I read the following quote last year and for some reason it sat in the back of my mind. “The trouble is – you think you have time.” It’s a little cliché, but profoundly simple in its meaning and would become more so as the events of the past few months unfolded. I consider myself to be proactive, but like everyone I will put off things thinking I have time to do it later. Time to finish a project, time to make a decision, time to pursue a dream or time to spend with those who are important in our lives – human or animal.
In September the time I thought I had with my cat Spinner would be suddenly cut short bringing everything in my life to a halt, and literally breaking my heart in the process.
I adopted Spinner in 2005 from Toronto Animal Services where he had come in as a ‘stray’ (for his back story check out my guest blog post about Spinner on Katzenworld). He was a very special and unique cat – physically he was a handsome stunner with the personality to match. He fit into our already two cat household and became good friends and adopted brother to our beautiful and gentle house-panther Simon.
In 2009, our tabby Cleo passed away and in 2010 Simon, both had lived to 18 years old. Simon’s passing was really difficult but Spinner was there to help me through it. When you lose a pet you realize how precious your time is with them so Spinner now the OC (only cat) was spoiled. Spinner was a special cat in many ways, beautiful on the outside with a funny, sassy, smart, talkative, loving personality that won hearts and had me wrapped around his little paws.
Spinner was the cat that was always there, literally. He ran to the door when I got home, looked for me when I wasn’t there and slept by my side every night. If I was on my laptop he would settle in between the laptop and me resting his chin on my arm. If I was on the couch he was there and if I moved he followed. He loved to be held, would wrap his arms around you in a hug and enjoyed jumping on your back when you bent over. He loved belly rubs and purred all the time – he sounded like a tiny motor boat. He was a super relaxed cat and enjoyed the attention from people around him. Whenever someone new met him they couldn’t help but fall in love.
No matter what kind of day you had Spinner made it better and when things weren’t going well, they were made better by being around him. Spinner was my best friend and knowing he was home made coming home better. There was no reason to think that his time would be cut short as his recent senior wellness check at the vet this spring showed all was in excellent order, for a 13 year young cat he was doing great. Then, just after the September long weekend – he stopped eating and I booked an appointment for the vet the next day.
The first vet diagnosed him with pancreatitis but a trip the Vet Emergency and X-ray the next day revealed that he had a large mass in his chest cavity. The vet said it was likely cancer and due to the location no traditional means of treatment would help. They also had no way to know for sure how bad it was without a biopsy which they were reluctant to do because of the location. Immediately the option was to provide palliative care – which meant fluids, vitamins, sub-q and an appetite stimulant to get him eating and to keep him comfortable. At that point I don’t think the diagnosis fully sank in but I will say Spinner was handling things better than me.
Driving home that night from the vet it started to process and I began to research other options and booked an appointment to see a holistic vet for the following week. In the meantime Spinner perked up the next day and started to eat so I promised him we would try to do everything to help him as long as he wanted – that if we could cure him we were going to do it, he was going to be the ‘miracle’ story you read about. That afternoon emotionally and physically exhausted we had a nap, Spinner squeezed in between me and a pillow and purred – it would be a special memory that I will always hold in my heart.
Spinner did well for a week but then he stopped eating again. I had tried everything to get him to eat on his own but as a temporary measure the syringe feedings would help him get by as his system started to settle. As long as he was drinking, going to the bathroom normally and maintaining healthy weight the vet said that we could keep him comfortable and in the meantime a trip to the oncologist was recommended for the final opinion on the mass.
Spinner was trying, I could tell and I knew he was trying for me. He had become a different cat in a very short time, he stopped playing and took to sleeping under the bed or on top of it he began spending less and less time with me. He showed little interest in anything except sleeping and taking his food, drinking or using his litter box. There were however many good moments where I was hopeful the support was working to build his immune system and he would have the miraculous cure that I was hoping for. Whatever he wanted or showed interest in he would get – cat grass and spider plant to munch on, his favorite treat of peanut butter and trips outside for fresh air. During this time I was a mess and when I did cry it was a wail – a sound of deep despair, it was the sound that I can only describe as coming from my soul. It was hard to keep it together but I was able to function normally by focusing on caring for him. When I broke down Spinner would often come out from under the bed lay down on the floor, look at me and start to purr – we had many cuddle sessions like this which would last for a short time before he would go back under the bed again.
The trip to the oncologist sadly, did not go as I’d hoped, in fact it was worse than I or the regular vet had thought – Spinner had multiple tumors in his liver, pancreas as well as the one in his chest cavity. The oncologist also found a lump on his shoulder bone which she suspects is where the cancer started. It was a rare and very aggressive cancer and there was no treatment, no cure, keeping him comfortable until he said it was time was the only option and that it would likely be a few weeks. The official word that there would be no cure, no remission was devastating, he was only 13.
In under five weeks Spinner had declined but he didn’t start to deteriorate quickly until late September early October. A week before I made the call to a vet to discuss at home euthanasia he did two things that he hadn’t done in over a month – he went to the window to look outside and he sat on my lap, stared into my eyes then jumped off. I realized that all this time he was preparing me for life without him, even though he slept by my head every night he was sending me a message and the signs were clear. I was worried that I wouldn’t know, but there was one clear sign that would help me make the decision that all pet owners dread and even fear.
He was such a gentle, patient cat and was unbelievable through everything and I never wanted to let him go, however I couldn’t watch him get worse I had to let him go. Six years ago I had to make that choice for Simon and the memory of that experience brought back all the emotions, but I don’t know if that was a good thing. I knew what was coming, the pain, sadness, emptiness… the only difference was I had already started grieving for Spinner before he was gone and it had been happening for weeks.
I made the call to the vet to look at booking an appointment and even though I knew it was the right and compassionate choice it did not make it any easier. During my initial call I didn’t commit to a day or time instead I took a day to decide and had a conversation with Spinner. I told him that I loved him and that it was OK for him to go home, that he would see Simon, maybe Cleo to and any of his friends he knew before he came into my life. I was sorry I couldn’t help him and I would miss him more than I could ever say – we should have had many more years together.
I stayed home on Spinners last day, which was beautiful and sunny. He had one last meal in the morning and I told him that he would no longer have to endure syringe feedings. We had a nice visit outside in the sun where he walked around the garden sniffed the flowers, plants and fresh air. When he was ready he walked back inside to rest. Some of my friends who had known Spinner came by for a visit and to say goodbye and of course Spinner being a social cat made sure to come out and greet them all.
The vet arrived at the scheduled time and as we prepared and went over how everything was going to transpire, Spinner calmly lay on the same pillow where he had slept every night for the past month surrounded by his friends and with me by his side. Surprisingly I had stopped crying earlier in the day and this strange calmness came over me. As I spoke to Spinner and gave him tons of kisses he purred. He purred right up until the sedative took effect and his eyes closed. On October 13 at approximately 8:30 pm he took his last breath and his heart slowed to a stop.
Before we wrapped Spinner up in a towel with his favorite toy mouse and placed him in a fleece blanket lined basket that the vet provided I noticed something. His eyes had shut completely and there was a single tear in the corner of one of his eyes. I wiped it away and we gently wrapped him up placing him in the basket. A part of me knows he did not want to leave and I like to think that the single tear was his way of saying goodbye, that he was just as sad at having to leave me as I was having to let him go.
The next days following were hard, very hard and the reality of his loss hit me. His absence was at times unbearable and knowing he wouldn’t be there when I came home was really difficult. It has been up and down since, some days it is fine and other times it hits me, but I guess that is all part of the grieving process. While it does get better there are some losses you never really get over, they stay with you, take a part of you and even change you, I know this was one.
Spinner will be gone a month next week and before now I hadn’t been able to write about him or determine how to pay tribute to a very special cat whom I adored beyond words. I am lucky to have tons of photos and video of him, so I put together this video to showcase his beautiful personality and moments throughout his life with me.
Spinner I hope you are watching and with me still, thank you for being part of my life.
Special thanks to Dr. Banks of Midtown Mobile Veterinary Services for taking the time to talk to me about at home euthanasia and providing the information that I needed to make a very difficult decision and to Dr. Ellis for her professionalism, kindness and compassion with Spinner on his last night.