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July 16th, 2013


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02:50 am - Abbie is dying.
There's no easy or euphemistic way to put it. Abbie the Cat is dying, and we are trying our best to make sure he leaves comfortably. I am an absolute wreck. My best friend and boon companion for sixteen years is going away and he is going away forever and I will never ever see him or pet him or feed him or talk to him or see him run up to me as I come home or shoo him out of the room or feel him curled up in the crook of my knees purring away as I go to sleep ever again.

On Saturday, while I was at Readercon, Tracy and Nurit took Abbie to a groomer's so that he could enjoy the freedom of having slightly less fur during the hot summer months. He was not happy about it, and the groomers decided to call off the appointment after clipping his nails and getting peed on in return. They also noted that, while he panicked, he was breathing very rapid and shallow. This is kind of normal for a panicky cat, but when he hadn't stopped his all-too-rapid breathing after several hours safe at home, Tracy decided to take him to the vet.

As it was after hours on a weekend, Abbie went to the 24-hour place up in Woburn. The vet determined that his breathing was inhibited by unexpected/unwanted fluid in his chest which keep the lungs from fully inflating. They stuck needles in and drained out 300ml of fluid. We don't know what it is yet, since the vet has to send it to a lab, but that's a lot. The vet said they usually drain 80ml or so out of cats like this. Abbie stayed overnight at Woburn with a lot of oxygen and care.

The diagnosis, the vet said, could be one of three things, only one of which she could reasonably test for: heart problems what lead to heart failure, which she didn't believe to be the case because the tests she could take of the as-of-yet unidentified fluid didn't show anything like that. The second would be a lymph obstruction, and the third cancer. To hell with best case scenario, you can't pick one of these as the better of anything, because none of them can be cured. His chest will continue to fill with fluid no matter how much they drain. That's no kind of life for a cat. (And at around $1700 a trip, that's no kind of life for my finances.)

Abbie was doing well enough on Sunday to be released on his own recognizance ("Hey, that's a cat!") and we brought him home. He licked my fingers as I petted him in the cage, and gave headbutts and was very happy to get home. He looked at his food dish but did not eat. He had some water. He did not mooch the lamb that Tracy was eating. This is when you know something is Wrong, but he was also coming off of heavy sedation.

Today, however, I don't know what the fuck happened. It feels like he's experiencing the same kind of rapid deterioration that Martha had. Even though he hadn't eaten, he threw up at least five times over the night, little spots, some of it whitish stuff I'd never seen him hork before. He meowed at me this morning, the kind of meow that is never any good. I put him on my bed to keep him in the room, but he hopped off and sat outside my door. Then he went into the living room and stayed there.

Since then, he's moved around the living room, but I can tell he is losing energy quickly. He drank a bit of water when we placed the bowl right in front of him, but then retired to his living room box (he's got a little cave underneath the plants) to lie down, head either flat on ground or resting on his paws, occasionally getting up to switch sides.

He does not acknowledge pets on the head. He does not headbutt. He does not groom himself. His rump doesn't automatically raise up when you pet it. These are all bad signs. He perks up every now and then, eyes back open in their wide kitten style, but he lays his head right back down and the little white membranes start to show. He is going.

This afternoon and evening I lay on the floor next to him and gently held my hand over the unshaved part of his chest to feel his breaths. Sometimes they grew so shallow and so faint I thought he had passed. I told him it was okay to go; I told him I loved him, I told him so many people around the world loved him, I told him he had saved my life and sanity on several occasions, I told him songs would be sung of his deeds. I told him that he was the best cat I've ever known, and that is the god's honest truth.

He gave me eye-blinks as I kept a vigil, which is a deep part of cat language. I gave him eye-blinks back. And once, as I was petting him, he reached his head up and licked my hand. He's a licker, he is, and he did that the very first time I met him. The family we got him and Martha from dropped a six-week-old kitten in my lap and said she (we thought he was a girl back then) was the boisterous one. I gave the kitten a scratch on the head and it immediately licked my hand. Remember, you don't pick cats; cats pick you. And Abbie had done just that. I was his guy. From six weeks to sixteen years and three months, I was his guy.

He is currently in the living room still, alternating between his cave box and the floor. The doors to the room are closed. Tracy has brought his floor model air conditioner to keep the room cool. Sonya, Tracy, Nurit and I periodically go in to check. He has begun to shy away from human contact rather than show indifference. This is another sure sign. When Sonya was young, her mother told her about this. She said that when cats know it is time, they will go off to find a quiet place under a tree, and they will curl up and go to sleep peacefully. Over time, she said, they go into the ground, and they turn into flowers.

That sure beats the Rainbow Bridge story by a country mile.

I have been aware for a long time that I am the owner of an elderly cat, and that some day--sooner than later--would come when he passes. And that he would probably do so after a bit of medical froo-frah. In some ways I have been expecting this. I thought perhaps we'd end his days with twice-daily insulin shots; thankfully he never came down with diabetes. I also thought he would live for another good two to four years. Up until this weekend he had not shown any signs of serious illness. At his last check-up three months ago, the Porter Square vet said he was doing remarkably well for his age except for his kidneys. We put him on a special diet and he seemed to do all right.

And that's what gets me. It all just came on so fast. When I left him on Friday, he was doing fine. So that I could close up and head out to Readercon, I lured him out of my room with his favorite treats. He did his usual OH YES PLEASE dance, eyes kitten-wide to look as cute as possible, and he ate about three or four while I petted him and told him what a good cat he was. He licked my hand, rubbed against my wrist, and purred. I had no idea that 72 hours later he would be dying. On Saturday, as I pondered his fate in Woburn, I realized that if he died while in care at least my last memory of him--and his of me--was a good one.

We have no idea how long this has been going on. The fluid could have been building in his chest for a long time, or something could have--what? popped? The Porter Square vet wouldn't have seen it anyway because they don't have an ultrasound. And although Abbie is a chronic complainer, often telling me all about his problems during the day, cats often don't like to show their pain. I don't think he was putting up a front, but he definitely wasn't showing any outward signs of trouble.

Abbie does not have long. I do not expect him to last the night. If he does, however, a travelling vet is coming by tomorrow morning to look him over. I do not think I need to explain what the outcome of this visit will most likely be. One can hope that perhaps it's just been a spate of serious weakness-while-recovering and with an appetite booster he'll be up and eating, but that is a desperate hope. And besides, if he does perk up, he'll still be terminally ill. What kind of life will that be? How many more weeks would he live like this? Death is going to happen. It is inevitable. It's always inevitable, but one only seems to take notice when it's close. As in, I know this is the very last night of Abbie the Cat's life. And I am devastated.

He had a good life. He had the sun, he had his favorite chairs, he had your food. He never knew malice or hate. He never lashed out in anger. He was such a calm, chill cat, he would let you step over him and not even flinch. He made friends with almost everyone he met. Dogs and people with vacuum cleaners were the big exception. I have never known a kinder, more loving, more loyal cat. I was his guy; he always wanted to be where I was. I have also never known such a big people food moocher, but he could get away with it because he was just too cute to ignore. Most of the time.

I will probably tell lots of stories about him in the next few I-don't-knows. I am not going to lie; I will not be able to handle this alone. Sonya is here, Tracy is here, Nurit is here, we are all feeling very very low, but the one thing I cannot do is disappear. There's too much to life right now to disappear.

Sonya and I are beginning our search for a place together (and if you know of any 3br apartments in Camberville with hardwood floors, onsite laundry and a lot of space for books, please let us know) and we were always concerned about how Abbie would take to a move at such an advanced age. But now I know he will not join us as we begin our lives together. He represents a very important part of my life--nearly half of it, fer crying out loud. I got Abbie when I first moved out on my own. He came with me as I found my way, as I lost it sometimes, as I learned often painful lessons, and finally as things got better. Now I am about to embark on a new chapter in life. I am deeply saddened and disappointed that he will not join us in this new chapter after being such a big part of things for so long.

But we're making sure wherever we move is cat-friendly.

There will be other cats. But there will never be one like Abbie the Cat, the 20-pound behemoth, the Beast, Chunk, Abs of Marshmallow, Catus Interruptus, Jingle Cat, Inconvenient Cat, Dipshit McGee (a one-time use; he had earned it), Triangle, His Nibs...

...but most importantly to me, Buddy. My buddy. Good night, Buddy. I love you.

(39 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:tyopsqueene
Date:July 16th, 2013 07:58 am (UTC)
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I'll be raising a glass to a good cat tonight.
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From:phonemonkey
Date:July 16th, 2013 08:56 am (UTC)
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So will we.

Good night, sir. You were one hell of a good cat.
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From:nineweaving
Date:July 16th, 2013 08:08 am (UTC)
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A great friend. May he find his quiet ground.

Nine
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From:r_ness
Date:July 16th, 2013 08:58 am (UTC)
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Our cat Ember had a long decline with an abrupt end, so I empathize with your shock at how fast things went downhill with Abbie. I'm sorry to hear.

I'm glad you have folks with you now. It helps a great deal.

Hang in there.
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From:contradictacat
Date:July 16th, 2013 09:14 am (UTC)
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I'll pour some milk or his people-beverage of choice out for him tonight. Rest well, Abbie. You were awesome, and you will be missed.
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From:kalliejenn2
Date:July 16th, 2013 10:11 am (UTC)
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I am so sorry, hon. it's so hard to lose such a close friend & companion, especially one that awesome
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From:jason237
Date:July 16th, 2013 10:24 am (UTC)
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Abbie the cat has a posse.
So sorry he's on the way out.
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From:kalibex
Date:July 16th, 2013 10:39 am (UTC)
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Nope, the intellectual awareness of a cat's inevitable passing doesn't do jack s*** to make it any easier.

I'm sorry to hear he's on his way out, Rob.
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From:moon_custafer
Date:July 16th, 2013 11:01 am (UTC)
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A fine cat.


As the owner of a fifteen-year-old cat myself, I dread this day too.
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From:storme
Date:July 16th, 2013 11:16 am (UTC)
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A great cat, and an even better friend.

I'm glad you have people with you through this.
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From:xiphias
Date:July 16th, 2013 11:35 am (UTC)
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Our sorrow is one of the tributes we offer to them.

"A fine cat, a very fine cat indeed." -- Samuel Johnson
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From:tansu
Date:July 16th, 2013 11:49 am (UTC)
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All of his posse will miss him very much.

Goodbye, Abbie, sir. Goodbye.
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From:grendelyn
Date:July 16th, 2013 12:08 pm (UTC)
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My Oz, who's only 5 and a half, had exactly the same thing about 2 weeks ago. He is on Frucimide to stem the tide of fluid coming back and a few other pills. It could be a few weeks or up to a year, but every day is terrifying. I can't see draining another 300ml from his chest to just start again...

This sucks so much, our thoughts are with you.
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From:schreibergasse
Date:July 16th, 2013 12:13 pm (UTC)
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From:ladymondegreen
Date:July 16th, 2013 01:33 pm (UTC)
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I was thinking of that as well.

I am so sorry that Abbie has to go. May his memory always be with you, kitten eyes, food mooching and all.
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From:orionsmom
Date:July 16th, 2013 12:38 pm (UTC)
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My deepest Sympathies.

We lost Orion this year too and it happened in 3 days.

Pets are bright flashes of love and beauty that remind us to laugh when we need to, are there for us when we need a good cry, that love us no matter what we do and remind us that life is worth living through all the pain.

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From:bedfull_o_books
Date:July 16th, 2013 01:03 pm (UTC)
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I am crying as I type this. Abby is one of the greats.

The good memories help a lot.

Let me know if there is anything I can do to help. Sending lots of hugs your way.
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From:mmcirvin
Date:July 16th, 2013 01:10 pm (UTC)
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Poor kitty. Old cats can soldier on for quite a while with invisible problems, and when they go, it's often all at once. Best wishes.
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From:goldsquare
Date:July 16th, 2013 01:15 pm (UTC)
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My sympathies.

The day my first little cat passed, I cried without shame. I know "men don't do that", but damnit: she was my cat.
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From:ooshiny
Date:July 16th, 2013 01:17 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad you wrote all of this out. It hurts to read, likely far less than it hurt you to write, but it's important. Abbie is a good kitty, and as we all know, a widely popular and well-loved kitty. You've given him an excellent life, as he has to you. *hugs* Also, this userpic seemed apropos, although it about made me tear up when I went through the picker.
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From:Jim Sullivan
Date:July 16th, 2013 01:39 pm (UTC)

God Bless

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Been there, Spatch, and it sucks. There's little else to say, other than you have a whole bunch of folks out here who would gladly absorb some of your grief if we could.
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From:ruthling
Date:July 16th, 2013 01:56 pm (UTC)
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:( so sorry for your ongoing loss. Pets can break your heart.
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From:minkrose
Date:July 16th, 2013 01:58 pm (UTC)
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Right now, I'm being grateful that I got to meet Mr. Abbie once, albeit briefly.

This is strongly reminding me of the death of my husband's dog back in January, the dog I have loved best out of all I've ever known (including my family's dog; he was a special dog). He hurt his leg, and went into the vet for that on a Monday -- but Andy's parents also wanted to have his slight cough checked out. His lungs were filled with fluid. On Wednesday, x-rays showed he had a massive tumor in his chest, causing the buildup, and as a 13 year old standard poodle, even if it was removed, he probably wouldn't last longer than 6 months. So we had a cross-country video chat on Friday before they brought him to the vet in Minnesota. He was doing so poorly, it was clearly time... we're visiting Minnesota to bury him at the cabin on the lake (and visit with some extended family) in two weeks.

I'll be thinking of Abbie too, while I'm there. There are many trees, and many flowers underneath them.
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From:ckd
Date:July 16th, 2013 01:58 pm (UTC)
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Both you and Sonya have created moving tributes to Abbie, which I think are the finest monuments to his excellence that could possibly exist.

My sympathy and condolences.
(Deleted comment)
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From:genarti
Date:July 16th, 2013 02:02 pm (UTC)
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Oh, Rob. I'm so very sorry.

As long as I've known you -- thirteen years now -- it's been with Abbie the Cat a friendly, fluffy, self-satisfied presence in the background. He'll be remembered with much love by all his posse.

Losing a pet is so, so hard, and especially after so long with intertwined lives. I'm sorry.
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From:dcart
Date:July 16th, 2013 02:13 pm (UTC)
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I am glad you have people there for you. If I ever see you in person again, I hope maybe we can swap stories of cats we had for their entire lives, who saved our lives and kept us sane, who were our buddies. That's what I always called Julio, that I called no other animal before and may not again. I hope you don't mind me telling you this, but I'm going to go out to my car now and cry. For you, for me, for those cats, and for this terrible, beautiful world where everyone we love is, ultimately, mortal.
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From:chitzk0i
Date:July 16th, 2013 02:26 pm (UTC)
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I had to stop reading because I can't cry too much at work, but damn, I feel you. I've had to let go of some great cats and dogs and it never gets easy. We give them as many good years as we can and give them all the love.
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From:rigel
Date:July 16th, 2013 03:20 pm (UTC)
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This brought me to tears, no lie. I can't even have cats anymore, and thus really never got to know Abbie as well as I'd have liked to, but I had them as a child and I know how much they mean to you. (You're an amazing storyteller, but your love for Abbie could blow down walls.)

I'm so sorry, hon. I'm a little laid up at the moment, but please let me know if there's anything I can do.
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From:BranchingOutYga
Date:July 16th, 2013 03:26 pm (UTC)

My dearest condolences

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I am so sorry for the impending loss of your sweet friend.

We recently received sad news about our rescue cat, where the vet recommended putting her down. We resisted and have been lucky enough to see her turn a corner, thanks to meds and acupuncture. If you are interested, I can recommend our holistic vet who makes house calls. Perhaps she can help ease some measure of Abbie's suffering.

Edited at 2013-07-16 03:33 pm (UTC)
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From:Ali Margo
Date:July 16th, 2013 03:27 pm (UTC)
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I stumbled on to your post while reading about today's fire in Boston. It tugged at my heart and I felt compelled to create an account so I could comment. I shed some quiet tears for you today. I know the pain all too well. Our furry little loves break our hearts only once...the day the pass on. However, all the pain you are feeling cannot compare to the years of happiness that Abbie brought you. I believe that they are with us for such a short time because they have already learned their lessons and achieved their purpose here on Earth...Unconditional love. Abbie will go to the Rainbow Bridge and one day you will meet him again.

Edited at 2013-07-16 03:30 pm (UTC)
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From:violetisblue
Date:July 16th, 2013 04:33 pm (UTC)
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Spatch, I just saw this post and I am so sad and so sorry. I lost my own best boon companion when she was eighteen, a couple of years ago, and I know some of what you're going through, and how it can all seem to come out of nowhere. Keeping you, Abbie and Sonya in my thoughts, and wishing I could do more than that.
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From:markm
Date:July 16th, 2013 05:55 pm (UTC)
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I'm so sorry, spatch.
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From:sarcasticah
Date:July 16th, 2013 07:40 pm (UTC)

I'm so, so sorry.

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It's so hard to lose a kitty friend. Even when you know they've had a long and happy life, and you know the end is going to come sooner or later, it's so damn hard. I lost my buddy of 15 years, Smoke, a couple of years ago, and there's still a little black-cat-shaped hole in my life. But as much as it hurts, I wouldn't trade my years with her for anything, ever.

(The small silver lining, of course, is that there are lots of other cats who would be very lucky to become your buddy in the future. Which isn't a consolation, of course, and there's no replacing Abbie.)

I'm just so sorry.
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From:ketzie
Date:July 17th, 2013 12:00 am (UTC)
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Oh, Spatch, I'm so, so sorry. He is a great cat and the two of you have taken good care of each other for so long.

I empathize more than you know. We lost PK in similar circumstances in April after 18 years with her and I miss her every single day.
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From:bikergeek
Date:July 17th, 2013 02:35 am (UTC)
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(here via UHub)

I'm so sorry. My sympathies.
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From:squirrelitude
Date:July 17th, 2013 04:40 am (UTC)
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I remember when my 18-year-old (or older) cat died. She had been getting creakier but was still a capable outdoor cat... and then suddenly she was quite ill. Kidney failure. No real notice -- I guess cats just work that way. I opted for palliative care until my parents could be home, and then we gave her our Final Gift.

Whether this is the end or not, my sympathies.
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From:spwebdesign
Date:July 17th, 2013 10:56 pm (UTC)
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I'm so sorry to hear this, Rob. I have enjoyed your Abbie posts and my few encounters with him. I hope that, when the moment does come, it comes with as little physical pain and as much dignity as possible.

Edited at 2013-07-17 10:58 pm (UTC)

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