Sunday, December 25, 2011

Another Death in the Family

The last 2 years have taken a toll on me and my furry family.  I began 2010 in the hospital due to a cat bite on my foot.  The day after Christmas 2009 I stepped on Claudia in the dark.  She retaliated – naturally – by biting me.  Due to my diabetes, my doctor was concerned that it could develop into something serious, so on New Year’s Day as the redness spread, I checked myself into the hospital.  After lots of antibiotics, I went home in about a week. 

On February 25th, the day after my 60th birthday, I put Clark to sleep.  Less than a month later, on March 19th, I put Charlotte to sleep.  A few months later, on July 30th, I put Cammie to sleep.  I was concerned about Charlie as the year was winding down.  He was eating plenty but was losing weight.  The vet couldn’t find anything in his blood work to determine what ailed him.  Then on December 10th, when I went into the cat room to clean litter boxes and feed, I found Chase’s body. 

In between Cammie’s and Chase’s deaths, I spent 23 days in the hospital for what began as an infected cyst in my right breast.  I developed necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating bacteria) and had 4 surgeries to stop the infection from spreading.  I ended up losing half my right breast and all but a small area of the skin.  Once released, I returned to the hospital daily for treatments in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber.  That lasted into early 2011.  I had a skin graft, which removed a large area of skin from my right thigh.  Most of the graft took, leaving a small area with exposed tissue.  I had 13 derma grafts to encourage skin growth.  The area finally closed up and I was released by the doctor in May or June – memory fails me now.  My health had taken a back seat to my efforts to keep many cats alive.

Chaz was the first to go on February 12th, 2011.  About a month later, Colin unexpectedly took a turn for the worse and was euthanized on March 18th.  About 2 weeks later, Caleb, one of my three dogs, had a stroke and he was euthanized on April 2nd. 

Charlie & I struggled so hard to find out what was wrong with him and to get him better.  That fight ended on June 14th.  Less than 2 weeks later, Cissy succumbed to kidney failure and was euthanized on June 24th.  In the midst of the treating Charlie and Cissy, Claudia was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and went blind.  She was doing well on her meds, but developed stones in her bladder and blood in her urine.  Treatment failed to help her and she was in no shape for surgery.  She was put to sleep on November 14th.  Colt went to the vet in September due to a sore area in his mouth.  It was an eosiniphilic granuloma, and a shot of depoprovera cleared it up.  I was concerned about the fact that I could hear him breathing.  It wasn’t loud, but I knew it wasn’t normal.  The vet examined him and couldn’t hear anything.  He was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism as well.  He took his pills well, but by late November he had stopped eating canned food.  I tried baked chicken and baby food, but I couldn’t get him to eat it.  I couldn’t find him Sunday night or Monday morning to give him his pills.  I was determined to find him Monday night, and I did.  I found him because I heard his loud breathing sounds.  I took him to the Veterinary Emergency Clinic, where he was x-rayed.  The x-rays showed problem areas in one of his lungs.  The following morning I took him to my regular vet and from there to Affiliated Veterinary Specialists.  I left him there and they had to take more x-rays.  Dr. Goodman was as concerned about his heart as his lungs.  However, when I returned she told me that both she and the radiologist concurred – Colt had lung cancer.  There weren’t tumors but bleeding within the lungs.  There was nothing that could be done for him, except to prolong his suffering by keeping him in an oxygen cage.  I chose to do what was best for him, although I wasn’t ready to let him go.  I took him back to The Cat Hospital and Dr. Gray put him to sleep.  That was on Tuesday, December 20th.  Colt was only 8 years old.  Chase, who I lost just before Christmas in 2010, was his sister.  Their mom, Bob, and their sister Chaka and brother Crockett are still with me. 

In between dealing with the illnesses and deaths of Claudia and Colt, Campbell had to have all his teeth removed and Courtney (Chaz & Charlie’s sister) spent 10 days at The Cat Hospital for an eye infection and respiratory problem.  Her respiratory problems have yet to be solved, but a tumor in her nasal passage has been ruled out.  Cordelia, my 13 year old pit bull mix, was diagnosed with lymphoma at the end of November.  She has responded to the prednisone, but the vet has given her 6 months at best. 

This year has been a very expensive one:  my vet bills have amounted to around $10,000.  I not only need to win the lottery but to get a magic wand to insure good health for the rest of my cats and dogs.  Cowboy, Crystal and Cho-sun are 5 years old and Cagney is just under a year old.  Everyone else is 8 years old or older.  So, 2012 is just around the corner.  I can only hope that it will be a much, much better and healthier year for all of us.  

Grief is, in my opinion, the most personal of human emotions.  It really isn't something that can be shared with others because the weight of the loss is ours, alone, to carry and learn to cope with.  And, it's complicated.  Memories of all the losses rear their ugly heads and add to the sadness.  No doubt reading this will stir memories in each of you for all those whom you have lost.  Death is a part of life and is something each of us will have to learn to deal with in our own ways.  While I truly hate making the decision to end the life of my dear cats and dogs, I am grateful that I have the option to end their suffering and not have to watch, helplessly, as they endure a prolonged and fatal illness.  Ultimately, it makes me grieve more for the millions of wonderful and healthy animals who are killed daily in so-called shelters around the world.  I continue to hold out hope that the needless killing will stop one day soon and only those who are suffering and have no chance to recover are those who are given respite through euthanasia.