As I was walking along the main drag in Monterey, California I spotted a beautiful dress thru the open door of a women’s clothing shop. It said, “Try me on.” So I did. When I walked out of the dressing room, the sales-woman said, “That dress was made for you.”
“I know!” I replied back with a smile.
I was going tango dancing that evening in Santa Cruz and it was a perfect opportunity to wear it.
Mom and I set up camp a few hours later in the mountains above town, and out of cell range. I showered and got dressed, feeling excited for the night of dancing.
As we drove into Santa Cruz, I turned on my phone to get directions to the dance venue. There was a text waiting for me from the woman caring for my cat Dave.
Dave’s had kidney disease for the last year, but had been still going strong when I left and was doing well so far 7 days into this 10 day trip along the California Coast with my Mom.
I had bought flight insurance just in case he started to go down and I wanted/needed to come back early, but was feeling confident at this point he’d still be going strong when I got back in 3 days.
The text read, “Dave isn’t doing well. Call me.”
My stomach got that sick feeling as if I’d just been punched in the gut.
When I called, she said with great care in her voice, “Angela, he’s not doing well. As I was giving him his shot of saline, he vomited up all of his dinner and collapsed in my lap, and then wobbled over to the carpet and didn’t move.”
Another stomach punch.
I took a breath and reasoned with myself that maybe she was over-reacting. He’ll be o.k. – at least until I get home. I’ll call some other people and get a rational explanation for this. A friend who’s a nurse recommended he go to the emergency vet. That felt like a good plan.
I called Rocky (the woman who was taking care of him) and told him to take him in. It was 10pm on Sat. Sept. 27. The vet said it would take about an hour to draw his blood and get a better idea of what was going on. They said sometimes cats at this stage get an IV and then perk up for days or weeks more, so that’s what I set my sights on – there wasn’t another option in my heart at that point.
I decided to do a few dances at the tango venue to pass the time and “stay on the bright side” of things while my mom slept in the van. The vet called at 11pm – Dr. Clark. He told me to call him Sean. Through words of compassion he said, “Dave is almost comatose. I don’t expect him to live through tomorrow. We can give him some fluids, antibiotics….”
He said more but I don’t remember what it was – my mind replaying those words “comatose” and “don’t expect him.”
It couldn’t be. I’ve been telling Dave for months that I’m going to be with him when he goes. I’ve imagined him in my arms as he takes his last breath, soothing him in his last moments in his own home.
That wasn’t the reality that was playing out. I asked to speak with Rocky. She said, “What would you like me to do?” I couldn’t say anything, instead great sobs overcame me. The kind where you’re not sure there will be another breath coming. I asked her if I could call her back and hung up.
This wasn’t happening. All I could hear in my mind and heart was nonononononononono NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The sobbing. The kind of sobbing that only happens when incredible, great pain is experienced. Where the heart feels it’s being ripped in two and it will never end.
There was a woman sitting nearby in the foyer of the tango venue where I was sitting and sobbing. She came over and held me, no questions asked. I’d never met her before, but an angel that was there for me. Time was irreverent. I knew it was time for him to go, but I couldn’t stop crying to make the call to have it done.
Another person came over to hold me too – Charlie. We had danced earlier together. Another angel.
I realized over an hour went by and it was time. Debbie, one of the angels, stayed with me while I made the call. I said to Dr. Clark (Sean), “Please end his suffering. I want Rocky to hold him in her lap while you give the shot.” He complied and then asked, “Would you like us to cremate him or freeze him for burial?” I couldn’t think that far ahead. Neither felt right. I wasn’t ready to make that decision.
I got back on the phone with Rocky and I told her my request to have her hold him while he passed and she said gingerly, “You bet honey. I would be happy to. I can also bury him if you’d like.”
Oh God, I didn’t want to make this decision right now, but I knew I had to. Having her bury him felt like the best of 3 bad options. I knew I wanted him resting in the backyard next to my dog Jake, and having him frozen felt horrible, so I accepted her offer.
I then said thru tears, “Can you please put the phone up to his ear?” She said, “Sure hun.”
I spoke in that special Dave cat voice I use with him that he knows and had often responded to with a “mew” or glance in my direction, “Hi sweet D. I love you. You can go in peace now. I love you.” Then there was silence.
Rocky said, “I think he stopped breathing…. yes, he’s gone. You gave him permission to go.” It was 12:30am.
Oh God, the sobs started again. She said, “I’m so sorry dear.” Through tears I told Rocky where to bury him and what to wrap around him. She was an angel for both him and me.
Life didn’t go as I planned it. I cursed God and I cursed myself. Why wasn’t I there? Why did he have to go now? He wasn’t suppose to go this fast – why, why why?
3 days later, coming home to an empty house, the punch in the stomach happened again. His food and water bowl cleaned up and put away, his presence no longer. Emptiness in the most painful way.
Sometimes it’s believed that losing a cat isn’t as painful as a dog as a person, but it doesn’t matter the being shape or form. It’s dependent on the love that you give and how much you open your heart to that being.
Dave has been my constant companion since I’ve lived in Bozeman the last 12 years. When I got him from a family as an adult, he hid under the bed for the first 2 weeks. I asked a friend of mine what to do and she said, “Love him as much as you can.” And that was the start of opening my heart. Dave did that for me.
He greeted me at the door every time I walked into the house, and every morning when I woke up, he was there at the side of my bed or on my chest with a purr and excitement for me to get up – right up until I left for this last trip.
Dave was my comfort when my relationship ended, bearing much of my tears, and the one I danced with when I was really happy about something.
Dave was the one I talked to at home about what to wear to the dance, or what I was going to eat for dinner. He has been ever present for me.
This is the pain I feel.
Grief lays on the heart like a heavy blanket filled with memories and loss, with joy and love and letting go. It comes in waves, while hanging on in the background as life goes on.
I sometimes reach for the back door wondering where he is, until I remember he’s not going to come in tonight, or tomorrow night, or the next night. Grief has many forms. Thanks to all those who’ve sent support and continue to do so. Your love gives me comfort and eases my pain.
I send love to anyone who’s loved and lost a pet or person that is in their heart. Use the comment section below to share their name and anything you’d like to say as a place to honor and remember the love within your heart and those you miss.
Categories: Heart Centered Living