We helped Fiona cross over today around 5:00. And it wasn't an easy decision, the kind where you know you are doing the best thing for your pet and get some comfort out of it. Hell no. In the end, she was just as tough and stubborn as she was the day I adopted her over ten years ago.
She was six and a half then. I saw her photo on the Monmouth County SPCA website, and read her bio. She had been owned by a cat collector (aka cat hoarder) and had just recently been removed from the home along with about 40 other cats. When I arrived at the shelter one afternoon announcing my interest in Fiona, the staff seemed surprised. The "meet and greet" had to take place with a glass wall between us because - quite frankly- Fiona was NASTY. The staff had to put on leather gloves to handle her to give her ear medication, clip her nails, and otherwise make her ready for me to take her home.
But despite - or maybe because of - her tough demeanor, something about her said to me, "I belong with you." So we started our decade together.
In the first year or so, she was clearly the boss. Hissed and spit and clawed if I tried to pick her up for even two seconds to move her from one place to another. She would tolerate petting, but on her terms. No laps, no being held, she didn't even want to sit next to anyone.
After about five years, I could pick her up and hold her for a bit, about a minute before she would protest.
She became pretty demanding and VOCAL about everything eventually. She was quite the conversationalist. So many different sounds came out of her and I knew what every one of them meant. Except for maybe the time that she started hanging out on top of the living room curtain rod, and in the bathroom sink, and on the top frame of the glass-enclosed shower/tub. We were completely mystified about this behavior until we learned she had caught a flea or two - that was all it took since she was extremely allergic. She was desperately trying to escape the itch, and that wasn't something she could easily communicate to us. Stupid humans, we are.
She was smart as a whip, as cats go, though. When she was about 9 or 10, I spent a summer training her to do tricks. She learned to give a high five, roll over, sit up, and speak. After we had all this mastered, though - after she had conquered the challenge - she realized these were stupid dog tricks and just refused to do most of them anymore other than sit up, because it was the easiest way to get a pat on the head.
So by the time we moved here, she was fifteen, and we had more than one "near death" experience, or so we thought. During one of those episodes, we decided it would be good to get another cat in the house before she departed, so that our big FIV+ boy Max wouldn't have to experience the stress of losing Fee and the adapting to a new addition all at once. Anyway, my son convinced me a kitten would be great, and then others convinced me TWO kittens would be better than one so they could keep each other occupied, and since we expected Fee to be leaving shortly, we went ahead and adopted the feline terrorists. Fiona rallied, the kittens thrived, Max took over the alpha role, and for the last eighteen months we have been a four-cat household. Not what we ever intended, but it has been amusing.
And by now, Fiona was my constant couch companion. By my side here every single night. She would wedge herself in between my leg and the cushion and purr away. Even occasionally crawled right up into my lap or rested on my chest. She had grown deaf, was blind in one eye, had trouble walking due to arthritis, but she was just as bossy and vocal as ever. And clearly content with the way things were.
The last three months were clearly difficult for Fee, though. She lost weight, didn't want to eat, protested the special food and the nutrition-in-a-tube, and slept a whole lot. But she was still drinking water, eating enough to provide energy, and followed me around the house whenever she was awake. She was managing the stairs daily. Unfortunately, she was doing that because despite the fact that we had water bowls all over the house for her convenience, the only one she ever remembered was at the top of the stairs. By this past week, it was taking all of her energy to get to the top, and she'd stay there the rest of the day, then return to the couch by my side in the evenings.
The last week was the turning point, where her good days were not good enough to outweigh the difficult ones. She had grown very weak, had trouble holding up her head, and even though I thought these would be the "clear" signs that it was time to help her pass, it didn't work. I took her to the vet today and decided to avoid the tests and waiting that might possibly have bought us a few more months. Fiona enjoyed every minute of the trip up until the sedation kicked in and she settled in for a good nap. A really peaceful one. It was her utter contentedness that made it such a difficult choice.
I took this picture just before taking her in. She's in her special princess bed.
I've never lost a pet before that was so much a part of my life. There have been others, but never before one like this. R.I.P., Fee. You were something else.