Wednesday, February 8, 2023

And then there were none

A recent Harriet - not bad for an old girl

This was not the post I planned for this week. But if we all know one thing, it's that life does not go to plan.

Harriet was born in or near my backyard when I lived in West Philly. Her father was Vladimir Putintat, the tom of all toms, and her mother was named Alice. Vlad and Alice were an unusual couple - they would bring their kittens to my yard, he would disappear, and she would nap, knowing that the kittens were safe. Eventually, when the kittens got old enough, their parents didn't come back for them and I had more cats. This system worked well for a long time.

Harriet and her brother Nicky were the last of the old West Philly herd of cats. We lost Nicky in April, 2021, and we lost Harriet two days ago.

She was approximately 19 and 1/2 years old, and had been holding well. She was always small - one of those perma-kittens - but that just meant when she transitioned from being a fussy eater to not wanting to eat, the weight dropped even quicker. I'm not even sure if there was anything specific wrong. At a certain age, the wheels just come off the bus, and when a cat reaches that age, I'm not going to take her to a vet to have them figure out what's wrong. What's wrong is old age, and the one thing we can do for pets as opposed to people is to arrange to let them go before they're suffering.

Harriet in the jungle
On Monday morning, I called the visiting vet who helped Nicky along at our house, but they didn't have anyone available until Tuesday late afternoon, and that suddenly seemed like a long time when Harriet was deteriorating so rapidly. So I called around to my neighbors, found someone who could drive me to the local vet, and made an appointment. I don't have anything against the local vet, but having it done at home does save their last memory from being a ride in the car.

The only food she'd been interested in in 2 days was cream cheese, so I took some of that with me to distract her.

The tech pushed back a little bit when I said I was there for euthanasia, but when the vet came in, he looked at me, looked at Harriet, and said, "You've been doing this longer than me." He gave her a quick once over and said he could feel a mess in her abdomen, probably lymphoma, which explained the swiftness of her decline. It's also similar to what took out both Alice and her brother, so sad but not entirely unexpected.

He did what needed to be done quickly and compassionately, and Harriet passed with her face in a spoonful of cream cheese. Not a bad end, as far as that goes.

Tiny Harriet with Alice (mom) and Nicky
I am now a woman without a cat. Which hasn't happened in 38 years. I've always overlapped before, so there was never a vacancy. This is going to be really, really strange.


Lisa Laree said...

Years ago, we had two cats. Lost one (George) at about 12 years and the other (Daisy) at about 15. For years afterward...even after we had moved to a completely different house on the other end of town, I would see some odd thing in my peripheral vision and think, oh, Daisy, for just an instant. And of course I would still find pockets of cat hair in the crevices of cushions. Then, we finally got another cat a surprisingly long time ago (she's about to turn 14); she has some odd things going on and I'm starting to suspect she's not far from the Rainbow Bridge herself. But...there's always a cat who needs a home...Doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye to the one who doesn't need it anymore, though. Sending hugs.

L said...

Harriet was well-loved and knew it. Thank you for sharing and caring. Hugs to you.

Isabel's Daughter said...

We lost Oliver about five years ago and were catless until our granddaughter moved in and brought Ladybug. Life goes on.

Anonymous said...

With pets (and perhaps with everything>) the price of love is eventually pain. Harriet looked beautiful.


Christine said...

Fifteen years or so ago, I lost two well-loved cats who were both in their early 20's. They died about six months apart. A week later I got an unexpected phone call from someone for whom I had had a foster cat for several years. Suddenly, she could bring her cat home again. And so, for the first time in 25 years, there was no cat in my home. But then a stray, detecting a cat-shaped vacuum, walked in the door and announced herself to be home. And two more arrived. And more years passed. Now I am typing this perched precariously on the edge of my computer chair, because Cocoa has recently taken to sleeping there, and I don't want to disturb him or make him move. He is at least 18 years old, and I am pretty sure he is in his final days. It is heartbreaking that we love them so much, and they love us so much, but their lives are so short. Harriet was a lucky kitty, and she looked like she knew it.

Karen said...

Thank you, everyone, for your comments and stories. It doesn't make the Harriet-shaped hole any less deep, but knowing that we all go through it - and then willingly go through it again, makes it easier.