearth the buried Natalie that I miss so dearly. And now that I am facing the fact that I am lost, I can start the process of healing. Bob Dylan brought me that. So next time I ask myself “why?”
I hope I remember that Bob Dylan was going to be born with this anomaly no matter what and it was divine intervention and great fortune for both her and myself that I found her in that park that fateful afternoon. She got 12 weeks of comfort in a happy home and I got so much more. I got a little savior in the form of a bob-tailed cat.
She brought me questions, but she also provided some clarity and answers; hope, love, and the desire to want to be and do better. And only with self-love and self-care can I truly be the person I want to be: the person who is able to effectively care for and love all the animals and people that my empathetic and compassionate heart aches for.
If you need assistance facing your furry baby’s farewell, pick up a copy of
Facing Farewell: Making The Decision to Euthanize Your Pet
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