Sunday, July 27, 2008

Something Special

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)


BigCat said...

My heart goes out to you both. Cat friends are the most wonderful of all. There are no words that can fill that hole. Thinking of you.


Kerry said...

Reading your story made me feel sad, as writing it would have made you sad too. Thanks for sharing your story though, I can feel the joy of sharing as you did sharing your life with Bertha. We are all richer for the experience. Look forward to that experience again; you know Bertha cared and would want it that way now she's not there.

lil said...

Oh Stacy, what sad news, I know how hard this is, i lived that some months ago too

by writing this post you created a wonderful tribute to Bertha

hugs from overseas

Amy said...

I'm so sorry, Stacy. You sure have had your share of challenges and sadness lately. It sounds like Bertha was quite a character--I enjoyed reading about your lovely relationship with her and I hope that you are holding up ok. Take care of yourself--no more passing out in the kitchen, ok?!

Nanette Merrill and daughters said...

Aw Stacy, I'm sorry. Pets are family. Pure and simple. They fill a place in us that people can't really. We had a main coon and when he died it was so sad. The kids took care of him the last 3 days before he went and it was really difficult. Main Coons are special cats. Peace.

RobinE said...

You have my heartfelt sympathy, Stacy. I have kitties too (four!), and I can't even imagine how difficult it would be to lose any of them. It sounds like Bertha was a very special companion to both you and your husband. Thank you so much for sharing her story.

Jacquie said...

I'm so sorry about Bertha, but what a nice post you wrote about her. I feel the same about Cal...there's this emptiness...but it's fun to remember her, when i see the pot she slept in or walk the back steps and remember how she could lay on two steps at one time upside down. I wish you wonderful memories of your time with her.

craftydiane said...

I am so sorry Stacy. I know how hard this is for you and your boyfriend. We have three cats, one of which is 8 years old and has used up several of his lives. You can read about him on my blog in some of my earlier post. Our cats are like our babies and they do run the show at my house!

Becky said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Stacy. Our yorkies are our babies and I understand that empty feeling too well. You gave her a happy life. Your post was a very nice memorial and tribute to your baby.

Vickie said...

Darn it Stacy, I am so sorry that you had to lose Bertha. We have a cat and as you do, I feel everyone should have a cat! They are always there! So sweet and cuddly! We have a dog, a great big dog, but for some reason having a dog is not like have a cat!
God Bless you, Doug and Bertha!
What a wonderful story you have written! One thing is for sure, you will know exactly when the time is right for another cat/kitten!
Take care!
Love, Vickie

LingoVise Says... said...

I am so very sorry for your loss. It is such a sad event... to lose a special friend and family member.

It's been 5 years since I lost my beloved Nigel... and although the pain may seem unbearable now - just know that the love never leaves you. I miss him dearly, Even now. It does get easier to cope... just hold Doug close to you until the pain subsides a bit.

Chocolate Cat said...

What a beautiful beautiful cat Bertha is and what wonderful memories you have. Thinking of you xx

janet said...

Hi Stacy
Read your post last night and it made me cry. You write so beautifully about Bertha. Cats are a very special part of our lives and as each one passes it is a terrible loss. Maybe it is because they are always there, someone to talk to and will never judge. After your initial grieving you must focus on what a good life she had and how lucky she was to be rescued and live with you and Doug (as well as how lucky you were to have her)
As for a new cat or cats - I cannot imagine life without cats so you know what my advice would be! There are so many cats who need new loving homes I am sure you will find one or two that are right for you. No cat will ever replace your lovely Bertha but you will get comfort by rescuing more cats.
Janet x

Tipper said...

What a touching post. I know Bertha meant the world to you both.

Joanna said...

Oh no that is so sad! I remember getting our dog put down years ago - very similar situation. It's just so hard.

I am home now, we need to get in touch again.

Preston Smith said...

Wonderful post Stacy... you have such an elegant way of writing about something so heartbreaking. You tell the eulogy or Bretha like it is meant to be... she would be very proud of it, but of course would have casually admited that it was a well writin eulogy in her laid-back sort of way.

Mabus Moments said...

Ok so I cannot look at your blog without doing crazy searchin and i erased myspace myself due to unpleasent findings from the past- lol. I am frustrated at not knowing(or understanding) how the heck to add friends and blogs and all that jazz. If you have any way to link me or whatever is clever let me know any help is appreciated- I am glad to keep up with people this way and I am thrilled to see and share so much more!!! Awesome. So anywho hope to talk to ya again and thanks for the comment- I miss the old times too lately- to be a kiddo again- NICE:) and know what we know huh!!!!
Hopefully I can add some more things to it this week and we can share even more-
Novia;) Later tators!!

Sweet P said...

I'm sorry to hear about Bertha {{{{HUGS}}}}

BTW, are you doing anything next Thursday, Aug 7th? Some quilting friends and I are going the Lowell Quilt Show. Would you like to join us?

LucyH said...

Stacey! Talk about memories. Some of my best memories of high school are with you and I totally miss you! I still want a copy of your poem "Spitters". I have also wondered if there was such a thing as using cloth for when the time of the month comes. Thanks for sharing that and I will have to look into it. It is so great to see your blog and I am so sorry about your cat. I love animals and I always had a cat in SAfford. So I totally know how you feel and maybe you find a new companion. I'm glad we'll be able to keep in touch now! Love,

Maureen said...

Oh Stacy...that's so hard to deal with. We're told that our Sebastian has a few good years left and we try to appreciate him as he continues to age (just as we do).

Hugs xoxox

btw, funky looking socks up on your header. Very smile worthy. ;-)

Anonymous said...

oh Stacy what a wonderful story this is, even though very sad too!! A pet can never be replaced but I know from experience getting another is the only medicine! Can't wait until you do. Our two cats share so many personality traits as Bertha!!!!!!

Nikki said...

I really feel for you... (Memories of our 21 year old Harry about three years ago...). I know that emptiness!!

On the GOOD NEWS front, you WON yourself a new purse kit!!!
Drop me an email with your postal address and we'll send it off to you!!

laura said...

I feel for you! Been there done that! But do get another cat (actually get 2, they keep each other company), so many of them need homes! I found you through Nikki's blog, and it looks like you won MY purse!!

Tipper said...

Hey Stacy! Just wanted to say hello-and I hope your doing well. You've been on my mind the past few days.

susan said...

oh sweetie, i am so sorry for you and hubby. i know its hard to lose a loved one. your story was so touching, i found myself sniffling half way thru. i still mourn for our wee little budgy that we lost some 5 years ago. i am sending out good thoughts to you. smooches

Aaron Smith said...

I kinda waited to comment till I could read through this without crying (yeah, what baby I am ;)
Gave up and am armed with my tissue box:

We had our first dog (she died this May) for thirteen year; got her two years before our son was born. Her death was very sudden and taken pretty hard by us all. Even now when one of us starts talking about her, we all get teary-eyed.
It was tough getting another animal, and even more complicated with four of us having an opinion ranging from animal-tolerator (me) to amazing-animal-adoration (my daughter) as well as some specific demands: my son wants a high energy dog to keep up with him(great for the house...) and my wife wants an alert dog (because we need more noise).
Hopefully you'll find a new companion that creates a new place in your heart. (our new beagle is still working her way into mine, and chewing her way into everything else :)

Wyoming Mom said...

Love you, Stacy!

Kenningtons said...

Hey Stace,
I haven't seen anything new on your blog lately so I was wondering so you are doing. I hope all is well with you and that you are feeling good and in good spirits. Thinking of you!!

Joanna said...

OK Stacy....I got your phone message, now it's time for you to post again:) We all miss you!

Crafty Turtle said...

So sorry to hear about Bertha. I know exactly how you felt. My cat is my baby, my therapist, my best friend. She went missing a few years ago and was gone for two weeks. Fortunately, we found her (a whole lot thinner!) and things are all back to normal now. I know I will be a wreck when she's gone for good. I send peaceful thoughts your way...

Joanna said...

Stacy, what's up? Are you doing OK?! Drop me a line just so I know you're alive! Hugs, me xxx. PS Did your parents come yet??

hens teeth said...

Stacey ~ no posts for a long time. Hoping all is ok with you sweetheart.

Nanette Merrill and daughters said...

Just stopping by to say I'm missing you.

Shellbells said...

hey stace...long time no post??? Just thought I'd drop you a line to say gday...hope all is well...take care my dear!!!


BigCat said...

Hey Stacy

I've been thinking of you heaps lately and hope all is OK in your world. Look forward to seeing you back on the blog some time.


Kathleen said...

So sorry for your loss. We have two dogs a 4 cats that we rescued. The kiddos said that we could not split the sibling up. What was I to do. And to have four different personalities is amazing. Our Sadie-Baby sounds a lot like your Bertha, then Mr. Tubbs is the complete opposite. He loves to cuddle and be "pesty" sometimes. I love my fur children. Thanks for such a touching story.

Tinniegirl said...

Still thinking of you and hoping you'll be back in blogland one day my friend.


Shellbells said...

my sentiments are the same as Tinniegirl...take care my dear