Once again the forces that be have stalled my posting this week, just after I vowed to be more frequent for all our sakes. And again, at the last minute I am getting to this weeks "This is...". Angela has given us a freebie this week, allowing us to pick our own topic. Though a chosen topic would have occupied my mind, this actually allows me to get to what was going on this week, killing 2 birds with one stone. And away we go.
This is something special to me...
That right, Bertha, or my feline companion as she liked to be called. Doug got Bertha about 14 years ago. She is a Maine Coon mix. He picked her at the shelter because she was the only kitten that didn't fight for his affections, she just hung back chillin' in her cage. Early in Bertha's life she had some troubles, shelter cats often do. She had a hard time around other animals, something that lasted her whole life. *Below is a photo of Bertha as a kitten, along with the cat Magnetic poetry I gave Doug for Christmas.
One time there was a loud dog next door which stressed her out and scared her. As with many of us when we are under extreme stress, she lost control and attacked Doug and his then girlfriend, drawing blood. For several days they had to hop around the house in sleeping bags. They took her to the vet who put her on an anti psychotic/anxiety drug which helped calm her nerves. Doug's girlfriend wasn't convinced though, afraid it would happen again and wanted Doug to have her put down, which did not go over well with him at all. She was his baby. Although I am sure that wasn't the only reason, the girl left not too long after that and Doug and Bertha lived alone for several years until I came along.
She was very nervous around strangers and wouldn't allow them to touch her. Doug and she had an understanding with the touching but she let him know when she didn't want it. About a year before I moved in a few roommates and I adopted a grown cat. When we parted ways no one wanted her so I took her. When I moved in I had to give her to a cat loving friend because Bertha couldn't have other animals around her, plus Doug had had her 9 years and I had mine just under a year.
We got along ok because I left her alone. I never tried to touch her and gave her her space. It took 2 years for her to let me touch her. She was very specific about it though. For instance I would have to be on a certain couch under a certain blanket, laying down. She never got on our laps on the other couch, and never (until very recently) while we were sitting. Eventually the bed counted as well, but that took time. It was when I got sick and had to stop working about 3 years ago that we started to bond. Doug started noticing that she acted different when I wasn't feeling good or on my period. In fact, she knew sometimes before I did. She became very in tune with me and started training me. Soon we had all these funny routines.
She would either try to wake me up in the morning by sitting on my hip or wait at the end of the bed. When I woke up she would run and sit next to the bathroom, since that was my first stop. When I came out she would run next to her food and wait until I turned on the water, not before, then eat. Eventually every time we went to the bathroom she would be right outside so we could go into the kitchen with her. Sometimes, if I was too tired, I would just run the water, but she soon caught on to that. At least I was caught up on the dishes.
She became my best little buddy. She would sit next to me all day in one of her special boxes or blankets placed strategically all over the house. She was such a huge part of our lives. Doug's longest female relationship and my first long term pet/friend. I didn't grow up around animals so this was new to me. Doug and I called each other to different parts of the apartment all the time to look at how cute she was. Luckily, when I got my digital camera a 1 1/2 years ago I started taking tons of pictures of her. *Here she stayed long enough for a picture!
In the last 6 months I have been working with her to sit with me without a blanket and while sitting, bribing her with treats of course. We became even closer as she began to trust me enough to sit for even 5 min. at times, though mostly around 30-60 sec. I'll take what I can get!
A few months ago she started hacking/coughing a bit, like she was coughing up a hair ball but none would come. Then in the last few weeks she stopped many of our routines, laying around a lot more. She seemed ok though and we knew as she got older she would slow down(she turned 14 in April). Last Sunday we decided we should make an appointment to take her in to get a check up, just make sure everything was all right.
After Sunday she stopped eating though, making us nervous then Monday night I noticed she was struggling a bit to breathe. Tues. morning Doug woke me up early saying her breathing was worse and he would take the day off to take her to the vet. Still I didn't worry. I just felt we had more time with her. He was able to get her in in the afternoon, all day her breathing a little worse, though she just seemed exhausted, not in pain. We only had this tiny carrier for her, that fit her 10-12 years ago, but was much too small now, but it was only a short drive and we had no choice. By the time they got to the vet, 1/2 mile away, her heart was racing so fast they had to put a little oxygen mask on her for 2 hours, just so the Doc could listen to her chest.
I was not feeling well that day myself, in fact I had passed out earlier in the kitched, dropping my coffee all over, so Doug went to the vet alone. About 2 hours later, when the Doc finally got a listen, he said she had fluid in her lungs that he could give a shot to help with but without an x-ray couldn't say beyond that. Doug called me and we decided we had to take her to the ER, praying for the small chance that it was just an infection. We decided I better come in case. As soon as we got there, after a very stressful ride (though our clinic did loan us a larger carrier), she was whisked away to an oxygen tank in the ICU. Soon the Doc came back and it wasn't good. She said it was either heart disease or cancer. Grim choices. She would have to stay 3-4 days minimum just to find out which one it was, after which she had a max of about 3-4 months left with daily medication and distress, all for just 4000.00$. We both knew we had no choice. It was made a bit easier when she came back to say Bertha had taken a turn for the worse and did we want them to revive her if she arrested. They let us go in and see her. We could have stayed as long as we wanted but we lasted about 30 sec. before we both broke down. She barely knew we were there. It was the right thing.
Both the clinic and hospital were wonderful. They were so kind and caring, as well as very professional. When we walked out, we felt so empty. I have known close friends who have gone through this before and felt bad for them but I didn't understand. I still saw them as pets, not very special members of the family. I know many of you know what I mean which is why I can talk about it here. We didn't make a step without checking for her. She was there to talk to, care for, smile and laugh at. Whenever I was down, Doug always said the he and Bertha loved me, and he was right. When I wanted to talk about kids he would say that Bertha was our kid for now, until the time is right. He was right about that too, at least emotionally. I know human babies aren't as hairy.
I had no idea how hard this was going to be. Everything feels so empty. But I know keeping her going for a few more months would have been for us, not for her. It was time, we just weren't ready. At first thinking about getting a new cat felt like betrayal, but now it feels like survival. Yesterday, to get out of the house, we drove up to the North Shore to visit some friends and stopped into a few cat shelters. We had no idea what we wanted, a cat or a kitten or both. There are so many beautiful cats that need homes. I wish I could take them all. We are giving ourselves a little more time though, to get things ready. Bertha ran the house and it was very much organized around her, so we need to straighten things up. She was a very special little creature and will always be with us.
Thanks for hanging with me if you did. I wanted to get this down. I want to be able to remember. I may have posted some of the photos before. The one above is just last week, and the last one is one of my favorites. If everyone had a little friend like Bertha, the world would be better...not lying. I am starting to perk up again(up and down, up and down....) and will hopefully get all I wanted to do last week done this week. Have a great week everyone! Love Stacy
(Thanks for the freedom of the theme this week Angela. You can find all playing "This Is" on Angela's blog, Three Buttons)