Pet Loss & Grief
I wanted a cat for awhile and begged my parents for one for a long time... One day I guess they got sick of it, and they said I could get one and we went the next day, 9-12-92, to North Shore Animal League! We decided we wanted a male, and we looked around and the only male kittens were a bunch of gray tabbies in a cage. My parents didn't seem to want a plain gray one, so we were going to leave when my dad found out they had some kitties in another room somewhere, and a person brought us a tiny orange and white baby. We checked him out and played a little and decided to adopt the little guy! While we were waiting in line, the people in front of us had a little orange female baby, assumably his sister.. I wonder how she is doing?
We went to Petland and got him his food bowl and scratching post and toys and everything.. Patches was all tuckered out and rested on the back seat with me while we drove. When we got home, my dad bathed him in the kitchen sink with some kitty shampoo.. and poor Patches must've been so thirsty because he started drinking the soapy water! Then I think we put down some food for him, and my brother came over and saw him eating while he was all wet and said he looked like a little rat, hehe.
I remember we didn't know what to name him.. I think it took a couple of days before he was named. I think it was my mom who suggested Patches because he has patches on his paws.
So that's how it all began. Now some random thoughts...
Patches loved milk (we called it milky and he learned to come running when we called it out or if he heard the milky bowl), and he loved to eat whatever we ate, so within a year he became overweight.. most of his life he weighed about 18lbs. We tried a couple of times to get him to lose weight, but he got so used to milk every morning and waiting next to us when we had food, that we couldn't just ignore him suddenly.
When he was younger, I taught him to do tricks using treats.. I got him to give me his paw when I held out my hand, and to go up on his hind legs to beg for food! It was very cute.
Unlike our other cat Misty, Patches absolutely despised water. I think it all stemed from that first bath my dad gave him ;p I tried bathing him a couple of times but it was just a really hard experience for both of us, he would go crazy. We had him professionally groomed a couple of times, but after awhile he just got too hard to handle for a bath, and he would go nuts if we tried putting him in the carrier case.
He would always lay in my Mom's lap and not mine or anyone else's. It was a rare occassion when he would actually sit on me, and even then that was usually really late at night when no one else was awake and around and only for a minute or two. One time when me and my friend were watching the movie The Skulls out in the living room, Patches actually came and laid in my lap for over an hour.. it was by far the longest time he was ever in my lap. I guess he wanted to watch the movie too, heh.
In 1999, my parents and I were out driving on my Mom's birthday and came across a street fair/market, and North Shore had a trailer there with animals to be adopted. My mom and I went in and we saw a cage of little grayish-brownish kitties.. they were all sleeping except one who was just bouncing all over the place. I took her out to hold her and the little girl started eating my hair. To make a long story short, I said please and my mom gave in and my dad wasn't happy at all but we wound up going home that day with a little ball of fluff to be named Misty... and we were worried Patches would be mean to her. Ha ha ha.. :p Patches hid behind couches and under beds all day, and the little tyke started picking on him even as a kitten. She would constantly jump on him and bite his neck... poor Patches was afraid to come out of my bedroom because she'd almost always be waiting for him. Sometimes he wouldn't leave my room until I picked her up! It was always funny when Patches would get into a playful mood and actually try to scare her... although sometimes he would take it a little too far and would pin her down and make her real upset. He could've really hurt her, but most of the time he was just a nice guy (and a bit afraid of her too). They would sleep together in the hallway often though. They were still friends.
A little while after getting Misty, we found a lump on his back leg. We took him to the vet and found out it was a tumor and he had to have surgery to remove it. He came home with his leg all bandaged and he had to wear one of those lampshade collar things so he wouldnt nibble his leg. The poor thing kept bumping into all the furniture and freezing cause he didn't know what to do. The day we brought him home, he actually jumped onto my bed while I was trying to sleep, and crawled up close to me so his face was just a few inches away from mine, because the little guy was so upset from everything that day. Even though he never really laid on my lap like he did with my Mom, he loved me and came to me whenever he wasn't feeling well. I hated the day we had to remove the bandages. My parents held him while I peeled it off, the thing was ripping his fur out and he wouldn't stop crying and yelling, it was absolutely horrible. The surgery was supposedly a success though, no more visible tumors came, although we think he might've had some internal cancer problem which was the cause of his death a few years later.
A couple of weeks before he died, he started breathing heavily. I suggested we should take him to the vet, but we didn't know how to get him there because it was near impossible to get him into the carrier, and we were afraid he would have a heart attack or something if we made him that upset. So we didn't take him. I don't know what my parents thought, but I didn't think it was as serious as it apparently was. On the evening of Sunday, September 22, 2002, Patches walked into my room, sorta bobbing his head and it looked like he was just going to throw up. I started moving all the stuff off my floor where he was so he wouldn't dirty anything, and I told my mom and I joked, "either that or he's having a heart attack :P", just saying that to annoy my mom or something :p I never thought in a million years I was almost right. He followed me out of the room and then into the bathroom, where he collapsed and was laying there with his mouth open and his head down, gasping for air. Obviously now I realized it was a breathing problem and I called my mom in and she sat there petting him and getting upset. He didn't want to be touched though and walked away out into the hallway. My brother and dad were down in the parking lot at the time so my mom yelled out the window and told them to come up. By this point Patches looked a little bit better, but we decided we should take him to the hospital. We got out the carrier and he got upset and ran behind the couch. My dad had to get out the broom and poked him with it to flush him out. He used a laundry bag to put over his head because otherwise he would never ever let us put him in the case. This cat was near 20lbs and he was STRONG. I was getting very upset watching this and hearing him scream and cry. Once he was in the case, he started breathing horribly again and gasping. While we carried him down the hall to the elevator, he was jerking around in the case like crazy and letting out a couple terrible meows, but not nearly as many as he usually did, probably because he couldn't breathe. My Mom and I waited with him out front while my brother and dad got the car. I was watching him gasping when suddenly.. he stopped. He went still, his mouth still open. I couldn't see him breathing. I shook the case and called his name desperately and poked his head... I've gone through this with other small pets and I knew this all too well. I told my mom I didn't think he was breathing. She looked in there and broke down. We both fell apart. Then my dad drove up and I told him I think the cat is dead... he got out of the car to look and my brother came running down the block and I told him. They couldn't believe it and me and my mom were just hysterical. I can't believe his last moments consisted of being pushed with a broom and being shoved into the case he hated. Even though we were trying to do the right thing, I don't think I'll ever forgive myself for making his last moments with us absolutely terrifying ones.
We went to the hospital anyway to find out what our options were. We could've left him there for them to cremate and dispose of him buy of course I could never let that happen, so they said they could hold onto him for 2 days until we had a private place pick him up. She asked if we wanted to see Patches, my mom and brother didn't want to but I did, and my dad went in with me. They had him covered up like just like a deceased person, so we uncovered his head and chest and pet him and I told him how sorry I was, and how much I loved him, and my dad pet him and said goodbye. And then we went home and continued what would be the worst time of my life.
Mom and I went to Hartsdale Pet Cemetery on Tuesday and picked out a burial plot and stone and everything, and made an appointment for Friday at 1pm for the burial. Friday rolled around, and my parents and I got there early and ordered the stone and walked around the cemetery. Then after the workers were done with their lunch hour, they put Patches in a little room and we got to see him. This time, my Mom came in to view him, which I thought was a good thing. He was all wrapped up in the casket blanket. We didn't pet him.. I was afraid to touch him since, well... he'd been dead all week.. and I knew that's how he would feel. I pet him at the hospital though so that was okay. We brought some stuff to put in the casket... a milky bowl... his new catnip we gave him on his 10th birthday 10 days prior to his passing, one of his new birthday mice, an older mouse toy, and I wrote him a letter and I just slipped that in there too. After a moment we closed the casket, and that was the last time I'd ever see my little baby on this earth.
We followed the men out to the plot and watched them lower in the casket and watched them fill it with dirt. And then we left. Its not a nice feeling to know my baby is out in the dirt somewhere, but it is strangely comforting to know exactly where he is... because all week I really had no idea where he was or how he was being handled. Now I know, and I know I can visit him whenever I want.
The stone should be ready in 6-8 weeks. At first we weren't going to have an inscription, but I changed my mind and had my mom call the next morning to add one. It will say:
FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS