12 Jan 11

Goodbye

Today, now, as this is published, I am at the veterinarian’s office so Ripley can be humanely put to death. Her biopsy revealed that the cancer was even more aggressive than we previously thought, and the weeks we had left with her turned into days. She’s been huddling for warmth lately and has been sleeping even more than usual. I noticed on Sunday that her breathing was growing faster and shallower, and by Monday morning she started to wheeze. A few phone calls and one panic attack later, the arrangements were made. Humanely ending her life is the right decision, but I am having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that we have made the decision to end my cat’s life, so strictly speaking it isn’t the cancer that will kill her. I know I am not what’s killing her, but I killed her.

We learned from the biopsy that Ripley’s cancer — fibrosarcoma — was caused by one of the vaccinations she received to prevent her from contracting rabies, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, or the virus that causes feline leukemia. It’s a rare complication that only occurrs in about 1 in 10,000 cases of cat vaccinations and usually results in aggressive tumors that are next to impossible to treat. That’s small enough odds that it comes nowhere close to negating the value of preventing FIV, leukemia and rabies through vaccination. But it doesn’t take the sting out of this happening to poor little Ripley. One bit of consoling information that the veterinary surgeon gave me is that since his cats are entirely indoor cats, he opts to have blood samples drawn annually for testing rather than vaccinating. Cats can still get a rabies certificate that way. I intend to do that from now on with Loki. The odds of having this happen to him are tiny, but lower risk preventative care is preferable and will give me more peace of mind.

I don’t have peace of mind today, though. She spent this morning wrapped in her favorite blanket sleeping on my lap, peacefully ignorant that these were her last hours. My little buddy is gone. All the little pet names I had for her — Sugar Booger, Big Sister, The Princess — are not words I will get to say any more as I see her face peeping around a corner or looking up from her favorite napping place.

I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.