But I still read some of your blog posts on Facebook, and I've been missing all of our bloggy friends. So I thought I'd come back and check in... and who knows, maybe we'll start blogging here again with Trixie and Lily!
I wanted to write about the day that Sammy-Joe died.
The night before, he'd been seeming to feel okay. But early the next morning, my dad came upstairs and told me, "You'd better come down and see Sammy. I think he's dying."
I ran downstairs to the basement and found Sammy-Joe lying on his side on the floor behind the water heater. I picked him up in my arms and held him. I wrapped him in a towel and sat down on a chair in the living room, snuggling him. I could tell he was in pain. For the first time in my life, I was actually praying that he would die... just die quietly in my arms... so he'd be out of pain.
My dad was leaving for work, and since he felt like Sammy-Joe was going to die that day, he came to pet Sammy and say goodbye to him. Sammy growled and bit his finger so hard it started bleeding. That's when I knew Sammy was probably out of his mind with illness. He and my dad loved each other and had a very special friendship, so I knew Sammy would never hurt my dad if he was himself. It was a miracle he was letting me hold him!
Although I had always said, my whole life, I would not be the one to put Sammy to sleep and make the decision to end his life, at this time I realized it was the only thing I could do. But the vet was not open yet, and I also couldn't fathom subjecting him to a car ride at this time... he hated cars and the vet so much. So I got online and Googled "euthanasia at home." I came up with Lap Of Love, a company that provides veterinarians who come to your home. Typing in my zip code connected me with Dr. Juliana Lyles. It must have been some sort of miracle that I came up with her info so quickly... not only that, but it turned out she lives only a few blocks away from me! Although it was still early in the morning, when I called her and explained the situation, she was able to get up, get ready, and be at our house in less than an hour!
It was almost surreal... she asked me if I needed time to say goodbye to Sammy, but all I wanted was for it to be over. He was crying and in so much pain. Dr. Lyle explained to me that the type of euthanasia she gave pets was different than usual, because it was really an overdose of anesthesia. Most vets give the pet something that causes their heart to stop. But the overdose of anesthesia enables them to feel really good and pain free right away, and they just fall asleep and don't wake up.
While we waited for Dr. Lyle to arrive, I had been assuring Sammy-Joe that someone was coming to help him. I can never stop thinking how abnormal it felt to want him to die, but he was so scred and in pain, and I knew it was happening either way, and I just wanted it to happen as quickly as possible for him.
Dr. Lyle gave him the shot. Then we both stood around him petting him, and I was telling her about how I got him, and all these memories about him. I was actually happy and laughing, just before we realized Sammy was gone.
Dr. Lyle had brought a special basket with blankets to tuck Sammy into. She put him in the basket, and Trixie and Lily came over to investigate. We all sat on the floor around the basket. The saddest part was that Trixie kept trying to play with him... she kept taking her nose and trying to get the blanket off of him, trying to nudge him to get him to move, and whimpering at him.
Dr. Lyle also gave me two things to remember him by... she cut off a lock of his fur and tied it in a ribbon, and she made a pawprint in some Model Magic.
We spent a lot of time just sitting there with Trixie and Lily, petting Sammy-Joe in the basket and talking about pets. When it was finally time for her to go, I gave him a kiss goodbye just before hse carried him out of the house.
It was the only good thing about the whole experience... instead of having to take Sammy-Joe to a cold, sterile vet's office, and drive home without him, we both got to be at home. It also helped that Dr. Lyle was not just a veterinarian doing her job, but she was really there for me, helping me get through it.
After she left, though, I cried and cried all day long.
It has been almost a year, and I still haven't gotten "over" Sammy-Joe. When my dog Chopper died, about 5 years ago, it was so painful, but when we got Trixie I was able to focus on her and it helped me heal. But because I am still staying at my mom's, I am not allowed to get another cat... not that a new cat would ever replace Sammy-Joe, but I have always believed that when one pet dies, he or she helps choose the next pet for you. I really believe Chopper was chosen by our first dog, Zip, and I believe she helped bring both Trixie and Lily into my life.. especially since my mom had said we wouldn't be getting another dog at all. Loving Trixie and Lily feels like a natural extension of loving Zip and Chopper. And someday, Sammy-Joe will help bring a new cat into my life. But until then, I still cry about him all the time.
Part of it is also that I feel I failed Sammy-Joe in so many ways. I was really young and dumb when I got him. I was living on my own and he was my first "own" pet. At the time I was living with some "friends," and I found out later that they had been very rough with Sammy-Joe when I wasn't around.
At that time I was around 20 years old and had been on my own, sometimes homeless, since I was 17. When I lost my place to live, my parents offered for me and Sammy to move in with them. For years I had refused to live with them again. I was adnament about being on my own. But because my only other option would have been to become homeless again and leave Sammy-Joe with someone else, at the last minute I decided to take them up on their offer.
For a lot of Sammy-Joe's life, I wasn't around. He became partly my parents' cat. When I joined AmeriCorps and moved to Colorado for a year, I opted to leave him with them, because I was afraid he wouldn't be safe with me in Colorado. I was going to be living with a roommate who had a young son, and also a cat who was an "outdoor" cat, and I just felt worried about bringing Sammy there. So for a year, he was without me. Then, after a year, I lived at home for a few months, but ended up getting in a fight with my parents and moving out again... to be homeless. I left Sammy behind again then too. It was like that for years... I would move in and out, but always left Sammy behind with them, because I just couldn't give him a secure home and I felt like he was safe with them. I know I saved his life by letting him stay with them. But my regret is that I left him in the first place, letting my anger and depression get in the way of making good decisions.
By the time I started this blog, my life was a lot more secure. I had moved back in with my parents for good, this time bringing with me the small dog I rescued from the place I lived before... a dog you would come to know in this blog as Lily! But even that makes me feel a lot of guilt. Sammy-Joe never felt comfortable with Lily in the house, and he spent the rest of his life tiptoeing around her, never quite being the cat he had been before. He was already old by the time Lily moved in, and I guess he didn't have the energy left to put up with her shenanigans, although he had been best friends with Chopper and medium friends with Trixie.
I think about him all the time. Right next to my bed is a picture of me holding him in my arms, when he was only a few years old, still huge and bright-eyed and energetic. I still cry for him a lot at night... not only for losing him, but for not being there for him when I had the chance.
Maybe writing this will help me finally heal my heart? But I just wish I could talk to him, and tell him I'm sorry, and have him understand how much I loved him.
|Sammy-Joe's picture from our first blog entry, on December 30, 2010.|