Monday, March 5, 2012

Rest in Peace, my little Chunky Monkey

The past week has been full of emotion.  It was one week ago last night that Nicky, our little Chunky Monkey, started deteriorating.  Those of you following the saga know that in January our little cat was diagnosed with kidney failure at the age of two and a half.  I now am fairly sure that it was actually cancer that led to the kidney failure, but that doesn't matter right now.  The best care in the world can't reverse kidney failure once it's been diagnosed in cats because it's not found until kidneys are at least 70% gone.

We were lucky, in some regard, because when I took Nicky in in January he was so sick that the vet thought he wouldn't last more than a day or two. He didn't respond to any treatment.  Then we tried acupuncture.  It was a miracle.  He perked up!  He started eating and drinking and peeing and gaining weight -- all good signs.  I was baffled and didn't know what to expect, but thrilled nonetheless.

The alternative treatments -- he had three or four acupuncture treatments altogether -- helped give us all enough time to get used to the idea that we would have to say goodbye.

As February drew to a close, Nicky's health was getting worse again. He'd respond to treatment, but after a few days look like he was getting worse.  He lost control of his bladder, so we ended up with kitty diapers and puppy pads.

I stopped sleeping much at night, and when I did sleep it was very lightly -- I wanted to be able to hear Nicky if he called (which he did every time he was hungry or needed a diaper change -- much like a human infant).  We didn't want to put him down just because of bladder issues because every time I had the acupuncturist check for signs of pain he didn't exhibit any.  He was fine just being mommy's baby for a while.

Last Monday, his gums started bleeding.  This is a sign of the last stages of cancer and kidney failure.  I rushed him in to the vet's, but there was nothing to be done other than to give him some pain medication for his gums just in case he needed it.  They offered to put him to sleep, but I said no -- he wasn't in pain.  My plan was always for him to be able to go on his own.  For weeks I had told him that it was okay for him to go whenever he needed to and that we would miss him and be sad but we don't want him in pain.  Monday changed my message; I started telling him he couldn't stay.  His body was too broken.  Yet he still clung to life.

Nicky's last day
On Tuesday he was worse, but still not showing signs of being in pain.  I called the vet and made an appointment for Thursday afternoon and then I started telling Nicky that he needed to go on his own, but if he couldn't manage, I would get the vet to help.

Wednesday evening brought one last hurrah.  A friend who practices pet reiki came over to help with Nicky.  She confirmed that he was not in pain -- just stubbornly clinging to life.  It seems his mind knew he was still a little boy and so well loved, so he didn't want to leave.  His willpower was keeping him alive by this point -- he was stinky, unable to eat, entirely dependent on me, and hadn't moved much that day, confirming to my heart that the decision to make an appointment for Thursday was the right one.  He needed to leave -- he just didn't want to.  Every time this friend worked on him and I told him, "Nicky, I love you, but you need to leave. It's okay, it will be easy, but you need to go" he pulled himself up and moved.  Every. Single. Time.  Finally we tried a new tactic -- R. showed Nicky that his body couldn't heal as I told him the same thing: the body was done.  He peed.  (I took that as a sign of his displeasure.)  And right after that, he lay down and indicated he was done, almost like he was giving up.  Message received, Mom, he said.

That night, we stayed awake together on the couch for the entire night.  I gave him some of the pain medication from the doctor because he had finally started showing he was in pain.  And every time I started falling asleep, he meowed, waking me up.  He knew.

And so I stayed up and sang to him.  We had several songs that were ours.  That last evening, this song from the movie Beaches was the one I sang most often.

On Thursday morning, I was exhausted.  Nicky was not doing well and I gave him more pain medication.  We then stayed curled up together as I spoke to him, told him how much I loved him, told him about the better place he was going to, told him cats have nine lives and he can come back later in a better body.  I told him I would miss him.

At 11:30, he was crying.  I could tell he was in pain again and this was the end because he stood up and tried to get out of his bed.  I placed him on the floor, knowing he wanted to go to his favorite spot -- the bathroom.  He used to love watching the shower water and every morning before he was sick I would hear him talking in there, waiting for me to come in and pick him up. (And if I didn't heed the call, watch out! He'd unravel the toilet paper.)  On this morning, he pulled himself to his favorite spot.  The death convulsions started, something I recognized from my experience with Hero.  If you've ever seen them, you know that they are heartbreaking.  Death often does not come peacefully, like in the movies, much as we wish for that outcome.  And, like anyone watching a loved one in pain, it broke my heart.  I gave him more pain medication, knowing full well what it would do at this point.  It would take less than a minute to slow his breathing and make him relax and then his spirit would leave his body.  He wouldn't be in pain any more.

Our Nicky, our little Chunky Monkey, died at 11:36AM on Thursday, March 1.

It has been several days and now I can get through the day, I can think about him, and only choke a bit.  I am not drowning in tears and sobs and sorrow, but my heart is still heavy.  It's really hard to deal with so many conflicting emotions. On the one hand, of course I am relieved that he is gone, he is no longer in pain.  But the other hand misses him so much and even with four other furry babies the house feels so empty.

This is the tribute video that I made for my little boy.  Out of all the songs I sang to him, this was our favorite.  I don't listen to country music much now, but when I looked at this boy I knew immediately what my heart wanted to tell him.  This song was the best way to express it.

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