Friday, August 29, 2014

The Price We Pay for Love

Cats are jerks.
They are jerks because sometimes they pee on your bed, or your dog's bed, or your kid's princess bean bag.
They are jerks because they can't be bothered to accept your love when it's convenient but insist upon it when it's not.
They are jerks because if they throw up, it's always on the carpet or a comforter.
But mostly, they are jerks because they leave us before we are ready for them to go.

Holden left us Thursday morning. 
He was 16, or thereabouts.
His decline was swift; I brought him to the vet the previous Thursday because he'd stopped eating. After some blood tests, a liver infection was determined, and we picked up a prescription of antibiotics as well as some canned food for him to enjoy.
He ate two small meals but then refused anything else. Then he peed on my bed and the couch in short succession.
In a panic, I took him in again on Tuesday, and we had a urinalysis done as well. His urine was extremely diluted, but there was no infection, and there was no fever. 
He'd lost half a pound since Thursday.

At that point, the vet knew it wasn't just an infection, but she gave us an appetite stimulant to see if that, combined with some force feeding in the meantime, would bring him back around.
But even in this attempt, she wasn't optimistic. Having seen him Thursday and again Tuesday, she saw such a change that she….she just knew.
We had the discussion.
But I really really really really really really really hoped that things would change.
But they didn't.

Have you ever force fed a pet? I don't recommend it. It's heartbreaking. And not only did I have to force feed my baby boy the stinkiest food on the planet; I also had to force two pills down his throat.
It tore me up.
When he continued to refuse food, I knew.
He was tired, and it was time.
We decided to let him go Friday. That decision to wait was a little selfish; I know. But we still had a small hope that the appetite stimulant would, in some miraculous way, bring him back.
Hope springs eternal, after all.
Thursday morning, he couldn't walk. I ran into the bathroom, where Husband was showering, and let him know, and he called the vet.
But Holden, who always hated car rides, had no desire to make one more trip. He lay himself down, and I knew that his time was close. I petted him, and I told him that if he needed to go, I understood.
A few minutes later, he was gone.
I was holding on to him. I held him as he came into our lives, and I held him as he left.

Holden was my first Christmas present from Husband when we were first dating. Underneath the Christmas tree at his uncle's in Pinetop in 2000, I opened a package that contained a gift certificate to the Arizona Humane Society. He knew I loved cats, having grown up with them (Punkin, Scooter, Tiger, Blackie, Fanny, and Roy, throughout my first 18 years), and that I wanted to have my own cat as an adult.
So, over the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend in January, 2001, we took a field trip to the Humane Society, planning to bring home a cute little kitten.
But alas, there were few kittens that day, so we meandered through the adult cages.

In one of the bottom cages, two golden, beseeching eyes looked up at me, begging to get out.
We took him to the private "preview"room, and it was all over. 
I was smitten.
A gorgeous, orange white creamsicle of a cat.
We were told he was three years old and had been relinquished because "he pees on things."
And he was all mine.

And he did pee on things. Everything, it seemed like. But then our vet at that time diagnosed him with urine crystals, which, common in neutered males, is extremely uncomfortable. After changing his food to a low calcium prescription diet, he barely peed inappropriately (except for when he got pissed about Zooey coming into our lives, but I'll let that one go - new puppies can be traumatic for a cat).
We had almost-fourteen almost-pee-free years together.

Wherever we went, Holden went with us. He was our first little family member.
When we moved to Michigan so Husband could complete his master's degree, Holden came with us. He learned to live in sometimes-harmony with my in-laws' cat Pepper and Akita Chili (who rolled him exactly once).
When we moved back to Arizona, he came back and happily took to being an "only child" once again, likely relieved that the damn Akita was no longer in his midst.
When we moved into our house, he claimed his space quickly.
When we brought Zooey home, he was pissed but at the same time relieved that the upstairs was (until Zooey stopped peeing on the carpet because she couldn't tell that it was Not Grass) his domain.
When HRH was born, he claimed her, and her room, as his.

While he was loved by all members of our family, including Zooey, he was always My Cat. He knew, somehow, that I was the one who chose him and helped him find freedom from his little cell at the Humane Society. I was the one who cleaned his toilet. I was the one whom he woke in the mornings to feed him.
He was my boy. And I was his human.

Last night, I dreamed that it was a few days ago, and I brought Holden a can of food. Instead of refusing it, he perked up and ate it all, regaining the vigor he had lost.
You can make of it what you will; I know it's his way of saying he's OK now. He's not in pain. He's happy. He's comfortable. He's free.

Run free, my sweet boy. Thank you for the years of love that you gave to us. You were the first member of our little family, and we our house will never be the same in your absence. 
I will never forget you. 
Grief is the price we pay for love.
And despite the pain, I'd do it all over again.
I love you, Kitty Man.


  1. Holden was a very lucky little man. I'm glad that you had each other as long as you did. Hugs to you!

    1. There's that saying: "who rescued whom?" I'm pretty sure he rescued me just as much as I rescued him, and I was so lucky to have him as long as I did. Thank you.

  2. I am so sad for you, friend. One day, you will make creamsicle mallows and call them Holdens.

  3. Allison, this was a beautiful tribute to Holden. I loved reading his tails (tales) and about his life with you. Xoxo

    1. Thanks, Kat. I'm sure that he and Spot are hissing at one another and vying for Most Comfortable Sunny Spot over the bridge right now.

  4. I am a blubbering mess right now. Thank you for sharing and my heart aches for your loss. In a house where animals outnumber humans, I dread the day I have to say goodbye to any of them. They are family more so than some human family members and their impact on our lives is indescribable. I'm glad he was able to live out his days comfortably at home. Hugs.

    1. This was the first time I've been there for the end. All my other cats left the house, or I was away at school or later. I wasn't even there when my dad left, so this was markedly painful. Not that I think it will ever get easier. Thanks, Kristin. It makes my shoulders a little lighter knowing I could share the love I had for him with so many other animal lovers.

  5. What a beautiful storey. Holden was lucky to have chosen you as his human.

  6. Letting our loves go is never an easy decision. Sending much love and positive energy your way! xo

    1. Thank you. It was terrible, but he needed to go. He'll always be with me, though.