They say the camera does not lie. And yet, I look at this photo of Lady Jane taken just yesterday, and I am stunned by how good she looks. She was always a pretty kitty and even at 17 years old, Lady Jane was a beautiful old girl. But, what this image doesn’t show is the sadness that surrounds it. For, it was taken during the brief space of 5 minutes yesterday when she had stopped vomiting, we had already contacted the emergency vet to say we were coming and were about to place her in her carrier for her final car ride. I got her to relax on our bed (truly one of her favourite places) and took a few final pictures. Within 10 minutes of this image, we were on our way.
Lady Jane was a wonderful girl and such a trooper. Cats often are. She had been diagnosed in early October with Chronic Renal Failure and her vet had warned us not to expect more than a couple of months. We were understandably shocked and it took us some time to process the information. We knew she had been losing weight, but I don’t think either my husband, Dean, or I were prepared for the severity of the issue. But our vet kindly answered all of our questions, sent us home with lots of information and medication to stabilize her, and we determined to simply cherish the time we had left.
And you know, we got into a rhythm with giving her her medication and ensuring that she ate properly. It was at that point that we realized that Lady Jane had probably been feeling unwell for some time, because the medication helped her to rally. In the 6 months since her diagnosis, Lady Jane has done things and explored area she had never done before. She learned how to climb onto the desk in my husband’s office so that she could sit on the windowsill and watch the world go by. She no longer used the stool beside our bed which had been placed there to help her old bones get up more easily – she bounded from the floor and back off again. And then sometimes, she leaped from the bed onto the dresser. Her greatest success was when she propelled herself from the couch onto our dining table. Most of these things would certainly would have been unacceptable in our house (no getting up on the dining table!), but the fact that she had the desire and the ability to do it astounded us. For a cat who had lived most of her life on one level (she had been a little portly in her younger years), it was a joy to see her enjoy herself.
And then there was her personality. When we adopted her brother Baxter 18 months ago as a companion to Lady Jane, we could not have picked a better boy. Baxter has confidence, without a hint of aggressiveness. His patient encouragement combined with her feeling much better, and Lady Jane had come out of her shell. She travelled easily and adapted to new environments. She greeted visitors when they came into our home. She stepped outside onto the balcony and felt the sun on her face. It was like she had a bucket list of things to do and we had the joy of seeing her cross things off the list.
We almost convinced ourselves that she would be with us a long time. Our friends would ask how she was doing and we would answer that she was doing remarkably well. Deep down, we knew the disease would eventually get the better of her, but given her newfound love of life and adventure, it seemed a long way off. And, we were not prepared for how quickly it would happen. It seems like on Friday the medication stopped working which translated into Lady Jane being extremely picky over her food. We had been very fortunate that throughout everything she was a great drinker – bowls and bowls of water helped flush her ailing kidneys and kept her happy. But, by yesterday morning, she had stopped drinking, stopped eating and begun almost non-stop vomiting. She also found it very difficult to use the litter box. I gave her her medication to help with the vomiting and offered her her favourite ‘treats’ – chicken and lactose-free milk. She refused the chicken, but lapped up the milk. Only to bring it all up within 10 minutes. It was as if her digestive system was shutting down.
Seeing her suffer this way helped us making a heart-wrenching decision. Of course, not only was it a Sunday but it was a holiday and therefore her regular vet was closed. Which led us to the wonderful people at Vaughn-Richmond Hill VEC who helped her pass, surrounded by the people who loved her most. I got to hold her and I hope that she felt me stroking her and that the last thing she heard was me telling her how much I loved her.
Seventeen years is a long time. A small furry kitten originally from Brampton Animal Shelter left her mark on our lives and on our hearts. She made us smile. She made us laugh. There is now only a gaping hole that she used to inhabit.
Lady Jane, our little furry face. You were loved. Please know, we love you still.
“You’re the one that I love, and I’m saying good-bye…” ~A Great Big World (Say Something)
Today marks a sad anniversary – it was exactly one year ago that we said good-bye to our Ripley. It was a bright, sunny spring morning, much like this one. But for Dean and I, it was the end of an era.
It seems like yesterday that the three of us made that last car ride together. In fact, we still tear up when we think about him, as the pain is yet just below the surface. But, in reality, a whole year has passed and I realize that so much has changed since then.
For one thing, there is no doubt that the sharp pain has eased for all of us. We no longer come through the front door expecting to have Ripley greet us, nor do I wake up in the night looking for the feel of his soft weight against my legs. Lady Jane, too, finally stopped grieving for her brother and began to be her old self again. And, as I always secretly knew, we were in time, ready for the biggest change of all. We welcomed 2 year old Baxter into our home and into our hearts. (One the unexpected results was that, as a result of the new playmate and the increased physical activity, Lady Jane has lost some weight. She now runs and just a few weeks ago, managed to jump on the dresser in our bedroom – a place she has not been up on in over 10 years. Talk about a change!)
Initially, my biggest fear was that I would forget about Ripley – his little habits and the stories we shared. I wanted so desperately to emblazon his memory in my mind. Consequently, right after his death, we took a notebook and through our tears, wrote down all of the things that had made him special. Every memory we could come up with, even the small, silly ones. And, as Dean and I would remember additional stories, we would continue to write. It helped in the healing process and allowed us to slowly let go, knowing Ripley’s life story was safe. However, we soon realized that we should do this for all of our kitties, keeping records as we go. So Lady Jane, and now Baxter, have their own special memory books. And we take photographs…so many photographs.
But, for all of the progress we have made, the truth is, I don’t think there will ever come a day when I don’t think about our Orange Boy. He was our very first pet together, and because he came into our lives just 3 months after Dean and I were married, Ripley had been there practically from the beginning. We loved him so much, and he, us. He will always be a part of our story.
Ripley, for all of our brave faces, how we still miss you! But, this I promise you: you will never be forgotten. Afterall, you never forget your first.