She looks as beautiful as ever in that photo, taken yesterday morning, but she was declining pretty rapidly. She was jaundiced, had lost more than seven pounds in a short time period (going from 17 pounds to less than 10) after doing a lot of vomiting and then not eating, and, I discovered when we went to the vet Friday, had a mass in her abdomen. The vet's prognosis was that she had cancer.
Before he came out with the "c" word, though, he was using language like "supportive care." The latter finally started to permeate the brain fog that tends to come when I'm processing not-so-good news from a health care provider. I realized that we were talking about making her comfortable in the short time she had left -- not discussing options like medication to resolve whatever temporary thing was going on.
I opted not to engage in extraordinary diagnostic or treatment measures. I'd had Belle for nearly 10 years and she was almost 4 years old when she came to me, so at close to 14 she had had a good, long, healthy life. I didn't want her last days to be filled with pain and repeated trips to the vet to be poked and prodded. And I wanted to let her go in a peaceful, loving way that honored her life.
Belle was a fireball. She was sweet, loving, intelligent and feisty -- a girl after my own heart. She had figured out how to slide open the screen door, so she would often let herself outside for a few minutes of freedom before I realized what she had done and caught up with her. And even though she'd spend most of her days quietly sleeping in another room, her presence so filled the space of our small home that it now feels quite empty without her. Clifford and I are certainly adjusting to a new normal today.
Just one example of Belle's feistiness: Before canine munchkin Clifford came into our lives, I had a pit bull named Elmo. Elmo was 75 pounds of muscle and love. He enjoyed getting in Belle's face and trying to get her to play. One day she simply had had enough. With an "I just can't take it anymore" attitude Belle chased Elmo around and around the coffee table in the living room, making him scooch his butt around the corners so he wouldn't get claws in his hindquarters.
Those are the laugh-inducing times that make me wish I had a video camera always at the ready.
Not only did she hold her own against the playful Elmo, but she also did with Ariel, my first four-legged kid and the senior one in the household at the time. The night I brought Belle home, I left her in her carrier on top of the table for a bit so she could get a sense of her surroundings while Elmo and Ariel picked up on her scent and got adjusted to her presence. At one point, Ariel jumped up on the chair right in front of Belle's carrier. When she finally caught on that a cat was in there, Ariel turned to me with an absolutely disgusted look on her face as if to say, "You b*&%$! What have you done?!"
That was also quite comical.
Although Ariel and Belle never became best buds, they did develop a healthy respect for one another that allowed for a peaceful coexistence. With time, Elmo, Ariel and Belle came to be a companionable threesome.
I believe gratitude can make a whole lot of things better, so right now I'm grateful:
- That Belle was purring and conscious during her last days and hours here, and that her last vision of me and the world around her wasn't through a haze of pain
- That we got a last night of togetherness, and that Belle was afforded an opportunity to exercise her huntress capabilities with the moth that presented itself to her like an offering Friday evening
- That we arrived at our appointment a bit early, and Belle got to wander around outside and eat her fill of grass
- For Dr. Jon Spelke and the capable and compassionate folks at Androscoggin Animal Hospital, who take great care of pets and their people
- That life continues after we release a physical body, and even though it's hard for our human senses to realize it, our loved ones are still with us after we let them go
|Odd couples make for great buddies|