This is a difficult post to write, but it’s one i feel that has to be written, if for only cathartic reasons.
On Monday, May 11th, my beloved Jeter (or “Bub” as I called him) was put to sleep.
Bub was 12 years old as of April 20th, and for the past few months had slowly been losing weight. He has 6 month checkups regularly since he was considered a senior cat. And his last checkup showed weight loss but nothing that his vet was concerned about. He had actually slipped into his “ideal” weight range. So for the moment everyone chalked it up to him getting older and losing his appetite.
But lately, it’s been more noticeable; we could feel his shoulder blades which we had never been able to do. Still though, he seemed like his lovey self, snuggling on my chest and waking Steve up at 5am for his breakfast, lying in the sunbeam that came in through the window onto the carpeting.
On Sunday, Mother’s Day (of course) Steve noticed Jeter was breathing deeply and seemed to be heaving. His usual vet isn’t open on Sundays so we called the ER and asked what we should do. Seeing as he was breathing with his mouth open, they told us that he should come in as that was a sign that he was struggling to breathe. We got the cat carrier and put a fuzzy towel in to make him comfortable for the drive to the emergency room, with him occasionally mewing in his inquisitive tone.
Due to the pandemic, we weren’t able to go in with him. So we had to wait in the parking lot while Jeter was checked out. We figured we’d be waiting for an hour or so. Then get pills or whathaveyou and bring him home with a follow-up later that week with his vet.
Bub didn’t come home that night, though.
His x-ray showed a large volume of fluid around his lungs and a growth near his heart. They were worried it was lymphoma and wanted him to stay the night while they drained the fluid from him and kept an eye on his breathing.
They said that they would call me in the middle of the night if his condition got worse. But as long as he was able to go without having more fluid forming, he could come home with a caveat: Jeter was dying and there was nothing that could be done to really stop that from happening. He could go on chemo, but at his age it would only give him a few more months. And he would never be free from the lymphoma.
He could also go on a steroid to help give him some comfort. But even then we were only looking at a month or so left. I wanted him to come home and live out his last days comfortable, on his front porch which he so loved. So I said we would go with the steroids and transfer the palliative care over to his vet, who knew him and had cared for him for so many years. The ER vet was fine with that and said she would call us the next day when he was ready to be released.
I didn’t sleep that well, as you can imagine, but I did drift off eventually after taking some melatonin. But I woke up abruptly at 4am and couldn’t fall back asleep. I checked my phone and was relieved to see there had been no missed calls; Jeter has most likely made a good enough recovery that he was in the clear.
4:35am my phone rings.
The ER vet says Jeter has been doing well. He hasn’t accumulated any new fluids after they drained 510ml (~½ liter). But his breathing is still distressed and he’s not doing well. It was time to consider euthanasia.
Suddenly we had gone from labored breathing, to lymphoma but coming home, to never coming home. Our world had suddenly been crushed and I actually fell to the floor, sobbing, begging for him, and clawing at the spot where his sunbeam would usually be, like some sort of melodrama.
He wasn’t with anyone who knew him, who knew the lovey cat he was, who would chirp and talk to himself as he walked throughout the house. Who loved everyone who came into our home and was never afraid of strangers. Whom our niece loved so much she got a stuffed cat and named it “Jeter Cat” so she could have him with her at school.
The ER team only knew him as a sickly dying cat.
We weren’t allowed to be with him during his final moments because of the pandemic, which both breaks my heart but also makes me feel a little selfishly thankful as I’m worried I would’ve made things much worse by collapsing.
He was alone.
It hurts so much to say that. My beloved Bub, who loved to snuggle on my chest or in Steve’s arm pit so much, died without us.
It’s been really hard here at home.
Every chair he loved to sit on is empty. His little ottoman hut that only he used (Bettie was never interested) now sits with the last remains of his fur. The front porch he loved to sit on in the warmer seasons is now empty and quiet. There was no sunbeam on Monday, it was a rainy and cold day, which feels fitting.
Jeter’s ashes are coming home this Thursday, along with the cat carrier and the fuzzy towel which is the last thing that holds his scent. I don’t know how long it will take me to wash that towel. But I don’t think I will be any time soon.
I got this statue urn for his ashes, so he can sit on the front porch next to his favorite chair during the summer, and maybe he’ll come and stay in my office for the winters. I’m not ready to scatter him yet, especially since he never cared for the outdoors.
Our grief is all-encompassing, though we try to keep a routine going for Bettie and Jimmy Bagels. Luckily, Jimmy can go to daycare twice a week so he’s able to be distracted (and they know about what happened and have promised to give him extra hugs and attention), but Bettie is alone for those days. We aren’t sure if she’s fully aware yet. Though she stares at us and has seemed to sleep even more than normal. Maybe once the carrier is back she will react more, who can say.
I know this post is a bummer, but it’s all that’s on my mind and it feels futile to write about the things I want to do to our kitchen today when this is all I can think about.
He was my heart.
For so many years he was known as “20lbs of love and fluff”. And Steve and I would laugh about how happy he was just to be with us. He had some moments when he was a shit. Like chasing Bettie at 3am in our apartment in Brooklyn (sorry neighbors). Or luring you into petting his gloriously fuzzy belly and then turning into a vicious monster who we named “Mr. Chompers” but overall he had an incredible temperament and just wanted affection.
He was rarely interested in toys and never liked treats. His pleasure came from pets and from snuggles. And now that I need snuggles more than ever, he can’t be here to give them to me.
Steve and I are very lost right now. We’re thankful that we’re self-employed so that we don’t have to go into an office and pretend to be alright. And to pretend we’re able to be distracted by the inane things that drove us out of those offices. We’re clinging to each other now and trying, somewhat in vain, to find our own ways to focus on work but it’s incredibly difficult.
Goodbye Bub. Thank you for 12 years of unconditional love. You were the chaotic good of our family and I’m so sorry we couldn’t be there with you when you needed us the most. I would give anything to pet you just one more time.