this is a long one, kids. buckle up.
i have tried about five times to write this post. but every time i try, i find myself unable to express myself coherently. i end up giving up. but this is important, so i want to keep trying.
this is shelby. she is around 20/21 human years old. this means she is older than my brother and has been in my life longer than my wife has.
when she was young, we had her desexed. since then, she has not enjoyed being picked up. we think that her surgery wound healed incorrectly and has caused her pain whenever pressure was applied, but she still lets us pick her up anyway.
she has always loved dry food. in her old age, we noticed she had some trouble chewing it. we looked at her jaw and saw one of her teeth was basically hanging by a thread. of course, we took her to the vet.
they said almost all of her teeth were rotting and there were infections in the jaws. either we could ‘make her comfortable’ and the infection would eventually reach her brain and kill her, or we could spend possibly thousands of dollars on surgery for her, but she may die from the stress of anaesthetic, or from the stress of recovery (as an old cat). of course, we chose the surgery.
as part of normal process here, small animals must undergo a blood test panel to determine the appropriateness of them undergoing general anaesthetic. her tests came back very, very good. she had kidney function equivalent to a cat half her age.
she was anaesthatised and they worked to extract her teeth and clean the empty sockets. they called us the next day to tell us she recovered well from the anaesthetic, but they didn’t have time to get all the teeth. so we were back in the first position – surgery with a risk of death, or palliation and death? we chose the surgery.
she went under anaesthetic again, and they repeated the process. the next day, they called us again. her teeth and jaws were in such bad condition, they were unable to get all the teeth again. we had the same question asked. we chose the same option.
finally, they called us the next day and said they had extracted all of the rotting teeth and cleaned all the empty sockets. the rot and infection had spread much further than they had judged initially, so they removed all but her tiny front teeth.
they told us quite frankly that we picked the best option for her comfort and longevity, but they did not expect her to survive the process. for an old cat to survive extensive anaesthesia once is unusual. three times was apparently pushing the boundaries of believability. and yet, here she was. still yelling at us for dry food, still demanding attention. still sitting on the pony wall in the kitchen yelling at us while we cooked.
this was two years ago. she has defied expectations. she has defied Death. we were all worried about her a couple of times, where she seemed to stop eating and sleep too much. i have said goodbye to her more than once. just in case. but here she is, in all her toothless glory. she hangs on.
we have always enjoyed a comfortable and close friendship. i know the end of my bed was comfy to sleep on, and i was happy to see you there when i woke up or when i got home. i am glad you still enjoy going outside, but i am selfishly a little happy that you choose to stay close to home.
i know what that means, though. i can see the signs. you’re staying closer to home because you’re wary, and you know your reflexes and muscles aren’t what they used to be. you’re not grooming yourself as much any more because you’re too tired, and it no longer really matters, does it? you’re just happy to have some company and food, you don’t need to look shiny for anyone.
i know you are tired. i know some days your eyes and ears won’t cooperate. i can tell because even when i reach out slowly to you, you dodge away because you aren’t sure who is trying to touch you.
but when you realise it’s me, you still smash your bony little skull into my hand with all the force you can muster. you still let me pick you up so i can gently lay your shoulders over my shoulder and scratch the base of your tail, just like you like it.
you still remember me. even though i moved out.
you still love me. even though you only see me every now and then.
i know you are a cat and cannot read. but i hope that me writing this, and thinking about this, will send #goodvibes out into the world, and tell you the most important things i have left to tell you.
i love you too. thank you for your companionship.
when you go, i will miss you dearly.
with all my will, i wish you the best for now, and forever.