It’s taking a while to write this post, not just that its busy around here, but it needs some time and perspective. Regular readers of our facebook page will know that we had to help little Sparkle to Rainbow Bridge just over three weeks ago. It was the outcome we had always feared, hoped would never come, but somehow … deep down … sort of knew was inevitable.
If you’ve read our other blog posts you’ll know it was up and down throughout her time with us. There were highs where we dared to hope … not that her neurological issues would go away, we weren’t expecting miracles, but that she’d grow stronger and find ways of adapting to her disabilities. Our dream was that she’d find a furever home along with her able bodied friend Karis and they’d make a happy life for themselves. And there seriously were times when that looked like it could be a possibility. Then there were the lows when she was unsettled and it wasn’t clear how much pain or distress she was in.
Apart from around the time she had an epileptic fit (about 3 weeks into her 6 week stay with us) the good and bad days seemed a bit random. Things would improve and I’d be hopeful, only to find her suddenly worse than ever. I’d despair and she’d bounce back playing. I think this was the happiest time …shortly after she arrived here. – playing football in the kitchen with Karis whilst I was cooking tea.
Watching the video I realise that despite the ups and downs, things were never the same after her fit. Just a few days before she died she seemed to be doing really well compared to how she’d been recently but if you look at the two videos together she’s nowhere near as mobile in the second as the first.
Spark was very loved but also very hard work. She needed hand feeding, bathing, help using her litter tray, very regular supervision to check she was ok … and increasingly she’d loudly demand this attention …. or was she expressing her distress? … hard to know just what was going on. It went on loudly and persistently enough though for the other cats to be pushed to one side most of the time. The most frequent phrase was variations on “just a minute sweetheart I’m just feeding/bathing/something else Sparkle”. On days I wasn’t working it was more or less manageable so long as I didn’t want to do anything else … on work days it was a nightmare. I was getting closer and closer to breaking point. She needed to be better enough to go to a special foster or adoptive home, or be poorly enough to say goodbye … I hated myself for thinking that.
It brought us to a difficult place where we had to think about how much you needed to be able to “cat” to have a quality of life and what level of needs we could realistically manage. The vet reminded us that kittens her age were normally little hooligans – tbh we didn’t really need reminding 😉 Spark didn’t have a hope of trashing the curtains. She couldn’t even eat by herself though she clearly wanted to and joined the other cats at the foodbowl.
She couldn’t pick the food up without help, but if it was gently pressed into her mouth she could chew and swallow .. and if the food happened to be chicken she’d purr …. lots. We learned how best to feed her, what shapes and sizes of food she could manage, how she’d refuse her bottle after food but accept it 20 minutes later. That part of the challenge was a success and she pretty much doubled her weight, and grew well whilst she was here. We learned how to tell when she needed the litter tray and what help to give her with that.
It’s impossible without endless resources to know just what was wrong. We were offered a referral to a neurologist and MRI scan which would have emptied our funds and beyond, but which we might have accepted …. had the proviso not been that it was unlikely that anything found would have been treatable. Then there’s the Star Trek dilemma about the needs of the one and the needs of the many … those funds could have vaccinated, chipped and rehomed multiple future cats. Despite the Spock logic our human impulse was to care for her.
So many things seemed to be wrong though. Sparkle didn’t seem to be able to quite see properly. We don’t know whether it was her eyes, or the bit that connected her eyes to her brain, or her brain that wasn’t quite processing things properly. However when she laid on her back on my lap and we played at “fingers” she’d dab at them and enjoy playing. She saw enough, a shadow at least, to chase a ball …. or Karis’ tail … and that was clearly fun and brought her some pleasure.
There were times when the games went a little bit wrong. Unlike Sparkle, her friend Karis was still well capable of being a hooligan and we responded to Spark’s cries one evening to find this:
We were caught in a kind of twilight / grey area world that hundreds of thousands of humans with loved animals are in each day … Asking how much life was good enough and fearing what may happen next. Most of the time when she cried we could soothe her, either with food, milk, cleaning or cuddling. Often the cuddling meant carrying her around in a sling as she’d start crying again the moment I popped her in her bed.
Sometimes we just couldn’t seem to find a way to comfort her, and that was hell. There were desperate thoughts about emergency vets and saying goodbye. Then a few hours later she’d been pottering around and enjoying some chicken.
On good days she was happy to settle with Mr Ed her teddy bear. Apart from being nice to cuddle, sitting between his legs stopped her falling over or rolling down into the middle of the settee.
Then came the awful night. Home from work and she was crying, and nothing but nothing could soothe her. Bathed, cleaned, dry, cuddled and still crying. Refused bottle, chicken, food. Neither straight cuddles or the sling would work. Time with Mr Ed or just in her bed made no difference. I don’t know if she was distressed because she knew what was about to happen next or if the distress caused it …. but she had another fit. That was the thing we’d said would make the difference for her future, and her distress confirmed it. We made a final journey to the emergency vets. The people who thought I was incredibly calm and logical about it didn’t know I’d wept most days for weeks already.
One of the most weirdly painful things when she was put to sleep was the way her body relaxed. Her tiny body had been so stiff and tense though all the time I’d been caring for her. It was precious and heartbreaking to feel it finally relaxed. Very grateful to Jody at the crem for taking care of both of us the following day.
Life doesn’t gain meaning simply by the length of it .. but by the love that is shared within it.