Shorty – year five

It’s been five years since we adopted you, and it just doesn’t seem that long. Even though we got you when you were already a year old and as “big” as you were going to get, I still think of you as a puppy. I’m so happy that you’ll always remain a teensy, tiny, short little dog.

We hoped your fear/aggression toward adults (men in particular) would eventually go away, but it hasn’t. And that’s on us. This fall, we’re going to hire a dog trainer to hopefully help you get past your fear of letting other people visit our home. Hopefully, this will also mean that men can come up to you in the park. The good news is that you love kids. Whenever we walk in the park, children sprint up to you and ask permission to pet you, and you never bark. You sit patiently as they pet your head or stroke your ears or try to uncurl your tail, and you don’t even blink when they dissolve into shrieking giggles after discovering your name.

You learned a few more tricks this year, but I think after we conquer the “no barking at people” behavior, you’ll be ready to tackle some more complicated tasks. You’re a smart boy, and I love to watch you follow commands, even if that command is for you to “shake” seven times in a row just to see if you’re paying attention.

When we play fetch with you, you take turns returning the ball to us. So if Jason throws it, you’ll bring it to me to throw next and vice versa. It’s like you’re making sure we get the same amount of attention from you, and it’s pretty much the cutest thing ever.

You play with Jason and I differently, though. With him, you wrestle or jump on his back, but with me, you chase after your ball and come racing full-tilt to jump into my lap, usually knocking me backwards. Last month, you decided mid-leap to jump over me instead of into my lap, and your leg collided with my mouth. For a few tense moments, I was afraid you had knocked my teeth out. Instead, I had a cut, puffy lip that needed to be iced for an hour before the swelling came down.

We bought you a purple rubber ball with spikes on it, and you hate this ball. Absolutely hate it. I don’t know if you don’t like the feel of it or you don’t care for the way it crazily bounces instead of rolls, but you get angry at the sight of it. If we try to throw it for you to chase, you’ll briefly run after it before realizing WRONG BALL WRONG BALL HATE THIS BALL NO. Then you’ll come running back to your toy basket, upend it with a paw, root around for a stuffed animal to grab and shake to show us the depth of your displeasure, and then grab a tennis ball to drop into our lap, as if saying, RIGHT BALL USE THIS BALL NO OTHER PURPLE BALL NOT A BALL PURPLE BALL STUPID HATE PURPLE BALL.

You still run downstairs to hide when we turn on the stove or grab a pan, but we’ve been trying to coax you into staying upstairs while we cook. You always seem to know when we’re just microwaving something or making a sandwich though, because you hang out right by the counter hoping to snag a piece of cheese or a swipe of peanut butter.

If we get home late after a Twins game, you’re usually reluctant to go back into your kennel after being outside. You often refuse to come in right away, and as soon as you’re inside, you sprint to our bed, where you’re only allowed to sleep on weekends. Once we shoo you off, you sprint to the futon and hop on that. You only go to your kennel after we’ve cuddled and sang your goodnight song. Every time I sing it, your eyes get droopy and 99% of the time, you yawn halfway through it. That Pavlov guy really knew what he was talking about, and I’m so happy we started singing that song to you at bedtime because it really does calm you down.

You love to sleep with us on the weekends, and usually seem to know when it’s Friday or Saturday. When I bring you inside before bed, I’ll ask, “Where are you sleeping tonight?” and all we can hear is your paws scrabbling to get traction on the hardwood floor because you’re in such a hurry to jump up on our bed.

You are still a nester. So much so that your middle name is now Nestor. We debated getting you a fleece pad to put into your kennel, but you prefer having a blanket to nose into various configurations. You also use this technique on our bed, and what amazes us is how neat you are about it. We can never catch you in the act; we only see the end result.

My favorite parts of the day are cuddling with you upstairs while reading or sitting on the couch at night with you in my lap. Sometimes you’ll twitch while sleeping or start wagging your tail in your sleep and I always wonder what you’re thinking about. I told Jason this week that if I ever get to travel in a time machine, I’d like to go back and find you as a puppy. I bet you were the teensiest, wrinkliest, cutest puppy ever.

We love you, buddy. You are such a good boy.


Moving on

Thank you so much for all of the kind words about Abby. A few days after it happened, I could barely tell people about it, but now nearly two weeks removed, it seems like it happened years ago. That’s the good/bad thing about life, I guess. It doesn’t let you grieve for long. I will miss her forever, though.

Thinking back, it’s so weird the amount of extra time that we added into our schedule for Abby. Feeding the cats used to be a Herculean, time-consuming task that required adding multiple medicines to Abby’s food, mixing it up and standing right next to her until she ate it (often requiring me to offer the food multiple times before Her Fussiness ate it), all the while keeping Sunny at bay with an outstretched foot because that sneaky cat bastard would purposely wait until I turned my back to jam her greedy little paw into Abby’s bowl and pull it toward her own overfed maw. Multiply this times four (Sunny only got fed three times a day because she is portly, so no “second breakfast” for her) and that’s a good hour a day we spent feeding Abby.

Now, feeding Sunny requires dumping some food into a bowl, walking away to refill her water dish, and then turning around to find her begging for food again, a scam I have almost bought into multiple times, doing the whole, “Did I feed her or not?” routine before catching myself.

It’s also much quieter around here. Much, much quieter. Abby was part Siamese and part obnoxiously chatty, so the lack of howling and caterwauling feels especially odd. We do get to sleep in until the alarm goes off though, which feels like a luxury. We joke that wherever Abby is now, she’s keeping everyone awake (plus, she’s probably hopped up on catnip and making out with the furniture, her typical response to catnip exposure).

A few people have asked how the other pets are doing, and I have to say I think Sunny knows what happened. The day we came home to find Abby, Sunny was abnormally quiet. She followed us into the bathroom where Abby laid, and then immediately high-tailed it out of there. She then saw us leave with Abby … and return with no Abby.

And, last week, we had to attend another wedding, so we boarded Shorty. Sunny saw us leave with Shorty … and return with no Shorty. You could almost see her tiny brain churning with fearful thoughts, which is why whenever we make a move toward the door, she bolts to hide on the top of the kitchen cabinets. It’s a very good thing she doesn’t have to go to the vet for another year, because I can only imagine how fun that drive would be.

Luckily, Shorty and Sunny (AKA the Orange Pet Brigade) get along famously. Based on the recent discovery of cat hair on the futon in Shorty’s room, Sunny must hang out in there when he’s in his crate to keep him company. And it seems that Shorty enjoys Sunny’s company as well, unless this happens:

Can I get a little help here, guys?

So we’re all adjusting and doing well.

Schrodinger’s cat

Abby is gone. We had to say goodbye on May 26th and it was the hardest, yet easiest, decision we’ve ever made.

The older Abby got, the more I wondered how we’d make the decision when the time came. Would there be a slow decline? Would we have to ask the vet’s opinion on whether or not it was time? Turns out, it was much faster and gentler than I thought.

On the Thursday before Memorial Day, I took both cats to the vet for their annual exam. That morning, Abby had refused to eat her dry food, but ate some wet food just fine. I mentioned it to the vet and he checked her teeth to make sure there weren’t any issues. All seemed fine. He said we’d just have to see if her test results revealed anything. That evening, she didn’t really want to eat, but finally did.

On Friday, we left to go to my brother’s wedding, but had a pet sitter coming twice a day, so we knew Abby was in good hands. The pet sitter kept us updated throughout the weekend; each day, Abby was eating less and less and starting to have trouble with her balance.

At one point, I tearfully told Jason, “I hope she makes it until we get home.” He assured me she would.

On Sunday morning, the pet sitter reported that Abby didn’t eat at all and was having trouble walking. We got home at 2:30 and immediately searched for her. Jason found her in the bathroom, lying on her side on the bathmat. She looked dead. I immediately burst into tears and said, “Oh, Abby!” She raised her head and looked at us and tried to stand. She couldn’t. She had no strength in her back legs. I sat down next to her, sobbing, and started petting her.

“She won’t make it another hour,” I told Jason.

He stood watching us for a second before asking quietly, “What do you want to do?”

In that moment, I knew. I said, “It’s time.”

He left us alone and went to call our vet (who was closed). He called the after-hours emergency number and got some information. Meanwhile, I scrolled through my phone to find the number of the emergency vet I had programmed into it after Abby’s health scare a year ago. Jason and I compared notes and decided to take her to the vet closest to our house.

We each took turns alone with Abby, saying our goodbyes. I told her what a great cat she was and kissed her head countless times. I called her by her nickname, bambino, and told her, “If you need to go, it’s OK.” Then I cried like I’ve never cried before, great big heaving sobs. I couldn’t believe that after 16½ years of seeing this cat nearly every single day, she was going to be gone.

As we got into the car, Abby carefully cradled into my lap, I said, “It feels like everything is happening so fast.” But we didn’t want her to spend another minute like she was, struggling to stand, unable to even meow.

We pulled into the emergency vet parking lot. The staff there was wonderful. As soon as they saw us in the lobby, they ushered us into a room so we wouldn’t have to wait, sobbing, in the waiting room. They offered their condolences and quietly explained the process: they’d need to take Abby out of the room to insert a catheter, but they’d bring her right back. They asked if we wanted to be present (yes), and had us fill out all the paperwork and pay so when everything was said and done, we could leave quietly.

After a few minutes, they brought Abby back in and said the vet would be along shortly. They had carefully wrapped Abby in a green fleece blanket. She looked so tiny. We got a few more minutes to say additional goodbyes, kiss her head for the hundredth time and pet her silky fur. Then the vet came in, expressed how sorry she was, and stroked Abby’s head. She explained the process: she would insert the solution into Abby’s catheter, and that would be that. She warned that there might be some twitching or urinating, but there was none of that. I stroked Abby’s side while Jason petted her head, and we both watched her eyes. I didn’t see anything. Not a twitch, not a blink, nothing. I even had to ask, “Is she gone?” And the vet said, “I’ll confirm by listening for a heartbeat, but yes.” It was entirely peaceful. I’m so grateful for that.

But the thing I’m most grateful for is that Abby waited. She waited for us to get home so we could say goodbye.

Goodbye, old friend.

I know we’ll meet again, and I know you’ll recognize me, but just in case, I’m bringing along the one thing I couldn’t bear to throw away:

Lending an ear

No, no, I’m totally listening to you talk about your stressful week. Continue, please. And massage my ear while you talk; it helps me listen better.