Friday, June 12, 2015

Millie Joyful

Oh, God. How terrified I've been, all week, that this post would be about goodbyes. I'm not all that sure of a higher power, but if there is one, I'm thanking it/her/him for a happy outcome.

If you have followed this blog for any period of time--a month, a year, ten years--you know that I am proudly owned by a gorgeous, adorable, sweetheart of a torbie named Millennium Joy--I just call her Millie. She was a surprise pre-Christmas gift from my parents in 1999, and has been my best friend since then. Her fur has soaked up a lot of tears, and her purrs have eased a lot of heartaches. I can't imagine life without her.

Millie, with Millennium Bear. She was
so little, but SO full of energy. 

Of course, it's very likely I will outlive her. Pets are family, and oh, so precious, but they aren't designed to live as long as we'd like them to. And Millie is not a young cat. She's a couple months shy of 16, which in cat years is not only "geriatric," it's "Damn, she's how old?!"

I've known this cat since she was 12 weeks old, waking me up at 3AM during Finals Week and breaking knick-knacks in my apartment with abandon. I know this cat--she is energetic, she is affectionate, she is social, and she is demanding when she wants something. So when little changes crept in, I noticed...but denial is a very local thing--not just a river in Egypt--and it was easy enough for me to say, "Well, she's always been skinny..." as I ran my hand down her back and felt her spine in sharp relief.

The last couple of weeks, it's come to a head. She's been her usual self in so many ways--wanting to go out in the back yard, first in line for Tuna Time in the mornings, sweet and happy to cuddle with me at any time--but she's been tired. So tired. And the weight loss couldn't be denied away anymore. Millie's always been slender, topping off at 8 or 9 pounds as an adult cat, but agile, healthy in her coat, and full of mischief and energy. Even three or four months ago, I would boast, "She's 15, but she thinks she's a kitten." So seeing her slow down and get so frighteningly skinny has been difficult.

Finally, I acknowledged to my parents that I needed to take her to the vet for a check-up. So yesterday, I called and made an appointment, then promptly spent the day (incidentally, I had three--yes, three--job interviews to get through without crying) trying to stay calm and not freak out that I was about to say goodbye to my beloved cat. When I got home, Mom asked if I'd like her support.

My lip started to tremble, and I reverted from almost-37 to about 15. "Do you think I'll need your support?"

Big sigh from Mom. "I don't know, hon. But I'm offering it if you want it."

"Well, I don't know if I'm going to need it or not! So I don't know!" By this point, I was crying.

(I never said I'm rational when it comes to my cat.)

In the end, I asked her to come with me. Because I knew, if I had bad news, there's no way I'd be able to drive myself home safely. And because a mother's love knows now boundaries, she drove me to the vet's office, both of us cooing at an agitated Millie the whole way.

I'll put this out here now--obviously, it's a happy ending. While my 15-year-old cat weighed in at an alarming 4.5 pounds yesterday, she also had the fortune to meet Dr. Ann--"my last name is long so I just have people call me Dr. Ann!"--who walked into the exam room with her technician's notes in one hand, said hello to me, then looked right at Millie and said, "Who has an overactive thyroid?! YOU do!!" She stroked Millie's skinny body, listened to her heart ("Oh, yes! Your heart is screaming, 'thyroid problem!!' to me!!") and gave me a beautiful smile. "This is very common in older cats, and very treatable."

I very nearly burst into tears again.

So my girl and I are embarking on a new adventure. After a quick blood and urine draw, we now know that it's all thyroid (thank whatever invisible Universal Force there might be) and nothing to do with her kidneys. Dr. Ann called me this morning with the results and said, "Her urinalysis was actually surprisingly GOOD for a cat her age." (That's my girl!!!)

Ms. Millie will have to have to take a thyroid pill twice a day for the rest of her life. I have signed myself up to administer oral medication to my girl every twelve hours for however long the universe sees fit to let her have life. As cats can feasibly live to 20-21 years of age, I'm hoping it's a good 5-6 years. Maybe it's selfish, but I'm just not ready to lose this girl. I never will be...but right now it would just suck more than I can say.

As I write this, Millie has had one pill--one tiny pink pill that she took surprisingly well. I've given her pills in the past and it's not her favorite thing, but let's face it--it's easy enough to dominate a weakened, four-and-a-half-pound cat long enough to pry her mouth open, get a pill in, hold the mouth closed, and stroke her throat so she swallows. Of course, as she gains her strength (and weight) back, I expect it to be harder, but it's a battle I'm willing to take on, if it means my girl is happy and healthy.

Because here's the biggest point--Millie isn't done yet. Call me sentimental, call me foolish, but I know this cat better than anyone, and I know she's not ready to call it a day. She's tired, yes, and weakened, by her thyroid, but she still has that indescribable, but very tangible, spark in her--that spark that makes her my Millie-girl, and her time is not done yet. I know there will come a day when it is, and I will listen to her and respect her when she tells me, but it simply isn't here yet. Therefore, I'm willing to commit to giving her a pill every twelve hours for however long I'm lucky enough to have her.

Needless to say, I'm a little bit on the "emotionally spent" side as we slip into the weekend, but I'm also relieved, and hopeful. Every pill I wrestle into Millie's mouth will help her get her strength back, and her weight. Her coat will get glossy again, and some of her energy will return. I hope, before too long, to see her batting my shoelaces as I tie my running shoes.

There are adventures to be had by Ms. Millie and her mom. Wild and Absolutely True ones.

I will treasure each one.

Millie, last night, so worn out after her trip to the vet, but
happy to be curled up on the bed with her mom. 

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