Bubba Remembers Kate   Leave a comment

Bubba Remembers Kate by Lady Birchwood
Bubba Remembers Kate, a photo by Lady Birchwood on Flickr.

I spent a couple of hours last night, writing a letter to an elderly friend in Akron, Ohio. She is in her late 70s and resides in her small apartment with her two cats, Mindy and Annie.

Dear Colleen,

Happy Spring! I hope that this letter finds you, Mindy, and Annie doing well.

You’ve come to mind many times over this past year as a kindred soul who would understand what I’ve felt since my Katie-cat died in February of last year. Not everyone understands the bonds that can exist between humans and their furred or feathered companions in life. For us, these companions are someone with whom we share our daily lives, enjoying their closeness and their comforting rituals. Their sudden absence leaves a huge void, both in our living space and in our hearts.

I feel that Katie’s death for me was very much like losing a child. I would explain it as being similar to adopting or fostering a child when she’s young, a child with special needs who is not going to live out a normal life expectancy. Due to her inborn genetic programming, she will do well to live to see her 18th birthday. If her life goes exceptionally well, she may live to 20 or 21. Does knowing that from the beginning of the relationship make the loss any less painful when the inevitable finally happens? No, it doesn’t. Through all those years together, you played and loved and enjoyed life with each other. You took care of her needs with loving attention, never missing a chance to give a hug or say, “I love you, sweetie,” because the knowledge was always there that you would outlive her; your days together were numbered. The love was all the sweeter and more poignant for those handful of years you may be granted together. And when the end comes, the pain is shattering, even though you knew that day would arrive. The pain is as intense as the love and devotion.

That’s how I felt about Kate. She came into my life in the spring of 1994 as a feral kitten, born under the neighbor’s porch, her mother a feral queen. Both she and her brother were very fearful of human contact. Neither kitten was touched by human hands until he/she was five months old. That was when I took them into our home. Bubba adjusted well to life with two humans and enjoyed the holding and snuggling. Katie remained aloof. I was patient and gentle, never forcing contact with her, always trying to respect her boundaries whenever possible. Slowly, she grew to trust me, eventually seeking my closeness and my touch, although until the very end, she never wanted to be held. Over the years, we became an “item,” a pair of interspecies soulmates. She never trusted anyone else but me. I was told by a close friend who took care of my cats when Dale and I were gone that Katie would stay on my side of the king-size bed, her body huddled against my pillow. She would allow someone to approach her if she were in her “safe spot,” the spot that she and I shared when I was home. She found comfort and security in me, and I loved her with my whole heart. I loved her without reservation or conditions. My sun rose and set with her.

I’ve struggled with this aching loss. I am a woman who seldom cries, but the tears started to flow from the moment I got the lab results that she was in kidney failure, and I cried at all hours of the day and night no matter where I was or what I was doing for about a year after her death. I talked aloud to her. I begged her to come back to me in some form if she could. I was completely incredulous that a love for a being could be so deep and powerful and yet be totally unable to stop the inevitable – that one day she would simply be gone, never to return. How could this possibly be? I spent a lot of time thinking about what happens after death. I’m a Unitarian-Universalist agnostic with Buddhist leanings and I don’t have much faith in an afterlife. I wish I did. I yearned this past year for such a thing to exist so that somehow we would be together again.

Life does go on in spite of loss. Four weeks after Katie died, I stopped at Petco that Saturday to buy cat food for Bubba. Petco was sponsoring a pet adoption event with adoptable cats there from a local no-kill shelter called Caring for Cats. Of course, I had to stop and look at the nine or so cats they had there. A pretty little 8-month-old tabby was there. She and her brother had been found in a window well as very small kittens. Eventually she and her brother found their way to Caring for Cats. Her foster mom told me all about her and how happy and friendly she was. She encouraged me to pet her. This kitten rolled over on her back with her feet in the air and wanted me to rub her tummy. She purred and purred and purred! I walked away saying that I wasn’t sure I was ready to adopt another cat just yet, but an hour later, I was dragging Dale back to Petco to see this kitten. We put a deposit on her to hold her for 24 hours while we talked about it, and the following day we went back, paid the rest of her adoption fee, and brought her home. I named her Mia. She has been a delightful addition to our family. She is so loving and trusting, so playful and energetic. So funny and entertaining! We’re really glad she’s here.

Katie’s littermate brother, Bubba, has struggled this past year as well to the extent that I thought we were going to lose him soon after Katie. He was listless, losing weight, seemed withdrawn and depressed. He had no appetite and had to be coaxed to eat. I had him into the vet numerous times for blood work, wondering if his hyperthyroidism was not under control on the Tapazol. It seemed okay. We had him into the University of Minnesota Small Animal Clinic for an evaluation. He was diagnosed with pancreatitis of unknown cause but no other obvious problems other than his controlled hyperthyroidism. I finally made the decision to have his thyroid treated with I-131, a radioactive form of iodine that destroys the hyperactive thyroid tissue. He had to be hospitalized for four days, which was hard on all of us. When he came home, he was no longer on medication and all his bloodwork was normal when checked a month after the treatment. He started to perk up. His appetite improved. His mood has improved and he hangs out with us again and purrs when we pet him and hold him. He’s put on a pound-and-a-half over the past eight months. We celebrated his 18th birthday on March 27 and are just so grateful that he seems to feel well again. He and Mia are getting along fine. We think that he likes having her around!

In February, around the time of the first anniversary of Katie’s passing, I enlisted an award-winning tattoo artist to put her portrait on my upper back. He did an exceptionally nice job, working from a photo I had given him. Getting this tattoo was of course very symbolic. It was my way of saying that she would always be a part of me.

Overall, I’m doing better now. My depression has eased this spring. Life is feeling more “normal” again – whatever that is! I’ll enjoy it while it lasts. There is only one thing you can count on in life – it never stays the same. Things are always changing.

Blessings to you, Colleen. Take care!
Love,
Bonnie

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Posted April 6, 2012 by StPaulieGrrl in cats, hyperthyroid cats

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