Monday, March 28, 2011

Saying goodbye to Quinne

This past weekend was probably the last time that I will get to spend with my childhood cat Quinne. He has several tumors in his face and ears that are spreading quickly. Within the last month he has lost a lot of weight. You can see the evidence of the tumors from his swelled face, his wounded mouth hangs open, his jaw is displaced, and his eye is swollen shut. He can't walk straight, stumbles every couple of steps, and is now unable to clean himself properly. Friday morning, he tried to jump onto the computer printer (a jump he's taken hundreds of times) and fell behind it, getting wedged between the furniture and the wall. Thankfully, my father was nearby and got him out. It's hard for me to even think about these things, but this is reality. He's dying. Yet, the minute you come near him, he still purrs deeply, and when you walk in the front door, he wobbles over to greet you.

He's a little over 16 now, so he has lived a long life, and a very nice one. He was allowed outside whenever he wished and was spoiled with illegal lounging on my father's newspaper on the dining room table. (Who can resist a purring cat who relentlessly wants to sit on YOUR section of the paper instead of the shabby one set aside to appease him?) Quinny always let me lay my head on his belly whenever I cried (more than once over the years) and he would comfort me by purring and pushing his head against mine as his tail flicked around, telling me he loved me. He was a protector of our other cat, Sammy (the sweetest wimpy feline you ever met, who passed away prematurely years ago) when raccoons threatened to attack on the back deck of our old house. And he always talked to us (his family) and wanted to be near us. Above all, Quinne always loved everyone. He never judged or preferred, just loved.

What I saw happening this weekend was painful to watch. I found myself following him around the house, trying to make sure he didn't fall and lifting him up to get to wherever he wanted to go and then placing him down again. I hovered over him while he ate, pushing his wet food into a pile over and over again so that he could get it into his mouth more easily. I got warm wet tissues to wipe his face with, and then pet him until he seemed content and resting. When I didn't know where he was, I went roaming around the house looking for him. I was grateful to be visiting my parents so that I was able to have this valuable time with him.  

My family had conversations about when would be the right time to put him to sleep. I've never had the experience of having to decide something like this before. One of us thought that we should have done it already because, "What if he falls when we are not around and hurts himself? What if he's in pain and we don't know it?" Some of us thought that since he is purring, still greeting us, still wants to take little walks outside, and is still eating, that we should let him continue to enjoy himself until the enjoyment stops - but would we be able to tell when that time came? One of us just couldn't bear to think about it at all. Of course, we all agreed that passing away in his sleep would be the best way. Ultimately, it was decided that although he seems uncomfortable, he still appears to be enjoying life. He walks around outside, eats, wants to be with us, and purrs. So, we will put him to rest as soon as he seems to be suffering. Better to let him rest than to allow him to suffer. What an extraordinarily difficult decision; If only cats could talk.

Quinny slept under my bed Friday night, and in the middle of the night kept circling it until I placed him by my feet where he could sleep with me.  I am amazed by the grace I witnessed this weekend. He was peaceful and seemed full of acceptance in the face of dissolution. He continues to love, and continues to just be, regardless of the situation. That's a life lived to the fullest. It is a life lived in the present moment. A life lived with acceptance and enjoyment of the little things. We can learn so much from our pets, if we are willing to. When I said goodbye to him, I stroked his fur and gave him a last kiss with gratitude on top of his head. He will be returning to where he came from. He will be missed.

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