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June 29, 2006

Big Black Kitty

The bestest cat ever, Dawsey

I had to have Dawsey put to sleep yesterday afternoon. Well actually, "had to" isn't correct; I chose to have him put to sleep. It was honestly one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make.

Late last year Dawsey started losing weight, so I took him to the vet. His bloodwork showed slightly elevated kidney toxin levels, but the values were still within the normal range. He continued to lose weight, so I took him to the vet in February, and by then the values had creeped up into the low abnormal range.

In the last few months, though, he's - I still can't think about him in the past tense - become close to skeletal. He's also been drinking a lot, peeing a lot, and he even had an accident on my bed. His coat was dull, too, and for the last few days he'd seemed very lethargic.

So I took him to the vet yesterday morning and she took one look at him and said he was in advanced kidney failure, and that it was both irreversible and terminal. Thank god my vet is a kind, understanding woman, because I burst into sobs right then.

Dawsey was also anemic (she pulled down his eyelid to show me it was white, rather than pink with blood vessels) and severely dehydrated. The vet explained that his kidneys were barely working, if at all, which meant toxins were building up in his blood ... which affects every organ in his body. The anemia - again, something irreversible at this point - would eventually cause heart failure and mental problems.

In short, the kidney failure was going to starve and dehydrate Dawsey to death if I did nothing.

I couldn't make the decision right then, though. The vet gave him fluids under the skin, hoping that might perk him up, and I took Dawsey home. I thought I saw glimpses of him being OK - not good, but not as bad as he'd been - so for a little while I thought maybe it wasn't his time, and that we might be able to have a few more weeks or months together.

But each of those glimpses was followed by moments where I knew - if I let myself accept it - that Dawsey needed peace. He looked so tired. I'd call to him and he didn't even have the energy to look up at me.

I laid with him on my bed, and cried, and told him how much I loved him.

My mom came up to support me, and after a few minutes she said she thought it was time. I told her I'd looked up all this information on the internet about people who give their cats subcutaneous fluids every other day, feed them special diets, and give them medications in order to prolong their lives. And I hadn't done any of that, so maybe I was giving up on him too early?

Maybe I did, I guess. But he was 16 and I just didn't want to put his tired little body through that just because I, selfishly, wanted to hang onto him a little while longer.

So we took him back to the vet and I stayed with him while he was put to sleep. I was crying until the moment that I realized he was gone, and then the heaving, wracking sobs came. My first thought at that moment was, "Oh god, what have I done? He's dead and it's my fault."

My first thought was that I had made a horrible, irreversible mistake. I said this to my vet and she assured me that I had made the right decision - she doesn't like to give her opinion on whether or not to euthanize an animal if the owner is still having doubts, but if Dawsey had been her cat she would have done it. That made me feel a bit better.

I miss him so much already. All last night I kept thinking I saw him, out of the corner of my eye. I was standing in the kitchen heating up something for dinner and I thought I saw Dawsey sitting in the doorway of my bedroom.

I know it's just that my subconscious wants to see him there. I've been seeing him there for 16 years.

My apartment seems quiet and lonely, even though Dawsey never made a lot of noise. I feel like Caygeon and I have lost part of our family, and we have. She spent the night meowing for him, which breaks my heart. For some reason I told her, "It's just you and me now, Cay-Cay," then started sobbing again.

This morning was the first time in years, since Mickey died in 2001, that I've only fed one cat.

I know I did the right thing for him, but it's still so heartbreaking for me. I used to joke that "Dawsey is the only man who has never let me down." I'm not sure it was really a joke; he never did let me down. He was always there to make me feel better when I was sad, or put a smile on my face with his antics.

He was my Big Black Kitty, and I loved him. I hope I did the right thing for him. As I wrote on HT:

"It was time for him. It just wasn't time for me. But then again, it was never going to be time for me."

Posted by Highwaygirl on June 29, 2006 06:14 AM to the category Animals

Oh Julie, I'm so so sorry. Rappy told me yesterday that Dawsey was sick. I read this just now with tears streaming down my face. I know how much you loved him, and he knew it too. You were a wonderful cat mommy and he lived a great life with you and Caygeon. I hope you take some peace in that and in knowing that he is leaping around in kitty heaven like he did when he was healthy. I'm thinking of you. *the biggest hugs I can give*

Posted by: Erika at June 29, 2006 11:06 AM

Thanks for the kind words, Erika. I'm glad you got the chance to meet Dawsey.

I was just doing a search on my site for the times I've mentioned him, and now I'm even more thankful that I took a movie of Dawsey with my G6. It reminds me of how he was when he was healthy.

I miss that meow.

Posted by: Highwaygirl at June 29, 2006 11:21 AM

Julie -

Very sorry to hear about your kitty Dawsey. It's the toughest decision you ever have to make, but know that you are the kind of person that can't stand pain and suffering in the world, and that in alleviating it, you are performing the highest acts of humanity, providing love, and care, and dignity to another.

Cherish the thoughts of his times with you, and relax and have a peaceful weekend.

All the best,

Posted by: Mike at June 29, 2006 01:58 PM

I just wish I could hug you, sweetie. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Posted by: Dinah at June 29, 2006 06:05 PM

Reading your account of your last days with Dawsey and your decision brought tears to my eyes.

I went through almost exactly the same experience with my 17-year-old cat, Scamp. He was a stray kitten when I got him, so that was a lot of years together. He went through exactly the same decline for the same reasons and when it was probably past the right time, I also had him to sleep. I also kept 'seeing' him out of the corner of my eye for a few days too.

I like your comment about there never being a good time for you. That is so true, and I never thought of it that way before. Dawsey lived many happy years in a loving and secure home and that is something you gave him every day.

Posted by: lifeonhold at June 29, 2006 07:27 PM

I'm trying to type while wiping away tears. Julie, I'm so sorry about Dawsey. My heart breaks for you, I know how hard it is to lose a kitty family member. You were there for me when I lost my kitty - let me know if there's anything I can do for you now. Hugs.

Posted by: Teem at June 30, 2006 01:50 PM


Sorry to hear about your loss.

Reading this made me cry for the first time since my son was born.

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