Monday, November 26, 2012

When The Pain Is Yours


I don't like going to the vet...I never have. Today was no different.

This is Oliver. Oliver showed up on our deck sometime in September, or maybe it was August, I'm not really sure. It was sometime near the end of the summer because we were already trying to come to some decision as to what to do with her if she was still "hanging around" when the weather turned cold. She never left.

Yes, Oliver is a she. We found this out a little over two weeks ago when we had to take her to the vet. We had somehow gracefully slid into the understanding that she was here to stay. And now she was sick. Or so it seemed. Excessive drinking and salivating led us to suspect she had some sort of kidney issue. Two hundred and fifty dollars later we were assured she was just a thirsty, salivating, perfectly healthy two year old female cat.  I had exceeded my pet budget for the month, so booster shots and spaying would come later.

I have to admit, this was not a real popular idea with myself nor my husband. Two dogs and a cat already seem overly sufficient. Adding another pet, that will most likely be with us for the next 13 years, was not the direction we wanted to be heading pet-wise. But it's a difficult spot to be in. You don't euthanize an animal that just seems sick. So you figure out the most inexpensive way to find out what might be wrong and go from there. Getting the "all okay" meant bringing the cat back home. I think it was at that point that I let Oliver into my heart.

Two weeks passed and mental adjustments had been made by all. Oliver was officially part of the Johnson/Buresh clan. Which truly was not much of an inconvenience to our daily activities because Oliver prefers to be outside. Out of 24 hours, I would guess that Oliver maybe spends 4 of those indoors. The rest are spent stalking and hunting the various mice and birds that frequent our bird feeders and surrounding woods. A real hunter, she's quite the antithesis to our Jeni, who prefers longs naps in the sun and full bowls of Indoor Formula Cat Chow.

The middle of last week, after spending a full day out and about, Oliver came in holding her front leg up. Unable to put any pressure on it, she hobbled to her usual spot in the spare bedroom and stayed in for the night. Three days later both legs on one side were not working properly. Four days later she walked in a completely arched back position and meowed in pain as she moved. This weekend she could barely crawl to her food. The progression, heart breaking to watch.

Our appointment was for 8:30, the first appointment of the day, the one you get when you call at 7:01 am.  If I could have figured out anything else to be doing on this beautiful morning I would have. Just getting her into the crate brought me to tears. I had already told the girls that we could not afford any more medical testing. That this is a stray cat and our budget only goes so far. That she might not come home with me... Tough talk last night, but now it's just me and Oliver and my heart is breaking. She has the absolute most beautiful green eyes you could ever imagine and at that moment they were pleading with me to leave her alone. Trusting me.

The vet was very good. The sign in the exam room where we sat read "Every pet deserves a good vet, and we HAVE good vets". Yes, they do. He lifted the top of the crate off so Oliver would not have to be moved.   Ever so carefully he examined her as I held her head in my hands, stroking her face and eyes. In my heart I hoped it comforted her, calmed her. I could feel her body quiver with fear, but she never moved. This once active, inquisitive cat now lay motionless looking directly into my eyes.

It was at that point that I lost it. Apologizing for my tears, I just kept saying, "I'm sorry, I'm really sick and I think for some reason this is especially difficult for me." He was a sweet man, a little unsure as to what to do with me, he simply nodded and said, "It's okay." It took everything in me not to fall to pieces in that exam room. As I sit here and type these words, I'm still not really sure of all that fills this painful space. If I could pick some words out of thin air they might be helplessness, frustration, sadness, anger, fear...a most intense longing for things to be different. Why can't some things just be different.  

In a few weeks my daughter Anna is going to have major surgery to repair a birth defect that only now, at the age of 19, has made itself evident. She will have her jaw broken in multiple locations, upper and lower, with extensive work on her temporomandibular joint and chin. We have been planning for this surgery, which was suppose to happen in August, for over a year now. I have the most intense longing for things to be different. Why can't some things just be different. 

My bedroom window
I sat down to write this piece instead of doing my usual Cyber Monday shopping because I had to. When I put my fingers to the keyboard I had absolutely no idea what I was going to write about. I just knew that the only way to find out was to begin. As I looked up out of my window two bald eagles flew between my window and the pines in my yard. Beautiful, crisp white heads, wings spread, one right in front of the other. Eagles have always been important in my life, representing balance, intuition and spirituality - their presence bringing assurance that the divine is present. A validation of the path I am on, the direction I am going.

A reminder of the Holy.   A reminder to let go.

Oliver came back home with me today. We are fairly certain that something is wrong with her spine. Neurologically, things look good, yet she is in a significant amount of pain and is unable to move because of it. Everything else checks out okay. As to what is wrong with her spine, we don't really know. I have enough pain and anti-inflammation medication to get us through three days. If she doesn't improve by then, well, I'm not sure what we can do next. I'm not really sure about a lot of things in this life. But this I do know - that it can be really painful at times. And that the biggest of lessons can come from the smallest of creatures. And that life is precious. All life. And we can talk big about things, like "not spending money on an animal" and "I know what I'd do" and "If it were my cat I'd take it out back and..." But when it's your life, or your heart, or your health, or your kids, or your pets...well, that big talk gets pretty small when the pain is yours.

I decided to go check on Oliver one last time in order to give you the most current update. I got down on all fours to crawl quietly to the spot between the table and the patio doors where she lay in order to take a picture. This is what I saw in that very moment. She lifted her head and gave me the most peaceful look, almost a smile if you look closely enough. As if to say, things will be okay...just as they are.



Tweedles -- that's me said...

I know the pain you are feel and its not an easy path to deal with things like this. It's heart wrenching.
But what Oliver is saying---is true.
It will all be okay no matter what.

Luana said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. It's so hard to watch animals in pain and it's amazing how brave they are. Animals handle pain with such grace.
I do hope the very best for your Oliver. I do love that photo of her, what a sweetheart.

abcsofra said...

You have a place in heaven for sure! I like you can't see any animal suffer and yes even lizards are on that list. Maybe one day I will write a blog post about "the lizard". I am hoping that your daughter's surgery goes well. I can only imagine what you are going through with that! Your new kitty is a precious ball of love and fur and sooooooo very pretty too :-) She found you because you are truly a wonderful person!

Luana said...

Hi Theresa
I was wondering how Oliver is doing now? Sorry if I missed the spot where you posted something.


Jennifer said...

Oliver is so pretty! What a heartbreaking post. And I know exactly what you cried at the clinic.... because the cat was in the same position you are, and I am, at it's hard. You know the pain and you want to take it away from her, and from me, and me, from you.

Any update on her condition?

Isabel Calvert said...

This is a very beautiful story Theresa, and I can't seem to stop crying. I know exactly how it feels when your pet is in pain. It makes it harder because they can't tell you what is wrong or where does it hurt. It's still vivid in my memory the day we took Dagger, our Black Lab, in portland animal clinic. I can feel his plea of help but I there's nothing I can do about it except cry. The operation wasn't successful and sad to say, he didn't make it.

Theresa said...

Isabel, thank you. I'm glad that my post touched you. I am also very sad to hear about your lab Dagger. People who don't have pets have a hard time understanding how painful these times can be, so I think it is very important that we share these moments and stories with people that have "been there". It's a connection that I still cannot find words for, on a level that not even human relationships touch on. We do have a sense of responsibility for their care that is complicated by our inability to "explain" why things are happening. So we just love...the best we can. And learn what it means to do so unconditionally. They are our pets, companions, our children, our best friends. But I feel, most importantly, they are our teachers. For this I am so blessed.
Thank you again for reading and just keep on loving those pets, no matter how difficult! :-)

Maureen Delinsky said...

I agree with you girls, this is a very heartbreaking story. We can only wish it's us who's feeling the pain. There is really connection between people who share the same passion and love about pets. Many people doesn't understand that they're not just animals, but they are family too.

Jonathan Power said...

I can feel you. I have a lot of feline pets. Even if only one suffers from sickness, it affects me. It's not an excuse that I have a lot of them so a single cat would be expendable. I love each and every one of them.

Theresa said...

I so enjoy hearing from such beautiful people. And it feels good to know you are out there, loving your pets and making this a better world. Peace to you all!! And thank you for posting.

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