This morning, our beloved cat Samantha went to be with Bast. She was seventeen and frail with end-stage kidney disease. For the veterinarians among my friends, her blood count was 10, and her eyes and gums were white. For the non-veterinarians, this means her kidneys had stopped producing erythropoetin, a hormone that tells the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. She had also begun to smell slightly toxic in spite of her sub-q fluids, and she was weak and sick. The only thing I could get her to eat was tuna. If we had waited any longer to end her life, she almost certainly would have gone into respiratory distress and begun developing ulcers in her mouth and esophagus. There is no recovery when kidneys fail in cats, and it's a hard, ugly death.
But I'm being clinical. Let me tell you about Sam.
She was born in my apartment during a 1994 eclipse and would have died of her mother China's neglect if my ex-husband hadn't fed her warm milk and massaged her little body awake. Because we didn't have the money to spay China beforehand, we decided to take responsibility for all her kittens afterward over the objections of my grandmother, my aunt and most of my friends. So Samantha lived with her mother, father and sisters until my divorce four years later separated her from one of those sisters, whom my ex-husband kept (I've long believed I should have taken that sister from him too, bless her heart).
Early in life, I was convinced Sam understood English, but later I decided she just had a knack for understanding her surroundings. She did know her 'song' though, a high, cascading way we had of saying her name that brought her running every time. She was a screamer who felt threatened by almost everything she encountered, but she was also rightly afraid of my ex, who never hit anyone but had a temper that sent us all running for the dark corners of the house sometimes.
Co dhuibh, by the time Sean came into our lives, she was terrified of everything and spent most of her day in hiding. He made it a project to befriend her, coax her out of herself and create a home she could enjoy living in. Over the years, she became his lap kitty and my reading companion. She still fought with a legendary ferocity with her veterinarians, and she clawed and bit our hands when we medicated her, but she had windows with birds in them, and sleep without fear, and gentleness she could depend on from both of her human companions.
She still complained though; often, loudly and about most everything. Sean and I believe it was a defense mechanism held over from the early years of her life. It was as though she believed The Monster might come for her at any moment and do The Bad Thing, whatever that might have been in her mind. In these last days, as I watched her decline, I thought a lot about the way death has come as a monster to so many animals I've rescued, and I didn't want that for the girl who had endured my ex-husband's temper to grow old in the kinder, quieter home Sean and I have made together.
So when the time came this morning, Dr. Troye MacPherson put a catheter in Sam's arm and gave her a gentle sedative. Then, while she lay against my heart (her favorite place to be) Troye told her not to be afraid and made sure there were no monsters at the end of her road.
I loved my Sam so much, and I'm glad she lived long enough to die with peace and dignity. May we all be so lucky.