Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Faith, Love & Dignity: My Beautiful Chloe's Final Days

My dear cat Chloe, barely nine years old, finally lost her 18-month battle with mammary cancer on Sunday, January 31, 2010 at approximately 9am EST.

She died at home, on her own terms, and in her loving mommy's arms.

Sadly, had she been spayed before her first heat, she would have been far less susceptible to the disease. So I thought a fitting tribute would be to enter her in the Humane Society's Spay Day Photo Contest.

Please Donate in Chloe's Name

Please honor her memory by making even a $5 donation to this worthy cause before 10 P.M. Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, March 4, 2010.

Every dollar donated is a vote for her, and I am hoping that, with enough votes, she will attract the interest of the contest's judges and be profiled in the HSUS's magazine All Animals, as her story -- as those who have read my earlier entry about her and watched the video know -- is one worth sharing.

And as one might expect of a creature who transformed both herself and those around her during her life, her death -- heartbreaking though it has been for me -- proved to be more remarkable still, as she maintained her composure and sociable, affectionate personality right up to the end.

"She has a lot of dignity," observed Dr. G as Chloe peered up calmly from her carrier during what would be her final visit on Saturday, January 30th.

I had made it clear that I did not want to pursue the "clinical option," but I also knew that the progression of this horrible disease might be more than she or I could bear. Research warned about seizures, rupturing tumors, stinking sores, incontinence, weakness and ultimate immobility.


As it was, I felt guilty about force-feeding her Mother's Milk twice a day, squirting it into her mouth from a large syringe.

She'd twist her head at the unpleasantness, but she'd allow it anyway. Then I'd brush her silky coat, and she'd purr.

But the positive effects were undeniable: In the three weeks since she'd stopped eating solid food she had lost less than one pound ... but was still, however, a tragically thin five pounds.

My sense was that she tolerated this for me, and that if left to nature, she would have allowed herself to wither weeks before.

She had not merely lost her appetite; she developed a vigorous aversion to food. When I put a dish in front of her and begged her to eat, she'd turn away offended, ultimately walking away in disgust when I didn't get the hint.

I began to wonder if the loss of appetite is nature's way of ensuring death before cancer's full ravages take effect....

But we weren't there yet, and I was clinging to hope that with the chemo and increased nutrition her body would fight the disease and maybe, just maybe, force it into remission.

At least this was my state of mind during her mid-month bounceback, described in my Monday, January 25h entry.

Ironically, she went downhill the very next day.

To keep fluid away from her lungs and heart, we had her on Lasix, a brand diuretic. I refilled the prescription that weekend with a generic and, although the dosage was lower, I fear the strength was greater.

Or perhaps she just had too much of the stuff in her system.

Very late Tuesday night I found her in the bathtub, meowing piteously. But she didn't try to lap the droplets. Instead she jumped (yes jumped!) out -- and leaped headlong onto the toilet!!

She'd pawed her way down from the seat nearly reaching the icky pool before I pulled her out.

I closed the lid and brought her the water bowl. She pawed around it, splashing the floor. It wasn't big enough?

I filled a large square basin for her on the bathroom floor.

She leaned into it, dipped in a paw, then pulled back and looked at me again.

"What's wrong, sweetheart?" I pleaded, "What can I do for you??"

She turned longingly towards the toilet bowl.

Well, that was out of the question.

I closed the toilet lid and filled a Tupperware container; still too small ... or too square... or too plastic.

I rifled through the kitchen filling various unsatisfactory dishes and bowls.

And then I saw it: A wide, white glass pie dish.

I filled it with a quarter-inch of water and put it down in the bedroom. She stretched her entire bib over it and looked... content.

She dipped her paws and the side of her face into the pool. It wasn't just thirst: it was vanity!

During feeding, the Mother's Milk would ooze onto her sensitive cheeks and paws where it dried quickly like cement, matting her beautiful fur.

I scrubbed her gently with a warm cloth, and brushed the tender spots as best I could. She rubbed her face and pawed at her cheeks, but it was impossible to remove and our efforts left a raw, balding patch on her left cheek.

I felt awful.

The next day I used my expensive olive oil makeup remover and managed to dissolve some of it -- but not enough for her.

She kept returning to the pie plate.

I found her Thursday evening laying with her head in the water.

"Chloe?!!" I gasped, fearing inadvertent kitty-suicide.

She whipped her head up quizzically, splashing my face.

OK, I deserved that.

I dried her off and put her on a heating pad, but it was too late: all the water sports had given her a dismal sniffle.

She sneezed several times and I left a desperate message for Dr. G.

He called me back at work the next day telling me he could fit us in on Saturday. "If we get her on an antibiotic quickly, maybe we can prevent the cold from turning into something worse."

Worse. Pneumonia. Death.

I thought of her face in the bowl, and then I remembered -- the bowl!!

I had forgotten to close the toilet bowl lid!

I called my parents for help. My father offered to check on her -- not a small favor as they live several miles away and don't have a car -- but they were just as concerned for their grandkitty as I was...

My dad called from my apartment. "Everything's fine; the lid is closed. She even got up to greet me when I went to pet her."

That was what amazed me the most:

As weak as she was, she continued to be as much herself as she could. She greeted me at the door when I came home; she cuddled with me in bed; she even came to the kitchen at feeding time, but still disdained all food.

I had even put a stepstool to help her climb the 2 1/2 feet up to my bed. But she refused to use it.

Even on her last nights, I could feel her jump onto the bed -- scrambling just a little with her weakened hind paws.

When guests visited -- which was frequent as they'd come to give her some love -- she joined them in the living room and purred and purred.

But during that last week, she'd lost her purr.

Each night, I'd fall asleep to the soft, raspy gurgle of her breath...

"It's OK, sweetheart," I said during that week, "You can go when you need to. I love you, and I'll miss you. But you can go."

And then I cried.

But I still hoped...

And even as I planned with Dr. G on Saturday to help her heal, I asked, "What do I do... if she .... goes ... at home on a Sunday... when your office is closed?"

He said I could wrap her in a towel, put the towel in a sealed plastic bag and she'd be OK until Monday.

Yeah. She'd be OK.

Sunday morning I woke up extra early. This was the weekend of the Bellydance Evolution workshops and show.

I'd bought a pass to all the workshops, and though I'd missed one the day before, I was determined to take the rest on Sunday.

But feeding was a long process. I was increasing the amount, so I had to feed her in three or four sessions with at least 10 minutes in between. Plus it took nearly a half-hour to mix the stuff and clean the syringe, bowls, towels, mixers, etc....

But we were going to do this, no matter how much time or effort it took. She could get better....

When I got up around 8:30am, she was under a chair in the living room, but came to the kitchen for feeding.

I sat with her at my breast and gave her the first dose. She whipped her head and writhed a bit, but finally slurped it down.

I fed Simon and Julietta, then returned to Chloe around 9am.

When I picked her up, she let out a more urgent meow which, in retrospect, might have meant something like, "Will you quit feeding me you crazy woman -- I'm trying to die over here!!"

"Come on, sweetheart," I urged, "We can do this." I nestled her in the towel and gave her the next dose, and then another and another....

Suddenly she let out a horrifying yeowl. Her body spasmed, clenched and limp at the same time.

"Oh god! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" I laid her on a chair, kneeling in front, desperately holding her fragile body. Her fur stuck out, her eyes flattened into sightless brassy discs.

"Please come back!" I cried, shaking her gently. I eased her mouth open and rubbed her chest.

Her face and eyes softened. She looked at me with a shuddering breath.

I held her close and lay back with her on my chest, looking into her calm, dark and still beautiful eyes.

"It's OK, Chloe," I sobbed, running my fingers along her smooth coat, "I love you. I love you..."

She breathed a few more times and let go.

And I wept. A lot.

Finally I carried her into the bedroom and laid her out on a towel. I prayed, cried, meditated, whatever I needed ... for maybe a half-hour give or take... until I felt something resolve in myself.

Strangely, the other cats completely removed themselves during the ordeal... I didn't see them again for nearly an hour.

I thought maybe they were frightened by the initial histrionics, but they'd seen me lose it before. And things were quiet for a while after....

After some soul-searching, I decided to go to the dance workshops anyway.

I'd be among friends, doing what I love ... and what better way to grieve a death than to celebrate life?

When I packed my dance bag I went back to Chloe's body and, with a final loving pet of her soft black fur, said goodbye and gently wrapped the towel around her.

This post and others like it is from http://tandavadance.blogspot.com ... please visit that link to make comments.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

January 2010 Events Archive

Friday, January 22nd, 5pm-11pm

Dancing in the Hope For Haiti Benefit at
Lafayette Grill & Bar
54 Franklin Street (3 block south of Canal), NYC
$10 donation
$20 table minimum

Wednesday, January 27th, 7pm-8:30pm
Emceeing and Dancing in
Bellyqueen's Djam under Je'Bon
Celebrating the Bellydance Evolution Contenstants
Je'Bon Restaurant
15 St. Mark's Place, NYC
(N/R/W to 8th St, 6 to Astor Pl.)
$15 Admission

Note: I did not have any public events during February 2010.