Monday, November 05, 2012

The Hardest Thing

Harley Dude, 2008-2012

I'll never forget the day I met Harley. It was December 6th, 2008, and he was a feisty three-month-old kitten in a cage at the Stockton PetCo. I was finally ready to adopt a second cat, and so excited to bring a new one home to keep Millie company.

His name was Khan, and he was a skinny little ginger boy who purred like mad the second I picked him up. "You sound like a Harley Davidson!" I cooed in delight. He responded by licking my nose. My intention had been to adopt an older cat, a female. I went home that day with a male kitten.

I named him Harley, because what else would I call him? He quickly became my Little Dude, my Doodlebug. He drove me insane and delighted me all at once.

And now he's gone.

I took him to the vet this morning, after the last post about the "poo issue." I was heartened when she thought it might be as simple as constipation...but my hope fell flat when she came out with the x-ray results. Harley had swallowed a needle.

Surgery was the only thing that could have saved my little dude's life, and I spent a lot of time this morning frantically calling around looking for financial assistance. But around noon, after talking to the vet one more time, I realized that surgery wasn't a magic pill that would make Harley better. It was a possibility, but not a guarantee. And the needle had probably been in his system for at least a week...there were certainly perforations to his intestines. Really, the only thing to do was to give him peace.

The vet told me this. My parents told me this. I told myself this. It doesn't stop me from feeling like I should have fought harder to save him.

Even if there was so little guarantee that I could have.

I've loved and lost pets in my life. Molly the collie, Holly Berry, Missy, Maggie, Beau. But those were family pets--the end-of-life responsibility for them fell on my parents. Millie and Harley are MY cats, and today is the first time I've ever had to make the decision to let a beloved pet go.

I feel like a shitty human being.

When I made the hardest decision, around noon, Mom held me for several minutes, letting me cry on her shoulder even as tears fell down her face. She went with me to the vet's office, and stood by me through the whole thing. I can't begin to say how much that means to me, that even in her own grief, Mom would stay in that room with me and help me through it. A mother's love knows no bounds.

They brought him in and gave us all the time we needed. I hugged my sweet little boy close and told him, over and over, "I love you. I love you." I told him I tried. I told him I'm sorry. I told him he's a little moron for eating a needle. He just purred. He purred until the very end, which is only appropriate, given my reasons for naming him Harley.

I always assumed I'd raise this crazy little cat and have him for many, many years. That Millie would age and eventually go first, and I'd have my sweet Harley to help soften that loss. That eventually, I'd get him a younger sibling, as payback for all the times he harassed Millie.

Life doesn't always go the way you assume it will.

The only thing I can think of that will help is to remember the good that Harley brought to my life. How I rescued a shelter baby and gave him four wonderful, happy years. He was adored. Not only by me, but by the friends who knew him, and by my family. The outpouring of love and grief I'm getting on Facebook and Twitter is astounding--even from friends who never met Harley, but who tell me today that they loved it when I shared pictures of his fat belly and pretty face. Even though he's gone, he's still inspiring love, and that is a happy thing.

This year alone, Harley chewed through not one but TWO different computer speaker wires. He was a nibbler, a snoop, a nosy little busybody. And I loved every naughty stripe of him. I'll miss yelling at him to stop eating Mom's houseplants, I'll miss him cuddling by my shoulder at night as I read, stretching a leg or two across my chest as if to proclaim to the world, "Back off, she's mine." I will miss singing out, "How ya doodling, my Doodlebug?" I'll miss his squeaky little meow and that glorious purr that took him from being Khan the shelter kitten to Harley, the beloved pet.

Everyone is reminding me that though his life was short, it was very, very good. And it time, I hope that I'll see that more clearly, and less through a fog of guilt that I had to see him go at four years old.

Rest in peace, sweet Harley Dude. If love was enough, you'd still be here.

First Christmas

Yeah, that's a pilfered tampon he's wrestling with.

Helping me coin a new Megism: Purrvert.

The infamous yawn picture...forever my favorite picture of Harley.


Running Moose said...

Oh Meg, I'm so sorry. I know this is a hard choice. I had a cat growing up that was a birthday present. After he got hit by a car, my parents said they would pay for the surgery (without hesitation) or he could be put down. They explained to me what he'd have to have done, that he might not make it, that he'd be in pain and not be who he was. I was only 16 at the time, but I made the hardest choice I had to make in my life at that time. I decided that he needed to be put to sleep. He needed his peace and to not be in pain. I still miss him! On a somewhat funny note, at one point in his life he started sneezing all the time when he woke up. He'd sneeze 4 or 5 times in a row every time! We couldn't figure out why...until the vet told us it shoed in his x-ray that he had a needle stuck in the back of his throat that had been there for years. We know we'll be going through this many more times as we only want to have older cats! We just adopted our first one as a family in January. I hope that after a while, you're able to adopt again! Be well!

Maayani said...

Oh Meg, I'm so, so sorry. But it does sound like you made the right decision. It was tough, but it was brave. Like you. Love you and will call you again later tonight.

Zanella said...

I'm sorry. Only a year ago I learnt how a cat gives you love in a beautiful way. And I can understand the way you feel. He is in a good place now. And he left something precious that no one (unless that one is a cat) could ever left: his devotion and love for you.
Hugs, dear Meg.

Tara aka Bunny said...

This brought tears to my eyes and made me remember every decision I have had to make like this. It catches you at strange moments and you are off guard and cry a little. It's hard because we love them so much. People tell you that you did the right thing but it doesn't help with the pain and devastation of the loss. You and Harley were blessed to find each other on the enormous, crazy planet. Take heart some things are just fated to be. Hugs.

Meg said...

Thank you, everyone, for the lovely comments. Each one brought enormous comfort. I couldn't reply right away, as I was pretty much a sobbing mess. I'm getting better a teensy bit at a time.