Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mixed blessings

This Christmas, while a wonderful time spent with family, has been marked with a big black spot that's going to cause me a great deal of pain in the coming weeks.

The family cat, Lock, has several malignant tumors all over his skin. The first two were found 3 years ago on his ear, and were taken off. Another was found on his stomach earlier this year and was taken off. Since the last one was taken off, 7 or 8 more have been found all over his skin.

Lock has stopped eating, started throwing up at least once a day, and has lost a lot of weight. The veterinarian says that he should probably be put to sleep, because he is most likely in absolute misery. I keep asking Mom to get a second opinion, but nothing can be done.

I have to explain why this is more than just my mom's cat to me.

In 1997, my stepdad, Steve, worked for the phone company on the Westbank in New Orleans. One day in the hot, steamy July weather, he was knocking on a customer's door when he saw something moving in the bushes. Upon closer inspection, he realized that it was a Ziploc bag with 2 kittens inside. One of the kittens pressed its face against the side of the bag and meowed. My stepfather, normally the most laid back man you'll ever meet, started pounding on the door and, when the customer opened the door, asked with blind fury if "this" (holding up the bag) belonged to him. The customer, wide-eyed, insisted that it was indeed NOT. They walked up and down the street together with the kittens and couldn't find the owner (of course, chicken piece of crap that he/she was). Steve called home and said "Well, I'm coming home, and I'm bringing Zip and Lock with me." The names stuck.

Mom and I went to the pet store to see what we'd need. Steve said that the kittens were so young that their eyes hadn't even opened yet, and the person working at the pet store showed us everything we would probably need, told us how to "stimulate urine and fecal production," told us how to bottle feed, et cetera. This was just to hold us over until we got to the vet the next day. When Steve got home, we all took turns trying to feed them. Zip took to the bottle pretty well, Lock had to be coerced. Steve gave them baths, and we were holding them in towels after the baths and we kept having to blow in their faces to see if they were still alive. Imagine a 2 week old kitten wrapped up in a big towel. They must have felt secure, because they slept pretty soundly. I stayed up until 2 in the morning to give them their middle of the night feeding, Steve was up at 6 to give them their morning feeding. This lasted for a few weeks. We must have fed them from the bottle until they were 8 weeks - they were so spoiled. We loved it.

Then there was the "stimulation." A mother cat licks her kittens' areas to basically remind them that those are the muscles they should use to eliminate. The vet told us to do the same thing with a warm, wet rag. So we'd follow the cats around periodically wiping them and they didn't go for a day. Mom was doing the stimulation at one point and all of a sudden, Lock peed all over her. Well, it was a free-for-all, because that's when Zip decided to let her first one go too. A couple days later, we had our first poop. It was about 1 in the morning, Mom and I were staying up with the kittens, and we started following them around to stimulate. Zip started meowing kinda loudly and BAM! A poop! Mom and I were SO excited. We started only stimulating them over the litterbox, and they got the point pretty quickly.

They are the most beautiful cats. Mom insists that they are Maine Coons, but I'm not sure. They're mostly white, with a couple of light gray spots all over, and they have really long hair and huge fluffy tails. Zip is the perfect cat - she could do calendars. Lock unfortunately never grew his left eye in - the vet said it was likely caused by infection from the bag - but he's still absolutely gorgeous. He used to lay on his back next to my stepdad every single night in his recliner and snooze, and when he was ready to move, he'd put his arm out and Steve would pick him up by the arm so he could get out of the chair. And such a loving cat - you've never seen a sweeter cat in your life. You could pick him up and lay him over your shoulder and pet him and he'd just purr and purr. He's one of the only cats I've ever seen that will let you kiss him on the face whenever YOU want, not whenever he's in the mood like other cats. He was always in the mood for some lovin'.

I hope you can understand why I love this cat so much and why it's going to just kill me inside when he's put to sleep. It's going to hurt me as much as when my own cats die. That's partially why I'm doing this semi-eulogy now - I don't think I'll be able to talk about it then.

I spent a lot of time with Lock on Christmas night after everyone else went to bed. I pet him for about a half an hour and cried hard, just as I'm doing now, because I knew that was the last time I'll see him alive. He doesn't purr very often anymore, but I hope he was happy. I hate so much to see him sick, and I'm going to miss him so much.

Please say a prayer for me and my family as we lose a very much loved member of our family this week. Thank you.


Stacey said...

I should post something good though... The family dog, Gus, was diagnosed with a thyroid problem a couple of weeks ago and has lost 17 pounds (which is a GOOD thing, he was getting REALLY fat) and is much closer to acting like a 6 year old dog instead of a 10 year old dog. He even chased us down the driveway the other day, something he hasn't done in nearly a year. This is a blessing.

Waterfall said...

I'm so sorry about Lock. :-( It's so hard to lose a kitty that you've loved and raised since it was a kitten. When our cat's kittens started dying (her milk was poisoned or something), we had to do everything we could to save them. They all died except for one, and it was always our special little kitty because he (and we) had worked so hard for his little life.

So, I know a little of what you're going through, and I'm so sorry y'all are going to lose him. :-((((

'Becca said...

Poor kitty! I rescued a kitten that was abandoned and hit by a car when I was about 6 years old. Named him BJ. He limped something fierce and always had health problems. I loved him to death, but after a couple of years, we had to put him to sleep. I'm glad you guys gave Lock such a good home and so much lovin' (the story is heartwarming). He's a lucky guy.

All my best to you and your family.

Christine said...

I LOVE your story. My mom found a newborn kitten a few years back - a very similar situation. No one would own up to it. So, we brought it home and fed with a dropper and had to do all of the elimination training, etc.

Sadly, we had to quickly find someone else to take over, as I am extremely allergic to cats. I was so sick while we had him with us. Thankfullly, we have a slew of animal lovers at church, and someone graciously stepped in and still has him.

I'm sorry for your loss.