Thursday 28 September 2023

The Cat We Said Goodbye To | Dussy. 2007(?) - 2023

This house doesn't feel the same anymore.

Sunday, September 10th*

 (*These underlined dates represent when I actually wrote portions of this post, rather than being a timeline of events. The events took place over a six day period, between September 6th and the 12th.)

I had planned a normal post like the ones before this one. However, our older cat, Dussy, who was diagnosed with kidney issues three years ago is now at end-stage kidney failure, or very close to it, as far as I can tell. I wrote about this diagnosis back in September 2020. 

Back then, the vet had said; "Well, she could last six to twelve months or she could go as long as two to three years."

Sure enough, here we are, three years later and Madame D has spent much time asleep this week and has gone off her food. We've been keeping her hydrated and have fed her small amounts here and there. She's been on a prescription diet these past few years and has never been a real fan of the stuff that she's had to eat. 
As we fear that she's nearing her end - man, it's difficult to write that line - we feel that she may as well eat a few things that she'd actually enjoy. 
I've been carrying her to her water bowl and placing her down in front of it. She has quite a thirst, which is a symptom of this ailment. She's much, much lighter than she used to be, and I can feel every ridge along her spine when I stroke her back.
Added to this condition, she has, in recent months,  also developed Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures, which causes her to flinch if she hears noises of a certain pitch. This can be anything from scrunching up aluminium foil to jingling of car keys.
This is a condition that cats can develop once they get to around fifteen years of age.  

My son has said that he's seen her have two seizures, where she collapsed to the floor and began to salivate for a few minutes. It happened a third time, late on Wednesday night, while my son was on the PlayStation. Once this passed, we brought her into the bedroom and she slept on the end of the bed with a blanket over her. And then it dawned on me that it was the clicking of the PlayStation controller's buttons that most likely were the cause of her three seizures, since they have only occurred when she's been in the lounge room while my son was gaming.   

We've all been feeling down since her condition deteriorated so quickly in the last four days, but my wife reminded me that this is a sixteen year-old cat, after all, and one that has led a good life since she turned up on our (neighbour's) doorstep 14 years ago. She has been well-loved and taken care of. Even our other cat, Bowie, has stepped up to help by lying down against her to keep her warm. Granted, he also gets warm as a result, but there was a time not so long ago when you could barely get these two cats within a few feet of each other, let alone sitting together. 
We have a vet appointment scheduled for both cats tomorrow evening, as they are due for some shots, but it looks like the consultation will divert to discussion regarding ensuring Dussy's comfort and, if it comes down to it, the right time to send her off if she's in too much pain or distress.  
Looking back now as I write this sentence (Friday, 15th), I realise that I wasn't truly prepared for the reality of what would come next.
Monday, September 11th

Once my wife and I got home from work, we got the two cats ready for the trip to the vet. Our daughter was coming with us. We soon got into my car and made our way sedately to the vet clinic twenty minutes away. 
Once we got there, the vet dealt with Bowie first, since his consultation was straightforward. He weighs 4.77 kilos, a healthy number in the range between 4.5 and five kilos. 
Attention then turned to Dussy. The vet weighed her and told us that the cat has lost 600 grams since her last visit.  She checked her eyes with a penlight. The cat's pupils did not dilate. 
Prognosis; the last seizure would appear to have caused some neurological damage and may have affected Madame's eyesight. 
The vet felt Dussy's midsection. She feels constipated, she remarked. 
Madame had not had a bowel movement for a few days. 
The vet said there might be a few courses of action we could try, but none of these would prolong this cat's life much longer and, more importantly, they would cause her distress.  
This cat was close to the end of it's time.
The vet went on to say that she didn't think it would be wise to wait a few more days. I was asking logical questions, making sensible statements, etc. I didn't want to leave it too late, to the point where it might be 2:00am one night and this cat is in pain or distress. 
My wife and daughter felt the same. The vet told us that she had no appointments booked for the following afternoon at 3:20pm. We made the arrangements and left. 
The ride home was sombre. I was, however, most concerned with giving this beloved pet a painless send-off.
We got the two cats home and gave Dussy a small teaspoon of vanilla ice-cream.

Tuesday, September 12th
I got up a little earlier that morning and went to the kitchen. I flicked on the coffee machine and then grabbed the egg carton out of the pantry and cracked one open. I transferred the yolk from one hand to the other, letting the egg-white slip through my fingers before spooning a small amount of the yolk into Dussy's bowl. 
I went and got her off our bed and brought her to her bowl. She gingerly sniffed at the egg before her tongue darted out to eat it. 
I offered her some water afterwards, and then brought her to her litter tray. After that, I put her on a cushion in the lounge, next to a window in the early morning sun.
Then I took a shower before my wife got up. 
Made an espresso, kissed my wife and Have a  good day, hon, then headed to the train station.

I left work at around 1:00pm and made my way home. The kids had kept Madame comfortable. There was her favourite blanket splayed out on the floor near the window in our bedroom and the sunlight shone through.  
I lay down next to her and stroked her head. She hasn't purred for a week now. I held one of her paws, feeling the pads underneath, hoping that she'd recognise that it was me doing this. Hoping that she remembered the sound of my voice or my scent.
It was now beginning to dawn on me. I had less than a couple of hours left with her.

My wife and I would often take a walk after dinner. It might be a short ten-minute stroll around the block or it might be a longer walk around the neighbourhood and we'd be gone about 40 minutes or so.  Dussy would follow us out the front door. We'd walk down our drive-way and Madame would be right behind us. As we'd cross the road in our street - it's a court. One way in or out - Duss would walk a little into the road and then stop. As we got to the end of the street, my wife and I would turn to look behind us and Madame would be standing there, like a sentinel. 

We would get back from the walk and the cat would be at the edge of our driveway. She'd see us and slowly slink her way towards us, out onto the road. As we walked past her, she'd turn and follow us back up the driveway. Unless my wife or I picked her up first. 

Left- March 2009 - the day she landed on our doorstep. A Chocolate-Point Burmese. Not the kind of breed that winds up as a stray. Even the vet that first checked her out was surprised. 

I opened up a can of tuna for her on that day. She became my shadow after that. My family has often commented on how she would choose my lap to sit in at any given time. We'd be sitting in the lounge room watching TV and Madame would make a bee-line for me and hop onto my thighs.

I kept patting her while she lay in the sun. I was starting to feel awful. Lost. The kids were both home and they told me that she'd spent most of the day asleep. I got her a little more vanilla ice-cream on a saucer. I knew this would most likely be her last meal. Afterwards, I carried her to her water bowl. She wasn't interested. 
I smiled and said to her; Good girl. Better to have the taste of vanilla on your palate instead of water. I brought her to her litter tray. Nothing. So, back to her blanket she went. 
My wife got home from work, we got Duss into her carry basket and headed for the veterinary clinic. I took a glance at my wife in the rear-view mirror while I drove. She was crying.  
We got to the clinic and were led into one of the suites. The examination table had a plush furry blanket laid across it, the ceiling lights were off and the room was illuminated by a soft glow from a wall lamp.
The vet came in and explained the procedure. She would place a catheter in Dussy's foreleg. Then, the cat would receive a large dose of anaesthetic, effectively an overdose. It would be quick, given Madam's age and frail state. That's all I hoped for, as my eyes welled up. 
Take as long as you need with her,  said the vet before leaving us in the room. We all held onto Dussy for a while. My wife asked if I wanted to hold her while it was done.  
I said 'no'. I couldn't bear that. I'd prefer to hold one of her paws, to let her know I was there. This cat has been my shadow for the last 14 years. I was the sucker who gave her some tuna when she first appeared and she seems to have preferred my lap over those of the other family members.
Okay, I'm gonna stop here for now. 

Sunday, September 17th

The vet returned to the room and asked if we were ready for Dussy to have the catheter inserted. She reminded us that we could have more time if we wanted. I was definitely not in a rush for this procedure to be underway, but I didn't want to prolong the goodbye. Can you tell how my head was in two places?
My son was holding Dussy and he gently passed her over to the vet, who took her into another room to fit the catheter.

This cat has never really had one name. When we first decided to keep her, she was called 'Latté', due to her two-tone shades of brown. Until my wife and I realised how pretentious that sounded. Then we switched her name to 'Wispy', on account of how her tail would sway and curl when she stood, like a thin plume of smoke. 
At some point after that, her name changed to 'Dussy'. This seems to be the one that stuck, more or less. My wife and daughter called her 'Bubble'. My daughter also called her 'Peanut', again probably to do with her colouring, and she also inexplicably called her 'Sticky Chicken' on a regular basis. Oh, and 'Goodjibubble'. Although, that name didn't stick, thank God.
And I sometimes called her 'Monkey' or 'Kangaroo'', to get a rise out of her. Didn't work.  
At any rate, if she had a passport, I'm sure it would list her as Madame Wispola Dusenberg. 
A few minutes later, the vet brought our beloved cat back into the room and placed her gingerly onto the blanket. I saw the catheter on her right foreleg, held in place by a strip of blue bandage. I held her left paw and gave the pad a gentle rub as my heart-rate increased a little. 
This was going to happen momentarily. 
I asked my daughter to hold Madame, if she wanted to. Are you sure?, she asked me as tears welled in her eyes. 
I was sure. I knew I wouldn't be able to bear it. 
And, more importantly, I wanted my daughter to have this closeness with this cat. Remember how I said up above that this cat would always seek out my lap to sit in? Well, sometimes, she would choose my wife's lap or my son's lap. Never my daughter's lap. 
This went on for years. From 2009, when she first arrived, till sometime in 2016, when I came home from work to find my daughter, big smile on her face, sitting on the couch with her feet perched on the ottoman, and Madame curled up in her lap. This was an historic event. 
My daughter was seven years old when this cat arrived. Dussy finally sat in her lap when she was 14. 
My daughter waited half a lifetime. 

I recall one year where we were having Sunday lunch. It was my birthday and we had finished eating and I had received and unwrapped my gifts and read the birthday cards that my kids had made for me.
It was a warm Summer's day. The front door was open, with a cool breeze blowing in through the screen door. Our dining area was right near the front porch. My wife glanced at the door. Dussy was standing outside on the front door-mat.
She's got something in her mouth, said my wife as she got up from the table and headed for the door. She opened it and Madame walked in with a bird in her mouth. The cat took a few steps into the dining area and then placed the bird on the floor.
On my birthday.
It was some black bird, with a thin yellow stripe across each wing. Very exotic. I'd never seen one like it, before or since. Probably the last of its species!
Dussy hadn't wrapped it, of course, but it was the thought that counted.

My wife asked our son if he wanted to nurse Dussy one more time. He declined. She then wrapped Dussy in her favourite blanket and put her into my daughter's arms. I stroked this cat across her brow and between her ears. 
The vet once again offered us more time, but we looked at each other, making an agreement with small nods. 
It was time. Logic reminded me of this, even though my heart wanted to back out of this procedure. 
Monday, September 18th
My daughter held Dussy up a little higher, cradled in her arms like a baby. I held our cat's left paw and gently stroked the pads. The vet took hold of the other paw and attached the syringe to the catheter. I watched her thumb push down on the plunger. She then removed the syringe from the catheter. I looked at Madame's beautiful face. A few seconds later, her tongue slowly poked out from her mouth and I seemed to see the light go out in her eyes. 
I turned away as the tears began to pour out of my eyes and took a step back and sat in one of the chairs against the wall of this tiny room. The vet approached and offered me some tissues. I took the box and said a tearful Thank-you to her.
My head flooded with various thoughts; 
- This was it, there was no way to turn it all back. It was done. 
- I felt a little distraught at seeing her like that, with her pink tongue protruding from her mouth. I didn't want her to look silly or comical in her last moments. My daughter and wife told me later that the tongue retracted while I was sitting in the chair. It was a reflexive action, as Dussy's whole body let go. 
The vet held a stethoscope to Madame's chest. We were quiet. A few seconds later, she nodded. 
Madame was gone. I was grateful to the Gods that it had only taken three seconds or so. 
My daughter asked if I wanted to hold her. I nodded and she passed our cat over to me. I was nervous as I took her in my arms. I didn't want to see her head loll to the side. I wanted to pretend that she was sleeping. I wanted a little time to accept the fact that she was gone. 
I held her in the crook of my arm and stroked the side of her face. I held her paw again for a while. I stroked the top of her head. 
Her body made a sound as a held her. Air was expelled from her lungs. I worried a little right then, not wanting to think that she was in some pain or distress. The vet explained that it was a chemical reaction to the injection.
She told us to take as long as we needed to say goodbye. I have to say that she's been a wonderful vet. She'd said I'm sorry to us more times than she had to, and she shed a few tears herself.  She has dealt with this cat on numerous occasions and always had nice things to say about her. Oh, she's a grand old girl, she remarked a few times, with her lilting Irish accent. 
She has one of those Gaelic names, easy to pronounce, but impossible to spell.
She and my wife left the room for a while. My wife wanted to pay for the procedure and she wanted to make arrangements for the body. 
We had discussed this the day before. Did I want to bury her in the backyard garden?
No. We wouldn't stay at this address forever. 
The decision was made to have her cremated instead, and we would keep her ashes in an urn at home. They would be ready in a couple of weeks.
I held on to her a little while longer, stroking the side of her face. I asked the kids if they were okay. They were feeling a little better. 
I'm not sure how much longer I sat there, holding on to her. Might have been fifteen minutes. I held her paw again and noticed it was feeling colder now. 
My wife came back in and we laid Dussy out on her blanket and wrapped her in it slightly. My wife placed a small handful of freesias between Dussy's paws. She had taken them from our garden before we left the house earlier. 
My daughter took a couple of photos of Madame as she lay there. I took one as well. She looked peaceful and I was glad that her deteriorating health was at an end. It was very difficult seeing her slide so quickly over the last six days. It did indeed happen fast. 
I found the care label on the blanket that she was wrapped up in. It was a blanket from West Elm and the print on the care-tag had faded. I took out my pen and wrote on it; "Dussy 2007(?) - 2023. We love you". On the other side of the tag, I added; "ALIASES - WISPY - BUBBLE - PEANUT".
I leaned down to Dussy and whispered in her ear; "I love you. You were wonderful. Thank-you". And my eyes welled up again. I stroked her face one last time and kissed her cheek, where her whiskers were. My daughter wanted to say her goodbyes, so I didn't rush her. She spent another five minutes or so with her. I stood just outside the room, glancing back a couple of times. Feeling miserable for myself, but contented by the fact that Madame was now at rest. I didn't want to remember her the way she was in her final week. I wanted to remember her the way she looks in these photos.

We thanked the staff at the veterinary clinic. I made a mental note to write a card for the vet to thank her for her efforts. We left, got in the car and made our way home. 

Wednesday, September 27th

We didn't talk much on the way home. It was done, and I felt okay about having said my goodbyes to this cat. I pulled in to our driveway. We got out of the car and brought the now-empty cat carrier into the house. 
Day-to-day practicality returned shortly afterwards and my wife and I decided to head to our nearby ALDI to get stuff for dinner that evening. 
We soon filled the two shopping bags that we'd brought with us and we approached the ice-cream section in the frozen food aisle. We checked the freezer that usually stocks the Kapiti Nelson Boysenberry ice-creams. It was totally empty, a blank white refrigerated space. 
"Oh, it's a day of loss!", my wife exclaimed with a smile. 
"This is the worst day ever!", I replied, smiling back.
A little bit of black humour to take the pressure off the day's events. We had all been crying an hour or so earlier.


It's now just over two weeks since we said goodbye to this beloved cat. I wasn't firing on all cylinders at work for the rest of the week after we had Dussy put to rest on that Tuesday afternoon. Made a few out-of-character mistakes here and there, as I was still reeling from it all.

As I said at the beginning, this house doesn't feel the same anymore. I get home from work and I don't see Duss curled up on a corner of the couch, punctuating the furniture or floor-space in one room or another. 
I've sat down to watch TV and she hasn't leaped up onto my lap. 
We have our younger cat, Bowie, and hes also a Burmese, but he's of a different temperament to her. He walked around a little distracted for the first few days after Duss had gone. I think it's truly dawned on him that she's no longer around. We've been keeping a closer eye on him and he seems to be okay. He comes and goes as he pleases. He even sits on the couch when we're watching TV, which is something that he never did. 

Last weekend, my wife visited the vet clinic to bring in some chocolates that we'd bought, along with a note of thanks from us both to the vet who carried out the procedure. Unbeknownst to me, she was also visiting the vet clinic to collect Madame Dussy's ashes. 
She brought them home in a little cloth draw-string pouch, along with a card from the vet. The ashes themselves were contained in a small plastic Zip-Loc bag. Hardly dignified, but practical. The vet had told us that this is how the pet crematorium packages them. They call it a 'scatter-bag', as some folks like to distribute the ashes in a special or meaningful location. 
I held the plastic bag in the palm of my hand. It was smaller than a cake of soap. I put it back in the draw-string pouch and held on to it a few minutes. My wife would organise a small urn to put them in.
It was good to have Madame back home. And I thank the Gods for sending her to us all those years ago. I'll miss her always, but I'm glad to have had her for the time that I did.
She was a source of affection, frustration (at times), friendship, amusement, concern, and above all, love for all of us in this family. 

 Thanks for reading.