Thursday, January 10, 2013

I don't want a goldfish

I'm not the only one who's been sick, and I'm not just talking about what's going around this winter (although that is making me nervous, see an article from today's NYTimes for some more details).

I don't think I'd mentioned this before -- I think I had been planning on it, but never got around to it.  A little over a year ago, sometime between Christmas and New Year's 2011, Dirk's health suddenly nosedived, he was very lethargic, and barely eating and drinking.  We took him to the vet, and found out that he had chronic kidney failure.  He was near death at the time, and they thought that even if he recovered, he had perhaps 6 months left to live.  Thankfully, he managed to pull through that episode much better than expected.  For the past year he'd been doing pretty good, and having what appeared to be a satisfying life.  We had to give him special food (trying to keep both Dirk and Selena's different special foods separate and each going only to the appropriate cat was somewhat of a challenge), and we had to regularly give him injections of subcutaneous fluid (originally every day, later we backed off to every other day).  But things were going well, and Dirk was starting to tolerate Dylan's company much better.  In fact, sometime in December, Dirk started sleeping in Dylan's crib, which made Dylan quite happy.  Although sometimes Dylan was a little annoying and unrealisitc in his demands.  Like when he was supposed to be sleeping and was instead complaining and I came in to check on him and he was sitting up in his crib pointing to his lap and demanding, "Dirk! Lap!"  Anyway, perhaps I was a bit delusional thinking that this could all go on indefinitely.

Almost exactly a year after the 2011 episode, Dirk's health took another sudden downturn, and he was again barely eating and drinking, and had noticeably lost weight.  We took him to the vet on the 31st of December.  He was once again having serious kidney issues, but it was worse than that.  Besides wanting to hospitalize him and treat him for that, they were talking about a blood transfusion, and he had developed ulcers in his mouth, and even if we were to bring him back from the brink again, it was only a matter of time before this happened again, and this time it was less likely to be 12 months in the future.  I very much wanted to do something to help him -- but Lorien was the voice of reason, cautioning me about us going too far down the path of what turns out to be a hopefuless situation.  I didn't want to do that, and we've seen other people do it with their pets, but it can be hard to decide when is the right time to let go -- I don't think it's usually obvious except in retrospect.  And I was feeling kind of karmically guilty about the whole situation.  After all, I'm also battling a life threatening illness, and I don't think I'd appreciate someone giving up on me just quite yet.  But it's not the same; as Lorien pointed out that I have much better odds, and I'm obviously capable of communicating about my illness that Dirk isn't.  If we weren't going to do anything to save him, I really wanted to be able to just bring him home and give him palliative care and let him live out the rest of his life in peace.  But the hard truth is that were really just weren't equipped to be able to do that.

In the end, we made the difficult decision to put Dirk to sleep that day, while he was at the vet.  We tried to get Dylan to say goodbye, but he wasn't really able to grasp the reality of the situation.  A few times since he's made reference to Dirk's blanket (in his bed), or said other things about Dirk, and we've simply explained to him that Dirk was sick and Dirk isn't coming back, and he seems to be willing to accept that.

I had been originally thinking about blogging about this later that day, but I felt I needed a little time to just chill and decompress.  Then by the next day I was sick, and by the day after that I was in the hospital.  Which put this a little bit on the back burner.  On the positive side, having a 102F fever does wonders to take your mind off of the guilt you're feeling about putting your cat to sleep.

Dirk will be missed.  I believe that he enjoyed himself in life, and he was certainly a bit of a fixture in the neighborhood, greeting all sorts of passers by from the sidewalk.  He would have been 13 in February.

Dirk is survived by Selena, who is almost 17.  Maybe Dylan will some day be gentle enough to her that she trusts him enough to sit on his lap.

[Probably only 1 or maybe 2 of my readers will get the title reference.  Hint, it's from a song.]


Judy said...

May Dirk rest in peace.

Scott Spielman said...

We'll miss you Dirk!! The flirty cat!! Great photo Montage! you don't want a Goldfish...hmmm...gee...what could you want? How about a goldfish? Oh you don't want a goldfish...wait what's? You want a dog??!!

John Greene said...

He was a great cat. Awesome photos.