Saturday, March 29, 2014

Home-word Bound: Leaving Sahara

March 28:

Perhaps it’s because we leave a bit earlier than expected. The cooler weather is followed by rain, so we decide to spend a bit more time in the morning packing up. If we wait until Saturday, we’ve got to be out by 10 a.m.

We are ready to take off early in the afternoon, a little while after Maire and John and Helen and Sandy leave.
On our last night, we had a great time at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney.

Whatever the reason, grief hits us again without warning. First for Sahara. 

If you read my blog about our trip here, you know that we arrived with two cats. In fact, the blog was entitled Sahara and Miss Monk Go To Florida. Little did we know that our beloved tabby would never leave here.

Her death wasn’t entirely unexpected. Five years ago Sahara was diagnosed with very bad irritable bowel syndrome that either bordered on, or had morphed already, into lymphoma. The vet told us she had between twenty-four and forty-eight months to live, but that she could have a good life. Once the cancer “jumped”, it would likely happen very quickly. It did.
Until a couple of days before, Sahara was her usual self. Loud, feisty, highly attached to us, she’d follow us everywhere, complaining or just observing. She had a lot of different sounds to express her opinions, often hilarious. She had the kind of personality that could not and would not be ignored. She even ruled over her dog cousin and nephew. 

 Her daughter Raven, called Monkey because she sounds like one and is a little mischievous, was enraptured with her mother. They played, cuddled, cleaned each other, and were seldom apart. 

At first we thought Sahara was still nervous about being in a “new” house. Suddenly she began to spend time in our bedroom closet, huddled up behind a suitcase. Even though she hadn’t shown signs of feeling strange here, that’s what occurred to us. After a few hours, she’d come back out and be her loving, active self. The next day when it happened again, we thought maybe she had a stomachache. On the third day, when she went under our bed and didn’t come out, we knew there was a problem.

Did she eat something poisonous? A plant, a beetle? I got on the Internet, searching for the weeds that poked up in the garden outside but I found nothing dangerous.

I tried coaching her out, placed her on our bed, petted and talked to her. Gave her some of her medication, which she had been refusing. She took it, but it came back out a while later. She wouldn’t eat, or drink. She crawled back under the bed.

The next day, Valentine’s Day, she was lethargic, hardly moving in the spot under our bed. We pulled the mattress back to touch her. At one point, she seemed to have slipped into a coma. I burst into tears, thinking she had died, but suddenly she began to purr. A soft, broken sound. Every once in a while she would give a rattled sigh, as though she were trying to breathe through pain.

“We have to take her to a vet,” I said, and Vince reluctantly agreed.

When we gently pushed and dragged her out and placed her in the cat carrier, she groaned. Urine squirted out on the floor and all over me as I clutched her to me. Rita and Mike, upset too, cleaned up after us as we stumbled into the car.

At the veterinarian hospital, we petted and cooed to her. She gave a weakened, rumbling purr in return. The vet and assistant were amazing. Knowledgeable, efficient, yet caring. They were gentle with Sahara, doing what they had to do with a minimum of fuss. When the doctor showed us the x-ray results, we knew the time had come. The cancer had indeed jumped—her stomach, her liver, her intestines. She was likely in terrible pain, though animals instinctively hide it.

“What do you recommend?” I asked, though I knew the answer.

“I think we should put her to sleep,” he said, as kindly but as honestly as he could. “I guess you have two options. We can help her go right now, or you can take her home and she’ll probably pass naturally during the night.”

We both thought of the chance to cuddle her in our bed once more, to hear her purr as she died, but we knew that was selfish. She’d try so hard to purr for us, to make us happy, even while she was suffering. We couldn’t do it to her.

We talked to her, petted her, cried over her as the medication stilled her heart. Sahara died knowing we loved her with all our hearts.

When we got home, Mike and Rita were waiting with hugs and tears. We were so grateful to have them with us. In the two weeks previous, they’d gotten to know and love Sahara, too, so they understood.

There were lots of tears over the next six weeks. We cried as Monkey meowed mournfully, searching the house for Sahara, night after night. The time she looked into the still pool water, saw her own reflection and reached out a paw to touch it, brought on some weeping. We watched as she changed her personality, became more vociferous and affectionate, clinging a bit more to us, as she had once cuddled her feline mother.

Now we leave here, the site of Sahara’s last days. She had played, purred, talked, raced around, fallen onto the pool cover and got soaked, meowed for a video, and slept at our feet. 

Monkey seems lost and lonely in the big cat carrier. In the hotel, she has no one to cuddle when we go out for dinner. She’s a cat, she’s adaptable, she’s fine. We all just wish Sahara were heading home with us, too.

During this same trip, we lost our Rosie, too. As the miles (not kilometres yet) fall away, we wonder how we’ll feel once we’re home. Until then, her loss has not seemed real.  

March 29 – rain, peanuts, lilacs – describe each visitor

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