I heard a friend say about losing someone that she always said “See you on the flipside” instead of goodbye. I really liked that, truly hate goodbyes and when I have said way more goodbyes than I care to remember, I latched right on to this saying.
Today, I had to do just that with our Smokey Vaughn. Smokey Vaughn came into our care in 2007 when his pet parent passed away, so we gave him the pet parents last name because Smokey’s were just too common. Oh boy was Smokey a handful then. He didn’t get that much time out of this confined area because he hated other cats and didn’t have a single flinch in just attacking them full on. About 10 days a day, someone would say “Smokey Vaughn, knock it off, you are going back into time out” This was a cat with 2 eyes at the time and hadn’t been neutered for more than 1/2 his life. Mr Vaughn, although had nothing for himself, couldn’t bare to see a cat starve or want for anything. And even though he would lose his patience with Smokey Vaughn because of his aggressive behavior with other cats, he loved him just the same.
Smokey in 2007
We had to shave him a lot because he wasn’t that interested in being spiffed up, after all he spent many years as a street cat that lived to love the female kitties and that was his main focus, he never really cared about grooming. His long soft hair was quite often shaved in a lion cut. As the vision in his left eye began deteriorating in 2008, we soon found out he had glaucoma. That meant he didn’t see out of it anyway and it caused him pain, so we had the vet remove it. We couldn’t sense that he was more like himself after that surgery. In 2010, I believe, he began showing signs of the remaining eye being diseased and we knew he was already blind totally, so we wanted him to be free of the pain of that also, so the eye came out.
After the first eye was removed
After both eyes removed and a fresh haircut in 2010
It was always so amazing to watch him maneuver around a room, of course, he returned after recovery to his same area so he knew it well, but it was when he would turn his head to “look” your direction when you talked to him or he sensed a friend in the room that would also set us into wonder. He never felt sorry for himself, I believe that is a human emotion, not an animals. They just decide that this is the way things are now and how will I get around it.
When we moved into our new bldg in 12/2012, we all worried about how Smokey would adjust to his new much bigger room. Pfft! Although someone stayed in his area for a while, there was really no need, the other cats mostly moved out of his way and Smokey was getting old and didn’t really need much but a litter box, full food and water and of course, his thick quilt on the floor. He had arthritis and also had developed hyperthyroidism and recently his kidneys started showing some decline. He tolerated all his meds and the med for hyperT can really be rough on cats, but this survivor boy just took it in stride.
In the past few months, he has had several small crises and he would still rebound back from them. The ironic part in that is that his pet parent was the same way. He had many ailments and when he went into the hospital I would worry he would not be coming out this time, but he did, he found the strength to walk out again, then in 2007 just the day after Christmas, he just didn’t. Smokey Vaughn was the same, he would have a crisis and I would fret and we would get a diagnosis and I would worry “is his time close” but it wasn’t, and he would somehow come out of it and keep on living.
He knew when his friends came in the room and was always hopeful for a stroke or kind words from even those that he didn’t know. He had many friends that would visit the shelter and so many would ask about him and want to visit him. I am thinking about how many hearts will be broken when they get this news.
This morning he suddenly went from ok to in crisis and our wonderful volunteers noticed immediately and got him to our awesome vet. She called me to give me and update and since inserting his IV catheter for fluids, he had perked up and was looking brighter. Of course, I was thinking, that tough old guy, he’s gonna pull through again. This time it wasn’t to be, a couple hours later, our Dr Smith called to say that although he had perked up at first, he was declining quickly again and she felt like I should come and visit for myself.
I won’t go into the gory details of exactly what was happening but beside many other things, she had discovered that his heart was just barely beating. Two of the 4 chambers of his heart were barely functioning and from the debris on the ultrasound in one chamber it looked as if clots were forming, his body temp was also dropping, a regular sign they are dying.
When I arrived at the clinic, I went to go to his cage, he was lying on his side and not very coherent. I said his name and he lifted his head and I could hear his purr start up. My heart jumped a bit and I could feel myself hoping that another rebound was coming.
Wonderful kind Dr. Smith and Katie a tech helped him and I and a IV pump into an exam room and I cuddled Smokey and he purred like the Smokey I know. I have had to make “the decision” in these cases for way too many times and this one was going to be the hardest. Not only was this wise old soft loving boy loved but he had made so many comebacks. How could I be sure that another one wasn’t coming?? What if I made the decision to let him go and he was still working up the strength for another comeback?? I spent about 1 hour curled around him wanting someone else to decide and at the same time wanting no one else to decide but me. After a while, he began to struggle to breathe and his tongue was started to come out and his breathing intensified. I asked Dr Smith some questions and then with anxiety and my heart breaking, I told her I thought it was time but still kept thinking about that so desperately wanted comeback.
Dr Smith let me take all the time Smokey and I needed and when the breathing was getting worse, it had to be then. We both talked to him and told him who would be meeting him on the other side and that to be sure and tell Mr Vaughn about his acupuncture treatments so that Mr Vaughn could shake his head and say “those crazy cat ladies” At one time, Smokey managed to raise up his front leg and lay it on my arm, almost hugging it. I held his head in my hand and quietly and gently he began another journey. His nose was against my coat and then Dr Smith noticed blood flowing from his nose. It broke my heart and convinced me his body had no more to give, another comeback wouldn’t have been possible. I kissed him and told him how much I loved him and would miss him and above all, no goodbye, just See you on the flipside Smokey……….Godspeed………..