by: Kathy Carano
I know a lot of people were wondering where I was last week, and to everyone who sent emails asking if I was ok, I thank you. The fact, is, no I'm not ok. Last Saturday, September 4, I lost my sweet kitty Natasha. I know in a time of such horrors as war, car bombings, kidnappings and death and whatever else plagues this world, some people may not think having to put a cat to sleep is such a big deal. But I'm here to tell you, it is a very big deal and this is our story.
Sixteen years ago this month, I was single and living in an apartment with a roommate, Tom. We decided we wanted a pet and into our lives came Hobbes. Hobbes was an adorable gray tiger striped kitten who was just as sweet as can be. She was by my side constantly and unfortunately this is what caused us to eventually give her to the humane society. One day, while Hobbes was still a kitten, she was trying to get on my lap as I was sitting at the kitchen table. She missed, and instead hit her head on the underside of the table. She suffered a concussion and was really never the same kitten again. She became mean and prone to fits. She was more than two working people who aren't home days could handle so we opted to give her to the humane society in hopes that she can find a home where she could be cared for. That same day, I had heard about a woman nearby who's cat had kittens that she wanted to give away. My friend and I went to go see them and I instantly fell in love, with both! One was a gorgeous little black and white tuxedo kitty, hanging from one paw from a bookcase. The other was the most unusual looking and beautiful kitten I had ever seen, what I learned then was a tortoise shell kitty. I took them both, in hopes that the companionship would be better for them, since we are out all day.
Fast forward to sixteen years later, and they have been with me all this time. When I married Nick almost 11 years ago and moved out of the apartment with Tom, they came with me. Boris and Natasha have always been my babies. They have enhanced my life more than I can ever ever express in words. Boris, the mild mannered tuxedo kitty who has nothing but love to give and wants nothing more than to be held and loved back (and an occasional treat of canned cat food). Natasha, the ornery little troublemaker who can make you laugh so hard, you can't believe you were ever mad at her in the first place. She loved to give kisses (we call it a kiss... you pucker your lips for her and she will head butt them) How did these two incredibly different personalities come from the same litter? It's amazing.
About a year ago, Boris became ill. He went from 14 lbs down to 9 lbs at such a rate, we thought we were going to lose him. He was diagnosed with diabetes and it became a daily routine to give him 2 shots of insulin a day. Just as we began to marvel at how far he has come and rallied, putting back on just about all the weight he lost, it was Natasha who became thin.
On Thursday, September 2, we noticed the weight loss. But she wasn't acting any differently. Natasha is the kind of cat who, even at this age was still like a kitten. She played, she ran, she chased Boris. She never seemed to slow down until that day. On Friday morning, September 3, I called our vet, Dr. Bedi, who has cared for them both since I got them, and made an appointment to come in. I was told right then that he was leaving the country to see his ailing father and I had to come immediately. His office is an hour from where we now live, so I headed right out the door with Natasha in her carrier. When I arrived, Dr. Bedi saw me holding Natasha from another room and asked, "What happened to her?" He could tell something was very wrong from a seeing her in my arms a room away. I told him we didn't know, she's been fine until the day before. He drew blood and noticed that she was very pale. He took her temperature and it was very very low. I had told him she didn't want to eat that morning, but he gave her some special food and she ate it right up. We had hope based on this. He said the results would be in the next day, and that his sub would be able to read them and diagnose what was going on, so we went home.
About 2 hours later, I called Nick at work and told him he had to come home. Natasha was getting worse by the minute. He left work immediately and was home within half an hour. By that time, Natasha could hardly walk as her back legs kept giving out on her. I called Dr. Bedi's office and told them I would be bringing her back. Panic is setting in and this is when the tears started to flow. When we brought her back, the sub vet, Dr. Laskin, said that she could be in liver or kidney failure because she couldn't keep her back legs up and that was a classic sign. This is getting worse by the minute. We decided to leave her in their hands because they wanted to make sure she would be hydrated. She was placed on an IV for the night, and I was told by Dr. Bedi's wonderful assistant Cindy that I could call her at 8:30 am when she arrived to see how Natasha did overnight. Dr. Laskin would be in at 9:30 am and would call me with the results.
As you can probably imagine, I didn't sleep much that night. Asleep by 3 am, awake by 6 am... I updated my message board readers on what was happening and waited the painful hours until 8:30 when I could call and see how she was. Cindy informed me that Natasha had knocked out her IV overnight... how typical of my feisty little girl... but she was standing. She wouldn't eat, but she did take a drink of water. Now I had to wait another hour for the test results call. Cindy assured me she would make it a priority for Dr. Laskin to call as soon as she arrived. She called about 9:45 with the horrible news that my baby was in almost full kidney failure. She had only 15% use of her kidneys left and there is no recovery for this condition. Nick and I are absolutely devastated by this news and we headed straight to the vets office.
Once we arrived, Dr. Laskin and Cindy tried their very best to keep us calm and told us that we had a chance of getting her stable so she could live up to a year. If she stayed hydrated and ate, it was possible for her to rally some. They taught us how to use an IV, prescribed a pill that would stimulate her appetite, and told us to give her absolutely anything at all that she would eat. They also loaned us a heating pad for her to lay on because her temperature was still so low. We were scared and upset but had to give it a try so, armed with Dr. Laskin's home number, and a promise from Cindy that we could reach her too, we took Natasha home. We tried, unsuccessfully throughout the day to get her to eat. She looked like she was going to eat the cat food she ate at the vets office, but she just sniffed it. I made her an egg, soft, so she could just lick it... but she wouldn't touch it. I gave her milk and she did take some, but only a few sips. She couldn't lie still for very long, I think her discomfort was getting to her. She kept getting up and moving, even though she could only go a few steps. She went to her water bowl and wanted to drink so bad, you could see it. But she couldn't do it. Amazingly, she went to the basement to pee, at least once. We figured we would take turns taking her downstairs in case she had to, but she did it on her own. We did carry her up when we realized where she had gone.
The realization of what was going to happen hit when we tried to give her one of the appetite stimulant pills and she threw it up 5 minutes later. She was so weak and throwing up took so much out of her. She wasn't going to eat, no matter what we tried. She wasn't going to drink. Around 10:30 pm on Saturday night, through a mass of tears, we decided she'd had enough and we couldn't let her go on this way. With our vets office closed until Tuesday, we had no other choice but to take her to a 24 hour emergency animal clinic. I called ahead and told them what we would be coming in for and they said they would be on the lookout for us.
When we arrived, they put us in an examining room, took Natasha from us to insert an IV cath, and then brought her back. They told us then that we could have as much time with her as we wanted. Nick and I cried and cried and told her how much we love her. I kissed her about 10,000 times and just wanted to hold her forever and never let her go. When we realized we could stay there all night holding her, we called in the the vet. They ask you if you're ready... but how can we ever be ready to let our baby go? We told him we were though, and he explained what he would be doing and how the injection would be instant. We stayed, and pet her and kissed her and told her how much we love her. And in a moment, her head dropped and she was gone. It was the most gut wrenching experience of my life and as I sit here telling you through my tears, I can see her little head drop and hear that awful sound. But even so, I wouldn't have it any other way. I would never have left her alone at that moment. The people at the clinic, people who had never met us before that night, were so kind and so compassionate. They hugged us, and made sure we were ok. And a few days later we received a lovely condolence card from them. I felt awful that the vet who took care of her since the beginning of her life, wasn't there at the end of her life, but they were wonderful to us.
I returned to Dr. Bedi's office on Tuesday, to return the supplies and thank them for all they had done. While I waited for Mrs. Bedi and Cindy to be available to talk to me, a woman I had never met before saw the flowers with Natasha's photo and said how pretty she is. I burst into tears and she immediately realized I had lost her and came to sit with me, hold me around the shoulders and telling me how sorry she was. In fact, as I went to buy the flowers I walked into the store and asked for help. Crying, I told the woman what they were for and she began to cry and tell me how she lost her dog only two weeks before. Animals have such a deep bond with us. It's amazing what happens when you tell people you lost your beloved cat.
Mrs. Bedi (the doctors wife) said she would be talking to her husband that evening and knows he will be upset and want to see us when he arrives back on the 16th. Of course I would like to see him too. She told me that she had come to take him to the airport that Friday morning when I brought Natasha in the first time and he had refused to leave until he saw us. He's such a wonderful man. I gave them the flowers with the photo of our little Natasha, and we looked at other photos that I had brought and I cried and cried, while their compassion and love of all animals helped me heal some. I told Cindy to take as many photos as she wanted, and she said she would really like to have one of Boris too, so she took one of him, and then one of Boris and Natasha together.
I want to thank everyone who already knew, who followed our progress on the PVB Message board, once again for your kindness, your cards, ecards, flowers, emails and poems. Special thanks to Diane and to Christine (Christine made this collage) Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your care and concern, for your kindness and your compassion. Nick, Boris and I will never forget it. And please know, we are keeping Boris close and watching to make sure he doesn't go into depression without his sister. Thanks again xo