Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Bonnie... 1998-2013

Bonnie's been through a lot since late October. After Twinkle and then Max, I simply didn't have the heart or the bravery to blog about it while it was going on. But now that it's over, I feel like I should speak about it, if only so that years from now, I will be able to remember it. The sorrows and joys, the ups and downs.

Max died last August. After that, it was just me, Bonnie, and Ally for a while. As an aside... I don't think I've mentioned I acquired a third cat again, a large, friendly male named Seth, at the beginning of February. Anyway, once Max was gone, I was intensely aware that my time with Bonnie was probably short, too. A couple more years at most, I figured. One morning in October she hopped up beside me onto the basin in the bathroom. That was a bit unusual. She used to do that a lot when she was young, but it got to more of a Max thing and she kind of gave it up after that. When she did, I happened to notice a strange growth on her anus. Petting her a little later, I also noticed one of her nipples was extremely elongated. That didn't alarm me as much; she was 14, getting older, and I put it down to hormones.

Anyway, I took her in, she stayed overnight to have the growth removed, it was quickly biopsied and deemed benign. Almost in passing I mentioned her nipple. The doctor paused, admitted he'd missed that, and offered to see her again, free of charge. He figured it was just a blocked milk duct, but recommended its removal and biopsy. But the little thing that didn't trouble me turned out to be a sarcoma. But it was very small, and he had cut wide, and had every hope he'd gotten it all. Still, I had the feeling I'd be saying good-bye to her very soon. But as it turned out, no. Not then.

I remember bringing her back in to get the stitches removed... Bonnie lying on her back, her paws trembling with nervousness, but not fighting, not fussing. I adored her at that moment. Somehow, she trusted us.

There was a follow-up in December. I can't quite remember what it was for. But it kind of put the cap on things for a while. My time with Bonnie opened up again. Perhaps she really did still have years. The one sour note: she'd lost weight. She'd long been a cat of 13, 14 pounds. In October, she was 12 and change. By December, she was a bit over 10.

In retrospect I wish we'd paid more attention to it then, but she'd been through so much, and, frankly, my cat care debt was accumulating, and I was looking for a break and a chance to recover my finances some. Also, in the back of my mind, always, was the possibility her cancer would come back.

But time went by, and things were normal. After that brush with losing her, it was very sweet. But by February I could tell she was losing weight. I sighed and told myself, well, she went through a lot in the fall. She's getting older. She's slowing down. This is what happens.

It was in late March, when she finally stopped being interested in the cat treats she's loved since Twinkle died, that I started getting concerned. I remembered Jenny and her thyroid condition. That had to be it, I told myself, and I booked an appointment and took her in. Yes, they confirmed. She has a thyroid condition and her liver numbers are very high (but so were Jenny's when she was diagnosed, so I wasn't too worried). But they also felt another growth in her mammary chain. She was down to 7.2 pounds. They didn't want to operate till they had her numbers under control.

We started her on tapazole, same medication Jenny took. Bonnie was fiendishly hard to pill, so I did some research and found out there's transdermal gel you can simply smooth inside a cat's ear that delivers the medication simply over the next half hour. I was kind of sore at the vet that they hadn't offered that as an option in the first place. I got it, and it made dosing her much easier.

After a couple of weeks I took her in for a follow-up. The thyroid had responded almost too well; the numbers were now on the low side. The liver numbers were worse, though, but they speculated that might have been a slow reaction to the thyroid stabilizing. They x-rayed Bonnie and couldn't see any indication of spread of the tumor, which was welcome news. But now she was just 6 pounds. My heart sank.

I got an appetite stimulant for her, and while I saw some bursts of interest in food in her, it was the same sad story as with Twinkle and Max; a heartbreaking disinterest in food for the most part.

Thursday about three weeks ago she was scheduled for an ultrasound. I kind of gave up on her that day. I was expecting they'd tell me her liver was shot through with cancer. I contacted vets who would come by and euthanize a pet at home... I wish I'd known about that option for Max... and settled on one. I was expecting to have her come by the following Monday.

But the ultrasound actually showed organs in good shape. There was an indication that her kidneys would eventually begin to fail, but it wasn't an issue at the moment. On the basis of that, they decided to go ahead with the cancer surgery. I can hardly express how happy I felt that day. The money didn't matter. The cancer was going to be dealt with, and we had a handle on the thyroid. Getting her eating again, I felt, was now the issue. So, instead of losing Bonnie that Monday, she went in for surgery to prolong her life.

She came home with a drain in her side, and they took that out three days later. They gave me the biopsy results. They'd gotten the cancer, cut wide, and didn't find it at the margins. But they did find micronodules further up the chain, and the suggestion was if it had spread a few inches that way, there was no way to be sure it hadn't spread beyond the incision in other directions. If it recurred, they recommended against further surgery as essentially pointless. I took that to mean that, really, I probably had til the summer or fall at best. She was scheduled to have her stitches taken out, right around now today.

Bonnie started moving around more, and visiting me in bed again, and getting up on things with the help of shorter things to jump on first. I thought this would be the new normal. But she was so small. I could feel every bone in her legs. If she weighed more than 5 pounds, I'd be surprised. But I kept hoping.

She took to spending her time at night in the little nook on the other side of the chairs I've set up for cats beside mine in the living room. But when I was there, or she anticipated I would be, she climbed up into the red cat bed at my elbow. I'll never forget that. Wherever I was, Bonnie was there. Unless, I think, I was snoring. But otherwise, always. Always. Anyway, I made things comfortable for her there. Put down one of the cat beds, put food there, water, moved a litter box into the living room.

I was getting prepared for the trip in this week, to have her stitches out. But this weekend I, and Larry when he dropped by, noticed that Bonnie would go to the water bowl, sniff at it, stare at it, but not drink. It was like she couldn't remember how. Sunday night was was interested in the toilet. I brought water to the bathroom. Same thing. Want to drink; can't seem to figure out how. I'd seen her do something like that with food before. She was restless Sunday night, spent time lying in the bathroom.

I didn't sleep much, and around 2 in the morning, I came to realization that this was it.

Right about now yesterday morning, I called the home vet and made arrangements for noon.

I spent most of the morning being kindly indulged by a couple of longtime friends via texting. The vet arrived just before noon. She met Bonnie, explained the process to me, discussed options for her ashes, paw prints, urns. About quarter after twelve, she gave Bonnie a sedative, and she pretty much drifted off to sleep. About five minutes later, she gave Bonnie the lethal injection. She said Bonnie had almost no muscle left. It was hard to find a place to inject. When Max was euthanized, he died before they finished the injection. But Bonnie's circulation was so poor that her heart, her little lion heart, carried on for another five minutes or so. Finally she told me, "She's gone." I was petting Bonnie all the while.

I knew I couldn't stand to see her picked up like a rag doll, so I stepped into the dining room while she transferred Bonnie to the little basket and covered all but her head with a little paw print blanket. She also took off Bonnie's collar for me... I told her I didn't want to be the one to do that, take it away from her... and gave it to me. We spoke for a bit. At quarter to one, she left with Bonnie. She'll be back in a week or two with the ashes and the paw print. I have the fur shaved from her tail... the tail tip she used to pat and caress my arms with at night. That was the fur I wanted to keep.

I didn't come apart during any of this. I'm honestly trying not to. People will say I should go with it, but no... no, that would make it all too awful. I did the right thing. There was nothing left of Bonnie; we'd really wrung everything out of her life we could short of the causing her to suffer just so I wouldn't have to face a tough call. But I made it, and to the best of my knowledge, she never suffered. And I want to focus on that. I want to be calm now. I've spent so much of the last two years in angst over these tiny, speechless feline people that I love that I really feel like I deserve not to feel awful, and I won't summon it. I gave Bonnie loads and loads of love, and got the same back from her. Going to pieces might be a fine tribute but it can't help her now, and I don't feel like it would help me. I want calm. I want acceptance. I want the gentle ripples of her love as her wake, not torment. I hope I can achieve it.

In a way, I've been mourning Bonnie for a long time. I can remember when I became intensely aware of it... it was one evening when I was watching a DVD of Freaky Friday, and the quirky menu music was playing, and I was petting Bonnie beside me and she was purring up a storm. It was perfect. But my mind said, "she's ten; you probably won't have this in two or three more years". It was a very bittersweet moment, so I videoed it. As it turned out, I had her companionship for another four and a half years; four without much worry. I wish I could have known that then. But really, have a look. Isn't this glorious? Isn't this what it's all about?

I'll probably blog about the things I remember about Bonnie in the next little while, as I did with Twinkle and Max. But for now, it was enough to remember what she and I went through the last little while.

I hate this place. This suite I bought. It was going to be the place I'd live, work, and retire in, but now I abhor it. I hate coming home here because it's been nothing but a charnel house for the cats woven into my heart. Almost from the time I moved in, every 9 or 10 months, one after another. The three cats I moved in with not quite two years ago, all gone. In their place, two relative strangers, Ally and Seth. I want out of here. I've started thinking seriously now about leaving North York and heading a bit further west, closer to my parents. I don't see enough of them, and quite clearly, time waits for no one. And this isn't a home... it has never become my home. It's just the place my stuff is. I want to change that.


Amin said...

Beautiful cat...

barefoot hiker said...

Thank you... yes, she was. She truly was. A marvellous little tortie who delighted my eyes every time I looked at her, and a beautiful personality, too. Gentle, attentive, affectionate, patient. I really couldn't have asked for a better feline friend. I really lucked out when I got her.