Anyone who knows my family knows that several of our family members are of the furry variety. And as you know, we recently lost one of those beloved family members, Heidi. She was actually the second one to leave us in less than a year. Our precious chocolate lab, Moka, went to heaven just before Thanksgiving last year.
What I haven’t written about until now is that we have two other cats (Carroll and Squeaky) and two puppies (Riley and Raine) all of whom are also very important parts of our family. We got Carroll as a stray in Birmingham, Alabama six and a half years ago when we were visiting my mother-in-law. He visited her deck every evening right around 5 o’clock. At the time, my mother-in-law’s best friend was sick and in the hospital, so she named her new visitor after her. [We didn’t know until later that he was actually a he, so a spelling change was in order]. This kitty was very sweet and took to Emerald (who was then 4 ) immediately.
At the time, we had two cats, Heidi and Juneau, but neither of them would let Emerald play with them. Jim and I thought Carroll would make a great pet for Emerald so my mother-in-law called all around and Jim went door-to-door to make sure the kitty didn’t already have a home. No one claimed him so we brought him home with us.
Ever since, he has been the most loving cat you could imagine. He loves attention and purrs almost constantly. He fit into our family seamlessly and added so much joy.
About five months ago, we found out that Carroll had a very aggressive malignant tumor in his left eye. By the time it was discovered, it was very large and had likely already spread. We had to have his eye removed, but we were told that he probably wouldn’t have much longer to live because of the type of tumor he has.
Over the last few weeks, he has been back and forth to the vet and at times he has seemed very uncomfortable and unhappy. But with treatment, he went back to being the happy, affectionate cat and time went on. That is until this past Saturday. His eye socket began bleeding; he lost a lot of blood and seemed to go unconscious. We thought this was the end. We knew it was coming sometime, but this was a sudden and traumatic way for it to happen. Sapphire in particular took it very hard. We were all petting him, saying “goodbye” to him, and telling him how much we loved him, when suddenly his head popped up and he began washing his paw. It was as if he were saying, “Don’t count me out yet.” We were overjoyed.
But after that, he just hasn’t been himself. He is hiding, is very unsteady when he does move, doesn’t seem interested in food at all, and doesn’t want attention. We began to fear he is in pain.
Yesterday morning, I took him to the vet again. This time, there was no treatment she could offer. She said the tumor has spread along his jaw and likely into his brain as well. She also thinks he may be hemorrhaging into his brain. She agreed that he is probably in pain. She also fears he will have a very traumatic end, likely in the middle of the night. She knows that we don’t want that for Carroll, or for our kids. Although she knew it wasn’t what I wanted to hear, she said it is time to put him down. [Even now as I type this I want to say something less harsh, like “help him go to heaven” or just “it’s time.” Those words are just so hard to think, let alone put in bold print.]
Even though I half expected that was what she would say, it was still a bit of a shock and it took all I had to hold back tears. I told her that I couldn’t do that without giving the rest of the family the chance to say “goodbye”. She knew I would feel that way and offered to give him subcutaneous fluids since he’s dehydrated and then send him home with me, telling me that she would be in every day this week except Thursday and would work us in anytime.
As she took Carroll into the back for his fluids, I wandered back to the lobby to wait. I had noticed an adorable kitten in a crate there as I walked in with Carroll thirty minutes before. It had been found in the sewer of an apartment complex and was being given away to a “good home”. Jim, the girls, and I had talked about getting another cat/kitten at some point ever since Heidi died and we got the news that Carroll probably only had a few months left. We had intended to wait until after Carroll’s time here was over. We certainly don’t want to replace anyone, but we also felt a new cat may help fill the void left by Heidi and soon, by Carroll as well.
It felt like a sign that they had this kitten today. The note on his crate indicated that he is very affectionate, very playful, and gets along well with everyone, as well as with other cats and with dogs. Perfect. I went to him and reached through the bars of the crate to pet him. He leaned his cheek into my hand and purred. This sweet little thing needed a home and seemed to have exactly the personality we were looking for in a kitten. I was sold, even as I felt my emotions about Carroll start to bubble up.
I called Jim to fill him in on Carroll (and to cry) and then I told him about the kitten. He agreed that this might make it less traumatic for Sapphire and Emerald. He left it up to me, which is probably not be a wise move when it comes to pets, especially kittens.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, we have a new family member.
Sapphire and I batted name ideas around all afternoon. When Emerald got off the bus, she suggested “Shadow”, which we all agreed was perfect for him. Shadow it is. [Note to Mary: There are white hairs on his back (he looks a little salt and pepper), just for you. :)]
Mixed with the joy of a new “baby” in the house, we also have profound sorrow. We have to figure out how to deal with the loss of another very special boy. And we have to schedule it. I get tearful just thinking about it. Carroll is truly a special cat. He is, and will forever be, my beloved buddy.
Carroll, I’m not ready to say “goodbye”, but we know that it’s what’s best for you. We will love you always and you will forever be in our hearts. ♥
It was a very emotional day. Just the first of several, I’m sure.