Saturday, August 4, 2012

Princess Sadie

My favorite picture of Sadie & me - I think from 2006
I have a black/gray/tan/white tabby cat that I got waaaaay back in 1996. I co-adopted her from the city pound with the girlfriend I had at that time. We were actually looking through the kittens and I hadn't realized I was in a new "section". When I looked into Sadie's crate, she came right up at my face with those big round cat eyes (the ones reserved for melting human hearts) and screamed at me with her now trademark loud meow. I looked at the card on her crate and asked B what the date meant (it was the next day's date). She guessed that it was probably the euthanize date. I truly had no idea. I was heartbroken for this cat. None of the kittens had expiration dates, why this older one? I have long since learned that people don't typically adopt cats, but prefer kittens. Kittens are cute. They make us go "Awww!" and "Ooooh!" and they melt our hearts and make our brains all mushy. Adult cats look like the strays that are everywhere and they rarely get a second glance when there are kittens around. Luckily for Sadie, she was vocal and not afraid to stare me down.

B and I decided we just had to save this poor adorable thing. The kittens would have time to be swooped up by someone else but Sadie's expiration date was the next day! (note: I have since learned that the date was probably something more along the lines of when a vaccine expired or something less mortal.) The subject of who actually made that decision to save her is still a matter we debate. The important result though is that she was saved.

Sadie was the best mannered cat I had ever encountered. She never got on the counters or tables. She wouldn't lay on you unless you asked her to. She was very light and light-footed. We guessed that she was probably about a year old when we adopted her. She was full grown but still very playful and would chase my laces as I tied my shoes in the mornings. She barked at birds outside the patio window. (Kind of like a rough and choppy meow. Just imagine what a cat would sound like if it tried to bark - that's what it sounded like.) She quickly let us know who was boss and who was to be revered, hence the nickname "Princess".

She has been my co-sleeper for 16 years. She has been Sweetie's co-sleeper for 10 years. In fact, the first night that Sweetie slept over, Sadie laid next to her or on her all night - something she had never done before and has never done since (to a "stranger").

In 2008, Sadie had what we refer to as "the episode". We came home from Saturday night church and there was vomit and diarrhea all over the house, and still coming. She was in obvious pain and stress so we rushed her over to the animal ER. After running a bunch of blood tests and an x-ray, they determined that she had 20% functionality in her kidneys, and needed hydration. Other than suggesting a "senior" cat food with lower protein, they didn't have any other advice. This is just something that happens to older cats and if she has another episode, we would need to put her on subcutaneous fluids (basically hydrate her by poking her with a needle every 6 hours). We knew we weren't going to put her through that and we were heartbroken. It sounded like a death sentence. We had a talk that night about exactly what sort of behavior would have to change before we made a decision to euthanize. By 2008, a quality of life for Sadie meant eating well, keeping the food down, and being able to jump up on the bed for cuddles.

Sweetie did some research and found that senior food is actually the worst formula of nutrients that a cat with failing kidneys could have. She determined the best diet would be grain-free and normal in protein. We started feeding her Wellness brand canned food. We added water to it as a way to get her more fluids. We haven't had a single episode since. It was probably the best thing we could have done for her and I'm so grateful that Sweetie took the initiative to do the research.

Somewhere along the line, Sadie started eating less. We noticed she'd still have a lot of food left in her bowl when it came time for the next feeding, so we cut back a little. We eventually went from a whole can a day to 2/3 a can a day. Just recently, she started eating even less than that. About 3 weeks ago, we dropped her to a 1/2 a can a day but there's still quite a bit of food left when we pick up the bowl. I moved the bowl closer to where she slept thinking maybe it just hurt to walk to the other room. It helped for a few days but then she was right back to not eating. We had thought for awhile that she was going senile so I thought maybe she was just forgetting to eat. I started going in periodically to "remind" her by tapping the bowl. She would sometimes come over and eat a few bites, then go back and lay down. It's as if she was intentionally starving herself. And when I wondered aloud at why she would do such a thing, Sweetie reminded me that when animals are ready to die that's what they do. They recluse and they stop caring for themselves. Sadie still came up to get a little cuddle time at night but I realized that she wasn't staying all night like she used to. Her weight had been dropping over the last year (as I've seen in older cats), but it dropped off drastically in this last month. I felt like I had to be extra gentle while petting her. If I went to pet her somewhere different and moved my hand too fast, she'd lose her balance and fall. So I learned to slowly work my hand up to the top of her head before letting go. I could feel every bone in her body. Her spine made the fur on her back poke up, and when she was standing she looked like a skeletal version of the healthy Sadie we knew only months earlier.

Sweetie and I made the very difficult decision to euthanize. Sweetie took on the task of making the appointment (thankfully, I'm certain I couldn't have gotten it accomplished without bawling). It was settled. Tuesday morning, Sweetie called and she was scheduled to be put down on a Saturday morning. If you ever need a sure fire way to ruin your week, schedule to euthanize your beloved pet many days beyond the current day. That finality of an appointment was a very unexpected blow to my emotions. I thought I was prepared for this. I can't speak for Sweetie, but I cried so much on Wednesday that I was exhausted. There was less crying and more just "welling" of the eyes on Thursday but that rock in the pit of my stomach and the knot in my chest just sat. Appetite - gone. Friday morning, I found myself crying while singing to "Tonight Tonight" by Hot Chelle Rae (of all things!) while driving to work. I had to laugh at the ludicrousness of it all. Friday evening, B came over to say her goodbyes. I wished we hadn't waited so damn long. I questioned our decision every single day, many times a day. Just when I'd be sure of it, Sadie would stay longer for cuddles and make me wonder again. Or she'd give that trademark loud meow that I hadn't heard in so long. Or she'd eat more (still not near the amount as before, but still - more). As far as Sadie could tell, everything was going on as normal, but everything was far from normal for us.

Finally Saturday morning came and we did what needed done. Sweetie fed Sadie that morning and it seemed so strange. Picking up the bowl to put the remaining untouched food down the disposal was gut wrenching. And no matter how evident it was that she wasn't well, or that this was the humane thing to do, I couldn't get rid of that doubt that it wasn't the right time. Every other pet I've had that needed euthanasia had a very evident disease or trauma, like cancer or a dog fight, or had licked up antifreeze from a leaking radiator. The decision was always made by my parents, usually in a vet's office after being given the options. This decision that Sweetie and I had to make was so methodical and planned. It just seemed so wrong. It's obvious that it's the right thing to do but I feel wrong doing it.

I wish I had some pictures of her when she was young. That was before the digital age and the photographs I had of her were destroyed in the flood. I do still have pictures from 2005 through 2012 though. Thank you internet & digital cameras!

The earliest picture I have - 2005

She loved to play with the string - 2007 Pouncing Kitty Hidden Bear (heehee) - 2007

Loving the outside time - 2008 Sometimes her green eyes really pop - 2008 "Head shot"

Nap time = cuddle time (2008)

After getting ingrown claw clipped. She worked nonstop
to get that bandage off! (2010)

2010 "Head shot" 

She always appreciated a good book ;-)
August 2011
This goes to prove that new cats can teach even the
best mannered and old cats new tricks. Sadie never got on
the counters until she saw Charlie doing it! (October 2011)

2012 was a year of mostly sleeping And sleeping tends to be a-freaking-dorable sometimes :D

2012 "Head shot"

August 1st, 2012 - she's so tiny.  Another from August 1st. I hate this picture but I just
wanted to show how much weight she'd dropped in the
span of a month, and more so in the span of a year.

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