Farewell to the big dude

From Nov. 8, 2014 (has it been almost five years already), about the cat for whom this here blog is named.

My wife and I both knew it was going to end this way, ever since we met with the oncologist.

He told us that treating cancer in cats isn’t the same as in humans, explaining that one of the reasons why people get so sick during chemo is that the treatment is intended to kill the cancer. It’s milder for cats, but that’s because the intent is only to hold the tumor back as much as possible. 

In the most-aggressive treatment, which is surgery and chemo — which Silly couldn’t have because the doctor also thought he saw cancer in his lung along with his pancreas, so it was only going to be chemo — he said maybe you get a year.

We got 11 months … 11 mostly great months.

Between the two of us, my wife and I had three cats when we moved in together 13 years ago. She had Silly and Skippy, and I had Scrapper. (Even though it was unintentional, we kept the naming tradition going with our little one, Sasha.)

Of the three, Silly was by far the most laid-back, which came in handy when he was diagnosed with diabetes more than 10 years ago. It meant he required two shots daily, and he never gave us a problem. When it was time for a shot, he’d let us grab the skin on the back of his neck, lift it up and give him his insulin. Then he would go back to whatever he was doing. We’re not sure it would have been nearly as easy with Skippy or Scrapper.

Silly was just relaxed about everything. He was never in a hurry, and just liked to hang out in his favorite spots: the futon in our TV room (pictured above, and behind me as I type this), one of the beds upstairs, the cat bed in the window is Sasha wasn’t too pesky, out on the deck in the nice weather and the middle cushion of our couch.

But in the last months of his life, Silly added one more spot … my lap.

Silly always liked people once he got used to them (he would hide if strangers or my brother’s dog would come), but he was never big on being held for very long, and while he spent hours sitting next to me on the couch on his middle cushion, he never liked to sit with me until a few months ago. All of a sudden, he couldn’t get enough of my lap, to the point where sometimes he’d stand with his paws on my stomach and climb my chest to get face-to-face.

Maybe he was trying to tell me something, trying to get as close a possible before he was gone.

* * * * *

Like the diabetes, not to mention the growth on his liver that caused us to get him checked for cancer in the first place, Silly handled cancer like a champ. Because of the diabetes, we and our oncologist (who was fantastic, by the way) had to be very careful about making sure he ate, and at one point he did go into shock so badly that they kept him overnight in the hospital as a precaution. 

But other than that, he did great, so much so that after a couple months, his treatments were cut from once every three weeks to once every four. The cancer wasn’t spreading, his weight was fairly stable, he was eating reasonably well (although he would have stretches where he decided he didn’t like his food anymore and we had to change) and while he was a bit slower, he got around well enough to where he wanted to go.

I generally get up in the morning before my wife, especially during the week, and each day, the first thing I would do was look for Silly. I’d usually find him downstairs in one of his favorite spots, and he’d start coming around when he knew it was time to be fed. After mostly alternating before, Sasha took on more of the nagging us to wake us up on the weekend duty, but every now and then he’d wander upstairs to get in one of our faces.

* * * * *

The beginning of the end for Skippy came in January 2013 (Scrapper had died a few years before), when he fell down the stairs. I saw him tumble down the steps, and it was terrifying. He didn’t last much longer after that, dying a couple days later.

I heard Silly land awkwardly after he jumped off our bed on one of his rare forays upstairs a few weeks ago, but he got away before I could grab him, and the next thing I heard was the frightening sound of him bouncing down the stairs.

When I got to the bottom of the steps, he was crying, his legs were splayed out underneath him and he had trouble standing up. He eventually settled down, and then it happened again — the same tumble down the stairs, the same crying.

We brought one of our litter boxes up from the basement and shut the basement door — one of the things that slowed his fall down the stairs was the wall and rail on one side, which didn’t exist going to the basement, and the drop was to a concrete floor — and I slept downstairs with him for a couple nights just to keep tabs on him.

The first night, he slept with me all night. The second, he kept trying to get away from me and walk around.

Because, you see, Silly was going to give us one last rally.

* * * * *

One thing I hope to never have to do is have a pet put to sleep. So far, it hasn’t happened. Scrapper died on our deck after my wife discovered her cowering in the basement, and Skippy died while I held him to my chest in bed.

My brother had to do it with his dog, and my in-laws with one of their cats earlier, and I know it happens all the time, but I would feel incredibly guilty, like I had given up. 

Instead, I hope for the miracle, and after Silly fell down the stairs, it looked like he was going to give us one. He was slower than ever, but legs that had been unsteady were firmly back underneath him. He wasn’t eating a lot, to the point where we stopped giving him shots, but he would eat. He was even back to sitting on my lap.

We knew better than to get our hopes up too much, but maybe the falling was a temporary problem and that he wasn’t anywhere near done yet.

Then, a few Sunday mornings ago, my wife and I were in the living room, reading the paper, when we heard a thump, followed by a cry. We went into the TV room, and there was Silly on the floor. He had tried to get down from the futon and landed badly. We tried to put him on his feet, but he couldn’t stay upright.

We brought him out to the living room, and eventually after we laid him down on the ottoman, the crying got so bad that we wondered how long we should wait before we took him to the hospital to … you know …

But whatever pain he was in, it only lasted for about another hour. My wife and I sat with him, and I repeated what I told him when we first heard his diagnosis, “Fight as hard as you can, but when you can’t fight any more, it’s OK to stop.”

And so, at age 17, he finally stopped.

He’s with his brother and sister now, under a tree in our yard.

RIP, Silly. We miss you tons.

3 thoughts on “Farewell to the big dude

  1. Pingback: Reaching back into the archives – A Silly Place

  2. Made me tear up and miss our little dog we put down a few years back. She had a really bad liver disease that went undiagnosed for too long when she was little, and after that, it was downhill pretty much the rest of her years with us. Similarly for us, those last few months were bad. Regular hospital visits, not knowing if she would eat. Her legs also gave out under her a couple of times which scared us to death. When she was ready, we took her to get put down, and actually, my mom was plagued with the thought that she should’ve done it sooner. We put her through a lot to keep her with us, but she put up a fight until the very end. Thank you for sharing this piece of your heart with us, Bill ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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