So I had to say goodbye to another of my companions this morning, a shock, but not unexpected. Kelly went to be with her best friend Cookie, to cuddle with Peaches again and to be with her soul mate Namir, and no doubt to happily touch noses with her mentor, Moses, and rub herself on old friends Stanley and Sophie and Nikka.
I went to bed unusually early last night, and Kelly with me, also a little unusual since she spends part of each night in the bathroom to have some alone time and eat a little more without being bothered by the kids. But she walked all over me, and slept with me all night long.
Just before dawn, I awoke to Kelly on my chest looking just like the painting I’d done of her, “Kelly in Warm Colors”, and a lovely piece of music on the radio, Claude Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1, its gentle glissandos like a waterfall of sound on a cool and quiet morning. I never stay in bed once I wake—it’s usually impossible once the cats know I’m awake—but even though the torturing tag team were with me and Kelly they just took other positions and let us have our time. I continued to hear some of my favorite classical pieces (a few linked below) over the next hour that Kelly and I cuddled and she purred and I daydreamed of the day to come in the studio with Kelly as my assistant, playing fake piano on her ribs, humming along with the music and singing vocal syllables so she felt the vibration in my chest much as if I was purring myself, she softly purring in return and gently flexing her paws on my chest. Such a magical morning rarely happens and while a part of me knew something was in process all was fine in that moment.
Kelly usually races down the stairs on her own paw power, even yesterday, but I carried her down to the kitchen for breakfast just because I didn’t want to let her go. She was ready for her dish when I put her on the cabinet, ate a little of her breakfast then raced back upstairs. She’s been finishing her meals in the studio lately, but I found her on my bed, in the spot where we’d been just a little while before. I kissed her and petted her, still humming, she still purring.
We’ve been battling fleas, and Kelly has had a terrible reaction to them this year. I decided not to put a dose of Frontline on her, but instead to bathe and comb her, and it was time for another bath this morning in just plain water with a chamomile tea bag added for comfort, a gentle rub down with oatmeal in a sack to cleanse and ease her skin and a rinse with plain water, no soap or other additives.
Kelly has never put up a big fight with any treatment, not even a bath, but after this bath she was weak and unsteady and didn’t try to dry her self, very unusual for my fastidious Kelly. I wrapped her in a towel and sopped up as much water as I could, but even with that she laid on the towel for a few minutes breathing somewhat rapidly, and I made preparations to call the emergency clinic if she didn’t recover. In a few minutes she took a few licks at herself, then hopped up to the toilet to the sink to the windowsill, though shaky, and looked out the window.
I took her temperature as I’d been doing almost daily for the past week, just to keep track of it. Only 95 degrees, could that be right? It had been 101.7 on Thursday. She was walking, then weak and falling down, and meowing that frightened, fateful meow. Even the kids had their hackles raised, and big round eyes. I ran to call emergency and get a carrier, and off we went.
She made it there though I knew it was touch and go, and after I’d left the safety of our house I knew she likely would not be coming back, but she was yowling as we walked in the door. They did try to stabilize her but her anemia was so severe and her breathing so labored; by the type of anemia, much more severe than fleas would cause, they guessed some sort of cancer like bone or blood, possibly lymphoma, but she also seemed to be having seizures so it could have been even brain cancer, or something that had spread to her brain. Everything happened to her at once and where she’d been compensating for a growing number of conditions, she could no longer hold them off and as we say, she just “crashed”. There was no way I could even take her home. At least I was with her at her last moments, and could bring her back to spend a few hours in our house.
I could feel her little spirit with me on the way home, though, and I actually thought she was hopping curiously around the car and kept looking behind me to make sure she was okay. I’m sure she was glad to be free of her body, and going home.
Mimi knew as soon as I walked in the door. I could tell by the expression on her face, and the others looked puzzled. They visited her in the kitchen, and have monitored me every moment since my return in my bedroom and in the studio as I spent time with her, and have been writing up her story.
While I was at my desk calling the emergency hospital to tell them I’d be bringing Kelly, I also e-mailed Ingrid King for a long-distance reiki session for Kelly. Whatever was about to happen, I knew it would help support Kelly; I’d been contacting Ingrid for occasional distance reiki sessions for Cookie from January 2011 until her death in February 2012, and a few sessions for Kelly since then, as a complement to their regular health care. I found Ingrid’s return e-mail when I arrived home with a report of Kelly’s reaction to the reiki saying that she got a sense of fear and blocked energy in Kelly’s chest, including, “Halfway through the session, I felt what I can best describe as an ‘energetic sigh.’ Her energy seemed to calm down, and she continued to pull a lot of Reiki.” That was just about the moment Kelly transitioned from this world to the next. I let Ingrid know that, and was glad my delicate, frightened little Kelly had that extra support on her way.
The bath had nothing to do with her passing, but sometimes when they are holding on to the last thread of life the slightest trauma can turn into a crisis. Years ago I took Sophie for x-rays of her chest to see where a mass was and plan for any possible treatments, but she went into respiratory arrest and they couldn’t safely take her off oxygen. It’s a shock, even when you know something is underlying their condition, to see them living and active one minute and critically failing the next, but they were close enough to the end that something would have pushed them over. In the end, I’m always glad they were in my hands and not home alone when this happened, or that they didn’t have the chance to wander off and get lost in the house (as I thought Kelly may have done back in June) or hurt themselves falling down steps or missing a leap.
Losing Kelly is not as surprising as it may seem, though I haven’t said anything, just observed Kelly and watched for symptoms. I’ve discussed her condition with my veterinarian, and for the last few days and weeks, especially, I knew something serious was happening with her, too many little things happening, a spiking fever, uneven appetite, even back to the mild heat stroke in July, but it’s been hard to pin down symptoms but I’ve recorded them to tell my vet. Even through all that, she ate well and enthusiastically, ran up and down the stairs, did her fantastic leaps onto the refrigerator and counters and wherever she wanted to go, until the last two days. I was taking notes on oddities I saw, the little wheeze I felt and sometimes heard in her breathing now and then, the increasing anemia.
I have at times felt such an intense loneliness from Kelly since Cookie died, and while I’ve felt sadness now and then from Kelly through the years, it’s been present constantly since then. In the past five year she’s never grown accustomed to Mimi and the kids, she lost all her friends, and even with me doting on her she is one kitty who loves me but loves other cats better. And that’s always been fine.
I considered looking for a senior buddy for Kelly, but Kelly has shown symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, and possibly lymphoma, for a few years and I didn’t want to stress her with any more changes. Back in the spring, in February following Cookie’s death, Kelly took a big turn for the worse, her bowels spewing some pretty foul stuff, and she pretty much quit eating, even the mainstay, baby food. It was too soon after Cookie to just give in, and because Kelly had always loved the raw meat I’d given her and Cookie and would eat that when she wouldn’t eat anything else, I decided to find what raw diets I could and begin to feed her that. She ate it as if there was no tomorrow, eating about twice what seemed likely for a seven pound cat but I let her eat as much as she wanted.
At about this time thought I’d better get her life story out there and I began writing “A Little Bit About Kelly”, which grew from a one-post rescue story into a five-part series. She sat on my lap through the writing of all five parts, very pleased, I think.
By April the bowel issues cleared up and Kelly was the happy and active Kelly you’ve seen in photos and sketches for the past few months. She’s been a little dehydrated now and then, and I kept sub-q fluids on hand to infuse her about once per week. And except for right around the hottest weather in June, she ate her breakfast and dinner, and her Senior Tortie Lunch Special, every single day. Yesterday morning she raced down to the kitchen before anyone else and was waiting for breakfast.
But it’s been an intuitive feeling lately more than symptoms. In the past few days I’ve felt that odd exhaustion that I’ve come to know is part of my connection with them as they compensate but can’t hide the fact their body is slowing down, and I feel it. Though Kelly’s been eating and running around, I’ve sensed a distinct feel of unease from her, and my always agile and graceful long-legged tortie has occasionally knocked things over, or even missed a leap.
I’ve been working on “A Little Bit About Kelly” for the past two months, organizing it, illustrating it, and recording it for publication as a print, e-reader and audio book, and Kelly has been with me all the way in the studio. I was looking forward to a book tour with Kelly, at least a virtual book tour, and hoping that whatever was happening with her would hold off long enough for her to enjoy the limelight for a bit. Even if she didn’t make it to the end, I’m glad I recorded the story of the lost little stray or feral kitty who was adopted from the shelter at the last minute, and through a series of felines who taught her valuable lessons and in loving homes finally learned to love and trust, and how good it felt to curl up on a lap.
And ironically, last night as I was falling asleep with Kelly I remembered earlier in the day when I was posting my daily photos and sketch and Kelly was happily bathing and relaxing on my lap and thought, “There is nothing so content as a cat who owns your lap.” Thinking of how Kelly had gone from flighty and fearful to the kitty then purring on my chest, I decided I’d share that thought the very next day on Facebook. I will do that, in memory of Kelly.
And now, I live with five cats. Two years ago, I lived with ten. All are now black, then they were black and tortie and calico and tabby. As I wrote in The Alchemy of Love, I no longer think of my cats in groups, but of all of them together as a family, and each of them as individuals within that family. Kelly’s place has not changed. You will still see photos of Kelly regularly, and I will certainly finish her book, the story of so many lost and forgotten cats, to the benefit of all. I know she would like that, and I know she will be with me in my studio as I do.
I’m going to take a few days off now. I am in good hands. See you in a while. In the meantime, read about Kelly and look at plenty of sketches and photos.
The music I was listening to this morning…
It brings the moments back as I listen to it now. I named the post for the lyrics of the first piece listed here. Surely all things will flourish where Kelly turns her green eyes.
Where’er you walk, aria from Semele, George Friedrich Handel (the version I enjoy is an instrumental, this is a well-done trumpet solo)
Where’er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade;
Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade.
Where’er you tread, the blushing flow’rs shall rise,
And all things flourish where’er you turn your eyes.
Arabesque No. 1, Claude Debussy
Pavane and Gigue, William Byrd, orchestral arrangement by Leopold Stokowski
Ave Verum Corpus, Gabriel Fauré
Kegelstatt Trio: 3rd movement, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters Tuesday: Rescue Stories Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork Thursday: New Merchandise Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!