The Life & Death of Lucy

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love. -Washington Irving.

Lucy was born just north of the intersection of Main & Lowell streets in Manchester, New Hampshire. If you know me you’ve probably heard me say this a thousand times: “When Lucy and I first met we fell in love with each other.”   It was November in 1999 and I lived in an efficiency apartment with my first girlfriend. There was a store around the corner that we would go for junk and a shop employee noted that they had some kittens for free. When we walked into their home we were astounded by the acrid smell and exorbitant amount of cats living in the home. I saw Lucy almost immediately, actually we probably actually saw each other at the same time. She was shadowing a gorgeous boy cat that looked her size and approximate age and let me tell you, he was truly a beautiful silver tabby cat but it was Lucy who claimed my heart. I just knew absolutely with my whole entire heart that we were meant for each other and we really were.
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We bonded very quickly and she quickly adopted her signature move which was to jump/climb on my shoulder – from a perch or the floor, it didn’t matter. What made it amazing is that she could do it very delicately, never using her nails or hurting me. It was amusing and lovely and special, too.

My girlfriend and I broke up – it was a shit relationship and I needed to leave quickly, to do so I had to leave Lucy with my ex.  I was terribly distraught and my new girlfriend pulled the noble/charming move of rescuing her. It was quite the cinematic moment: we pulled up to an unfamiliar house, she walks in alone and out with my beautiful, darling cat.  I was over-the-moon happy and vowed right then that I would never leave her ever again.

Lucy was my shadow. She was always by my side, in my lap or on my chest. In her early years we had a bedroom ritual; I was, you see, the outer spoon. Yes we shared many moons under the covers together and as life went on Lucy stuck with me and lived in nine different homes in three different states. She traveled from Massachusetts to Virginia and back again, her final home being our spacious house in New Salem, a little hilltown in Western Mass just above the valley. She shared her life with six girlfriends (one ultimately my wife & her mum!) and five lovers. Lucy loved humans…most especially men! She would turn coy and flirt and play and um, possess any gentleman that came into the home.

For as much as she loved people she really despised other animals and though life found her adapting to a changing household first with multiple cats, then a dog, then more cats and another dog plus several litters of puppy and kitten fosters. Whew. I’m exhausted just remembering all of that craziness…I know that it was tough on her. She was a little toughie you see, all kinds of noise and chaos but really a wee fraidy cat. We segregated her to our bedroom for much of the last two years of her life. First we had her in the office and then we brought her into our bedroom. She was so, so happy. She had her moms, a potty, food, the most fantastical king size bed and a window. A window that opens! (So happy.)

Lucy’s nicknames evolved throughout life. I called and she answered to the following: “mama”, “monkey”, “Luce” and “Goose.”

She was a constant through some terrible and scary and sad times in my life. A nursemaid through a few large and many small physical ailments and a familiar friend when it all got way to crazy.

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I am such a biased mommy but she was so fucking beautiful. I mean, sometimes I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. The biggest compliment that she received from others was the she was very soft and she had “cool” markings. I thought she was a gorgeous cat with snaggly teeth, chunky black lips, stinky fish breath and round, innocent eyes. She was also soft with “cool” markings. 😉

Lucy loved to play, she enjoyed anything crinkly. It would pique her interest, ears forward and alert. Her eye to paw coordination was most excellent. She loved catnip, it really mellowed her out a bit and you could see her really relax.

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Lucy was not a sickly cat. For much of her life her worst ailments were comprised of dental and mouth problems. In 2011 she had an ultrasound at the specialty veterinary hospital where I worked. She was found to be in the very early stages of renal failure. One of her kidneys was soooooo tiny. She was also diagnosed with hyperthyroidism on this visit and we put her on a daily dose of medication.  The tough thing about having both diseases is that treating one exacerbates the symptoms in the other and vice versa. There were some tough times when she was not interested in eating any of the approved food but for the most part she lived well with both diseases for a very long time.  This has only added to making her death difficult for me to process.

Jennifer and I had noticed a few changes with Lucy that concerned us so she went into work with Jenn on Friday, August 22nd to be examined by her doctor.  She looked very beautiful and alert that morning… so much so that I took this photograph: IMG_4396[1]

I gave her many kisses and sent them on their way not even dreaming that this could be something more than just a check up. Lucy’s blood work came back in on Saturday, August 23rd and it showed that she was anemic and that her kidney values were twice the normal levels. She also presented with a heart murmur.  Jennifer brought her back into work where a catheter was placed and the decision was made to flush her kidneys for 72 hours. We set her up in a large crate in our bedroom with the IV pump on a shelf and the bag hanging from the curtain rod. She was placed on a low fluid rate due to the heart murmur and Jennifer had instructions to listen to her heart to make sure the murmur didn’t become worse. She was so sad on Saturday night and it just tore my heart apart. Sunday morning she was very unwell. It was scary and heartbreaking. She vomited the most foul smelling stuff ever and was increasingly disoriented. This was the hardest moment for her mom and I…we consulted with her doctor and d/c the antibiotics and started her on anti-nausea meds. It’s a delicate situation, caring for a family member who cannot speak, knowing when the right time is and not dragging anything out to long or past their comfort level.  

Lucy was disconnected from fluids on Monday, August 25th and was so happy to finally sleep in her bed with her mommies. The anemia had really wiped her out and she was quite content to just sleep. On Tuesday she had her blood work rechecked and it was abysmal at best.  There were a lot of tears shed between Jennifer and I that night. I kept waking up and checking on her; she was incredibly weak due to the anemia and could barely even walk.  I awoke at one point and found her laying in the middle of the floor, weak and disoriented with a piece of poop near her.  This was not the way my very pristine cat would want to live.

The morning of Wednesday, August 27th 2014 Jennifer and I decided that I would drive into work with her to have Lucy rechecked by the doctor.  We had not made any decisions when we left the house but my heart was aching, pressing hard against my ribs.  When we arrived my lover broke down, something I know she didn’t want to do because it was her place of work, but it made things seem all the more real.  Once we were in the room a technician came in and took her blood pressure, it was unremarkable, which was amazing since we all thought it would be high.   Lucy perked up immensely once out of her carrier.  She walked the perimeter of the office with more energy than I had seen her have all week.  The doctor even exclaimed that she looked good, bright eyed and lovely but that yes, all that aside, all we could really do for her at this point would be palliative care, the diseases were ultimately going to make her weak and she would die.   I would like to pause for a moment in this story to tell you that I have a history of working in the veterinary field and I have shed tears, held hands and been there for clients who were making the final decision for their pets.  Even with that experience and being present for other family euthanasia’s this was the first time where I felt fully responsible making the decision and I did just that.  I made the decision to let her go in a moment where she was feeling okay, on a good day.  I did not want to be forced to make the decision in crisis.  It has not made the grieving process any easier though.  Sometimes I feel it’s made it harder and to be honest I sometimes find myself still questioning it.  One of my most vivid memories is that after I made the decision she hopped into the carrier and put her head down, saying… c’mon mom, I’m okay… let’s just go home.

The doctor took her to the back and a catheter was placed. They wrapped her leg in yellow vet wrap (not her colour!) Jennifer and I held her and told her how much we loved her.

“Thank you.” Those were the only words that I could think to say to my beloved friend and I whispered them  over and over and over again as the pink euthanasia solution entered the catheter and her little heart stopped beating.  I wept mercilessly and held her fragile, soft, little body to mine.  I’m crying buckets now just remembering.

A small white coffin with a fluffy towel (can’t remember the color for the life of me) was brought in and when Jennifer was putting her inside, blood and discharge started to drip from her nose. I was horrified, it wasn’t this pretty little death; she must have been very sick. Anguish is the only word that is working for how I felt at that moment. It was all terribly quick – and recounting it now, 106 days later it was so unexpected. Knowing the veterinary business the way that I do. I knew I did not want her body placed into a freezer so we drove three hours to Middleboro to deliver her remains to the crematorium.  It was a difficult and long ride and I am so grateful for my wife for driving it.   Angel View Pet Cemetery is a very reputable place and it brought a lot of comfort being able to see the grounds.  I asked Jennifer to clip some of her fur for me, as I didn’t want my last real memory of her to be of her lifeless body. It felt wrong to leave her and looking back now I think I was in this random state of shock and being present. Our drive back was quiet and painful. Our return to the house even worse.  Because Lucy had been living in our bedroom we made the decision to rearrange the furniture immediately so that it did not feel like a tomb. We were grieving. Going through the motions and we were doing it together. That first night was very difficult. I woke myself up crying at 3am, Jennifer felt me and we got up and watched mindless television until I could sleep again.

The merry-go-round doesn’t stop though and I went into work the next day and threw myself into a long day of faking it until I made it.

It has been 106 days since my girl left this world.  She joined her two sisters Gertrude and Petunia over the rainbow bridge, she is survived by myself and her mom Jennifer as well as seven cats (Mabel, Bella, Hunter, Priscilla, Esther, Jack & Charlotte) and two dogs (Atticus & Fossil.)

Before Lucy I was not responsible for anyone else. When she chose me and I chose her so many years ago – I became responsible for her care, her welfare; she was my first baby. We had been through a lot together.

Fifteen weeks out and the hurt can still leave me breathless. I am ready to miss her forever, my gratitude is endless.

My darling Lucy, thank you.

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11/1999 – 08/27/2014

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2 thoughts on “The Life & Death of Lucy

  1. Jeri Turley says:

    Thank you for writing Lucy’s story. I always think of her as lean and sleek, with those big round eyes. She was lovely and I’m so happy that you found each other. You did all the right things, I know how hard it is to intervene until it is no longer helping. You were wonderful mommies to her, and she knew how much you loved her. I am so sorry that you had to say goodbye.

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