Lindsay and I have spent the last four days in a kind of shock. Tuesday night our hearts were broken as Kramer was taken from us so quickly we barely had time to say goodbye. This little scamp who came to us four years ago, hissing and scared and standoffish, who had turned into the cutest, snuggliest boy, who had become such a prominent part of our lives…he was suddenly gone.
Kramer was fine when I got home from work Tuesday. I got ready to leave for a dinner, and while I checked my phone one last time he jumped up on the couch next to me — purring, getting scratches, flopping about. Usual happy things from our happy boy.
I ran upstairs to say bye to Lindsay, and we came downstairs together. When we got here Kramer began barfing up a hairball. Typical, for a hairy little guy who can’t be brushed — hairballs were a constant. But this time it sounded different; we could hear him struggling. While I cleaned up the first hairball, Lindsay noticed Kramer couldn’t walk properly — his back logs weren’t working. Panicking, he dragged himself up the stairs, where he looked back at us, panting. I started moving up the stairs; he always runs from us when he’s sick, so he clambered into the bedroom, under the bed where we can’t reach him. He began howling, throwing up more, still panting, still unable to move his back legs. He was clearly very sick. I sat on the floor next to the bed, trying to speak to him calmly, while Lindsay grabbed the carrier from the basement. While she did, Kramer did something we’d never seen before: he dragged himself, with his front claws, all the way over to me, and rested his head on my leg. He knew. He knew something was very wrong.
He didn’t resist as I picked him up and placed him in the carrier. There’ve only been two other times he’s been in a carrier: once when we moved to the new house (after which he hid in the basement for six days), and once when Sarah first brought him to us to be adopted (after which he hid from us for weeks). The only other time we’d tried to even attempted to put him in a carrier he probably thought he was being given away again, and fought me so hard I was covered in scratches. This time: no resistance at all. Still, we knew this must have added to his anxiety and pain, but we had no choice. We got him into the car, and drove as quickly as we could to the emergency vet on McMurrich. Once there they quickly ran Kramer inside to begin tests, while we waited, scared shitless. They came out once to ask if they could sedate him, because scrappy little street cat that he was, he kept biting the vet assistants.
Finally, the vet herself came out. She told us the news was bad: he had thrown a clot that caused the back half of his body to shut down. We’d later learn this is called Saddle Thrombus, and it’s common in cats born with an enlarged heart. We knew from our one previous vet visit that he had a heart murmur. We didn’t know just how bad it was. Our sweet boy’s heart was just too big for this world. The vet said that there was really no treatment: it’s not just the back legs that shut down, it’s organs too. Our boy was scared and in pain, and he wasn’t going to get better, so there was only one thing we could do for him. We couldn’t believe it was happening. The tears started. They didn’t really stop for the rest of the night.
They brought him to us, somewhat sedated, but still feisty. He was meowing unhappily when they brought him in, but Lindsay and I started petting him, and talking to him, and singing to him. He stopped meowing, settled down, and looked each of deeply in the eyes. I thought he was making sure it was us, and in that moment I felt sure that he knew we hadn’t abandoned him. That we’d be with him through this. They sedated him further to run some double-confirmation tests, and brought him back to us. We could pet him, scratch his chin, and stroke him between his eyes, which was his absolute favourite. He was mostly unconscious, but deep inside there he must have known we were still with him. The vet administered the final dose, and while we stroked his luxurious furs one last time and told him how much we loved him, he went to sleep for the last time. Our perfect boy. Our little bug. Our prince, our bubsy, our ham. It didn’t seem real.
The vet offered to shave a little of that world-class fur for us to take home, and we did. We said our final goodbyes, kissed his little head, and left. I somehow drove home as the tears really started coming. It was surreal to walk back into the house without him. We were in shock, and we could so palpably feel the absence of his somehow-giant presence in our home.
The days since then have been tough. My morning ritual, where he’d greet me as I make coffee and then snuggle with me on the couch, is a harsh reminder each day. We keep expecting to see him trot down the stairs, or brush against our legs as we sit on the couch. Every time we hear a noise in the house we think it’s him jumping off of something upstairs. We have little breakdowns throughout the day as memories flood back, or as we see his toys scattered around. The other day I walked into our office for a meeting, and saw his little stuffed wine bottle toy on the daybed where he would sleep behind me as I worked, and I melted down. I confess, we’ve both reached into the bag of his hair to touch it a few times. We miss him so fucking much. Since moving to the house he’d become a non-stop fountain of affection (who would, admittedly, scratch the crap out of us on occasion) and it feels like a huge part of us is missing.
Right now it’s all hurt, but we know at some point the hurt will give way to all the beautiful memories of the life he lived with us. We’re so grateful for the years we had with him. We’re thankful we took so many pictures and videos of him — they’ve helped these last few days. We’re even glad we were both home when this happened, so we could help him as much as he could be helped in those final hours, and we’re thankful we could spend his last moments with him so he knew his family didn’t leave him. Most of all, we’re grateful he trusted us to make him feel safe. He was less than six years old, but he loved — and was loved — enough for five lifetimes.
We miss you so much, bud. Rest easy, wherever you are.