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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

La Mort, C'est La Vie

It never seems to become any easier.

Like most people, I've said goodbye to my share of pets. Maybe more than my share, since we bred Birmans for a few years. The mortality rate of pure-bred kittens is, sadly, higher than with the mixed breeds. Plus there's the simple fact that they all die, eventually.

Unlike most people, though, I've also said goodbye to a stepson. Almost a decade later, the pain of Shane's death is indescribable. The loss of a child changes you, permanently, providing a perspective on life that isn't available any other way. (How much worse for Corinne, his mother…)

Then a few years ago we thought Lauren was gone, too. That was bad enough that I can safely compare it to the pain of losing Shane. In fact, the two are permanently linked in my mind. On a personal level, they were similar. Thank God she and her parents came back. I nearly lost my mind.


With all that behind me, you might think having to put another cat to sleep would be easier. You'd be wrong. I was wrong.

Z'est La Vie

We called her Lovey, which was the end of her real name (Z'est “La Vie”).

She was nothing but trouble from the moment she came to us. Our first two Birmans died at about a year old from FIP. The breeder owed us replacements, of which Lovey was one. Along with her came ringworm, which swept through the cattery and ended our breeding for good. (Ringworm is nasty. Horrible. Especially with long-haired cats.) Once the ringworm was gone, she developed a sinus infection. She basically had a terribly runny nose for the last… uh… I'm not sure how many years. Too many. It was gross! Sneezing, coughing, blowing her nose all over everything, all the time.

She was also our best mouser.

Lovey was one of the most affectionate cats we ever had. Her breath (due to the sinus infection) was truly gag-tastic, but drop your guard for less than a second and you'd find yourself with a face full of cat giving you a bath, purring so loud that you'd think she's going to fall apart.

She begged like a dog, too. Right up to the end, she'd follow Corinne around the kitchen when she was cooking, meowing loudly until Corinne gave her a treat.

Even with plenty of eating, her weight dropped from 7 pounds two years ago to just 4.5 pounds today. Even seven pounds was light, 7.5 or 8 would have been better.

So, this afternoon, I asked Dr. Turco's office to euthanize yet another of our cats. She was well loved, and it finally came time to prove it the hardest way we know how. I cried a bit on the way home, and now I've spent almost an hour writing about it, because it just never gets any easier.

And Thank God for that, too.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Our Little Letter M


We lost a special little cat today. Her name was Xodus.

Officially, you'd pronounce that the same as Exodus. We tended to call her Zodus, or Zodie-Pop.

Why the weird name? Birmans are traditionally named according to the year of birth: they're all 'X' cats one year, 'Y' cats the next year, then 'Z', then back to 'A', etc. Xodus was seven years old.

In her first year she was the New England region's Best Birman Kitten. We have the ribbons and the plaque to prove it. The picture above comes from that first year. That sweet face and the bright blue eyes melted the judge's hearts the moment they saw her. The pronounced 'M' on her forehead, the perfect head shape, the classic Birman stance, and the thick, deep coat all helped her to win over and over again.

Later we found that she wasn't the healthiest cat in the house. She went into heat in "stealth mode," and got pregnant (with the willing assistance of Xerxes) more than once without warning us ahead of time. She was a breeder, so getting pregnant wouldn't normally be an issue, but she usually had trouble with her litters and we lost a lot of her kittens. We finally had her spayed a couple years ago (in fact, we stopped breeding altogether, and got them all 'fixed').

Corinne has always said that Xodus was a great nap cat. They'd snuggle up in the afternoons and Xodus would just lay quietly under the covers, against Corinne's side, until nap time was over. The other cats were never as good, they'd sometimes wake her up too soon. Never Xodus, so she tended to get a little preferential treatment in the afternoons.

The same could not be said for Xodus at night. Instead of cuddling up with us and sleeping quietly, she would always come crying to me, head-butt me, and make her signature cry: "MMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmm!" That sound and the mark on her forehead produced the nickname, "our little letter M."

Another of our cats, "CP", took a strong dislike to Xodus. Being a much larger cat (she takes after her father, Xerxes), she would chase her into a closet or under the couch, and then stand sentry for hours to make suer she didn't come out. We'd put a stop to it whenever we saw it, but could never teach CP to just leave her alone and we couldn't guard Xodus all day long. For the last couple of years, she spent a little too much time hiding from the other cats.

We came home early this afternoon to the sound of a cat in loud distress. She wasn't making the "m" sound now, but I knew the voice. At first I thought that she was just tired of being hassled by CP. I lifted the couch with one arm, grabbed Xodus with the other, and brought her to the bedroom so she'd be ready for Corinne's nap time. She ran for the edge of the bed to jump down, and I immediately knew something else was wrong: her back legs weren't working.

Corinne was quite upset when I told her — of course — and asked me to please call the vet. The office was closed (Sunday afternoon before Christmas in a small town? Duh.) but Cheryl called back about an hour later and told me to meet her at the office at 3:30.

The diagnosis was a (likely) blood clot in a vessel that runs along the spine (aorta?), about 3/4 of the distance from her head to her tail. She had no feeling in her legs or her tail, and her feet were cold. Treatment would be very expensive, would not reverse the damage which was already done, and was not guaranteed to even clear the clot. Also, many cats (and dogs) who get these clots will get another one a few months later.

Little Xodus was obviously in pain. She hadn't stopped meowing since we came home.

I made the tough decision, told Xodus how sorry I was, and stroked her head and her little M until it was over just minutes later.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

The Blogger's Credo

The blogger's credo: When Inspiration Fails, Shoot the Cat


Kitten PhotoWith that in mind, here are pictures of our two month old kittens.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

My Best Writing, My Worst Days

Why is my best writing always about death?

Depressing thought, huh? Years later, my 'eulogies' to Roy and Dave can still jerk a tear out of some of my friends who knew them, and I think the one about Wixie is just as good.

Yes, writing from pain is a well documented form of inspiration. It still bothers me that those are the three pieces I remember best.

(On the other hand, based on the number of hits certain pages get, the guests to this site only care about Japanese Red Maples, Manchurian "Miss Kim" Lilacs, and my sister's Wedding Rehearsal Dinner... none of which have anything to do with my writing, and everything to do with my photos.)

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Riverbanks Zoo, Columbia, SC (1999)

In 1999, Corinne and I took a week vacation "South," part of which was spent in Augusta, GA visiting with Jed when he worked at the Augusta National. The three of us drove up to the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC, which is where these pictures were shot. (I'm very happy with a few of these.)

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