As I wrote just over a month ago, Victoria had become really sick while I was in Japan and despite her fighting for all she was worth, it finally came time for me to release her from any suffering. Over the weekend, she got a case of the runs so I took her back to the Vet on Monday afternoon. Doctor Tracy examined her and found she’d actually lost 30% of her body weight in a month even though she’d started eating again—she weighed a mere 4.8 pounds. There was also something new that wasn’t there a month ago: a disturbing bone swelling on her upper right jaw which she said was probably a tumor—it had also caused a serious tooth abscess. I left her overnight again so Dr. Tracy could give some antibiotics and pull the tooth. I didn’t sleep well last night…
When I showed up at 9:30 this morning per the doctor’s instructions, Victoria seemed fairly peppy. She practically leapt into my lap and buried her face in my hand to be petted. Dr. Tracy said that the tooth had come out fine and that we could try to see what happened next but that the prognosis wasn’t good. For the first time in my 45 1/2 years, I personally had to make a life-and-death decision, and I chose what I thought would be best for Victoria. It sure was a lot harder than I thought it would be.
Dr. Tracy gave her the first injection to put her to sleep, then wrapped her up in a towel and I held her in my lap. I petted my baby girl gently, rubbed her under the chin (she always loved that…) and kissed her head as she fell asleep. The doctor had turned down the lights in the room and left us alone—Victoria went to sleep with her eyes open. I felt her cuddle close to me, then relax, then just fade away. Dr. Tracy came back, we placed her on the table and she received the final injection in her frail little arm that stopped her heart. I stroked her head one last time as the tears continued flowing down my face—and Dr. Tracy took Victoria away from me for the last time.
I know this was the right thing to do—as stewards on this earth, we have the ability to make this kind of choice for our pets to alleviate their suffering humanely. But it was just so difficult. I know she was an animal, but she was also my companion for 16 years and everyone will tell you that she was just the sweetest cat you could ever meet. I kept wishing I’d brought her to the vet sooner; that maybe I should have stayed home from Japan to be here and notice her getting sick sooner. You also can’t help but anthropomorphize as well—what was she thinking about me as she huddled close in her final moments? Was she in pain? Relieved that she could just close her eyes as I cuddled her? Was she sad or upset with me?
I can remember why I picked her at the West Valley Animal Shelter over 16 years ago: she was so cute and so calm, sitting in her cage with one sibling, her paws tucked under her chest. She was so quiet—she never meowed unless she was really, really upset about something. Whenever you walked into the room she’d walk in front of you looking up with her pretty green eyes then fall over like a lump expecting to get petted and pampered.
She was also the only cat I’ve ever known that played fetch! In her younger days, I’d be lying in bed watching TV and throw little sponge rubber balls across the room; she’d leap up, twisting and turning, and dash off to get it. She’d then come trotting back, ball in her mouth and drop it right next to me begging for another round. We’d play that for an hour or more almost every day…
But she’d finally gotten too sick; she had lost all the weight she could possibly lose. Her last few days were spent lying around without even the strength to flip her tail—she’d stopped eating again, probably due to the bad tooth. I wish I’d cuddled with her more at home over the weekend. It really hurts to have to part, but she’ll be happier in kitty heaven.
So now it’s just Max and me. I don’t think I’ll be getting another cat, and I just hope Max won’t get weird being alone after all these years (he’s actually a month older than Victoria was, so he’s always had a companion). He’s as strong as a horse and eats like one too—just the opposite of my poor little girl.
I loved my baby girl and will miss her, but am glad she won’t suffer any longer. She was a real trooper and put up a good fight, but nobody lives forever.