There were hints once in a while that she wasn’t really fine, like she knew something was wrong. Nothing I could really put a finger on, but when you know an animal really well, you can tell. It became definitive last Sunday when Kathy came up to me and said Mele was breathing really quickly. She had researched it and found that 50 breaths per minute was cause for concern. She should have been at 15-30.
On Monday morning, Kathy called several places and we couldn’t get an appointment until yesterday because of a shortage in vets. That worried us because that was two days away and we didn’t want her to suffer. As it was, I was sitting on the couch with her, watching her back rise and fall with those quick, almost labored breaths. She was a tough old girl though, and made it through.
In fact, she was so tough she made our decision harder when we were at the vet. We were given an estimate of costs and chose to go with bloodwork, delaying the expensive x-ray until we really needed it. We were hoping the bloodwork would tell us something that would sway our decision one way or another whether to put her down. We didn’t want her to suffer, but we also didn’t want to rob her (and us) of more life. All through this, she was bright-eyed and wandering around the room, exploring, or trying to hide under the bench, even attempting to jump up onto the exam table. We realized she would have kept fighting to the end if we let her, no matter how much pain that cost.
As it turned out, the bloodwork came back fairly clean and we had to go with our gut and our conscience. We could have gone with x-rays and maybe find out why she was breathing that way, possibly treat whatever it was that was going on, maybe with drugs or whatever, but in the end, we felt she already let us know it was time. Kathy told me she had pooped in front of her food bowl the day before, which she never would have done. That was a clear sign she needed help. She had started to spend more time under our bed, which she only did when she was in a bad way.
I had a moment alone with her after the massive sedative was administered. Kathy had gone to use the restroom and they had left me to wait for the medication to take effect. She was wrapped in her purple blanket and I was stroking her head. I felt her relax almost right away. I whispered that I loved her and that it was okay, and kissed her head. When everybody came back, we watched as the catheter was inserted behind her paw, and the drugs were administered. She faded quickly.
We chose to take her with us and bury her ourselves rather than have her cremated. They wrapped her up and we took her home in the pet carrier. Kathy cleared a spot under our mango tree, near where we had buried Truffle, along with the ashes of Widgit and Moosh. We both spent a moment holding her, kissing her, and saying our goodbyes. Then Kathy placed her in the hole surrounded by her compost. We covered the hole and placed bricks on it to prevent her from being dug up by some random animal.
We didn’t see it coming when Truffle died, and we had months of warning with Mele. I know now it doesn’t matter if you can see it coming or not. I’d rather know than not know, but in a way, knowing is harder. There’s always this lingering sadness even in moments of joy.
I still feel her presence. Unlike Tito, who demands our attention when he’s around, just as Truffle used to, Mele was always just around. She demanded attention, sure, when she wanted something — food, brushes, pets, etc. — but once she was acknowledged, she was content to just hang out. I still have the urge to seek her out and check on her. I guess the last six months of knowing she was going to leave us trained me to pay special attention to her, and make an effort to spend as much time with her as I could, opting to work on the couch rather than my study.
I’ll miss her coming downstairs and badgering me to brush her in the morning. She would hop up on the glass coffee table in the family room and we would make a production out of it. I knew something was wrong when she stopped coming down to ask for it. I’ll miss the evenings after dinner when she would come up on Kathy while we watched TV and demand we put the purple blanket on her lap so she could lie on it and be petted by both of us. Then she would walk over my lap and lie on the arm of the couch next to me so I could pet her myself. I’ll miss her demanding food when it was time for us to eat. She wasn’t hungry, she just wanted us to share. Sharing meant we loved her. I know Kathy will miss mornings on the lanai with her sharing her “eggies”.
Above all, I’ll miss our special bond. On her first night, she yowled so loudly and consistently, I brought her down to the guest room and slept down there while she explored the room, hiding in the closet or under the bed and continuing to yowl once in a while. When I woke up, she was sleeping with her head in my armpit. I was her special safe place ever since. That was 14 years ago. She became one of my safe places too. I’m glad we had that moment alone together at the end, as we did in the beginning.
Thank you, Mel. You were a gift. As curmudgeonly as you could be at times, you were always our sweet girl. And you were strong. Our tough little Norsky girl. You overcame so much adversity and ended up with us. We were so lucky to have each other. There will always be a hole in our lives without you.