November began with a great visit from one of my sets of Albuquerque peeps. Erin and Kenny came up for the Queen concert and their daughter Lena and I got to hang out alone for that evening, but really spent a few great days doing puzzles, playing Uno and crazy 8’s (Uno was definitely the game choice for elementary kids in my life and between Amara and Lena, I played more Uno in 2023 than in all of my other years combined). We colored together, made cookies, and did some bird watching too. So fun. Oh, and I got some awesome time in with her parents as well. They crack me up tremendously and are a riot to be around. I was so glad to have them here.
My North Carolina Peeps came in next and although they stayed with family in town and not with me, we did get to spend some time together and get in an early season ski day at Arapahoe Basin Ski area. It had been several years – maybe decades? – since I had skied there and I had forgotten just how gorgeous and special it is. Super fun ski pals.
Sometime mid month, I came home one day to Birdie (the 15 year old cat we had inherited when our previous neighbor Barbara passed away) laying on the floor under a chair.
This was odd as this cat never slept on the floor. He prefers a chair, or lap if someone is around, and will crawl up under a comforter on a bed if he just wants to be alone, so to come home to find him on the floor was alarming. I bent down to pet him and he was breathing fine but did not move. Thinking he might feel stuck under the chair, I moved that away from him and still no movement. I lifted him up and carried him to the sofa to sit with me for a bit and realized he still was not moving and would not or could not even lift his head. I messaged Devin at work (the cat is very attached to Devin and stays with him every night and when he is home – otherwise he will find me). The dog had recently had an episode of temporary partial paralysis and recovered after a few hours, so I was hoping this might be the case here as well – albeit a near total paralysis for Birdie. When Devin got home, we decided that taking Birdie to the vet was likely only going to cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in tests and MRI’s or X-rays and at 16 (been a year since we inherited), they would likely then just charge even more to put our kitty to sleep. We cried and held the poor feline and prayed that he could somehow regain his strength and mobility. He did not seem to be in pain and would still eat if we held his head up in order to do so. We kept protective coverings under him wherever he was placed and decided to give him time and see if he would begin to recover on his own or not. It was as if we were now running a convalescent 24 hour care center. I was lucky that I was home and was available to take on the care when Devin was at work. I cannot tell you how heart breaking this was for both Dev and I. It was quickly apparent that this cat had become our grief therapy pet, and the thought of loosing it was more that either of us could manage. Tears flowed often from the both of us as we knew that even though after a week with small measures of regaining the tiniest bits of movement, that this was not sustainable and not a way for Birdie to live. He did start to let us know when he was uncomfortable and so he would use the litter box if someone held him up in order to do so, but this too was not sustainable. He was beginning to move his head and his legs would twitch, so we felt that there was function possibility, but how long could we go on with carrying him everywhere and doing everything for him? We finally set a date for when we would say goodbye and set out to love on the guy as much as possible for the last few days. I think we were feeling not just this immediate grief, but it brought in all of our losses and heaped them into this one situation that just ripped our hearts out in a new and different way. It was as if we had been transferring all of our grief into this purr puff over the past year or so and now that we were tasked with saying goodbye to him, we were going to be required to take that grief back and carry it ourselves once more. You just don’t know how much you’ve onloaded onto someone or something else until you see that the load might again be yours. (yes, it could also be an opportunity to release all the grief and let it go along with the cat, but it was hard to see that at the time)
The morning of the date set for euthanizing, Devin brought Birdie over to me to show me how he now was holding his head a bit better and the sparkle was back in Birdies eyes. Well, it was only our time and we giving in this rehab trial, so we decided to give it another few days to see if it was a trend or if this was as good as he could get. The days turned into weeks and over that span, he seemed to get a bit stronger every day. He soon could stand in the litter box as long as someone supported his wobbling side to side. He then progressed to tying to walk, but his head was just off of the floor as he made his attempts and he could easily just summersault over and not get up. This trajectory of recuperation maintained it’s steady rise to where he is now. He plateaued to where his front legs are fully functional and his back legs work as a waddle, but he doesn’t bend them to be able to jump. He still gets up onto Devin’s bed much like an ice climber would a frozen water falls. Unfortunately, he either has to wait for someone to get him back down, or he does his own version of a dead man’s fall onto padding we have on the floor for him. He waddles all through the house and can manage the two steps up into the kitchen addition just fine now. We feel like he’s had a pretty miraculous recovery.
We spent Thanksgiving with our peeps eating a delicious bacon wrapped turkey, playing games and feeling so very grateful. So Yummy, so fun, so lucky to have so many great folks in our lives.