Almost exactly a week ago, I heard an unsettling "scrabbling" noise from the den where Lily and Loosy, the cats, were taking yet another nap. It was the same noise I'd heard five days earlier when I'd responded---to find Lily in the throes of a violent seizure.
I'd stayed by her, talking to her quietly and reassuringly, a hand ready to move furniture or other obstacles out of the way, should her thrashings take her too close. It was only a couple of minutes long, but it seemed endless. Her mouth was dripping with foam, the odor of urine was strong in the room, and her eyes were blackly dilated. Disoriented, she tried to stand up but couldn't make her legs work for a few minutes and she howled in her misery.
Of course, it was after the local vet's hours, but St. Google was able to reassure me that taking her in the next morning was probably okay, as long as she had come out of the seizure and was beginning to feel better. That seemed to be the case and the next morning, Dr. R examined her, declined to give her anti-seizure medication just yet, and advised me to let him know if a pattern developed.
So when I heard the ominous noise again, after five days of fairly normal behavior on Lily's part, my heart sank. Sure enough, she was sprawled and jerking violently, yowling, foaming, peeing. And this time, it didn't stop.
I ran for the carrier, put her shaking body inside, and called the vet. "I'm coming over right now" I told the tech who answered, and I ran out the door with Lily still convulsing in the carrier.
The vet took her to his back room for blood work and to inject her with medication to stop the seizures, telling me to go home and come back in an hour. Twenty minutes later he called and said, "I have some bad news. We couldn't stop the seizures, the kitty valium we tried to inject didn't help, and she died."
At that moment I felt a rush of both relief and sorrow. Relief that seizures were not going to be part of our ongoing life together and sorrow that my cranky, needy Lilycat would no longer be following me around the house requesting something---catnip, food, petting, brushing, while complaining about her sister Loosy and anything else that didn't suit her. She was a mess and I loved her.
But I'm glad she's gone, even though the hole she left is 18 pounds large. I was not surprised that the seizures were fatal. A dog I once cared for had a seizure and within a few months, that dog had died. Older animals develop epilepsy for a variety of reasons and the seizures are disabling and often fatal. Medication can stave off the end for awhile, but not forever.
I went back to the vet to say goodbye to her and arrange for cremation. Her mouth was frozen in a grimace, a tooth had broken off from the force of the tremors, and it was clear she had died hard. If the seizure hadn't taken her, chances are I would have had to make that Big Decision about her quality of life. She was 12 years old, a big girl at 18 pounds, and her crankiness might have been evidence of declining health. It's hard to say.
I'd had Lily since she was a kitten. I got her in 2003, when I first moved from Portland to Puget Sound. I had the name for her before I had the cat; I'd hoped to find a nice little white kitten to wear the Lily moniker, but all the Vashon Island Pet Protectors had available was this feral kitten of a yearling mother who had been rescued by Deirdre and Frank, members of my Vashon congregation.
She'd had a good life, her sister Loosy and little brother Max were more or less her boon companions, and she'd adapted to each of the several places she'd lived with us. She was a one-woman cat, disdaining the overtures of visitors. When Max had to go live with another family when we left Whidbey, she mourned and only grudgingly tolerated Loosy after that. Now Loosy has me all to herself and she seems to be glad of it, only occasionally looking around to see if the tortoiseshell hulk threatens to chase her.
Goodnight, Lily, see you in the morning. I will take your ashes to Whidbey Island and leave them in the garden there.
This afternoon, the mail brought a little note of sympathy from the vet's office; they had made a donation to the Oregon Animal Health Foundation in Lily's memory. Enclosed in the card was a paw print, a reminder of the imprint she left on my life.