|Yanked from Cheryl Lincoln on Facebook|
Unlike Max, she was less attached to me as she was to all of us, including Hank. When we brought him home--just weeks after having to give up our first dog, Chip--I worried that the Golden Retriever puppy would freak her out to the nth degree, but she surprised me and decided he was her puppy. Her little boy.
Hank did not seem to mind, especially once he had grown a little and grasped that while he was big, Dusty was small, so it was best to not try to sit on her or toss her around like a rope toy. He curled up on his bed and patiently allowed her to groom his face. If she hissed at him, he understood that it was a lesson of some sort, and he paid attention.
Dusty was a pretty big presence for a cat.
Not too long after we moved back to the Travis AFB area from Grand Forks, she developed a cough and a wheeze, which turned out to be a congenital heart condition. We were devastated; it meant that our time with her was limited, and we had no idea how much time she had left. On some level, I think Hank knew, because more and more I found them napping close to each other. And that was about the time that Hanks started eating his own poop; we went nuts trying to figure out what his issue was, but looking back, I think it was just his way of coping with the stress of feeling Dusty's illness.
One thing we held onto was that most cats with Dusty's particular heart condition didn't live past six years old, and she was almost 12. We'd already had bonus years with her, though we had no way of knowing that. We still took it as a little bit of comfort; she was tough enough to double her life expectancy, so it gave us some hope that she would be around for long enough for us to be all right with her leaving.
She did quite well for an entire year; we got through Christmas and New Years, and were well into January before she was obviously declining. Her weight dropped, she slowed down to a snail's pace, there were difficulties with potassium and keeping her head up; as January slid into February we all knew that we had, at most, a few more weeks with her.
And that hurt, but we had gotten to the point of being mostly all right with it. Or thought we had.
On February 8th, 2001 the Spouse Thingy and I had doctor's appointments--mine was really stupid, I had a giant wart on a toe that needed to be frozen off--and when we left she was napping on the bed.
When we got home, she woke up and very slowly made her way down the hall, and stopped in front of her water bowl. She looked at it like she was desperate to drink, but could not make herself. She sat there for a full minute, then turned around and headed back to the bedroom to curl up on the bed again.
We knew, even though we didn't want to admit it. The Spouse Thingy called the vet; we hoped that maybe he could just give her some water via IV or something, even though I think we both knew that was hoping against hope.
He did a routine chest x-ray, and determined that her chest was so filled with fluid that her lungs were pushing against her spine. She could barely breathe; he could give her Lasix via IV and try to push that fluid out, but...
We both shook our heads. She had fought hard for over a year; we weren't making her fight anymore. And the vet, while he agreed, had tears in his eyes as he gathered the paperwork we needed to sign.
For the entire year she had gone through treatment, our grumpy Dusty tolerated it like a champ. She put up with all the blood work, needles inserted into her bladder to get urine, the x-rays and the ultrasounds, all the poking and prodding, but this time, she'd had enough. After the vet shaved her forepaw to find a vein to give her a sedative, she began to fight back. She reared back, hissed and growled...and then died.
Screw you, I'm going on my terms, not yours.
I never would have imagined that in the midst of such heartbreak, I would also feel pride and be so impressed. She really did go on her own terms, with a giant Fark You.
The thing is, I thought that year had given me time to be all right with the idea of losing her, but I wasn't anywhere near all right with it. It was two weeks before I could even go into the pet food aisle; Hank still needed to be fed, so the Spouse Thingy managed that for us.
Not too long after she died, I woke to the feeling of her jumping up on the bed and plopping down next to my feet. I blew it off, thinking Hank had walked past and bumped the bed. It kept happening, even when Hank was nowhere around the bed.
That October--in spite of my insistence that I never wanted another cat--Max arrived. He was a little wild man, a bundle of black and white energy, and he decided I was his. He jumped on the bed in the middle of the night as well, but never near my feet; he always jumped up near my head, and he never landed with the ceremonious thud Dusty had.
Every now and then, with Max curled up near my head and Hank fast asleep on the floor, I kept feeling that thud near my feet. There were also many nights when Max sat in the hallway talking to someone; he's always been a noisy pain in the butt at night, but there's a difference in his voice when he's singing out and when he's talking. Somewhere along the line it occurred to me that the nights he sat in the hallway deep in discussion with whomever, those were the night that later I would feel the thump at my feet.
Awake, I rationalized it: there had to be something else going on. Maybe it was the bed itself, a wayward spring popping up and moving. Maybe it was something about the house we lived in, some weird little movement in the ground.
But we moved, and it continued. Through two bed replacements, it's continued.
Neither Max nor Buddah ever sleep in that spot.
I am not and will never be one of those people who think animals have no souls; I absolutely believe they do, pretty much to the point where I suspect that in the next life I will be apologizing to a bunch of animals whom I have consumed, and thanking them for the nourishment. I have no doubt that I'll be reunited with all the furballs I have loved, even the one we had to give up.
So I don't really have a problem with believing that Dusty could very well be paying me visits when she thinks I need her to. And I don't have a problem thinking that Max can sense her, and she's the one he talks to when he's vocal but not being obnoxious.
It doesn't happen nearly as often as it once did, and I admit it's could very well just be me, an occasional sleep quirk. But deep down? If there was a way, Dusty would definitely take a break from fun and games at the Bridge to curl up and take a nap at my feet. And whether she's really there or not, every time it happens now I at least mutter to myself, "Hey, Dusty."
It would be rude not to.