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Searching For Forgiveness

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." ~Anatole France

My husband jokingly calls me the cat whisperer. It is true; it seems I have an affinity and unique bond with cats. I say it is because I was born in the Year of the Tiger. I understand them because I, too, am a cat.

When we first took Sweetie into our family, it was an adjustment for her. My husband and I disputed over it, but I wanted her to be indoor only from then on. She was used to the freedom of the outdoors, so she didn't like this change. I let her out on our apartment balcony as a compromise, but I wouldn't let her free roam outdoors anymore.

The first time I gave her a bath was quite the experience - for both of us. I've had my other cat, Shadow, since she was a kitten, and while she protests bath time, I can handle her so we both survive. Sweetie was dirty, scruffy looking and most likely never had a bath in her life. I put her in the water, and she howled like it was acid. I did my best to scrub and rinse her, but I had to hurry through it because she was getting angry. The job was done, but not unscathed. She gave me a very nasty scratch in protest. It was shocking to me mostly because of the violence in which she did it. Shadow might sometimes swipe, but it was usually just a warning shot. I got a good lesson that Sweetie, although sweet, had slightly feral attitude when angry. Which really was so infrequent, I can count how many times on one hand. She was honestly so naturally cheerful, we described her meowing more like a singing.

After I dried her off, she howled in misery. She promptly marched to the front door and demanded to be let out. She sat there as though saying, "This place is no fun anymore! Let me out of here!" I laughed and thought it was cute. She was like an undisciplined child. Her previous caretakers couldn't be bothered with her. No one loved her enough to torture her with bath time. I never did it regularly, but that first time was absolutely necessary. She was filthy.

I opened a can of tuna, which seemed to resolve the issue. She decided it was worth sticking around for after all. After her meal, she washed her face and groomed her freshly bathed self. All was forgiven.

When taking her to the vet for her first checkup, she wailed like a catbulance all the way over. The vet poked her with needles, ran tests, and said she was healthy except for intestinal parasites, most likely from her outdoor scavenging. She protested the medicine I gave her, and again sat by the door demanding to be set free. I bribed her back with catnip.

When we took her in, I promised I would love and take care of her. She wouldn't be passed around from person to person like a second hand T-shirt. She had a home and a family to look after her. During the times when she peed on the couch, I'd get angry. It made it tempting to get rid of her...but I could never do it. She'd purr and nuzzle into my hand, and I'd resolve to find a way to make it work. Once I put on my cat whisperer hat and figured out she felt cornered in the bathroom, I put a second litterbox in the living room. Not my favorite place for it out in the open, but it made her feel safe. Problem solved.

When we put Sweetie to sleep, the phrase that I repeated over and over was, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." I asked for her forgiveness as I felt that I had failed her.

I took her to the vet thinking I would get some medicine to make her better, then I never brought her home. It haunts me.

This morning I sat at her blanket by the window, sobbed, and said, "I'm so sorry. Please forgive me."

I imagined her laying there. She would have looked up at me with cheerful eyes and purred like a motor.

And then I realized, there was no need for forgiveness because she loved me. If she was laying there, she'd nuzzle and lick my hand.

I wasn't really asking for her forgiveness. I am asking to forgive myself.

For being the cat whisperer, I failed to read the signs of her declining health. In the past month, she stopped showing up at breakfast and dinner for her meals. I'd put her food in the bowl, and she didn't come running. I'd find her curled up in a ball in the bedroom. I'd pick her up and she'd purr as I dropped her in front of the food. She licked off the gravy and left most of it. That wasn't too unusual for her. She rarely cleaned out the bowl.

I can see now that there was something wrong, but she never complained like she was hurt when I picked her up. I thought maybe she liked the attention. I joked with my husband and said she was becoming a diva.

And I was utterly, totally wrong.

My husband consoles me and says it wasn't my fault. I didn't know something was wrong, and purposely did nothing.

I took her to the vet thinking she had a little tummy upset, and was blindsided that she was terminally ill.

If I had known something was wrong earlier, it would not have changed the outcome, but I would have had warning. I would have pampered her with attention and tried to make her final days more comfortable. But perhaps it would have been more stressful, too. I'd probably come home every day scared that she passed away without me.

The suddenness is traumatizing. I kept apologizing to her because I wanted to take her home, and I couldn't. And one of the saddest things for me is I couldn't even ease her comfortably as she passed on. I've had family and friends die of cancer, and it is always terrible to see. The injections to stop Sweetie's heart simply accelerated it so her suffering wasn't prolonged. This time, I couldn't make up to her with tuna or catnip.

But as I sat at her blanket, I knew she held no grudges.

Everywhere I walk in the house, I see her. I don't literally see her, of course, but I see the memory of her. I came home from class today, and I saw her sleeping on my side of bed where she usually was in the afternoon. Her ears perked up as she saw me come through the door. As I walked by her, I said, "I love you."

I know it's not my fault, but I am still in denial about whether I could have saved her. It's going to take some time for this crushing sadness in my heart to heal and for me to feel some catharsis.

Thank you, everyone, who has sent me kind words and goodies. I will respond to your messages soon.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Our vet told us that cats rarely if ever show that they are in pain. Dogs do, cats just don't. Please, don't blame yourself. We had a cat with a majorly obstructed bowel and we had no idea, because he didn't tell us. That is the way of cats. And yes, you are right, your cat would not have blamed you in the least. I do love cats and I miss ours, who was put down about 8 months ago. Someday I think we will adopt another cat, but I don't think we are ready yet.
    1762 days ago
    I know the feeling of guilt, and feeling sorry... but Sweetie had a fantastic life with you, and you didn't drag out her sickness. I think she would thank you for letting her go.

    1762 days ago
    I am just seeing this and I am so sorry for your loss. I truly know how you feel and how devastating this is because I experienced almost the exact same thing with my beloved dog Jake. When living in the Caribbean he had stopped eating as much and did not seem himself. I thought he was just transitioning to the area or didn't enjoy the type of dog food there. I did not go to the vet right away but once I did they told me he too had a terminal illness and right on that day we had to make the decision to put him to sleep due to the very reasons you write about. Everything you write about is so very familiar to me.

    You are not to blame. You loved your sweetie. You can still love yoru Sweetie and all of the memories...you always will. I still love my Jake. He holds a space in may heart forever as your Sweetie will.

    Sweetie was as lucky to have had you in her life as you were lucky to have her. emoticon
    1763 days ago
  • ZAHRA35
    Forgiving yourself is the first step in processing guilt. emoticon
    1763 days ago
    You were a wonderful mom to your furbaby. Your Sweetie knew there was only love and nothing to forgive.
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1763 days ago
  • GLC2009
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1764 days ago
    Sorry for your loss and sending many hugs. We who love our animal friends can all relate, I think, to your sorrow and conflicted feelings as sooner or later we seem to all reach that place where we can't bring them home again. Know that your path was one you chose out of love and doing what was best for your kitty and no forgiveness is necessary because you did the kindest, most loving thing possible.

    Your post made me want to cry. Hugs again. emoticon
    1764 days ago
    Aw I'm so sorry! This story reminds me of my friend. She had a cat named petunia...for 16 years! My friend is a nurse so when her cat's health started declining she was able to inject her with potassium and medicine to keep her going. I think my friend felt guilty because she knew her cat's health was declining (her kidney was failing), and she kept hanging on...my friend just adored this cat and couldn't bear to have her pass on. We had a girl's weekend and I think petunia KNEW that her mom was with friends. The first night we arrived at my friends house, we were nto there an hour, she gave Petunia her shot and it was just too much for her. She yowled and then just her strength gave away. My friend literally pet her and stroked her fur until petunia passed away in her lap. It was SO heartbreaking...so so so SO sad! Animals fill our hearts with such love, they are there for us in ways that we don't even realize. I know that I adore my two dogs and would do anything to keep them around as long as I can. So sorry for littel sweetie and I am glad that you have forgiven yourself!
    1764 days ago
    I know it's hard to lose a beloved pet, but your hubby is right. It wasn't your fault. Sweetie had a good life because you and your hubby took her in and cared for her. Pets, like people, can get sick. And many times we don't see the signs because they can be very subtle.

    This illness must have been very sudden. If so, there wasn't anything you could do. I've read your various blogs about your kiddies, they've always been pampered. You've never neglected them. They've always had a loving home. That's what really counts. You did make Sweetie's last few weeks comfortable. She was a very pampered kittie.

    emoticon emoticon
    1764 days ago
    So sorry for your loss. Sweetie has blessed to have you for her human friend. emoticon
    1764 days ago
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