Tuesday evening was the third day that Mali had chosen not to eat her wet food nor any kibble.
She'd been eating voraciously since moving outside.
She was, however, taking cold cuts. Turkey and Ham.
So Tuesday night we fed her some ham. She ate some from Michael and later took one piece from me then wouldn't eat anymore. I made a vet appointment.
We had hopes that she had a messed up tooth or jaw and this was an easy fix. We also knew that she was long past when anyone thought she would live. I knew that her next crash was likely to be her final 'small, lumpy kidney' (vet's words a long time ago) no longer functioning. I knew what that would mean.
I spent Wednesday (yesterday) trying not to dwell on Mali's condition. I've been preparing myself for a long time to have to make this decision. The odds of me having to decide on her life were pretty high given her ongoing medical conditions. I knew for sure that I could not put her through another round of medication and sub-q fluids.
That question didn't come up.
Yesterday Michael called me at work and let me know Mali looked really bad and I needed to come home and get her to the vet. I packed up early and left. I made it home in about 15 minutes, came in, grabbed her carrier, and ran out again. I listened to her sounds. She yowls a lot in the carrier; but her yowling now sounded more like desperation and pain and sadness and wanting to go....
I'm pretty sure I knew.
The doctors were aware of her long ongoing special needs. The doc did a minor physical exam and then had the techs draw blood. This is a good vet, albeit expensive, they have a lab in the office. We had her bloodwork back 20 minutes later rather than 3 days. That was a good thing; Mali was in acute and total kidney failure. Her BUN was orders of magnitude higher than the highest within range level. Her creatanin was incredibly high. Her white blood cell count was incredibly elevated with neutrophils when in the past it had been easonophils. I didn't look at her ALT or Pancreas functions - no need to. Her only kidney was gone.
There's not much medical science for this. Transplants come iwth a 95% rate of failure and a minimum $15,000 medical bill, and the adoption of a stray - and the organ donation is highly controversial since, well, guess what? Animals can't consent. Not to mention months of intensive care, dialysis, etc.
With Mali's other organs also in bad shape getting her qualified for the surgery would have been impossible anyway. And she needed a solution now - she was cold, she was suffering, and she was hurting desperately.
She constantly tried to drink water. She was snorting it. She kept pawing at it to move it and drink it. It was instinct, not will. I wanted to believe it was play. Play meant hope. It wasn't and there wasn't.
I asked the vet to prepare the euthanasia shots. There are two. The first one is a serious sedative that makes the cat sleep. The second one stops the heart.
I spent many minutes with Mali still alive. I had the water removed so that Mali wouldn't be drawn to it- her sticking at the water bowl was instinct, not choice. Once the water bowl was gone Mali laid in my lap - no energy at all to move (her legs were collapsing under her this whole time). She purred. I asked the vet what it meant: cats purr in pleasure and also as self-comfort when sick.
An eternity later - maybe 5 minutes - Mali was asleep in my arms. I could feel her heartbeat. I buried my face in her side and told her I loved her and kissed her and then the vet came in. I moved her to the table and cuddled her best as I could knowing these were her final moments and knowing, too, that I had to be with her for this as I had been for everything else.
The doctor shaved Mali's forearm and found the vein. Needle went in and she pulled back and confirmed blood draw - the needle was in that tiny little vein. The vet asked if I was ready.
I never would be. I said yes.
So she pushed the final, fatal drug in. I had my hand on Mali's chest and was petting her head, doing my best to comfort her. I felt her heart rate slow down under my hand. I felt her heart stop beating. I told the doctor. A few seconds later the doctor checked with the stethoscope - no heart beat. Mali was gone.
There is no feeling I have experienced as heartbreaking as feeling her life fade away under my hands. Nor as devastating as signing the paperwork to end her life, no matter how necessary it was. I'm not God and I don't want to play one on TV or at the vet. This is the third time I've been involved in such a decision and the first time I had to make the decision on my own, with my own penmanship. The other choices were no harder or easier; this was closer and more personal. The other times I was across the country; this time I was in the room, with my hand on her chest, feeling her heartbeat fade away....
The doctor offered to give me a few minutes with her; I had had those minutes when Mali was alive. I told the doctor that body was not Mali and the doctor took her away.
Somewhere earlier in there while waiting I had already paid. I didn't have to deal with that while in tears. It's a good vet, did I mention that?
The doctor covered Mali's shell up with the towel and took her away. I'll get some of her fur and a paw print. She'll be cremated.
Last night I sat with my partners. I didn't do anything of the things I had planned. I was on a lot of Benadryl from having been in such close, face to body contact with Mali. I kept thinking I heard her. I remembered her flying from the fireplace to the kitchen counter. I wondered if she was over the rainbow bridge playing with Kayne and the rest of our menagerie.
Mali was the first animal in my direct care that I had to choose whether she lived or died. The choice, as it were, was a foregone conclusion; but I had to sign the paperwork. I had to make the decision to end her suffering.
It was one of the hardest things I've ever done.
Mali and I fought for her life for a decade. I did more to keep that cat healthy, alive, and with a good quality of life than many could or would and I'm grateful I had the resources to do so and that she and I both had the will and drive to keep trying. She had far more than 9 lives.... they just weren't infinite.
I'm sure she would have kept trying to fight if her body had the organs to do so. The blood work was conclusive - there was no fight to have. No amount of persistence or will to live could overcome having no kidney function at all.
Last night I slept. I didn't wake up to her normal 4am yowling. I dreamt her. I don't remember the dreams. This morning she's not out there waiting for food with the dogs. She won't trot ahead of me to her feeding castle waiting for her morning lovings and food. She won't again have to dodge the dogs and she won't curl up on my chest, shoulder, or lap for lovings and huggings. I miss her terribly.
Soon I will go out and visit and feed the dogs. Elka knows something is wrong - she looked for Mali last night; but it was not the first night Mali was gone overnight. I don't know if the dogs will grieve; I suspect they will. I know I am.
Mali, my polkadots.... I love you. Thank you for being my first cat. Thank you for saving my life at Smith and for being with me through 4 moves including a cross country move. Thank you for your purring and your yowling and your loving. Thank you for chasing the dogs and keeping them warm at night. I love you and I miss you.
-Lisa, 2014-10-30, Comment