God it hurts to lose a friend.
Our little velvet sack of knives is gone from this world, and I miss her so much. (Image description: Morgaine le Fay, a small but bitey American Shorthair cat with tuxedo markings, lies exhausted on the blond wood floor of a West Berlin bedroom. Her saggy white belly and immaculate white feet are visible.)
I know our loss is small against the canvas of the world. And also, her loss is huge in the world of our flat, where she dominated both the humans and her co-cat Viviane aka Thumpy.
Morgan first got cancer almost two years ago.
First a lump on her ear that turned out to be a melanoma, which we had surgically removed at our wonderful VetsforCats.de. Then the lump came back. Another surgery, plus she was diagnosed as being hyperthyroid. Being a thyroid patient myself, I rolled with that. I was grateful she didn’t mind the meds I dripped on her food twice a day.
The surgery left her with one half-cocked ear.
My husband was upset about the insult to her beauty, until Daria pointed out that she “looks edgy now”, and that made us laugh so much we came to terms with the ear.
After the second surgery, we knew the cancer could come back any time.
So we watched her ear, and the brown fleck in her right eye, carefully. For my fifty-third birthday on January 8 2020, I asked our friend Sadie for a small sketchbook.
Sadie got exactly what I needed and I kept it under the pillow so I could make some drawings of Morgy sleeping with her father.
The love between the two of them was a miracle to witness, and one of the greatest joys of my life. It’s not possible for my spectrum husband to be playful and affectionate with me for the most part, but with Morgy he could constantly express all the love and tenderness he felt.
Every night when I came into the bedroom Morgy would race in and leap into the bed, then lie on my lap until “the time”- about 5am, when she would crawl into Dan’s arms and be cuddled between us.
She would loll in her father’s arms, head tipped back to touch his beard, his breath stirring her whiskers, and stretch one front leg until she felt my arm. She always had to have that one paw (or hand-foot-thing, as Dan called them) on my flesh, to control and monitor me.
I imagine people with children feel this kind of love and communion.
Meanwhile, she slowed down, almost imperceptibly, over the past year.
We have been in total self-isolation since March 1 of 2020, so we were here to notice. She became slightly less violent, less irritable, less likely to bite at no provocation.
She cuddled even more, and her daily hours of snuggling with her father in the library were less marked by sudden flares of angry drama. (Morgy was stirred to rage by…pretty much nothing, most of her life. We tolerated this.)
We were concerned about her thyroid problem, and desperately hoping to get vaccinated soon so we could take her to have thyroid surgery or radioactive treatment. And then, almost three weeks ago, Dan felt a lump on her neck.
We had a housecall vet come from Felmo.de, where they are Covid-tested weekly, and I wore double medical masks and a face shield, and someone entered our house for the first time since the refrigerator delivery last Fall. The vet did try to examine her, but her rage was too great. The vet gave us sedatives, and another vet came the next day.
She struggled despite being so stoned, and we had to put her in a cat containment bag, but in the end he got blood samples. She was very, very angry about this.
For several days after the blood test, she wouldn’t come in the bed or eat.
We had anti-acid, anti-nausea and anti-depressant meds couriered from our vet, and she seemed to perk up. Nightly cuddles returned, and the blood test was ok. Maybe the neck lump was a goiter? We had an in-person appointment with our own vet scheduled for Monday, March 21. But Friday morning pre-dawn, as we all cuddled in bed, I felt a lump behind her ear. A huge new lump. And I knew.
I took her to our vet anyway, to find out the best path for the end.
It was my first time taking transit of any kind since March 1 2020; I wore FFP3 and FFP2 masks taped down and my new “bionic” face shield and a hoodie covering my ears, and asked the cab driver to open all the windows.
Our vet, Catarina Stopik, found masses in Morgan’s intestines. She was so kind about it.
So I took Morgy home, and we waited for her to tell us.
We had two beautiful nights, where she jumped in the bed any time we were both in there, and got right in the spot, no waiting for “the time”.
She lay resting in her father’s arms, purring fiercely, trying to heal herself, and asked for and received long head scritches and pets.
She loved to stare into my eyes, and I stared back with slow blinks for hours. Her arm-hand-foot thing rested against my arm, warm black toe-beans and silky white fur. She ate some kibble and treats, licked wet-food gravy and drank heartily. She was still living like a princess, as she always had.
Wednesday morning at dawn she hadn’t come in the bed; I tried to lift her in and she staggered and vomited blood. I booked the house-call vet for the earliest appointment and took Morgy to her favorite spot in the warm bathroom, where the pipes make the tile floor even warmer.
I gave her a dish of tuna and she licked the juice, and put a dish of water by her head. Dan went in and spent a long time with her, and I know what passed between them was gratitude and love. Then I went in and settled down with her for two hours until the vet came. I talked and talked to her, and even though she was laid out her tail-tip flicked every time I spoke. She drank with her head nearly in the dish, cool water for her last drink. And the doorbell rang.
We were so lucky, so blessed, that Dr. Ilonka Pelz (“fur”) came.
Dr. Pelz was so incredibly kind, so compassionate, so gentle with both Morgy and me. Her eyes met mine over our masks, through my face shield, and told me she was a cat lover just like us, who grieved for us. I held Morgy on my lap. Morgy was wrapped in her father’s “SchmooCon Security Blanket”, a grimy swag item brought with us from the States, and she was given a nice big dose of pain relief. Her eyes closed.
And then it was time for the last shot, the end, and it was over, and I wanted her back already, I wanted to unreel time, but I was grateful for the truth and the reality of her release and the doctor’s immense kindness too.