A "Very Special Episode" of any sitcom in the 80's were considered, by a very young me, to be riveting television. Having "Very Special" as part of the title usually implied the show would be about something important and "grown-up" (and sexual, as my hormonal pre-teen self would hope). But, because whatever issue was being explored (sexual or otherwise) was being sewn into the cheesy fabrics of family-friendly sitcoms of that period (as most of those 80's sitcoms were- cheesy, family oriented and heavily restricted in terms of content), the "special" situation was always presented, explored and dealt with in a very "neat" package. By the end of the episode (or second episode, if it happened to be a two-parter) you were usually laughing along with whatever cast of characters you happened to be watching, problem solved (if not forgotten), neat and tidy.
"A Very Special Episode of The Facts of Life" or "A Very Special Episode of Family Ties" were two of my favorites. (Do you remember the Family Ties episode when Alex got hooked on Mallory's friend's diet pills, AKA speed? Or the riveting and salacious Facts of Life when Natalie made the decision to sleep with (and lose her virginity to) her boyfriend of one year, Snake? The man who took her virginity was named SNAKE. Genius.)
Why is Jane's goofy assistant going on about this? Last Monday, I had to put Sasha, one of my two cats, to sleep. It was sudden, it was traumatic, it was sad. I realize some people don't take "pets", or particular kinds of pets, too seriously . But I do. Losing a pet is a big deal. (For the record, until I had met these two cats, I was not a cat person, AT ALL.) Having to watch your cat (or dog or whatever) die over the course of 6 months, unaware of what was happening to them, is beyond words (although you wouldn't know it from the length of this post). I wanted to share the story, but not depress you out of your minds.
Inspired by the aforementioned "Very Special Episodes", I will tell this story in that manner. Neat, tidy, to the point and with a smile at the end because, right now, genuine smiles are still a little tough to produce.
Sasha was a calico with an amazing face. She had a tiny frame on which she carried 13 pounds. According to her doctor, she was obese. She couldn't lay on her stomach, due to her belly, so she would lay flat out on her back or on her side. She was bow-legged. She was ornery. She and her adopted brother, Winter, didn't get along, AT ALL. In their 13 years together, it was a rare moment if they ever showed affection toward each other. Sasha was extremely anti-social, but I was one of few people she allowed to touch her. I was one of the only people she would even sit with. It's fair to say, between the two cats, Sasha was daddy's girl.
(Sasha Story I Love: She was a very horny cat. Because she was so overweight, her stomach and her cat lady bits would rub on the floor a lot. She made herself a make-shift vibrator out of a string-on-a-stick toy we had for her. Every night, before she would go to sleep, she would carry the string-on-a-stick with the string in her teeth, the rest falling between her legs , the stick part near her back bits and she would hump it while producing this awesome guttural meow/moan.)
Dr. Dan (their vet, who we LOVE) put them on a restricted diet about 2 years ago. It worked ok for Winter, but seemed to work too well for Sasha. Val (the cat's other owner/mom, who now lives in Paris) and I had found out last May that Sasha had lost five pounds, over one-third of her body weight, in just over a year. Because of that, Dr. Dan wanted to run tests which indicated a "very minor" thyroid issue. We were given a medicine that Sasha happened to be allergic to. We tried it for two weeks, but she nearly scratched her ears off, so we stopped. We felt it was fine to wait until the next appointment to address it and try something else.
Another (sort of gross) fact about Sasha was she threw up when she was nervous (sort of like that South Park character, Stan). After years of living with her reguratation habits, we had sort of grown accustomed to the puking (and the doc never told us we should be alarmed by it). When fall came and the vomiting became slightly more frequent, I really didn't think too much of it. There was nothing unusual about what was coming out of her, it was just a bit more often, a bit more annoying, but not that unusual. Sasha was actually in really good spirits, she had an appetite, she had tons of energy and was even becoming more social and effervescent in her lighter body (not that losing weight has anything to do with being more social). It didn't occur to either Val or me that she was gravely ill. We knew we would get her back to Dr. Dan (sooner rather than later), but didn't sense any true urgency behind it.
Fast forward to January 5th. Sasha had started to vomit everyday. By the middle of the week I knew she had to see Dr. Dan, but I was unable to organize it for Thursday or Friday (I was getting nervous and probably, subconsciously, stalling). Sasha would now have to wait until Monday. While we waited for Monday, Sasha stopped using her litter box, she lost her ability to jump up on anything, even her walk was starting to get wobbly. But she was still RAVENOUS.
By Sunday night she had basically stopped moving. She was sort of slouched and panting. Not knowing what to do, I sought out advice from an emergency vet service online and, after explaining Sasha's symptoms, this virtual vet urged me to get her to an emergency clinic ASAP. She thought it sounded as though she was going into heart failure. Before I could get off the phone, Sasha collapsed.
We raced to the emergency room (I had no idea ERs for pets existed, to be honest). I was in a complete panic. What if we leave the apartment and she never comes back? What if Winter never sees her again? What if Val never sees her again? What if this is all my fault? Should we have gotten her care back in September? Why didn't we make this more of a priority? I thought for certain the ER doctor would report me to the ASPCA . (Keep in mind, at this point, I assumed this was brought on by the thyroid condition we had stopped treating.)
The team of doctors found that she had a mass in her intestine (cancer) that had ruptured, causing her to become septic. (This wasn't because of her thyroid issue. Small consolation for my guilt, but I was slightly relieved.) They could operate, but it was unlikely she would survive. Without the operation, she would surely die. The perforation in her intestine wouldn't allow food to process properly (at all). She was basically starving to death, even though she was eating. It was only humane to put her down.
Last Monday afternoon, I went back to the ER (with one of my bff's at my side) to sign some papers and say one last goodbye to Sasha. When the doctor brought her into the room, she was awake, but could barely hold her head up. I went to kiss the top of her head and she let out the slightest meow. I put my hand on her neck and she dropped her head in my palm. Her eyes were watering and cloudy. She looked like she was ready to go.
While I have been trying to process everything, there are three thoughts I can't shake:
1. Watching any living thing die, sucks. Even more so when you are responsible for the care they need to thrive. I have guilt. Mainly, did I/we do enough to help her? Guilt sucks.
2.The doctor told me this type of tumor is very difficult to detect until the damage is largely, already done. Cancerous bastard! YOU SUCK!
3. Had Sasha been a candidate for surgery, I would've had to refuse it because of the $10,000.00 (or higher) price tag. It's so frustrating that, had I been presented with a viable option for surgery (and survival), the cost of the treatments to save her life would have forced me to choose death over life. That SUPER DUPER SUCKS.
I miss Sasha. And regardless whether or not Winter and Sasha were best cat friends (bcf's), he looks for her. He's aware she's not here. Lately, Winter and I have been mellowing our sorrows in our favorite vices, catnip and vodka.
I laugh a little when I think of Sasha looking at us from wherever she is. I can picture her with her string-on-a-stick back in her mouth and under her full belly. She's humping it and making her moaning/meowing sound, just like old times.
PS. While I was working on the majority of this post, Jane and Madeline have been talking about orgasms right over my head. I love them for that. It made me giggle (and squirm) a little, just like always. [I love you Bryan and do wonder if talk that makes you blush is sexual harrassment. On the other hand (no pun intended), I was going to be alone for a rare two nights and Madeline was schooling me in the art of TWELVE orgasms in a row, i.e. important stuff. Beautiful post. I've been hearing about this in bits and pieces as it has all been happening. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. ]
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