Wednesday, March 20, 2013
I've written about Zeus several times before, most recently when serious issues arose with his health a few years back. He's the beautiful boy in my arms in the profile photo for this blog. When I first met him almost thirteen years ago, he was one of two runt kittens fostered by friends of a good friend. Their mother had apparently been found pregnant and starving in an apartment whose tenants had left. Zeus and his sister Sophie were born shortly after they were taken in by the shelter and once I met them, tiny balls of furry energy that they were, I knew we would end up sharing each other's lives for a spell.
Zeus eventually developed the same asthma that led to his sister's death in August of last year. As with Sophie, quality of life became a constant concern. The neighbourhood pharmacist knew them both by name. They were his first ever feline "customers" with their prescriptions for the inhaled corticosteroids and bronchodilators they both eventually needed to breathe. Both Zeus and Sophie's asthma seemed triggered by food allergies, but as time wore on, other triggers factored in. My home became scent-free years ago. The search for the perfect dust- and scent-free litter left me constantly exploring new products. Different foods where shuffled in or out whenever symptoms worsened. I learned to sleep lightly, sensitive to the sound of wheezing that meant someone needed urgent help; I learned to deal with the constant anxious gnawing of the fear that such an attack might occur if I was at work, at the store or elsewhere.
That same anxious gnawing left me hesitant a few weeks ago when I planned a return trip to the DC area to spend time with a human love. For the first time in my life, I hired a cat-sitter, hoping that in tandem with visits from a friend, someone would be around as much as possible to keep an eye on my feline loves and to ensure that Zeus' medications were administered regularly to mitigate any possible issues.
Eight days into my trip, a worried cat-mom's worst nightmare occurred. A friend just happened to drop by on a Friday afternoon and found Zeus in respiratory distress. She rushed him to his vet's where the clinic promptly took him in and then refused to deal with her since she wasn't listed with them as a contact. I'd forgotten to have her added. Worse was that I was stranded at my host's landline-free apartment, my Luddite self without a cell phone. My friend messaged me on Facebook to urge me to find a way to call the vet immediately and after a few frantic emails to my American host (who was at work), phone access was obtained and I was patched through and told that his condition was quite bad and that his prognosis with treatment was incredibly poor.
Zeus had suffered a pleural effusion. Fluid had filled up his chest cavity and by the time my friend found him that afternoon, he was already in seriously bad shape. It was unrelated to the asthma and the vet assured me that its onset is almost always sudden and an emergency, its symptoms manifesting similarly to those of asthma."You wouldn't have been able to have done anything differently had you been there," the vet reassured me. Worse, I would have been at work that afternoon and would not have found him until hours later. The staff at SouthPaw did all they reasonably could and I'm grateful that they were able and willing to look after him when he was brought in.
Zeus' suffering was brought to an end shortly after I called, my friend returning to be with him during his last moments. My heart broke from hundreds of miles away, my arms unable to hold him, to comfort him, to whisper to him how dearly I loved him and to tell him how sorry I was that I'd left. Since kitten-hood, Zeus had always expressed a preference for climbing up to my left shoulder, pressing his head against my neck as I held him to my heart. So many evenings when I've sat here at my desk typing, it's been one-handed with Zeus' warmth against me, listening to his reassuring purrs as he snuggled in more closely. Even now, I remember precisely how it felt to hold him. Sammy and I both miss him, each of us wondering where he is -- where he went.
Posted by M at Wednesday, March 20, 2013