I am now nursing a fourth pet through her end of life…the first three in 2019, 2020, and 2021, all in a row. I guess the thing that strikes me about the death process is how it *is* a process. For two of my animals who took longer to fade (the others were very ill and went quickly in the end), it’s a lot of slow up and down. Good pain days, bad pain days. Sometimes foggier than others.
It was really hard going through this with my dog Ichabod because he had dementia, too. He mentally slipped away from us quite a while before he actually died. I kept nursing him as long as he was enjoying food, but even petting became uncomfortable for him, and he started having seizures.
His death was my last relapse on alcohol. It was soooo bad. I abruptly quit nicotine and the mix of grief/withdrawal just sent me straight into clear liquor, and I got my own seizure when I realized that was stupid and stopped abruptly. (Don’t do that.) God, I was an absolute mess that winter. (Don’t feel too bad for me; I am okay, I immediately picked myself up and went to college for a couple semesters. Like I’m super rugged and committed to being gentler with myself.)
I’ve had two years to chew on the enormity of my feelings about Ichabod’s death, and everything I learned/felt taking care of a canine dementia patient. It was truly just a time of such utter love and grief. Intimacy. Raw loss.
Little sweet old Annie is taking me back, though. She’s been my obnoxious drooly best friend for sixteen years. This cat, she has never known the word “no” to mean anything. And everything she wants is affection. Human affection, to be clear. When she had more energy, she would not stay out of my face/hands for HOURS, no matter how many times I set her aside, and she has this dreadful drooling thing so it was MESSY.
Annie’s also a big poo-starter with other cats. I don’t know why, since we watch all our cats closely, we’re literate in body language, we seldom saw actual conflicts between them. But something about Annie was so loathsome to the other cats when she was younger. She was the outsider of the household colony, firmly glued to humans. The sassiest little tortoiseshell with a crispy dragon-baby meow.
Nowadays she has a Retirement Room. The spare bedroom has everything she needs, and she doesn’t have to compete for resources anymore. Her unpopularity paired with her growing weakness means she gets whatever she wants in a hundred square feet of cat luxury.
Her body aches so she can’t clean herself well, but I brush her gently with a boar’s hair brush and wipe her greasy face. She has a gigantic tumor on her shoulder we decided not to remove because she’s been fading a while anyway (although I have doubts about this a lot), so I try to wash that and keep it clean too. She gets daily visits from the family. It’s a pretty nice retirement.
This is one of her low weeks, though. I can see she is more uncomfortable. She loves cuddling, but her mood isn’t as…warm? I can just see the edge to it, and cats don’t really show pain, so she must be feeling it. All the heating pads and cbd in the cat food can only do so much. It is getting cold. I will keep brushing her for now.
I don’t think I want her to have to stick it out as long as Ichabod did, but it’s a hard choice when she’s still very much mentally Annie.