A week ago today I ordered a special cat fountain from Amazon. I asked for one day delivery. I got it late that night. The promise was that my cats would go crazy over it. They didn’t.
I bought it because one of my cats, Berlin, no longer drank water from the dishes I provide. He was dehydrated. I had to pump him up with Lactated Ringer’s Solution.
Berlin has been in my house since he was born which was about five or six years ago. Somehow I had thought it was longer, much longer. It seemed like he had always been here.
On Tuesday, thinking we had gotten around the bend, I took him to the vet up the street where I had found him after he had vanished for eight days in November, 2016.
I posted flyers around the area. I had no idea how much that little guy meant to me until he disappeared. I let my cats run loose in the back during the day. When I want them in I call them. They come running. Except one night Berlin didn’t come.
Turned out someone had found him back there. He was a friendly cat. This someone I was told had found him covered in burrs from a backyard up the lane that has been let go wild. I often removed those burrs from him.
The person decided they could do a much better job caring for Berlin than I have been doing. They took him to the vet to make sure he was in good condition. They had ordered all the necessary tests.
I had seen a flyer posted offering a $500 reward for a lost cat. Seeing it I said to myself, “I’d pay $500 for Berlin.”
Luckily I had that in the bank. The vet’s bill for accommodation, tests, food came to just under $500.00.
The good news was that according to those tests Berlin was in fine health.
Except he wasn’t.
I took him back in early February for weight loss. He had become very thin.
Turned out he had lost only a bit of weight from when I picked him up there.
I was given medication I was told he would like. I was given solution to pump under his skin every two weeks. I was given special food.
He did not like the medication. Not one bit.
To get it into him I had to wrap his body in a towel, force his jaws open and hope he did not spit it out.
Ditto the half pill he had to take twice daily.
Staff at the animal hospital later admitted cats hate the stuff. This would have been helpful from the start.
Getting the fluid into him was easier.
Then to get him drinking I added canned tuna to his diet. He turned against eating canned food, especially the prescription food (Dr. Hill’s). In fact he turned his nose at everything except canned turkey and giblets. I found a substance called FortiFlora which if added to his food would make him delight to eat it. It did.
I called Monday about the fluid which had run out. I was told to pick up more and to give it to him every week. I now know he would have needed that for the rest of his life.
As it chanced the rest of his life was very short. I took him up to the vet Tuesday. I thought we had made progress. The vet said, “This is hard. He has fluid in his abdomen. The best thing you can do with him is put him down.”
I replied, “I will do what I have to do. I will not do it now.”
I brought him home. I was devastated.
When I got home I found from a message on Facebook that a very dear friend had been hospitalized with a burst appendix. I refrained from telling his partner about Berlin. He had enough problems.
Wednesday Berlin died in my arms.
I had some people coming by to do prep work for a documentary they are making about my work. My friend Petunia was coming by. I have three documentary projects in the works. I wanted to film Petunia so he could be included in them. While Berlin was still alive I had brought him downstairs wrapped in a towel because it was clear he was dying. I wanted him where he felt most comfortable which was always close to me. He would lie on my chest when I was in bed staring into my eyes. When I worked on this computer he placed himself between the monitor and the keyboard, again often staring at me.
I filmed a little bit of him then I turned the camera off. Shortly after that his body arched, his mouth opened wider than it had ever opened, his tongue stuck out. He gave out a silent scream I will never forget, never wish to forget. Then he was dead.
I took him back up stairs where I laid his body out on my bed. He did not look at all like himself. Spirit is Latin for breath. The spirit had left him completely.
Petunia arrived shortly after. He had brought lunch. We ate and talked. We have known each other for years. The film makers arrived. I had them interview Petunia. I kept my camera on him throughout it.
They wanted to see a film. I put it on for them. Petunia moved his car from the street where it could be ticketed to the back.
When he came in he said, “I saw Merlin on the porch. When he saw me coming he jumped off and ran away. There were not footprints in the snow.”
I said, “It’s Berlin not Merlin and you didn’t. His body is upstairs on my bed. Go take a look.”
Petunia replied, “I said there were no footprints on the snow.”
I replied. “He hated being inside. He was dying to get out. Now he’s free.”
Now he is.
Clearly Berlin was not fine when I got him back.
I looked up fluid in the abdomen in cats. https://www.vetary.com/cat/condition/fluid-abdomen
Had Berlin been drained on the spot he might now still be with me. I don’t know. I will never know.
I do know the shock of being told to put him down made me want to leave as fast as I could.
I paid the bill. I brought him home.
I thought I would take him to my original vet who I knew from Rochdale College.
I checked on my friend with the burst appendix. He was in pain he said but recovering. With hesitation I told him that Berlin had just died.
I found he had gone to that hospital several times with pain in his stomach. Each time he had been sent home until this time when the appendix had already burst. http://commonhealth.legacy.wbur.org/2012/07/burst-appendix-appendectomy
I have found myself over the last few days in an emotional quagmire.
I have lost friends both two legged and for legged. Nothing has affected me as deeply as has the passing of Berlin.
In the end I know he is gone because I did not do what I should have done.
The first thing I should have done was to have proper identification on him. Then he would not have had to endure the trauma of being locked in a cage in the basement of the animal hospital not knowing what was going to become of him.
The second thing I should have done was to take him to my original vet.
It is too late now to correct these things.
I have two other cats, Irving and Askhim.
The things I should have done with Berlin I can and will do with them.
I will not be using this animal hospital again.
Years ago I had a dog I had raised from a pup. He came down with a problem I was told no dog in this country had survived.
“What about outside this country?” I asked.
“Two in The United States did,” I was told.
I replied, “Then one in Canada will.”
One in Canada did.
This time one in Canada did not.
The good thing is that his spirit is free to come and go.
I have a full sized authorized replica of THE SHROUD OF TURIN hanging here.
On Sundays I offer a program on it.
Very few have come which is fine by me.
One woman who did come I certainly thought strange.
She told me she had nearly been killed in a car accident after which she had been hospitalized for a long time. She had been told she would never walk again. She definitely had a madness about her. She said she was psychic.
Then she said, “The spirits of animals are here. They love you.”
One of the animals she described was the one in Canada who had. I had left him with friends in New Brunswick in 1981 who, thinking he had cancer had put him down alone, far away and without consulting me.
Tears of joy came unbidden into my eyes.
Did she really see them? Did Petunia really see Berlin leap off the porch leaving no footprints in the snow?
I don’t need to believe either her or Petunia.
I choose to believe both.
I posted his picture as the background on my monitor. He will be where he was most comfortable until the day I join him.
I thought I would have him with me for the rest of his life. I did. Just thought it would be longer.
Gifts by Ginger-lyn Summer
They come to us,
from shelters or friends or in any number of ways,
these beings of fur or feather or other outer shells.
They come to us wanting only
to be fed, sheltered, and loved.
And we take them into our homes and our hearts.
They may have prized pedigrees,
or they may be abandoned or abused
and rough around the edges.
But there is something about them,
some sort of light in their eyes
that tells us they are meant for us.
And a sweet dance of love
begins with our new friends.
We watch them delightedly discover their new home,
laugh at the antics of kitten or puppy,
smile as the former lost soul
settles comfortably into our arms.
They become a beloved member of our family,
a reminder of the uninhibited joy
that we have often forgotten how to feel.
The dog that excitedly runs
to greet his human friend returning home,
or the contented cat curled up on a lap
remind us of how large
unfettered love can be.
They come to teach us to remember how to love.
They come to teach us that our hearts,
so often battered by this world that we struggle through,
are still open enough to feel wonder and mystery
and a precious connection to another being.
And we love them, and care for them,
and experience the joy
we thought was lost from our lives.
But life is fragile.
One day, perhaps unexpectedly,
or perhaps after a long struggle with illness,
our precious friends are gone.
And we mourn them deeply.
We feel lost, and alone,
and that the joy is once again gone from our lives.
We feel anger, and pain, and fear.
We question Deity, and wonder why.
Life is fragile.
Their lives are more fragile than ours.
We cannot escape death,
and for it to take our most precious friends,
who ask so little,
seems unfair and too much for us to bear.
But they leave us always with a gift.
They leave us with that love they gave, that joy they sparked.
Our hearts are larger for having loved them.
We are enriched by having these special souls in our lives,
even if it was for too brief a time.
Love never dies.
And the love that was created
by our special friends who came into our lives
is a living thing,
always a part of our being.
We may think our hearts are closing again,
but we cannot erase the fact
that they have been opened.
They teach us love for a reason:
so that we will have it in our hearts always.
Each day, each act of kindness or love,
is a tribute to our pets who have moved on.
Honor your special friend with kindness and love.
Each day, reach out to your living companions
and let them know how precious they are.
Reach out to others in your life
and let the love your friend brought you live on.
Reach out to others in need, whether human or animal.
I can think of no better gift than the love they teach us.
And I can think of no better way to honor their memories
than by extending that love.
In this way, they will truly live forever.
Copyright 2009, Ginger-lyn Summer. All rights reserved.