|Chloe (right) and her brother, Baxter|
The title of this blog is a hint that my wife, Carol, and I are animal lovers, and we've tried to treat and love our pets as if they were true members of the family. We always enjoy hearing from readers about the animals who have brought much joy to their homes. I've written several times about Chloe and her brother, Baxter, trying to give a sense of their personalities--and how much we've enjoyed having them with us. (See here, here, and here.)
Losing Chloe has us in a state of shock and grief--I'm literally typing through tears as I try to write this.
We spent most of last evening at an emergency veterinary clinic, and blood work showed that Chloe's kidneys were shutting down, and her other key numbers were in dangerous territory. She had to be euthanized, and even though she hadn't been eating right for about three months, we thought we had her headed in the right direction. We thought the lethargy she showed yesterday was due to dehydration, and we hoped an IV treatment would make her much better. But it turned out that we were dealing in the past few months with something much worse than what we had imagined.
What did Chloe mean to us--what will she always mean to us? Gosh, it's hard to find words right now. Of the three pets we've had in 25 years of marriage, she wasn't the most active, or the most alert, or the most playful. But she was the sweetest. She had a round "moon pie" face, and gorgeous blue eyes--and while we sometimes joked that she wasn't "burdened with heavy thoughts"--she was invariably good natured and very low maintenance. She loved her "noms" at meal time, and when she was ready for some loving, she would rub back and forth against our legs, and she seemed to enjoy being patted on her rather ample rump. But mostly, she was just a great "chill buddy," a gentle, calming presence in an often stormy world.
We have a tendency to create "personas" for our pets. Murphy, the miniature schnauzer for whom this blog is named, was a feisty, playful sort, who was an utter joy but could be a bit overprotective of her family unit. She reveled in her "humans," but she probably didn't come across as overly friendly to people she didn't know.
Baxter, Chloe's brother (from the same litter), is our court jester and clown. He's got the typical curiosity of a cat and tends to get into things and occasionally causes messes. We think of him as this "dude" kind of fellow, who likes to go to the gym with his guy friends--where they swim, play racquetball, tell off-color jokes, and snap each other in the butt with towels when showering in the locker room. Baxter tends to be right under our feet, but he can turn into a "fraidy cat" when strangers enter the house. (Baxter, by the way, is doing fine, although he seems puzzled by his sister's absence.)
As for Chloe, it's like she never met a stranger. It's not that she would be all over them with affection. But she seemed to say, "Hey, come on in, there's tea in the fridge, snacks in the cabinet, and I'll be around listening to music if you need me. Hopefully, you won't need me, but make yourself at home anyway."
Music was a big part of the persona we created for Chloe. Something about her big, round face and clear blue eyes made us think she would like songs that maybe weren't terribly deep, but had a happy, bouncy vibe to them. We decided that her favorite band was Wings, and she was particularly enamored with the band's lead singer and songwriter, "Mr. McCartney." We imagined that she always thought Mr. McCartney was about to celebrate his 29th birthday--"Girl, we're pretty sure Mr. McCartney is a little bit older than that--and she refused to believe that he ever had played in another band besides Wings. We would say, in our minds, "Girl, Mr. McCartney was in this other band before Wings, and a lot of people actually think they were pretty good." Then we would imagine her shaking her head and saying, "Nope, no way. No band could ever come close to Wings."
Then she would put buds back in her ears and groove along to her all-time favorite song, "Band on the Run." In fact, in the strange little world we created for her, Chloe listened to "Band on the Run" over and over and chatted with her girl friends about the latest Wings news from the Internet. Her dream was to someday see Wings in concert and have them play "Band on the Run" for two hours.
If Chloe had been a child, she would have been one of those quiet, unassuming kids, who maybe isn't a "star" this or "star" that, but gets along with everybody and never causes any problems. She was anything but a "drama queen."
Chloe was a gorgeous, happy, healthy kitty kat until her eating problems developed back in April. First, we learned that she had feline tooth resorption, a condition where tissue essentially grows over the teeth, causing sensitivity and pain. We had several of Chloe's teeth pulled and hoped that would correct the problem. (By the way, this isn't caused by lack of dental cleanings. Scientists apparently don't know what causes resorption, but it happens with many cats.)
When the dental procedure didn't solve Chloe's eating problems and she began to throw up regularly, we took her back to the vet, and an X-ray showed a "thickness" in her gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The vet said it probably was one of two things--(1) Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or (2) Cancer.
The only way to know for sure was to do exploratory surgery and take biopsies. If it was cancer, the only treatment was low-dose chemotherapy, which would provide comfort care but might not extend Chloe's life for very long. If it was IBD, we likely could manage it with a combination of medicine and diet change. Since there were no real positive options with cancer, we elected to treat it as IBD and hope that putting her on a moist, grain-free food, and gut-soothing medicines like Pepcid, would get her back on track. (It's thought that IBD is an autoimmune disorder, with the inflammation caused by an allergy to grain or other additive in many cat foods.)
Chloe seemed to do pretty well on her new regimen. Her vomiting went away for the most part, and her poops began to get more solid. She lost weight, but that seemed to have stabilized in recent weeks, and our hope was that she would start putting pounds back on soon. She often would not eat on her own, and Carol fed her almost every meal by hand and squirted water into her mouth with a syringe.
It wasn't until two days ago that we noticed Chloe looking unsteady on her feet. Then yesterday, all she could do was lay on her side, and her eyes looked sunken. That's when we made the appointment for her regular vet this morning. When we read on the Internet about the dangers of dehydration, we decided to seek emergency care last night. The hope was that IV treatment would make her much better.
The emergency vet palpated her abdomen and said, "This might be something more than IBD." We waited for about half an hour for the results of Chloe's blood work, and the news was devastating. All of her numbers were way off, her kidneys were shutting down, and it looked like she was heading for multi-organ failure. The vet said euthanasia was the only reasonable option.
This was the first time we'd ever had to have a pet "put to sleep," and the experience was gut wrenching. The vet staff put Chloe in a little pet bed, covered her in a blanket, and brought her back to the exam room, so we could say our goodbyes. We patted on her and kissed her and whispered in her ear that we would always love her--and we would always be thankful for all she had done for us. Carol said a prayer, thanking God that He had brought Chloe into our lives, thanking Him for the sheer goodness and grace she brought to our home, and praying that Murphy would be the first to greet her in Heaven.
Chloe's beautiful blue eyes were open, and as we loved on her one last time, we noticed that our tears more or less covered her eyes. The vet came in, injected her with an anesthetic, and she was gone in a matter of seconds.
Our best guess, based on what the vet told us and our research, is that Chloe had feline gastrointestinal lymphoma. It's a form of cancer that comes in two varieties--a small-cell version that is not too aggressive and a large-cell version that is very aggressive. Even with chemotherapy, survival with the large-cell version is about two months.
Thanks to Carol's ability to feed her by hand and vigilantly give her medicine and water, Chloe lived for three months--and except for yesterday, she seemed to gradually be getting better during that time.
We chose to have Chloe cremated, and will get her ashes in a cedar box, engraved: "Chloe, 2003-2015, Our Sweet Girl."
That's how we will always remember her--for her gentle, sweet nature. We pray that she knew how much her guile-free spirit meant to us, especially with the torment we've experienced via the "justice system."
During her 12 years on this earth, Chloe seemed to bring the Biblical concept of "loving-kindness" into our home. Her presence seemed to say, "Everything is going to turn out OK. Look how calm I am. You can be calm, too." It's as if she trusted in a higher power, with a connection that we can't comprehend. To us, she always will represent the "fruits of the spirit," the kind that we so seldom see in humans.
Chloe brought a sense of peace and stability to two people who desperately needed to feel that. She did a tremendous amount of good, and I'm not aware of her ever harming another living being.
Hers, truly, was a life well lived. Thank you, Sweet Girl.
In Chloe's memory, here is the ever-youthful "Mr. McCartney" singing "Band on the Run." Below that, is a video where we introduced Chloe and Baxter to Legal Schnauzer readers.