Monday, April 19, 2010

Look at the Birdie!

Last week I was surfing the web when Sidney started "chirping" at the window.
So, I got up to see why he was chirping... it was a birdie sitting right outside the window, a mere 18" away.
Before I knew it, Sidney's message was intercepted by Bailey, who immediately rushed to the window to investigate.
They then began to plot and scheme to "get the birdie"... however, the window remained an obstacle in their quest.
Those are my boys... keeping the house safe from birdgulars.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Moving Forward

"What did you do with your kittys as you sent them up to heaven?? Did you cremate them or bury them?? I've had plenty of cats die before, but that was when i lived at home and my parents dealt with it. It was also different than it is now."
 I already forgot what a big deal this is.  Growing up, "my dog" Max was my first pet in which I had any real responsibility-- and even so, looking back, I don't really think I can claim being truly responsible.  After I moved out of my parents home, Max stayed behind, but he always barked in excitement as I parked on the street for a visit.  But I was 1000 miles away when I got the news that he was gone.

My first cat, Biff, fit in the palm of my hand when I found him and brought him home.  He was only nine months old when he disappeared.  We suspected neighborly foul play, and a few days later, my sister found him deceased in the crawl space under the house, directly beneath my bed.  I was saddened, and opted not to deal with the grief and morbidity of the situation.

So I understand that it truly IS different now.  My experience with losing, grieving, and moving forward with Simba and with Kira are two very different experiences.

* * * * *

Simba's passing happened quickly and unexpectedly.  We had missed seeing the signs of his illness.  At midnight on a Friday, we took him to the hospital, where he spent the next 48 hours, and it was at that time we learned that his time was near.  We took him home, thinking we still had days or weeks, but after 6 final hours at home, we returned with him to the hospital.  We had to say goodbye, decide what to do with him, fork over money, and leave the hospital without him-- and I was kinda in shock through the entire experience.

As I recall, in my shocked state, we were given a few options, at different financial levels: Say goodbye and be done with it; bury at a pet cemetery; or cremate and bring home his ashes.  We chose cremation, paid the hospital, and never saw his furry body again after he was carried out of the exam room.  Fortunately, I had had the foresight to clip some hair before we brought him in.  Four days later, I dropped everything to go pick him up at a place I had never been to before, once I got the call that it was time.  I really wanted to have him come home.  It ended as a favorable experience, but I felt I had very little control over what happened.

His ashes were in a small cedar box.  I collected every photo I had of him into one location and framed some of my favorites.  I filled an empty box with his toys, medicines, and other Simba related memorabilia.
I decided I wanted to create one place in my home that was Simba's place where I would display the clock that ticked away his final hours with me and my favorite photos of him.  In the center is the cedar box that contains his ashes.
The cedar box containing his ashes, a candle we lit the week he passed, my wooden Siamese, St. Gertrude (patron saint of cats), his cremation records, his fur clipping, and one of his toys (as well as my only photo of Biff)

* * * * *

Kira, on the other hand, was an entirely different experience.  We had plenty of time to prepare mentally, plenty of time to photograph and video her, we had a reference on which to act, and we had a relationship with her veterinary team.

We were given an option; a stranger could come to our home to take care of the event or we could bring her into her vet's office.  We knew we wanted her vet, Dr. Tobin, to handle this for us, so we went into the office.  They gave us all the time wanted with her, before and after.  They tied a ceramic heart around her paw, which remained with her through the cremation, and we retained the companion piece.  They offered to clip hair for us.  We were given the option of taking her to the cremation service ourselves or they would do it for us.

We were unsure if we wanted to transport her body or not.  We visited the crematorium a couple days beforehand and concluded we thought we would prefer to do it ourselves, although we had reservations.  I was very happy we chose to do it ourselves for a few reasons.  One: we didn't leave the vet office without her.  Two: the vet team prepared her body so peacefully, wrapping her up in her own blanket-- it was calming to see her like that.  Three: we got to be the ones to select what our final remembrances would be.  You only get one chance to make these decisions.

We selected a redwood box for Kira's ashes, to compliment the Simba's cedar box.  We were also able to have her paws cast in plaster and opted to get a green pendent (which matched her green eyes) that contained some of her ashes.  
We have yet to assemble a set of photographs to frame, as we literally have hundreds to go through.  For now, we have her bed filled with her life.  Candles, fur, toys, cards, and her redwood box.
Kira's pink leash, a candle we burned in her honor, her fur clippings, condolence card from her vet staff, paw prints in plaster, pendent containing her ashes, ceramic heart, and the redwood box containing her ashes (and ceramic heart center)

* * * * *

Two other experiences worth sharing, that are not my own, include things to consider during and after.  During the experience with the vet, be sure you needs are being met.  I posted a few weeks back about my friend John, and the passing of his dog Digby.  When he shared his story with me, one of the most poignant moments I recall, was how after he said his goodbyes, he didn't want to walk out of the room and leave with a last memory of her still laying on the cold floor.  Digby was not a small dog, but he asked if someone could come in and carry out while he was still there.  I thought this was brilliant and beautiful.  His very last memory is of her being carried off to that which comes next.

Finally, my parents did a wonderful thing when their dog Cora passed away.  They donated her to a veterinary school for education.  After about a year, Cora was cremated and returned home to my parents.  I think that was so awesome-- even more, knowing that I couldn't have done that with my cats.

So, I hope that I answered the question at the top of this post.  Knowing what you are able to do and knowing what you would like to do are the two key details.  You don't get a chance to do it over, so don't be afraid to seek out solutions that help you accept the loss and solutions maintain the proper memories of this special relationship.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Kaci is Leaving

I have not posted anything in a couple weeks.  I just got a new mobile phone last week and I have taken some fun pictures of the boys... both Bailey and Sidney have their own little photo spreads I wanna share soon.  I am also off to the theatre tonight so we will see if I can manage to work a feline storyline into Dreamgirls so I can post about it here.

In the meantime, Angi sent me sad news about her cat, Kaci.  Seems Kaci was just diagnosed with lung cancer and the Christensen family is preparing to say goodbye in the next week or so.  My thoughts are with them.

Angi sent a photo of Kaci with the news... which was very smart of her, cuz I was gonna ask for one anyway.  She said it was one of her favorites, and I can see why.  This is one of the most awesome cat pics I have seen.  Kaci looks so sweet and adorable in the leaves... she certainly knows how to work it for the camera.  I am sure she'll be missed.