Our dear darling kitty was put down yesterday. She passed away at 3:51pm on October 18, 2010. Although it is a time for grieving, I want to remember Shelby with all the joy she gave us.
Shelby came to us through the Humane Society, just a few short weeks after we had to put our older cat, Ginger, down. At first, I brought home a white cat with black spots and named her Lexie. Lexie was playful, and we needed to have a healthy, playful cat in the house after tending to Ginger's ailing body for so long. The mood in the house lightened a little, but Steve was still suffering Ginger's loss, so I went back to the Humane Society looking for a brown tabby to bring home.
Once at the Humane Society, I went to the cats and saw a big cage with about 10 cats in it. There were several tabbies, and for some reason, this little, very thin cat stole my heart. They called her "Twiggy" there because she was so thin. She had a small head with big round eyes that looked a little startled when you looked at her. She had lived on the street, which was why she was so thin. I took to her immediately and named her "Shelby" right there on the spot, vowing that she would have a new life to go with her new name, and never have to forage for food again.
When I brought Shelby home, I let her out of the carrier, and she ventured out very cautiously. Lexie came bounding over to her and began to lick her up one side and down the other. Lexie was thrilled to see her. They got along famously and became great friends. Steve came home from work to see a brown tabby, just like Ginger, except for the long hair on the tail. He took Shelby in his lap, sat down in his recliner, and seemed to be more comforted now that there was a brown tabby in the house again.
Shelby went on to grow and eat as if she would never see food again. She spent many hours at the table, begging for scraps, and there were many times when she would tap Steve on the back as he was eating, as if to say "Hey! Don't forget about me!" Steve told me last night of the times when my back was turned, when he would say, "Shelby! High Five!" and she would raise her paw up to touch his hand. She would "bark" at birds she saw out the window, but when we let her into the backyard, she would skitter toward the door, afraid she would be left on the street again. Her trips to the backyard were infrequent because I didn't want her to be afraid.
Shelby loved Thanksgiving and was always in attendance when I was cutting up the bird. She got her fair share of the little pieces and loved every single minute of it. She would follow Jason when he had cereal, as she knew he would put his bowl down for her, with the last bit of his milk in it. She lapped it up eagerly. Shelby grew to 20 pounds, and we were happy to see her enjoy herself so much. At one point, we started calling her "Speed Bump" because she was so big and laid in what seemed like the middle of everything.
Jason in particular became very close to Shelby when she got big. It seemed to him that we were all ignoring Shelby because of her size, and in part, he was right. But whatever the reason, he got very close to her and she knew and loved him well. Jason would lie down on the floor next to her, and she would reach her paws out to touch him on the head. She purred her loudest purr whenever he was around her. You could hear her purr across the house. It was obvious that she loved him as much as he loved her. Shelby would find solace during a thunderstorm under Jason's bed, and as much as we didn't want to admit it, Shelby was definitely Jason's cat. They had a bond closer than I've ever seen with any of our animals, and they were best friends.
In the last couple of years, Shelby had started to pee in the laundry room but not in the cat box. We thought maybe it was because the cat box was dirty, and made every effort to clean it more often. But then she started peeing in more areas of the house and it became necessary to do away with the carpeting to help make cleanup easier. She began to lay in the cat box for no apparent reason. It was obvious that Shelby was suffering from kidney disease, just as Ginger had.
Shelby had started to deteriorate a little at a time until the last two weeks. Then her descent was rapid and could not be stopped, no matter how much love we gave her. She was drinking copious amounts of water, but began to refuse food. We gave her whatever we thought she would eat, and began to lace her water with cranberry juice and Gatorade to keep some electrolytes in her rapidly thinning body. When she started to refuse even the foods she loved, we knew she was nearing her end.
When Ginger was dying, we tried to keep her alive through force-feeding. After she was gone, I swore I would never do that to an animal again. However, this past week, it became obvious that Shelby was refusing food, and I didn't want her to die of starvation. I made that promise when I adopted her... that she would never want for food again. Jason and I began to give her syringes of very soft cat food, the kind the vet said they would give to very sick animals when they refused everything else. It didn't matter. Shelby was too far gone and we couldn't get her strong again, so we took her out into the backyard to let her lay in the sun, while we petted her and talked to her, knowing we had to make a very painful decision.
Shelby was stretched out on the grass, and her breathing became shallow. I told Jason that she was going. We kept petting her and told her it was okay to go and that we would always love her. But Shelby wouldn't let go. It was Jason who made that courageous decision, and I'm so glad he did. I couldn't do it. When Ginger was dying, I knew it was time. When Rebel was dying, I knew it was time. This time, it was Jason that knew. He saw in her eyes that she couldn't take any more pain. Shelby was suffering, and as much as I didn't want to admit it, we had to let her go.
Jason called Steve at work, who came home immediately to spend a few more moments with our beloved Shelby. A call was made to Dr. Pearce, who said they would wait for us to come. During the ride to the vet, Shelby's breathing was extremely shallow and her eyes indicated there was no one home. Steve thought she wouldn't even make the trip to the vet. But, fighter that she was, Shelby just wouldn't give up. We took her in and I held her as her breathing stopped. It didn't take long. The injection wasn't even complete when it stopped. She was finally out of pain and our pain began.
We have all cried for Shelby. We cried for ourselves. We cried for the pain she suffered, and we cried for the joy she gave us that we will never have again. We brought her back to the home she loved, to place her in a special spot in our backyard. We placed landscape stones on top of her shallow grave and will put special paving stones and a cement planter there to mark her spot. Ginger is buried nearby, as are our canaries and the gerbils we loved. We have been readying the house to be sold as soon as I finish school, but I'm not in as much of a hurry now. I would have to leave Shelby, and I'm not ready to do that just yet.
We won't be getting another brown tabby to take Shelby's place. No one could take her place. She was one of a kind... the most gentle soul I have ever known. We have 4 dogs and 3 other cats to love and learn from, and we know that we will have to know this pain another 7 times. Even as we feel the pain now, it would be wrong to close off our hearts to try and protect it from the pain to come.
My darling Shelby... if love could have saved you, you would have lived forever. Now you live forever on the other side. Wait for us, Shelby. We'll catch up with you. We'll love you forever... until we see you again.