I probably should show a bit of decorum here (not that I’ve done a good job of it in the past) but, tonight, I’m having the very sudden realization that I’m still fucking gutted about Ghost dying on the surgery table with my hand holding his head. Holding his head while they had to euthanize his too-young body for a fucking reaction to anesthetic medicine so he could his nuts trimmed off.
It’s not fucking fair. Not fucking fair at all — he was an awesome goddamn kitten. Why him and not the 11-year old pain in the fucking ass cat who takes grumpy nips at the daughters without warning and mews for no reason other than he feels the urge to be obnoxious, when he got his rotten teeth removed? Riddle me that.
He was a damn good cat, Ghost was. A damn fine cat.
I miss him tonight. I miss having him jump on my shoulder and watch what I was doing. I miss giving him treats to teach him how to high five. I miss the ninja cuddles he gave without warning, leaping into your lap as if it was the best place to be, ever.
I perceive it as a personal affront, whatever fate path treated him like trash. And I never got to grieve him because I was too busy being there for everyone else who wanted to grieve him.
Tonight, there’s no one looking to me to make it all better for once and I realize I finally can be mad and sad and upset about the whole goddamn affair. No one to turn to, but hey — that seems to be my lot as well.
I don’t know if I want to smash walls or curl up and cry tonight. It only took three and a half weeks for me to finally get my turn, so bear with me on this post.
What a craptastic day. Excuse me, folks while I tell you about my terrible, no good, very bad day. Maybe shed a tear or an ocean.
Above is a picture of Ghost. He joined our family about three months ago as an even smaller kitten. Yesterday, we finally got around to getting him to the vet for his booster vaccines and a wellness check-up and everything was tip top shape for him. He weighed in at 9.3 lbs, which is the weight some American short-hairs stop growing at — at 7 months old with an arguable 5-year growth cycle before he settled into his final weight. He was going to be huge.
I say was… because they had an opening for neuter today, so we snagged it to get that over and done with. Everything went swimmingly for the procedure… Until it didn’t.
While in recovery, Ghost went into cardiac arrest (“coded”). They performed CPR on him and got his heart and lungs started again. But it had been too long of a period and, while Ghost was alive, he had likely suffering brain damage due to the time his heart and lungs weren’t working. The clinic did their best, but called me to come see him when things didn’t improve as expected. (They called me right after he coded, to let me know what happened). There was some hope that he might respond favorably to my presence.
I rushed over and they told me his temperature had skyrocketed since they’d called me and that he’d had at least one seizure since he coded. I spent time with him, begging for him to respond, but he mostly just laid in place. Twitching on occasion, breathing on his own, but unresponsive. He seemed to give heavy sighs when I stroked him in his favorite places to be stroked, but that was the extent of any reaction I got from him, no matter how much I spoke with him, caressed him, told he was a good kitty and sent him my love. And those sighs were probably wishful thinking.
The vet who had performed the procedure spent some time with me, but it was one of the vets who I knew best who came in and sat with me. He knew we’d had a tough time with another cat we’d adopted, a Siberian we’d named Stillwater. He was also a fantastic cat who we’d only known for a few months before renal failure crippled him and we had to euthanize him, given an expensive and very unfavorable prognosis (might be back next week, or next month for more expensive treatments, but the failure was so complete as to certainly end in a painful death in a matter of months, maybe only weeks). The failure had probably been treated several times before he had been given up for adoption based on what was evidenced, and they obviously didn’t tell the agency there was health problems. Graham — I don’t think he’d mind me using his first name — knows that I prefer frank assessments over hopeful platitudes.
“Michael,” he told me. “I think he suffered severe brain damage while he was in arrest.”
“Yeah? What’s that mean in plain English.”
“I don’t think he’s there anymore. It kills me to say this, but I think your best option would be to euthanize.”
“Is he in pain?”
“Not in the way you and I know pain. Not as a response. But I don’t think his quality of life is going to be anything resembling good. He can’t even crap on his own right now and I don’t think that’ll change.”
Then he left me alone to make my own assessments.
No matter how I coaxed or prodded Ghost, he did nothing but lay there. He didn’t even blink the one eye he held open. I think we was having mini-seizures the whole time, as his neck and front legs would stiffen, rigid, then relax.
It took me two hours to convince myself Graham knew what he was talking about. I didn’t want to believe it, but I couldn’t deny it any longer either. So I held Ghost, the best fucking cat I ever had, and let them inject him with whatever they use to euthanize cats while Graham cussed under his breath mild curses when he wasn’t crying quietly. I felt Ghost leave and flow into me before moving on. He loved me, this I know, because he told me. And I think part of him stayed with me. Then, those taut muscles, those tiny bundles of sheer energy that lifted me up since we got the little guy, they relaxed and softened for the first time since I’d come to see him after his heart attack.
He was finally no longer trapped inside that body of his. He was free to run with the wind and tackle the sky.
And part of him is still with me. Because he wants to linger. I am blessed for receiving such a gift, though I wish it hadn’t come at so high a cost.
“Boys don’t cry,” I wrote just a few days ago. Well, I’m crying now.
I know some people might think I blame my vet for this. I don’t. They did everything right, as far as I can tell. “Freak accident” is really what it was. Graham told me it might happen once every 3-5 years. They used the right amount of anesthesia (actually less than his body weight called for because this is an external surgery). He likely had a reaction to one of the drugs used. Something that would never have been caught in a million years. Or he had a genetic heart issue. It sounded good, but how do you test to see if their is a problem without spending tons of money or opening him up?
The vets operated on all of our cats, several on multiple occasions. Never had an issue. The one operating on Ghost today had operated on at least one of our other cats. No issues and she is very personable and seems knowledgeable — maybe even on the side of conservative with her cautionary approach towards aftercare.
This wasn’t their fault. They all felt terrible.
How about the breeder? Did she sell us damaged goods? I don’t think so either. We have two other Maine Coons from her and they are doing just great. She’s very cautious about her breeding stock and I think she would have known if there was a genetic problem, had one expressed itself and she would have culled that line.
There is no one to blame. There is no anger. There is only sadness that a truly awesome cat had to be euthanized today because of a reaction to something in a normal, everyday procedure.
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