It ended exactly as I expected. I just hadn’t expected it to happen this soon. Twelve years and one day after it started it came to a sudden end. Whenever we bring a pet into our lives we know at some point we will likely be faced with the decision we all regret, the decision that says it is time to end the suffering – to do what is right for the animal, not what is right for us.
Before we can ever reach an end there has to be a beginning. For me that beginning was my 27th birthday – November 18, 1999. I was presented with a small gift bag and when I opened it I found a small calico kitten staring up at me. She was so small my first reaction was to ask “Is she even old enough to be away from her mother?” She was, but just barely. She was exactly six weeks of age, a small bundle of fur shocked and scared and wondering why she had been taken from the warmth of her mother and driven from a small farm north of Airdrie to our house in Calgary.
She would eventually be known as Nona. That name wouldn’t come for several days, however. At first we simply couldn’t decide what to call her. One evening I happened to joke that if we didn’t come up with a name soon we should just call her “No Name” – “NoNa” for short. With one flippant statement she had been christened, although we would tell people it was a tribute to Nonna’s which was one of our favourite pizza restaurants in Vauxhall, AB.
There are so many memories from those early days. That first night I was getting up every hour to look for her and to make sure she was doing OK. I remember we placed her litter box in the basement and she was too tiny to navigate the stairs – a fact we didn’t clue into until she had an accident on the newspaper under the kitchen table.
I also remember the first time she caught a mouse. It was in the bathroom basement and she had been playing with it on the floor until we eventually trapped it under a cup and relocated it to the country. Nona kept making pawing motions at the housecoat that was on the floor and we commented “Ah, isn’t that cute? She thinks the mouse is still in there.” Imagine our shock when we picked the housecoat up and a second mouse fell onto the floor. She knew it all along and just couldn’t figure out why we were so stupid.
Nona would have to tolerate us and our annoying habits on many occasions. I’m sure she never understood why we insisted on taking her camping, or hooking her up to a leash when she was outside on the deck. After all, there was so much yard to explore, why couldn’t she run free? She never did learn to enjoy baths, although we never passed up a chance to humiliate her further by taking all sorts of pictures when she was all soaking wet.
It’s not that we were the only troublemakers in our household. One day she decided to take a running jump onto the kitchen table – she slid right off the edge and crashed into one of the kitchen chairs which then toppled over backwards and into the kitchen window, shattering it.
One day she also managed to get one of her claws caught in the drywall, and had to stand there with one paw stuck up in the air until one of us heard her cries and came to her rescue.
I can’t count the number of times she would crawl down behind the couch in the trailer and drop into one of the storage compartments. Again, she would have to stay there [not-so] patiently waiting until one of us would pop open the door and release her from her self-imposed prison.
Oh, she could annoy us to no end. She loved computers. You couldn’t sit at a keyboard without having her plop down on it, or grab at the cord of the mouse causing it to rip right out of your hands. Many times we would come home to find our laptops in a frozen state because the keyboard buffer was full because she had a nap on the keys. We simply got in the habit of putting the lid partway down to prevent this sort of thing.
Even now, as I sit here typing this I expect her to jump onto my desk and step in front of the monitor, obscuring my screen. She would always rub against the LCD and leave large amounts of fur stuck all over it. She never liked having to share our attention with anything else. Of course, that was when *she* was in the mood for it. Try to sit with her when she didn’t want to and you were likely to be met with a hiss and a swat. Clearly we spoiled that cat and gave her a ton of attitude.
Whenever she would do something we didn’t like, such as scratching the couch or pouncing on us on weekend mornings when we were trying to sleep in, I would always comment “Oh, some day we’re going to miss this. Some day we’ll be wishing she was here to bug us.”
“Some day” finally came yesterday. I came in from the garage after a long hike. I dropped my backpack on the stairs and walked into the kitchen ready to start cooking dinner. As soon as I came in I knew something was wrong. Shirley was there holding Nona who was all wrapped up in a towel. The tears were already flowing and she told me “Something’s wrong with Nona – she can’t walk.”
I figured this was the typical female over-reaction so I took the cat from her and laid her on the table. I opened the blanket. Nona looked perfectly fine. Then she tried to get up but she couldn’t move either of her back legs. She was paralyzed and was clearly experiencing pain. At that moment I knew “the day” had come. This was not good.
We wrapped her up and took off into the city to a 24-hour vet clinic. Shirley always told me how on Nona’s first car ride Nona was so quiet they had to keep checking on her to make sure she was OK. This time that wasn’t a problem – she was howling and we knew she wasn’t OK. Neither one us wanted to say it but we both knew this was Nona’s final ride.
We walked in to the clinic and were quickly ushered into a room. The lab tech took a look at Nona and then called for the vet. They took her away and hauled her to the back to give her some painkillers. After taking our information we sat in that little room waiting for what we knew was coming. The vet came in and gave us the explanation. Arterial thrombosisembolism. Essentially a blood clot had formed in her heart and broken free and blocked all the blood flow to the rear half of her body. We could transfer her to a specialist but the success rate for treating the condition was “not good”.
We made the decision we always knew would come. I’m thankful it was an easy one. It was not a question of the treatment being too expensive – we weren’t being put in the uncomfortable position of putting a dollar figure on our pet’s life. It was simply time to end her pain and let her go.
They brought her back to us and we had a few minutes alone with her to say goodbye. The vet came back and Shirley left the room to sit in the car. I stayed and stroked Nona’s head and paw and finally uttered the words “Go ahead.”
The vet began pushing the blue liquid out of the syringe and into the IV. Nona slowly closed her eyes and then her head drooped down onto her paws and she went to sleep. It was the most peaceful thing to finally hear her cries of pain come to an end. I gave her head one final stroke and then walked out the door as the vet carried Nona away one last time.
Twelve years and one day…thanks for the memories.
October 7, 1999 – November 19, 2011