change of direction

The original purpose of this blog was to share photos of Noko. But over the last 3+ weeks, I’ve been drafting entries regularly in order to process my grief over losing her. I finally feel like I’m the point where I want to put them out there.

This post will stay as long as it makes sense (or be moved or deleted if it stops making sense) and is dated according to the day it was written and published. The others were generally written on the day and then saved as drafts. They will be time stamped with the day to which they relate, not the date that they were finally published.

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1 Oct

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Mark made steak for supper and when we were done we both realised that we wanted to put a plate out for Noko because she would have wanted some – or would have at least wanted to be included, whether or not she actually liked what we were eating.

Dad called in the evening. My announcement on Facebook had been relayed to him, so he called to offer condolences. It’s still hard to talk about what happened.

When my grandma passed away in May, of course Dad was one of the first to know, and he called to let me know. But what’s the protocol for pets? Somehow it didn’t feel right for me to be making calls.

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30 Sep

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Again, thought about Noko curled up on my bed in the morning, wriggling and purring. Mark was there to help me imagine it, and it didn’t hurt quite so much this time – I was able to kind of enjoy the memory but it’s still bittersweet.

Noko’s plastic knives for wet food are still in the drawer – not sure when I’ll get rid of those, but possibly during a general kitchen tidy when I can clear out other unrelated stuff too.

Still dealing with feelings of guilt but I remind myself that I loved her well – the best I could. (I still object to English grammar and having to use “love” in the past tense: she has stopped but my love hasn’t.)

Today turned into cat day on Facebook: two friends posted photos of their own cats; one posted cat jokes; one liked a cat rescue organisation; one shared a post that was trying to find a new home for an elderly cat. I went from kinda sad to WTF? But Mark pointed out that by telling others about Noko’s passing, it probably made a bunch of other cat owners give their cats pats and consciously appreciate having them. I hope he’s right.

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29 Sep

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Started the day thinking about Noko some.

The yoga mat is still in the bathroom waiting to be cleaned. The space where she used to eat still looks empty, and the couch still looks odd without her towel and the cushion up. Knocked over her arthritis meds when I opened the door to the basement – they were on the shelf with other meds to be disposed of. Her nail trimmers are still under the sink, in a container where they are visible right when you open the cupboard door; I have no need of these now but I don’t plan to get rid of them. The office still looks a little odd too, with how I’ve moved the chair.

I was thinking about design around the house and how I want to think about all of the stuff I have to make sure it’s what I want, not just stuff that is good enough. I got thinking about the sheets and how nothing matches. I remembered being dissatisfied with the comforter cover I had made for my comforter (which I’ve disassembled because I decided it was a little too big). When I explored the thought a little more, I remembered that the reason I wasn’t happy with it was because it’s very textured and collects cat hair like mad, requiring too frequent washing. I guess that’s not a problem now. But if I keep the cover it might make me too sad, so I may still change it all up anyway.

Did some laundry and emptied the lint trap in the dryer – much of the lint seemed to be cat hair. I guess I’ll find out just how much was cat hair as time goes on.

House still seems too quiet. Although her absence is very conspicuous during morning and bedtime routines, I haven’t been actively thinking about how quiet it is at any particular time during the day. Still, I think it’s there on a subconscious level, especially around her lunchtime and suppertime.

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28 Sep

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I stayed in bed reading rather late today but was missing Noko more once I got up. Her container of dry food is still under the sink with her bowls; not quite ready to deal with these yet. Her little ad hoc bed was dismantled a couple of days ago, and the towels and pillowcase washed. The tote bin is back downstairs now. The only thing that remains is to wash the pillow.

Every time I pick a cat hair off my clothes or the couch, it’s bittersweet. I certainly can’t do it without thinking of her.

I’m starting to bore myself with thinking more or less the same thoughts, but the sadness is still there and I’m trying to just let it be – neither dismiss it nor wallow in it.

I had a dance performance in the mid-afternoon, which meant starting on makeup before noon. The eye makeup is pretty heavy and I remarked that I couldn’t cry – at that point it was 3 hours before the performance and the task seemed like a bit of a challenge, but it worked out OK in the end.

She slept a lot, of course, but even so it seems too quiet in the house now.

Had a bath in the late evening and when I was done I came into the bedroom where Mark was reading with the little lamp on. His legs were stretched out and should have had a cat on them.

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27 Sep

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Mornings are very quiet now and it’s odd not having a towel for Noko on my bed. From my bed, I can see her empty chair in the office. Even though there’s no pillow on it and it faces into to the room rather than toward the bookshelves, it’s still her chair.

Moving recycling around and being confronted by her empty cans again.

Folding up laundry: the pillowcase from her pillow, red (pee) towels and the rags we’ve been for pee and other floor uses. Wasn’t sure what to do with the towels – will we keep them or get rid of them? Before using them for Noko, they were our spares that we used for travel. They’re old; Mom bought them just after I was born.

Had a nap on the couch and wished she was there to curl up in front of me on the afghan. I’m still avoiding having the afghan piled up on the couch as I worry that it will fool me into thinking she’s there. It’s still weird to have the cushion down and no towel on her spot.

Had roast beef for supper and there was no one to put out scraps for.

Today’s adjustments

Took the Cosequin (arthritis meds) and Laxatone (hairball/constipation meds) out of the cupboard. The Laxatone had been in there quite a while although we had stopped using it some time ago. She hated it. She hated it so much that if I put a little on her nose, she would ignore it and let it wear off rather than lick it off in the process of grooming.

We had been using the Cosequin daily – it comes in capsules, which I’d open up and sprinkle on her food; each capsule lasted a day or two. It was apparently flavoured and surprisingly she didn’t mind it at all. I pitched the current capsule that had been partly used but not emptied. There’s not a lot of these left in the bottle, so it won’t feel like too much of a waste if I just have to pitch them.

Mark washed and moved the boot tray, which had been under her litter box to catch pee when her aim was poor. It’s now back in the porch with shoes on it again.

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26 Sep

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Woke up late, thinking about Noko. Before, if I had been in bed that late, it would have been because Noko had already been up to have breakfast and had come back and curled up beside me. When I started to wake up, I would have given her pats. During this process she would go from squinting, to proto-purr, through loud and chunky purr, and finally arrive at wriggles, and then I’d have to be careful because most of the pat-able areas would be now be largely inaccessible. Sometimes I’d wake up and find her already wriggling. But of course she wasn’t there.

I heard something that sounded like her licking her chops after having some wet food.

Felt my gut clench a little when I saw one of her food bowls in the dish rack. Was sad to put her last food tin and the two lids into recycling.

Brushed the couch (40s era, upholstered in burgundy velvet) with the lint brush and noticed a couple of cat hairs that stubbornly wouldn’t get picked up. I now have nostalgia about cat hairs on things.

Today’s adjustments: I took my sickly spider plant from the dim living room and put it in the dining room on a low bookshelf that gets some direct sunlight. I hadn’t moved it before because the leaves were so long that she would have been able to get at them.

Moved the table/desk in the office to the right about 6″ to make a little more room for the chair on the left, now that it’s arranged for a person to sit on instead of a cat. I had moved the table pretty far to the left so I would be as close as possible to Noko when she was sitting on her chair – sometimes she would demand pats and it was easier if I could reach her without getting up from the chair.

Took the scoop and bucket of clean litter out of the litter closet and put them in the basement.

Washed a load of towels, mostly the red ones and other old towels that we had been using for her – on her pillow in the office and on the couch to control cat hair and just in case of pee problems, on the floor in front of the litter closet where she sometimes peed when she was feeling out of sorts, and on my bed (pretty much the whole left half) partly for cat hair and partly in case of pee problems. I had had these towels in the basement for “just in case”, and then moved them up to the litter closet when she started having pee problems with some regularity. Now I’ll have to decide where I want to keep them since I don’t need them in the litter closet anymore. And it doesn’t make sense to call it the litter closet anymore.

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25 Sep

Went back to the vet in the later afternoon to pay the bill and collect the box/nest. As we left, it occurred to me that my reason to go to the vet is now gone.

Some time after coming home, I actually looked at the invoice:

1 Euthanasia

1 Euthanasia Completed/Drug Trac

1 Cremation/Mass <80lbs

I’m finding this unsettling. I’m not usually one for euphemisms, but this seems excessively blunt. Yet I can’t think of anything better either. I wonder how funeral homes itemise their bills?

Took the towels and pillowcase from the box/nest and put them in the laundry basket.

Today’s adjustments

I picked up the towel and plastic from in front of the litter closet and dumped the bits of litter back into the box. Her spot to sit in the office had already been partly taken apart: it comprised a chair right in the corner facing the wall (so she could wriggle and the back of the chair would keep her from falling off), the pillow on the chair and red towel on the pillow, and a stool next to the chair on the open side. The pillow and towel were already removed, having gone into the making of the box/nest, but the chair and stool were still there. I moved the stool into the dining room and turned the chair to face the room.

Mark did a bunch of cleaning around the house, including a giving the place a thorough sweep (for e.g. cat hair), dumping the remaining cat litter and putting the box in the basement, moving the yoga mat/placemat and washing the floor underneath.

I had gotten a new pair of shoes not long ago and then they ended up in the dining room, because that’s where the mirror is and I kept putting them on and admiring them. The tops of the shoes were right at cat-cheek height and Noko would rub her face on them and knock them over. I then put the shoes on top of the treadle sewing machine where they actually looked pretty good. However, they were in the spot where I put my laptop if I want to plug it into speakers and listen to music at that end of the house, which I hadn’t done since Mark got home in early July. For a change, I wanted to listen to music there again, so I put the shoes back on the floor.

Mark washed up her food bowls – three cheap rice bowls with painted fish on them, which we got from the local Asian grocery store. I had bought 5 so we’d have some spares, and then there were 2 mismatched rice bowls I had from before. I kept the stack of clean bowls under the sink with her food. Now no bowls are in use, and the stack is too high.

There was still some wet food in an open tin, so Mark put the food in one of Noko’s bowls and put the bowl outside on one of the main cat-routes through our yard in the hopes that someone would come along and eat it. I’m planning to take the remaining unopened cans back to the vet.

I’ve been buying big bags of dry food and decanting them into 2 smaller bags to help keep the food fresh. The food bags are in the basement and I keep a large yogurt container of dry food under the sink. One bag didn’t have much food in it, so I transferred it all into the other bag – something I wouldn’t have bothered with before. Not sure what I’ll do with the food since it’s open, there’s quite a lot, and it’s designed for a specific health problem (and only available from vets).

The dance instructor was out of town today and I had agreed to teach the advanced class today. I thought about cancelling but went ahead and taught the class anyway. When I’ve got unpleasantness on my mind, dance class usually gets me out of my head quickly, so I thought it would be a good break. But I still felt pretty jangly, emotional and off balance. I thought about Noko at least once during the class, which surprised me a little because usually after the first 20 minutes or so, my brain doesn’t return to whatever was bothering me.

Sometime before class, I put on a silvery pendant that has always reminded me a bit of the moon. I had looked at the calendar at some point and noticed that yesterday was a new moon, so it seemed right to wear it, and now it will also remind me of Noko.

This was my first full day of being a non-pet-owner in about 21 years.

my "moon" pendant

24 Sep

It was a hard night. If I hardly slept, I don’t think Noko did at all. She laid in her cozy box beside my bed, essentially immobile. I tossed and turned. I dozed on and off. There were a few times when she meowed, and each time I reached over immediately and, in the dark, gave her pats. I don’t know if she wondered where I was or if she knew and just wanted to connect.

By morning I felt that I had the answer to what we should do, and I didn’t like it.

Sometime during the night, she had peed. No surprise really. I don’t know how long she might have been lying there that way, but she usually went to the box about an hour before we got up. Perhaps one of her meows was asking for help, or maybe it just happened the way it did when she had a bladder infection, i.e. the “dribbles”, though there was nothing wrong with her bladder and it must have been full. The cozy box arrangement had worked well at least and only the top towel was wet, so I lifted her out, changed the towel and had her back in and as cozy as possible pretty quickly. Whenever we had to pick her up, we put her back down on her other side, hoping that this would help ease her discomfort.

The box made it easy to keep her nearby as we moved about in the house. Mark sat with her while I got up and had my breakfast. Afterward, I sat facing sideways on the couch with my legs up to create her favourite kind of lap, and she spent about an hour and a half lying on me.

I’m sure she hadn’t slept all night, and she didn’t close her eyes all day either. Her eyes were wide open and the pupils quite dilated (they were open the day before too, but not so dilated). I took this to mean that she wasn’t doing as well and was probably uncomfortable.

From after lunch to mid afternoon, I had her on my lap again, stroking her head and face. I got her to purr finally – what a feeling of accomplishment! She closed her eyes every time I touched her face, so I’d run my finger lightly over her eyebrow or even over her closed eye, which she seemed to like. I kept stroking, and then gradually slowed down the touch. Her eyes remained closed and she finally looked fully relaxed. Mark kept an eye on both of us throughout; he figured that she actually slept for about 20 minutes. She must have been exhausted from lack of sleep. While she napped, I leaned sideways against the back of the couch and had a little nap myself. There was no way that I was going to move and disturb her rest.

Eventually she woke up again, and the inexorable countdown began. Really, it had begun when we got up in the morning, but now we were nearing the conclusion. There was nothing else for it but to start getting ready to go to the vet.

Mark was sitting on a Japanese chair (zaisu) on the living room floor with Noko was beside him. I wanted to feed her again. When she saw me bring the bowl, she perked up, her eyes opened wide and she tried to crane her neck forward. She was lying on her left side; I held the bowl while Mark put his hand under her shoulder and lifted her so she had a better angle. She had less control and strength than before, but was happy to eat and drink. Then we tried again with the litterbox, now also located in the living room. Her back remained curved, her limbs straight, and her front paws behind the rear ones, so Mark had difficulty holding her over the box and she seemed uncomfortable at best. Nothing came of it anyway, so he put her back down, this time on her right side. She remained quite still and it seemed like perhaps she was in some pain.

I’m sure I wasted as much time as I could, but I don’t really remember what else I did. I think I phoned the vet to see how busy it was, seeing as how they don’t do appointments for anything except surgery. It was somewhere around 4pm on a beautiful sunny day. Hot actually, but with the leaves starting to turn and the sun getting lower in the sky, you know that even though the heat feels summery, it’s not truly summer. Not anymore.

Mark carried Noko outside in her cozy box. I got into the car and put the box on my lap. The space felt oddly open because her box was low and flat and unenclosed, while her regular carrier is narrow and tall. The drive to the vet took just a few minutes – it’s right around the corner but awkward to walk. Taking the car also meant having a private place to wait outside of the waiting room. Mark stayed in the car with Noko, and I went inside.

The assistant at the desk asked what it was about. I said it was a follow-up from the previous day and that I wanted to see the same vet. There was a room open, so I went out and collected Mark and Noko and in we went. The vet came in and asked how it had gone overnight. About the same, I told her; in retrospect, that wasn’t accurate, but it seemed true at the time. She asked what we had decided, and I said, “I think you know” or something equally oblique. But I couldn’t say it any more clearly.

She began by gently asking whether we had gone through this before. Not sure what exactly she was getting at, I explained that I had lost pets as a child, but had never been the one responsible for them. She then explained the process – that she would administer some sedation (like what she has had to get an ultrasound, for example) in her scruff, and then when that took full effect, it would be an overdose of anaesthetic to a vein in her left arm where it was already shaved from yesterday’s blood test. She explained what the options were for the remains: cremation; cremation and remains returned; remains intact for burial outside the city. I didn’t want anything tangible as I felt that the important part would be gone and I didn’t want to have physical remains: I couldn’t see how that would make me feel anything other than sad and heavy. She went and got a form for me to fill in and sign.

Noko, still on her right side, laid in her cozy box at the left end of the examination table, farthest from the door. I must have given her lots of pats. I don’t really remember.

The vet knew I didn’t like needles and did her best to keep me from seeing. I stood in front of Noko while Mark sat an the old-fashioned orangey oak chair. (He was careful not to watch any of this because his visual memory is so vivid.) I don’t think I was watching when she got the first needle; I think she hissed, but she hisses easily and didn’t seem that upset. I immediately started touching her head and face, and especially her left eyebrow, hoping that it would help her relax as it had before. She got drowsy quite quickly but it was hard to tell if she was asleep because her left eye remained open a crack. It would take a few minutes before the sedation took full effect. The vet left us alone in the room with instructions that we could take as long as we wanted and not to feel rushed, and to let her know when we were ready by opening the door a crack.

Eventually it was time. The vet came in and gave her some gentle taps on the face and other little tests to see if she was out, and I guess she was. I saw the needle – I didn’t want to, but I saw it. I didn’t watch. After that, it was a matter of seconds. The vet told me when – I couldn’t tell.

The vet left, and we stayed with Noko a bit longer. I don’t know how long we stayed. I guess not that long. Already, I could see her ears starting to look waxy. I stroked her tail, picking it up gently to let it fall. It should have uncurled slowly and gracefully. But it felt light and just fell loosely.

We left after that. Straight out the door, not looking at anyone. Drove down the block and around the corner. Parked. Into the house. The quiet house. Wept. I guess. I know I cried a lot, this must have been when. I don’t really remember.

We had supper. I think it was leftover takeout from the day before. We went for a walk in the evening; it was a nice night. I think I was kinda numb.

When I was getting ready for bed, I left my nightshirt in a pile on the end of the bed and then took my contacts out. Noko is – was – predominantly light grey, and the shirt is dark grey. When I came back to the bedroom, in the haze, it looked like she was curled up on my bed.

I’ll not leave my shirt there again.

23 Sep

The day started normally enough. Noko had slept on my bed and yowled a bit during the night.

By morning, she usually migrates to a spot to my left at about hip or waist level, and rather closer to the middle of the bed than I particularly like. If she was still there when I woke up, I’d give her pats until I was awake enough to get up. Sometimes that would be 30 minutes.

This time, she got up with Mark in anticipation of breakfast and he noticed that her right hind leg (the most arthritic one) was kind of turned out. After breakfast she hung out on the couch with Mark, and sat rather awkwardly on his lap. She was rather creakier than usual. She got down off the couch for some reason, and when she went to get up again, she couldn’t quite make it: I heard a scramble and small thump, then a yowl when she asked for help. Mark helped her back up.

I came out and sat with her and was still with her when she wanted down the next time. She was clearly moving awkwardly, and took a bit of a tumble when getting down – a distance of about 14″. I went to help her and her back legs weren’t behaving, kind of scrabbling. Her back end was listing strongly to the left, so I held her hips straight and she propelled herself to her food and water mostly with her front legs. I continued to hold her steady while she stood there: she had her back paws right up beside her front paws and was struggling to maintain her balance, even though she was standing on a grippy mat. After that, I figured it was about the regular time for her to have a pee, so I put her in the litterbox and held her steady. She’s had some pee problems on and off recently, so she wasn’t as wigged out by this help as she might have been before. She peed without difficulty and I lifted her out again.

Eventually we got her back to the couch where she spent much of the day on Mark’s lap or on the warm spot after he got up.

I had to be out between about noon and 3:30, and Mark tended to her during this time. By the time I got home, her front legs weren’t behaving and she couldn’t get up at all, so we went to the vet. Her limbs were all rather stiff, so it was awkward getting her into the carrying box; I had to lie her on her side and because she wasn’t bending, she seemed to fill the box completely. She seemed very uncomfortable.

With the sudden onset of these serious neurological problems, the vet felt the prognosis was grim. There were four different possible issues, most of which either couldn’t be tested or couldn’t be effectively treated. One of them (was it the one linked to kidney failure?) would show something in the blood, so I asked for a blood test. I’d had Noko in a few times over the last year for various problems, and she always seemed to be a little dehydrated. Recalling that she always felt much better after rehydration, I asked whether that might make her more comfortable. The vet didn’t think it would help much, and it was only about an hour before the office closed, which didn’t leave much time for her to absorb the fluids. (I had never before thought to ask how that process worked and so I didn’t realise that it took hours.) The vet did give her a painkiller as well as a sedative, which we hoped would let her relax some. The thought was to see whether her condition would change overnight.

We knew she was completely unable to get to the litterbox on her own so we devised a cozy bed for her to lie so that we wouldn’t have to worry about her peeing on anything during the night and she would still be reasonably comfortable even if she did pee. We used a shallow plastic tote bin, Noko’s pillow from the office (a standard-sized pillow – synthetic and now lumpy – that I’d had since I was a kid and sun-faded bright teal pillowcase from Ikea dating from my high-school years), the red towel that we had been putting on top of the pillow for months in case of pee accidents, the large blue towel that was on my bed in case of pee accidents, and Mark found some robust plastic in the form of a heavy-duty British Library bag. The pillow fit nicely in the bin, then the large blue towel folded up, then the plastic, then the red towel. We put Noko on top.

The photo doesn't do justice to how cute her paw looked.

The photo doesn’t do justice to how cute her paw looked.

The photos aren't that amazing, but it was too hard to choose, so I just posted all of them.

The photos aren’t that amazing, but it was too hard to choose, so I just posted all of them.

Noko in the bed-box we made for her, which I had on top of my bed.

Noko in the bed-box we made for her, which I had on top of my bed.

She was grooming...

She was grooming…

...or trying to.

…or trying to.

She looked reasonably happy.

She looked reasonably happy.

But she couldn't groom very effectively.

But she couldn’t groom very effectively.

She could move her head...

She could move her head…

...but her paw stayed fairly still.

…but her paw stayed fairly still.

It was deceptive, though.

It was deceptive, though.

I could just about believe...

I could just about believe…

...that everything...

…that everything…

...would turn out...

…would turn out…

...just fine.

…just fine.

I put this box-bed on the floor beside my bed (also on the floor) so that Noko was within arm’s reach and tucked her in for the night.