Monday, May 04, 2009

So It Goes... R.I.P. Bungee

It is not my intention for a blog entitled the "Contemplative Life" to devolve into a sad series of death notices, but it seems like experiencing the loss of someone I care about or respect is about what it takes to force my hand. It is a psychic kick to the head that I cannot let pass without acknowledging.

We just had to put our cat Bungee down and it was pretty horrible. It had been our intention to bring her with to California but it had become obvious in recent weeks that her body had begun shutting down. She had arthritis but the pain medication made her throw up. She had a thyroid problem but the medication there caused allergic reactions. She had become incontinent and had lost control of her digestive processes.

We adopted her from the Harbins ten years ago when Beau had had enough of self-medicating to deal with his cat allergies. Kristin had just moved out to Virginia from California and her parents' cat had to be put down after a long, painful series of health issues and she was devastated. The timing was right and she took to us right away.

Anyone who knows us knows that she's been a pain in the ass almost the entire time. She developed a problem peeing inappropriately and caused all manner of damage and high vet bills. Against my better judgement, we even hired a pet counselor to see if she could help diagnose the issue that triggered the behavior. As I anticipated, she brought nothing but common sense and a bill; no results.

We tried to bring another cat into the mix, a sweet young male cat who'd had a hard life. We got him from the Piedmont Feline Rescue League after seeing him at a bookstore in Arlington, VA. His name was Sylvester and Bungee was not happy about the addition. She ended up tolerating him, but never quite grew attached. He had been very sick as a kitten and had been nursed back to life by a woman in Middleburg. After about a year, he also developed serious elimination issues. We tried to deal with his health problems but in the end (and a lot of money later), we decided he needed to be an outdoor cat back on the farm where he came from. It broke our heart to get rid of him but we just couldn't handle two cats with bathroom problems.

The reason we put up with it was that Bungee was about the sweetest, most loving cat you could ever have met. Anyone who came over was met with curiosity, love and affection. To a person, they were astounded at how friendly and affectionate she was. We used to joke that she'd be a fine guard cat because she'd charm any intruder with her personality. We're not sure if it was her life experiences or genetics (we believe she was a Norwegian forest cat), but she was a unique cat in this regard.

In the last year, she started losing weight and was clearly suffering from some joint issues. We tried a variety of medications but with the reactions I mentioned above, it seemed like a losing battle. The vet had suggested that a series of glucosamine injections (that we would give weekly) might help the arthritis and radiation therapy might help the thyroid issue, but we weren't convinced. She was in her 18th year and this all seemed like it was going to be rough on her.

In the past few weeks we noticed several changes. She would spend an increasing amount of time away from us, sleeping under chairs, in her carrier, etc. It was unlike her and a sign of a cat being unwell. Her limp became more pronounced and we even saw her struggling to lie down from time to time. She stopped joining us upstairs at night, although she did come up a few nights ago after I got back from L.A. It became increasingly obvious to us that the move would be too much for her. We struggled with the idea of putting her down while she still seemed like herself a good portion of the time, but we decided that that was the right thing to do.

We didn't want it to get to the point that she was in so much constant pain that there was none of her left. There is extreme guilt in making this kind of a decision but at some point it becomes more about quality of life than how much you will miss someone. This is true for pets as well as people.

Bungee spent a good portion of today in her carrier. I don't read too much in to that, but it sure seemed like she was telling us she was ready to go. It is easy to make up senseless explanations like that because it makes you feel better. We were there the whole time during the process. First, she got a heavy sedative. The vet was surprised at how quickly it took. When she was knocked out, she received a second injection and passed almost immediately.

I am convinced we did the right thing; our vet agreed. I still feel horrible, but that will pass. It was difficult to come back home to an empty house with her basket and food bowls and toys as clear reminders of her absence.

This post is less expiation of guilt and more acknowledging her passing and the place she had in our lives.

R.I.P. Bungee