Utter despair. For weeks now, it's felt like my heart is in a vice, now it feels like it's being torn to pieces.
Like I'm losing part of my soul...
Mostly because I am. She meant that much to me. And this wasn't ever in the plan, this isn't something I plan for, it's not something that I thought about 15 years ago, when all I saw was this tiny little creature that no one else wanted, because she was black.
Black cats are bad luck, they say. And they are wrong. Black cats are the same as any other cat, except for some reason they are ignored at the shelters. They have a higher chance of dying than any other cat, and it's just because of their fur color.
I loved black cats. I had my heart set on a black cat, and nothing else. When I went to the shelter where I purchased her, my mind was used to going there on occasion... all I knew was that's where we got our pets from... well, the non-farm animal ones. I didn't know what I know now. I didn't know that the wretched smell was due to lack of cleaning, caused by a lack of staff, caused by a lack of funding. I didn't know that 80% of the animals brought there were put to sleep in less than 48 hours, and most in less than an hour after arriving. I didn't know that they "tested" the dogs by shoving another dog in its face, to see if it barked, and that if it did... it was aggressive and needed to be put down. I didn't know they pinched them and poked at them and if the animal growled, it was euthanized. I didn't know that any animal who was freaked out by being abandoned there, in that awful smell, with so many barking dogs and yowling cats, who could smell the dead and dying... I didn't know they, too, were euthanized. Because it was one of America's busiest, and yet worst funded, facilities, and that shelters fill up fast, but every morning hundreds more are brought in, despite their clearly not being any room... and that only a dozen are adopted out each day, if it's a good day. I just knew that's where the animals were who needed homes. I didn't know why my Mom was so nervous when I said I wanted a black cat. I didn't know that 99% of black cats brought to shelters are euthanized. I also didn't know the dogs were, too. Just for their fur color. My mind couldn't grasp that you'd kill an animal over something so silly.
My childish mind ignored everything except the thought that today I get a friend. Today, I get a companion for life that I could take care of. Today, I would stop being alone. That maybe the nightmares would stop. That I'd have someone to whisper my secrets to. That I'd have someone to lay there while I wrote my poems, and share the joy with me when a few were chosen once more to be published. I was 12, and already living in a world far more "adult" than I should have... but for today, I was a little girl picking out a kitten.
I saw people crowding around the other cages as I tried to get a glimpse of what they were gazing at... dozens of little kittens mewing for attention, but they got none of mine.
Then I saw her. Sitting in a cage with a few others, whom I was told were her siblings. Just three of them. Three black cats. They had even been placed on the higher perch, right against the door, and people walked past, hardly even glancing in. I saw excited children run through the place, some just a few years younger than I was, and they stopped by each kennel and cooed and awed and stuck their fingers through to pet the felines inside. They'd get to this kennel and look in, still with those same excited faces, and then, in an instant, they moved on. No comments, no loving strokes, no attention but a glance, lasting a mere second or two, before they deemed the animal inside worth less than the others.
I flagged a shelter employee over and they opened the kennel and let me hold her. She struggled and squirmed, and I started to feel bad... like, perhaps, I should leave her there, because my young mind didn't understand how terrified she was. She wanted to hide, because the world was scary and she was so very new to it. Too many people. She had the same problem I did... there were too many people everywhere, and you don't know which ones will hurt you.
Some woman scowled when she looked over, giving this disgusted face. "Sweety, have you seen these kittens here?"
I wasn't that sweet, and I sure as hell wasn't HER "sweety", but I nodded. I'd seen them. They were adorable.
"They're much better, are you getting a kitten today? How exciting, come see these ones here. I bet this one would make a perfect pet."
She didn't do this to the others, looking in the other cages... I looked at the little one in my arms, and then over at the ones this stranger was referring me to. There wasn't any difference, except their coloring. So I told her I liked the one I was holding, and took notice that the shelter worker had left the kennel for the black cats unlocked... in case I wanted to put her back.
The woman was insistent. "Come look at these!"
I put the little black one back with her brothers, and she mewed and stumbled around on her tiny kitten legs, stretching her claws out to grasp the metal links, while I walked over and looked at the kittens the woman was so fond of. Then I turned right back around, and got my cat back.
The woman seemed so upset and uncomfortable over that, like I was insisting on eating raw meat, or feces. "There are better cats here, they need homes."
It was at that moment I realized what she meant. "Better than this one?"
"Oh yes! Much!"
"Were these ones yours before you brought them here?" I asked, holding my Athena closer, and noticing, a bit behind me, my sister also stuck gazing into a cage everyone else was passing by.
"No..." The woman answered, still poking her hand through the bars to pet the 'better' kittens.
"Then how do you know?" I asked.
"That one's... Well, it's bad luck." She insisted, giving a friendly, trying smile as if she were telling me that the sky were blue, the grass was green, and occasionally, the sun rose and set.
Being the mature, responsible 12 year old I was, I stuck my tongue out at her, said "that's dumb" as wickedly as I could, and scampered off to find my mother and stepfather. My sister had a frantic little kitten. Bless his soul, he was white, brown, gray, black, tan, sandy blond, and just very cute... gigantic ears. He was so freaked out, and male... we'd been told to only get 1 female cat, each.
"He just... he needs me." She stated, in a quiet voice I'd never heard her use before. Eve wasn't a quiet girl... my twin, she was also, quite often, my opposite. She was bold where I was shy. She was athletic, while my heart prohibited such activities. She was never timid, like I was. She walked like she owned the world, but she cradled this little cat as if afraid the building was going to cave in on them. She named him Lucky. And he was... no one else had looked at him, because he sat in the corner shivering, and hiding, and afraid of them. He was afraid his entire life, but he was such a magnificent little thing.
He died in 2006 because of an embolism. It was a horrible, tragic day I still cannot forget... it reminds me what's happening today. God, in 1 hour...
Mom let Eve break the female only rule when she realized how much Lucky meant to my sister, and off we went to pay. She didn't question me on my choice, though she did seem surprised I'd found a black cat. I go to shelters now, all the time, for work/research/volunteering and I now realize why she was surprised... they don't often bother trying to adopt out the black ones.
At that moment, though, it didn't matter. All that mattered was these two were safe.
Athena was the adventurous one. her first night, I put her in her brand new pet bed, and she would have none of it, instead climbing up onto my bed and deciding my eyelids were the enemy that must be destroyed. She slept in my hair, on my face, against my back, on my leg. She tried to get into the pockets of my jeans... at the time, due to the abuse I was hiding, I went to bed fully clothed... often wearing a belt with my shirt tucked in. She didn't care, she was going to be right next to me no matter what. That first night we broke the No Cats On The Counter rule because of adorableness, and they couldn't sleep, so we fed them, on the center island. My brother came out and played with them, and my mother came into the kitchen to ask us why we were awake, and remind us of the no counter rule... but she let them stay there.
I almost cried when I got home the next day. School was terrible... I even had a teacher who just constantly told me I was stupid. And I was, I thought. I was failing every class... it didn't matter I was a published author, I was worthless. I was a waste. I was ugly and pathetic, and useless, and always would be... but when I got home, I was attacked by a little black panther who climbed up the denim on my leg and into my arms.
I was worth something, to her. She chose me over anyone else... followed me around, demanded food, then refused to eat it, then demanded it again, then took a bite... then scampered off, only to come back if I tried to pick up her dish.
She laid claim to the white chair.
Leather. Cat had expensive taste... except she hated the 'good for you' food, and stuck her nose up at fish, lobster, anything but Friskies or Meow Mix and, back then I had ni idea what utter crap those foods are.
She liked to defy gravity, on top of her chair.
But in the end... she was mine.
She was always there for me. When I told the police what my father was doing... what he was allowing to have happen... what the bruises meant... things were so frantic, terrifying, horrible, but I had her. I wanted to run away, abandon it all, but she wouldn't survive on the streets... I couldn't take care of both of us. I wanted to die, but what would happen to her? My family would take care of her, of course, but... she'd be alone, like I was before her.
I'd had pets my entire life... most taken from me, because I was too young to control what happened to them... but Athena was... she saved me. She inspired Predator Turned Prey, and inspired me to take action. I never de-clawed her, because I couldn't let her be hurt like that, especially after I found out that it's actually an amputation that can cause life long trauma... she was my savior from my life long trauma, I wasn't doing that to her.
She was there when I had nightmares... She was there when I was just too afraid of people. She was there when I curled up in my closet, afraid to come out because the world is so horrifying.
She put up with me, and she loved me. Loves me...? She was a cat, of course...
She had her sleepy times...
But over all, she was my playful, energetic, wonderful little cat.
(though it's my sister in the photo)
She was diagnosed very, very young with arthritis... but she played fetch with me. Played tag, played hide and seek, she chased toy mice and wiggly string. She refused all things robotic, however, they were too weird for her.
Years ago, she started urinating a LOT. It sounded like someone left the faucet on... I called vets who told me it was kidney failure, but they'd put her down for me, and I hung up on them and sobbed and sobbed... I called and called until I found a vet that was interested in actually examining her, and he said she was diabetic... two options. Put her down, or try and fight it.
She always fought for me... I was going to fight for her.
I started massive research into pets. All things related to nutrition, exercise, mental stimulation, health care, all of it. ALL. OF. IT. I found an apothecary near me that had PZI or Bovine Insulin, which casts respond to better than human insulin... and I sobbed like a fool when I had to give her the first injection. My Mom had to talk me into doing it... because I was scaring her. Then I found out Athena didn't give a damn about the injections, she was going to stay alive.
19 pound. Everyone always told me she was just a large breed, and she is... she's a Bombay, but 19 pounds isn't healthy. So, it was time for a change. I took control, she got better quality food, I learned to read ingredients, she only occasionally got some of my popcorn... for the first time in her life, she showed interest in treats, so I got her good ones, and she got them daily, as apologies for the injections. When she had her bad days and didn't want the injections, I still forced myself to give them to her, and then gave her all the love I could to make up for it, but I knew things had to change... more and more research into feline diabetes. I didn't shy away from it, which I did from most things, I dove in. Because she was worth it.
And a year ago, I got her diabetes to go away. 3 Vets confirmed it, and we kept having her checked.
Half an hour to go.
She started having constipation issues... Had to have her treated for it a few times, and put onto daily medications... it got so bad earlier this year we had to have surgery done, to clear the blockage as she had megacolon... more research, but when she got home... she was my kitten again.
She ran around, she ate healthily, she played, she ran around outside with Robin or myself following her... once both, when we lost sight of her, then couldn't find her, then ran around the apartment complex in a panic, till we found her. Then she didn't go out without an escort, and not very far.
She was doing magnificent... when she stopped eating.
Then she got diarrhea bad... and it had blood in it.
I rushed her to the vet... Blood tests, urinalysis, health check, injection of antibiotics... 2 weeks I waited, and the problem never improved... three weeks later, I gave in and took her back to the vet. She lost a full pound in 3 weeks.
I waited till the medicine was almost gone, then I called the vet in tears, asking him WHY. Why wasn't she getting better? Was there a better food? Different medicine? A procedure, WHAT!?
They could do a biopsy, but it was very invasive... and for a 15 year old cat, who was previously diabetic, and was now 7 pounds... he didn't want to... because no matter what, it was bad news.
Because she had cancer... he was certain of it. She didn't want to eat because it upset her stomach...
I refused to accept it. I force fed her, I tried over the counter meds, I bought a ton of gravy lovers, because she WOULD lick the gravy up.
... Not anymore... Now she doesn't eat anything. Not broth, not water, not Baby Kitten food, from Royal Canin, that's $1.50 a can, but she was eating it and so it was worth it... she stopped eating.
She sleeps all the time. She won't go outside at all, it scares her. She wanders around like she's confused... and every time she uses the litter box, it's just a dark sticky liquid... we just kept cleaning it up. Since August 6th, we just kept trying, and cleaning up the messes and not giving up... but she hasn't any strength left. No fat for her body to feed off of, no muscle... her body is eating itself, because she doesn't eat. I bought the best foods, then I bought the worst, I spent a small fortune on different foods, trying absolutley anything! I offered her hamburger, cheeseburger, anything.
I should be headed to the vet now, but the idea of doing so is killing me... By all other accounts, she's healthy... but the diabetes left her weak, and the cancer... cannot prevent cancer... she has gorgeous teeth... needs a few removed, but the vet said it wasn't worth it... I still kept asking, but the procedure would do more harm than good. Just cause more pain, and she might not survive it.
... I've been praised for what I know about animals. I've mad people amazed at how well they do with me. I have a Husky mix who left the rescue afraid, and now he follows me everywhere... so the idea I cannot help her now...
Some say "she's just a cat', but she's not. She's my daughter, my hero, my savior, my soul. When I had nothing, I had her.
Oh, God... She hates the vet... won't ever have to go again, won't be in pain anymore, won't suffer... I lost her months ago, when she stopped being herself... but it doesn't matter.
I was told I had conditions that would/could kill me. I was told I have low bone density, and I'll suffer from it for life, I was told I have heart failure, and none of it made me cry... but I cannot stop crying now... This hurts, it hurt more than breaking my hip, it hurts more than anything my father of his brother did to me, it hurts more than anything I've experienced before.
I love her... I don't have enough pictures. I won't make that mistake with Lakoda, you cannot make that mistake, you have to take photos... I hate photos, because I cannot see "me" in them... but I wish I had more of her. I love her. I didn't get many photos, I regret it. I want to take photos now, but I DON'T want to remember her THIS WAY... She's not this sick, frail little thing... she's my little panther...