A Little Bit of Sunshine

tortoiseshell cat on wood
Cookie soaks in the sun.

After a series of rainy mornings we had a lovely sunny morning Sunday, and the day remained sunny from beginning to end.

tortoiseshell cat eating snow
Another snow cone!

For the first time in days, Cookie had a little time outdoors on the deck and she and I enjoyed the breeze that felt oddly warm after days of frigid weather.

And for the first time in days Cookie was more active, walking around, visiting me at my desk, ate more and more easily, and just had a more relaxed look about her. Normally she and I will go outside when I feed the birds every morning, and sometimes later in the day as well. But with temperatures well below freezing I haven’t wanted to risk Cookie’s depressed body temperature and apparently neither did she, so even though she sat at the door and wanted to go, when I opened it she wouldn’t go out. Eventually she quit asking, just went to sit in front of the furnace vent in the kitchen with Mimi.

rabbit tracks in snow
The bunny tracks.

But on Sunday morning, in all that sunshine, I picked her up and carried her outside, and together we looked out at the bunny tracks in the snow and felt the sun warm us. I took her in but soon she was back at the door soaking in the sunshine. As the temperature rose we went back outside, she stepped out onto the deck herself and walked around exploring, stepped down to the flower pot that still held a cap of snow and licked some of it, then explored the deck some more, walking better all the time.

Back inside, she ate some more, walked around the house looking out the windows and generally being her congenial little self before I settled her and Kelly into the bathroom where it’s warm and cozy from the sun for their senior special lunch and naptime.

Still, I found myself once again hovering around her, trying not to actively worry (ha), to remain calm and relaxed so that I didn’t upset her but I knew I’d spend all day checking on Cookie and wondering what else I could do for her. I had planned on printing more cards and working on artwork and writing a few articles, the busy creative schedule that I’ve looked forward to in the new year, yet every day lately this has been the pattern as I plan my day then abandon a good portion of it for concern over Cookie. I don’t mind.

pastel painting of stream in snow
Unnamed Tributary, pastel © B. E. Kazmarski

On Sunday I knew I’d never focus on what I had planned and decided I had to just leave the house for a while, break the spell, do something that both carried me away, relaxed me and filled me with inner strength to work with Cookie and accomplish all the rest I plan for my days and give poor Cookie a break. The sun shone on the snow and I wanted to be out there somewhere walking in it, feeling the stillness of a winter day, indulging in a little painting to free my mind from my thoughts and worries. I got in touch with a friend and we met at a local trail, went for coffee afterward and I returned with a painting and a lot of photos and a renewed spirit.

I’ve not doubt Cookie felt better as much for my absence as for my renewal by nature.

tortoiseshell cat on deck
Cookie observes her yard.

Cookie’s condition has improved since Christmas Eve when she suddenly couldn’t walk in the morning, her body temperature was low and she would not eat. She had compensated for so long but suddenly had to lower her standards. Intensive fluid therapy, vitamins and supplements and she’s more comfortable, eating well enough and walking better but I think we both know she’s losing a little each day in her battle with renal failure. Her hind legs, never strong to begin with, are still wobbly and sometimes just collapse; her right in particular just seems to have a mind of its own carrying little weight and slipping out to the side when she sits. A few days ago she could still get herself up onto the table and cabinet in the kitchen, but on Monday simply could not get up from the chair to the table. She’s been eating less and responding less, even to me.

Aside from all the supportive care, subcutaneous fluids and supplements there’s not much I can do, and where I have a day of work and projects planned I find myself unexpectedly spending more time, most of a day, checking on Cookie, trying to sense what she needs in this moment, trying one thing and another in addition to the regular treatments and just sitting with her on my lap trying to impart what energy and absorb what discomfort I can, finding myself exhausted in the effort, and we both sleep.

tortoiseshell cat looking out door
Cookie watches a bird on the deck.

This is what Cookie has done for me all these years, just being at my side, quietly vigilant, the only living being who understood what I was going through with my brother’s injury and my mother’s illnesses and their effects on my life and my business, all my worries and my struggles with my creative self, our losses of other feline members of our household, Cookie has simply taken it all in and given me only her expression, “I am devoted to you.”

It is a year ago on Wednesday that my mother passed away. I know the memory of that time and the thought of loss is heavy on my mind as I remember my sister, brother and I keeping a vigil in our mother’s room for nearly two days. She had been in hospital and been hospitalized before that more and more frequently; I knew intuitively her death was imminent but didn’t know when and really struggled with it for a couple of months before it happened.

It was also the first time Cookie ever showed physical distress through her support for me. I remember calling my veterinarian saying I didn’t know what was wrong with her but she was lethargic and had no appetite, I gave her fluids though she wasn’t necessarily dehydrated, her temperature was normal and no infections, and my veterinarian reminded me that I was under a lot of stress and Cookie always took that in from me. All these years of absorbing my angst, but at turning 19 it was almost more than she could take, though she would never consider turning away from me, not doing what she felt was her job, taking care of mom.

two cats at door
Cookie and Mimi enjoy the last of the sunshine.

She recovered as I started rebuilding my days and my business, but in May I could see she was losing ground again, and it wasn’t necessarily from my influence. Her June exam showed her thyroid had finally kicked into overdrive but her kidneys were slowing down. All this year we’ve done our best to balance this, and while she’s gone through all the days with me, following me upstairs and down, out into the yard and even to my shop a few times, I could see it was with diminished vitality though not diminished enthusiasm.

two tortoiseshell cats
Where's lunch?

Poor little Kelly is pretty upset, both at Cookie’s condition and my worry but calming essences and supplements have slowly restored her balance, at least where Cookie is concerned. She is still afraid of all the black cats though they never threaten her; Cookie is the last of the cats she came to know and be comfortable with, and I don’t know how she will react when Cookie isn’t there for her anymore.

With a few changes I’ve made to Cookie’s diet and a few new supplements and reiki sessions I may be able to help her restore a little, and she may surprise us all and take that little restoration and turn it into a big one. It’s all up to Cookie, and I will do my best to keep my worry at bay so that I don’t upset her needlessly and impede her wellness. But I think I’m not facing this very well, in fact I’m not accepting it at all at the moment. While writing this I had Jelly Bean curled tightly in my lap, purring heartily his healing purr for me, and Mewsette quietly near me as Cookie rested in the next room; I didn’t want to transfer my anxiety to her as I wrote, she should rest and let the young ones take care of me for the moment. She has instructed them well.

cat sitting by back door
Still my little sunflower.

This morning Cookie was sleeping in the bathroom where she stays overnight with Kelly, did not get up when I went in and could not control her hind legs when I picked her up and set her down to see how she was managing; that is not unusual the past few days and it only takes a few minutes to get warmed up and get a little more control. She dragged herself into the litterbox, then got out and walked to the landing on wobbly but working legs. I carried her downstairs and let her walk a few steps, the carried her to the cabinet for her breakfast, which she did not eat, only sat and purred loudly.

No sun this morning; it is overcast but not freezing. I picked her up and carried her outside, held her against my chest as we looked into our muddy back yard until I felt her gathering strength, set her down and let her walk around, unsteady but purposeful. She sat on the top step, I sat next to her and she looked up at me for the first time this morning, then gently put one paw on my lap followed by the other and pulled herself up. Curling on her side she faced the yard and purred, and we enjoyed a few minutes of the morning. Later I offered her breakfast again and she ate happily; daylight, fresh air, her deck, my lap, medicine for both our weary bodies. She and I will take it, for now, this comfort of each other and try to do a step or two better, just day by day.

All images used in this article are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.

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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, The Creative Cat offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats. From catchy and creative headlines to factual articles and fictional stories, The Creative Cat provides constant entertainment and important information to people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

18 thoughts on “A Little Bit of Sunshine

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  • January 25, 2012 at 8:15 am
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    Reading this reminded me of the long, slow decline that I have watched with so many pets – cats, dogs, and of course, Bunny. It’s so hard to see them fading away before our eyes, and we want to do everything we can to give them comfort and keep them from pain. But they handle it so much better than we do, accepting it as the inevitable conclusion to a long and happy life. I can remember every day for months going into Bunny’s room with a little bit of fear in my heart. “Are you still here?” Yes, she was still there accepting love from me and giving love in return. And when the end did come, she called out and let me hold her until she was finally gone. My heart goes out to you Bernadette – I will keep you and Cookie in my thoughts and prayers. xo

    Reply
    • January 30, 2012 at 1:34 am
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      Thanks, Vicki, it’s especially hard when symptoms start to pile up, as they do near the end, and you just feel helpless at trying to fix everything. After 19 years, I just don’t know how it will be.

      Reply
  • January 24, 2012 at 8:47 pm
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    My first tortie and best friend ever, Gabrielle’s Galaxy, collapsed at the age of 17. Her diagnosis was terminal bladder cancer and she was given 2 weeks to live. A couple of weeks later my grandfather died after a long illness. Gabbie had to travel with me to his home as we held the funeral and celebrated his life. Just as I’d spent every chance I could with my grandfather over those last 4 years, I also devoted my life to Gabbie. I spent all my free time with her, fed her every hour night and day, and even took her to work with me. She lived another 2 months. Those two months are the most precious time to me.

    Though she has been gone many years I still remember how much comfort we got from each other during that time. Hold on to this time with Cookie, she is cementing her soul with yours for all time.

    Reply
    • January 30, 2012 at 1:36 am
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      Andrea, thank you for sharing about Gabby. If someone told us we had to do these things we’d be frightened and certain we’d do everything wrong, but when the situation arises and we just have to do it, we just do it.

      Reply
  • January 24, 2012 at 5:56 pm
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    My heart is hurting for you and Cookie. I thank God above that we will see our beloved pets in Heaven.

    Reply
    • January 30, 2012 at 1:37 am
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      Alice, thank you, and while I hurt at the thought of spending the rest of my life without her, I am glad to know that won’t last forever and I’ll see her again.

      Reply
  • January 24, 2012 at 5:03 pm
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    Caring for a beloved friend in their senior years can be difficult, but I know she is grateful. Take care!

    Reply
    • January 30, 2012 at 1:38 am
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      Rumpydog, they never cease to amaze me at this point.

      Reply
  • January 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm
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    Thank you for this…I’ve had my own challenges these past few weeks…with my Father’s passing and Maynard The Maine Coon’s, abscess..it is amazing the give and take of energy between our pets and us , and between themselves….I too need to take a break and go on a walk now and then…thanks for reminding me Purrs to you, Cookie, and the rest of your fabulous feline family

    Reply
    • January 30, 2012 at 1:40 am
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      Robin, I hope you found a little time of peace and quiet to refresh yourself. My sympathies on your loss, and I hope Maynard’s abscess heals soon without incident.

      Reply
  • January 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm
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    This is a lovely piece, Bernadette — it describes so well this part of the journey, which has a bittersweet beauty all its own. I think you are doing everything just right for for both you and Cookie.

    Reply
    • January 30, 2012 at 1:41 am
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      Tammy, thanks. It took a lot of strength to admit it was time to write it. I really don’t want to face it.

      Reply
  • January 24, 2012 at 3:51 pm
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    Such tender moments. Your presence for Cookie’s journey is such a gift to both of you. I’m holding both you and Cookie tenderly in my thoughts.

    Reply
    • January 30, 2012 at 1:42 am
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      Anita, thanks, I’ve been spending all my extra moments with her and trying to prepare myself.

      Reply
  • January 24, 2012 at 11:49 am
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    Hi, all.

    Bernadette, I know you are interested in the details of animal health, so I wanted to send you this link. I’m not sure if it will work, though — it looks kind of funny. If it doesn’t work, go to the second link and search for “Carnivore Care”. I don’t have any personal experience with it, but it might come in handy for you or someone else reading this.

    http://www.oxbowanimalhealth.com/products/type/detail;jsessionid=50D9F56D30C8E90DA62C303BCD9D9CFE.vipa-02b?object=1609

    http://www.oxbowanimalhealth.com/

    Thank you so much, Bernadette, for sharing the story of your love and care of Cookie. I knew a little tortoiseshell once. She was so loving. She will always be in my heart.

    Susan

    Reply
    • January 30, 2012 at 1:43 am
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      Susan, I just found this again to approve it. I didn’t realize WordPress put these messages in a different place! I found it interesting to visit, there is so much more we can do than just the basic cat food diet.

      Reply

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