Photographs and Memories   Leave a comment

Bubsie 001 by Lady Birchwood
Bubsie 001, a photo by Lady Birchwood on Flickr.

I came across this photo while looking through our many photos for ones of Bubba after he passed away July 1. This one just gripped me, and I can’t believe that it never made it into the favorite cat photos collection. This one was taken as he sat in front of the Christmas tree in 2009, several months away from his 16th birthday.

His health had been good then. We had him on a twice-a-day potassium supplement because it seemed to run low, although no one was really sure why. All his other blood chemistries and electrolytes were fine. With the exception of that, we had dealt with no other health issues throughout his life.

Then came the day in February 2010, just some weeks after this photo was taken, when I picked him up and I suddenly felt that he seemed awfully light. He had always been a big guy, 16-and-a-half pounds in his prime, although he had lost a little weight and had dropped a pound. At 15-and-a-half pounds, he was still a big cat! But he didn’t feel so big that morning, and I got the scale out and stood on it with him. I was shocked to find out once the math was done that he had lost three pounds since his last check-up which hadn’t been that long ago. I was immediately on the phone, making an appointment to take him in to see our vet.

A couple of days later, we had the verdict that he was hyperthyroid. I had a moment of panic, knowing that friends had lost a cat years earlier to hyperthyroidism, but my vet assured me that it was treatable. We started him on the medication methimazole right away. His thyroid level came down and regained a pound within a month or so.

By the end of 2010, even with his thyroid hormone controlled on medication, he continued to lose weight. He was down to 12 pounds by Christmas of 2010. The vet didn’t know what to do. Wasn’t sure that we needed to do anything, although something didn’t feel right to me. I had the ominous feeling that he was slowly slipping away and we didn’t know why!

Then his sister, Katie, died in February 2011, he just seem despondent and withdrawn. He didn’t have much of an appetite. He was having trouble maintaining his weight at 12 pounds. I took him into the vet in May because he seemed so fatigued and depressed. When the lab work came back normal, I refused to take “everything’s fine” as the answer. I insisted that it wasn’t fine. Something was wrong. After this discussion, the vet ran a test for pancreatitis and it came back elevated. We had him evaluated at the University for underlying causes, but with the exception of a cyst in his chest, everything came back looking pretty normal. He had changes consistent with both chronic pancreatitis and possibly inflammatory bowel disease. We didn’t pursue any treatment. None was suggested.

I decided then to go ahead with the radioactive iodine treatment to cure his hyperthyroidism. We could get him off the medication and eliminate that as an aggravation and possible source of him not feeling well. He did perk up after the treatment in July 2011 and regained some weight. Actually, things went pretty well for about 10 months, until his appetite dropped off and a flare-up of pancreatitis was diagnosed.

We then started prednisolone to control the pancreatic inflammation. He had a bout the summer of 2012 of his white count soaring and an abdominal abscess was suspected. An antibiotic brought that back down to normal. We kept him on the prednisolone, kept increasing it, put him on an antibiotic when he was uncomfortable. I took him in to the vet in March 2013 when a sudden weight loss alarmed me. He had developed diabetes.

We were in to the vet every week or so, trying to get his blood sugar normalized. He was hospitalized for two days over Memorial Day weekend 2013 after a sudden pain attack and difficulty breathing. He recovered, came home, and life went on with the daily regime of prednisolone, an antibiotic, and insulin. Then something respiratory set in a couple of weeks after we brought him home from that hospitalization. We couldn’t get rid of the wheeze and rattles with the antibiotic he was on. He got worse. He went into respiratory distress the last weekend in June and died the morning of July 1.

I love this photo of him. It is the last one of him whole and apparently healthy, before all the ailments started, before the long, slippery slope to decline and death loomed before us. I just want to reach out and stroke his head, run my hands through that soft, silky fur , still luxurious and healthy. My heart just aches with my longing to touch and hold him again, at a time when chronic illness wasn’t a part of our daily lives together.

“Photographs and memories
All the love you gave to me
Somehow it just can’t be true
That’s all I’ve left of you…”
–Jim Croce


Posted July 21, 2013 by StPaulieGrrl in cats

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