Monday, December 12, 2011

A Tribute to Rocky

Rocky, snuggling in a basket. He was an awesome snuggler.
I lost my cat on Saturday. More than that, I lost my friend, my companion, my baby. Losing a pet is always hard. But when your furbabies are the ONLY babies you have, losing a pet is devastating. And Rocky was special. All kitties are special, but Rocky truly was an amazing cat. He survived a lot, and he helped me to survive just as much. I like to think that as much as I rescued Rocky when he was a tiny, 4-day old kitten, he rescued me. I would like to tell Rocky's story, to honor his life.

Rocky came into my household while I was married to He Who Must Not Be Named. In fact, in a sick way I can thank that person because it was he who had decided that we would foster cats and he who brought Rocky and his mom and two sisters into our house. (What I didn't know then was that the person who had inspired him to want to foster kitties, as I had wanted a cat and pleaded to no avail up until this point, was his "Friend." His "friend" he had a three and half long affair with during our hideous marriage. But I digress.) Rocky was unsteady, he was a little scrawny. He had to fight to get a spot at Mom's buffet. But he was a fighter. I immediately fell in love with this little black and white bruiser. He was named Rocky (not by me of course) because of this trait. Later I liked to think of him as Rocky Raccoon, like in the B.eatles song.

Rocky grew to be my buddy, coming up to bed before Voldemort and snuggling with me before he was kicked out. And then he would cry at the door wanting to be let in afterwards. He was so sweet with me, but when he had to go to Adoption Days at the petstore he changed completely. He sat in his crate and yowled and hissed and growled and swatted and was a devilcat. It was like he didn't want to be adopted. It was like he knew that he was already home with me, and he was going to do everything in his power to stay. Which worked, because the nonprofit that sponsored the fostering labeled him "unadoptable" and said that we could do home visits with potential owners but that he was no longer welcome at the Adoption Days. Score one for Rocky and me. I wanted desperately to keep him, but He Who Must Not Be Named was not on board. He kept him on the online site for people to choose a cat. And then one beautiful day he agreed--Rocky could stay. I was so happy.

But then, probably months before all the infidelities were revealed and I (finally!) decided that a husband who will cheat on you in addition to treating you in abhorrent ways needed to go, I got a nasty surprise. Rocky had not been removed from the online cat adoption site. And a woman was interested in him. My ex-husband told me that she would be coming to see Rocky and might leave with him. I was devastated. I cried, I screamed, I felt so betrayed. It was a definite dick move. Rocky was MY cat, it was obvious. It was incredibly hurtful. So, when the lady came over, I was sniffling and sobbing quietly the whole time. I pet him and he came over and sat in my lap. The lady asked, "Why are you adopting this cat out? He's obviously your cat." And I quickly (and with much venom) said, "I'm not looking to adopt him out." Needless to say, she left. Probably thinking my husband at the time was a big fat asshole from the looks she gave him. Rocky was mine again!

Fastforward to the demise of my marriage. I found out that in addition to the three and a half long affair, which I had suspected and accused him of but was told NO NO NO and so buried my untrusting badwife thoughts, he had been sleeping with a married friend he worked with for three months or so. I confronted him with the evidence (there were many, many disgusting emails) and kicked him out until I could figure things out. And when he decided that he was coming back to the house and I couldn't do anything about it, I moved out. And took Rocky and my other cat (who now lives with my mom due to an unfortunate ability to get along with Bryce's cat, Abner) with me. And contacted the nonprofit cat adoption agency. And my fears were confirmed--my cats had never been adopted officially, even though I was told Rocky was. I immediately set up plans to go adopt them officially as Rocky was still on that freaking website. When I went, as Voldemort's wife (I was trying to avoid drama, haha), the people there were so confused. Apparently they had no clue he was married and thought he was going to propose to the "friend" any day. They had no idea I existed. So much so that they congratulated me on my "New" 5-year-and-change marriage. Argh. But, the silver lining was I had my Rocky, safe and sound and away from that horrible situation.

While I was living at my mom's house, Rocky suffered another setback. While I was student teaching (awesome timing for a divorce, by the way, while you're paying to work with no guarantee of employment in your future that's not $80/day with no insurance...), Rocky was up on the loft bedroom ledge and fell. Twelve feet. He shattered his right forearm in 17 places but still managed to drag himself to the bathroom to curl up in front of the shower. Which is where I found him when I got home. He was unresponsive and yowled when I tried to pick him up, but I had no idea he was so badly hurt. I rushed him to the emergency vet after calling Bryce, who I was dating (but for mere months) at this point. They took him out of the carrier and his front leg just dangled. It was horrible. They showed me an x-ray and let me know that he would need either reconstructive surgery or amputation. I was horrified that my cat was so hurt, and horrified that with negative income and bills out the wazoo for my divorce I was faced with a significant vet bill. I found a vet who assured me that cats do very well with amputation, and I bit the bullet and had the surgery done. I had to help my friend, and he was suffering. Rocky bounced back amazingly well from the amputation. He could jump up (the first thing he did when he wasn't high on meds was jump right back on that ledge, yikes!), he could catch flies with one paw, he could beat the crap out of my other cat. He was SuperCat! He walked like Quasimoto, but who cares? He was better, he was healthy, he was fine.

Rocky did well acclimating to my new house when I moved in with Bryce. Unfortunately, previously being around someone with a horrible temper who liked to yell and throw things seemed to make Rocky skittish around men. And Bryce is an unusually tall man, but a very gentle man, but it meant to difference to Rocky. He did not like Bryce. He would run and hide. He would hiss and swat. We did everything we could to try to fix the situation, and we did discover that Rocky could tolerate Bryce better when he was sitting (I guess his shadow made him feel like a predator was swooping over him?). While this bothered Bryce, he loved Rocky. Rocky was a part of our family. He was still a snuggler, jumping up on our bed and snuggling with me before bed. Because he still cried at night he was always (gently) removed and put downstairs at bedtime, but we had lots of snuggles. He let me hold him like a teddy bear when I napped on the couch. He came and deposited himself on my stomach for love and comfort when I experienced every single one of my disappointments and losses related to fertility. Over the summer he stayed next to me when I was on bedrest from my surgery to remove my ectopic surgery. He loved going outdoors for supervised time in the sun, and was the only animal of ours to figure out that if he pushed on the back screen door that he could get it partially open (if he'd had a second front leg he'd totally have escaped outdoors). He loved watching birds. He was a catnip addict--he went crazy for the stuff, rolling in it and eating it and hallucinating along the patterns of our oriental carpeting. He had a whole vocal range--I'm convinced he was part Siamese. He yowled, he meowed when he was looking for you, he meow-purred when he found you and was content. He had a lot to say.

Last winter I wrote about how Rocky had a psychotic break of sorts. I think this is related to what finally did him in. It came on with no warning--all of a sudden he was running and hiding in the basement, and it was like he didn't realize he had lost his leg years before. He acted like he was being hunted. He acted weird and aggressive. We took him to multiple vets and nothing physical was wrong with him. We made him a little rehabilitation ward in my back office, with a fancy new cat tree and cat beds and space all to himself (this was after the Pro.zac experiment failed miserably. Abner is a great cat on Pro.zac. Rocky got so stressed with the pill-taking that we never could tell if it would have worked on him, so we ditched it.). Slowly, over months, he came out from under the desk and could be found on the cat tree, watching the birds. Eventually I could bring him out and he wouldn't hide in the basement. By spring he was back to normal. It was weird, but over. I didn't think about it again.

Until, about 5-6 weeks ago, he started acting weird again. He started licking the air or the floor or whatever he was on where his leg used to be. He started seeming increasingly unsteady on his back legs. And he lost nearly 2 pounds in two weeks. Bryce went on a business trip and when he came back he was very concerned--Rocky looked awful to him. I was terrified--what was happening to my cat? I took him into the vet again. He had nothing physical wrong with him other than a slight UTI (I think from being too unsteady to confidently get into the litterbox). He got an antibiotic shot and I said I'd take him back in two weeks for x-rays if he didn't improve, since those could show a tumor possibly. A week and a half later Rocky was so unstable and starting to flop over and not support himself so well. He was still skinny, but he was still able to do stairs (although very, very carefully) and jump up on his favorite chair. I brought him in early for the x-rays. They showed nothing. I was told that a neurological problem or brain tumor wouldn't be visible on anything but an MRI, which would cost at minimum $1700. And not actually help Rocky, just tell us what was wrong. Maybe. They told me to try a second opinion. I decided to see how he did over the next week. Rocky declined further. He would wait at the bottom of the stairs and yowl until I came down to help him in and out of the litterbox, because he would fall on top of his own mess otherwise. He was falling off his chair. It was time to get a second opinion. A friend of mine who is a vet came over and observed him, and found a spot on his spine that was painful. Rocky's reflexes were really off on his back legs. He had one leg that had no sense of place in space. Something was terribly wrong, but again nothing but an MRI would show what. And with all of the medical bills we have and are facing if our frozen is unsuccessful, we just can't afford an MRI for our cat. She suggested that we put him on crate rest, keep him from jumping and moving around so much. She was worried that Rocky would further injure himself, and if it was a disk issue then maybe it would get better with rest. I tried it. But, like everything else, it couldn't help Rocky get over whatever mysterious ailment was robbing him of mobility. He lost control over his back legs. He fell over more and more, and needed to be washed off regularly because he would either not make it into the litterbox or fall into his mess and drag himself through it. He would come out for snuggletime on a towel on the couch with me, and never once try to get off. I would put him on the floor to see if he could support himself, and he would stay upright for a second and then flop. Twice I found him sitting in his crate, which was encouraging, but then he couldn't move from that position. It was awful. And a week into the crate rest he lost his mobility and independence so much that he would just lay on his side and meow, and even with me carrying him to the litterbox and supporting him he couldn't go.

I sobbed for a week between calling my friend for a veterinary favor and making the decision to let Rocky go. I knew it was coming. I just couldn't believe it. How could this be happening to us? How could my amazing little baby, my beloved cat, be leaving me so suddenly and with no explanation? His quality of life was pretty awful. I had to let him go. But I was so angry. I'm still angry. Why can't we catch a break here? Why must 2011 be the WORST year yet? Why must I lose a pregnancy, a dog, and a cat all the span of months? I cried tears of sorrow for the loss of my cat. I cried angry tears at the unfairness of it all. I brought him into the vet for euthanasia. I took pictures of Rocky snuggling on the couch, and I took pictures of him outside because Bryce thought he would like one last sit in the sun. It was cold, but he watched some birds and seemed to be happy out there. Rocky hated the car, so I decided to hold him and put him in the carrier when we got to the clinic. He was so cozy. The vet agreed with our decision and they catheterized him. Unfortunately, Rocky was a fighter to the end. It broke my heart, because he had spurt of energy and was clear-eyed--his body was broken but his mind was sound, and he did not like what was happening. I felt like I betrayed him. In the process of things he bit me, and miraculously kicked the leg with the catheter so that the medication didn't all go in. Which was horrific because he needed a second shot. They had to take him back to catheterize another leg because his veins are terrible (like mine!), and said to prevent it happening again they'd give him the shot in the back room and then bring him out so we could say goodbye before it was over. But because he already had some medication in him he went much faster and was gone when they carried him back in. It was so awful. I wanted to hold him as he passed, I wanted it to be gentle and loving. And it wasn't. It was clinical and he was alone. And when he came in he looked nothing like he did when he was alive. And that haunts me. I am trying very hard to not see his dead eyes anymore. And the timing--there is never good timing to put your cat down, but in this case the timing was particularly horrible in our cycle. And I felt guilty for that being a factor in things.

I am comforted by knowing that I did the right thing, that he had no kind of life at all and was in steady decline with no hope of recovery. He likely had a spinal tumor or a brain tumor. An MRI probably wouldn't have done anything but confirm that he was going to die and there was nothing we could do. I set him free, to the big catnip mound in the sky. I hope he knew how much I loved him. He was so special to me. And now I have a giant hole where my kitty, my precious furbaby once was. Abner is a great cat and he is working hard to be snuggly, but he's lonely. Sometime in the near future we will get a friend for him. We were talking about getting a third cat before Rocky was as sick as he got, so I don't feel like it would be a betrayal to get one so soon. I want another cat who has the spirit of Rocky. A fighter, a lover. A cat who wasn't taught to hate men. A cat that will be a friend to Abner. A cat that will be a friend to our new baby, when he/she arrives hopefully sometime in 2012.

Goodbye, Rocky, you were amazing. Your spirit lives on in some kitten out there, and we will find it. Thank you for everything you were to me. I honor your life now and always. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your kitty!! Prayers to you.

    Check out my blog.... I got a blog award and passed one of the nominations onto you!! Take care, Mel