Brandy started having seizures this weekend.
She and I were having a quiet Saturday night with Chinese takeout for me, homemade renal diet for her (recipe prescribed by a vet), and the most thrillingly terrible horror movies Netflix has to offer. After a stressful week, I was looking forward to being completely useless.
The night did not go as planned.
Around 9:30pm, Brandy started acting strangely. Having become a relatively chill cat in her old age, she started pacing around my bed and meowing loudly. At first I figured she was demanding some of my fried rice, but long after I put it away, she continued to meow, meow, meow. I turned off my movie and sat talking to her, trying to calm her down.
But her meowing increased in volume and intensity, and at one point she hissed at the air. She frantically looked around my home as if she didn't know where she was. Knowing something was very wrong, I tried to cuddle her in her "comfort blanket", ease her anxiety. It didn't work, she continued to pace, her eyes wild.
Then she started shaking.
Her head threw back, her lips curled up, and her little kitty body shook and shook. I've rarely felt so helpless. When she came out of it a few seconds later, she yowled and yowled and ran around my apartment in confusion.
As quietly as I could muster – as you can imagine I was terrified at this point — I followed her around the apartment to try and stop her from careening into furniture. I was finally able to gather her in my arms and hold her. This act alone alarmed me, as Brandy only lets me hold her when she's sick or scared... or both.
My husband and I took Brandy to our vet's 24-hour ER that night, and after consulting with our vet's assistant and the on-call ER vet, it was agreed that Brandy had likely suffered seizures. We carefully weighed the pros and cons of leaving Brandy at the hospital for the weekend or bringing her home (she gets rather frantic at the vet's, plus she has heart problems), and decided to bring her home to monitor.
Our vet's assistant (a vet herself) warned that the seizures could recur in the near future, or they might not for days or weeks or months. When they came back, Brandy would need to go back to the hospital. I prayed that this was just a freak incident. It was not.
The seizures returned, so Brandy returned to the hospital. She suffered another seizure in the cab on the way to the vet's, and as she cried out, so did I. I couldn't keep myself together anymore. As Brandy, my husband, and I zipped through the streets of Hong Kong, I sobbed out of fear, helplessness, and the kind of anguish I've only felt when confronted with potentially losing someone I love.
Brandy was admitted to the vet hospital, and there she will stay until her vets can stabilize her and figure out a course of action. I know it's best for her, but she doesn't know that, and that kills me.
So here I sit. My home feels empty, and I've given up trying to dislodge the lump from my throat. Over the past 48 hours, I feel like every bit of anxiety in me has been yanked up out of my throat and laid across my chest for the world to poke at.
In the 11 years that Brandy has been in my life, she has burrowed deep into my heart. I know that she is a cat, that she sees the world as cats do, and regards me as cats regard their humans. Nonetheless I love her.
I don't need her to love me in the way I understand love as a human. She is a cat and I've never wanted her to be anything else but a cat. But I love her far more than "just a cat." In a way, she's helped me to understand love.
The love I have for Brandy is not the same as the love I have for my family, friends, or husband, it's simpler, dare I say purer? I love her enough for both of us; I'm totally okay if "the ways of the kitty" don't jive with how I understand affection. She can love me in her own way, which I believe she does.
The way she looks to me for comfort, chooses to sit with me when she's cold, asks me to give her scratches, appears happy when I come home — that's enough for me. I get joy from loving my cat. Though it isn't so simple with people, I've tried to apply that lack of entitlement to my human relationships.
I'm not always successful, but I do think Brandy has taught me how to "uncomplicate" love. She has been a presence in almost all the major milestones in my adult life.
Brandy saw the beginning of my relationship with my husband. When Mr. Louise and I didn't know how to fill the awkward silence that our attraction created, we talked about Brandy — her hijinks, her finicky ways, her disdain for most humans. She was the way each of us dropped our guard.
When I met Brandy, seeing stoic, controlled, Not-Yet-Mr.Louise allow himself to be silly, gentle, and attentive to a cranky tortoise shell cat charmed me. She was the conduit through which I first saw the man I came to love.
In turn, Mr. Louise has said that I was the first woman he dated that Brandy took a liking to. Well, if we're being honest, I was the first woman who found her "swat first, pet later" greeting endearing. As we like to joke, Brandy liked me best because she saw in me the potential for "feline manipulation."
When my husband moved to Japan for a year and I had to stay in Los Angeles, Brandy was my companion and my comfort. In that year she went from being Mr. Louise's cat who I loved, to being my cat who I both loved and had a real bond with. For the first time, I got the sense that she enjoyed my company instead of just tolerating me.
That year I grew up a lot, really started to own the life I was building. All my relationships matured and deepened — including my relationship with Brandy. I came to appreciate the quiet, soothing impact she had on me. It is no coincidence that during this time I really started to understand my own issues with anxiety and depression.
When Mr. Louise proposed, he made sure Brandy was present. He actually said, "Well, we're all here now. I guess this is as good a time as any..."
While the whole experience was hilarious and bizarre and wonderful to me, the moment where Brandy walked into the room and Mr. Louise got down one knee is burned in my brain. It is THE moment I remember. My cat, my man, and me — agreeing on a new life together.
In the years since Mr. Louise, Brandy, and I "made it official," the three of us have become what I affectionately refer to as a "traveling band of weirdos." Los Angeles to Hawai'i to Japan and now Hong Kong — I look in awe at the life I've been lucky to have so far with my little family.
Every adventure I've had, Brandy has been there, helping to keep me grounded. It's easy to get swept up in all the amazing things around you in a new place, but when you know there's a cat that needs you to go home, feed her, and clean her litter box, it's a reminder that reality follows you everywhere. And I'm thankful for that.
But now my reality feels shaken. As I type this my mind bubbles with concern over my kitty companion.
Did I miss something? Did I do this to her? Was I wrong to bring her all over the world? Did I act fast enough when she got sick? Am I doing what's right for her... or for me?
While I remain hopeful, and try to stay positive, I know that Brandy's life is coming to an end. It may be in a relatively short time or relatively long time, but due to her multiple medical issues she is not going to make a full recovery. My goal is to make her feel well, happy, and safe for as long as possible. While I'm at peace with that, right now I just want her to come home to me for a little longer.
I know that her passing will close a chapter in my life that I don't want to end.
Frankly, I don't know quite how to end this post. I hope I got my point across. As you can guess, I'm kind of a foggy, weepy mess. Forgive me.
But I write about my life and what I learn from that life here, and Brandy is no exception. Whether life lessons come from saints, sinners, or cats, I believe there's value to them all. (Who am I kidding, I'd probably listen to a cat before "saints" and "sinners"!)
I know that not everyone can understand loving a pet so entirely, but be it human or animal, we don't necessarily choose who we love. We can only be grateful that we have such a capacity.