Unanchored Thoughts

Bits and pieces of musings about family, friends, social issues, and whatever else travels through my head without a purpose.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The last few weeks

I keep replaying the last few weeks of Knox's life in my mind. I'm not sure if I'm afraid I'll forget them, or if they are just the freshest memories and therefore closest to the surface. Either way, by writing them down I'll both preserve those weeks and hopefully move them to a different part of my brain so that I can focus on the other aspects of his life.

About 2 weeks ago we took Knox in for a check-up. Two weeks prior to this appointment the doctor had felt the tumor and was concerned that the chemo was no longer working. We had increased his steroid by 50% and by all accounts he had a great two weeks. But, at the appointment on May 14 the tumor was still present and Knox had lost about 0.5 pounds, both were a concern. The doctor did not immediately check Knox's blood, which in hindsight we realize was a sign that he thought the end was near. Our routine had always been a blood check first to make sure his white blood cell count was OK. We decided to try a new chemo and had his blood count checked.

We gave Knox the new chemo on a Tuesday and he never really recovered. I not sure if the chemo was too strong or the tumor was growing too fast. Either way, he laid low and didn't eat much for the remainder of that week. By Saturday we had decided to call the vet and were feeding him canned tuna and chicken - anything to get him to eat. He had a great day that Sunday, so we didn't call the vet on Monday, assuming that maybe the nausea from the chemo had worn off. Unfortunately, Monday was not a good day, so I called on Tuesday. The vet prescribed an anti-nausea medication that we started immediately. It didn't do a bit of good. On Tuesday, Maureen, our nanny, was here, and she said he had good energy. He even leaped on her back, which was one of his old tricks. Despite the fact that this trick elicits shrieks from the receiver and deep claw marks, I was secretly overjoyed because it was an old habit we hadn't seen in a few weeks. Unfortunately, he still wasn't eating and seemed dangerously skinny.

I was home all day Thursday and he did not seem comfortable at all. He spent most of his time sort of hunched on all fours in the basement. I couldn't get him to eat and when he did he vomited. Thursday night Steve and I had a long talk about maybe this was the time. We did not want him to suffer. I had always told Knox to tell me when he was ready and I felt like he was giving us the signs. Steve decided to spend the night on the futon in the basement with Knox. It was one of the best decisions we've made because it gave them some very good quality time together. Knox cuddled up next to Steve's body and slept, a priceless gift. On Friday morning Steve and I confirmed that it was time. Knox was appearing listless.

I made the horrible call to the vet on Friday morning. They were kind and sympathetic. Our specialist vet was out so they recommended that we call our primary care vet, Dr. Dugan at Capital Cat Care. Dr. Dugan was also off, but they had other doctors on duty. I randomly chose Dr. Hernandez. The office was so very kind and worked with me to choose the right time. We considered having his put to sleep at home so that we could avoid the dreaded car ride that he hates. In the end we couldn't find a time that worked for everyone, so we decided to take Knox to their office at 4PM.

Knox, Graeme and I tried to spend some time outside. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. The kind of day Knox loved. We walked the familiar path Knox had created over the last few weeks. However, when we got to the far end of the courtyard Knox retreated under a pine tree and lay down. I knew this wasn't a good sign. We sat together for a while and then I took him home. That was his last walk. He spent the rest of the day on the ottoman, just lying on his side or on the back of our overstuffed chair, a favorite spot on one of Steve's fleece coats. He didn't sleep. I'm not sure if he was soaking us up as much as we were him, or if he was too uncomfortable. I tried to get him to drink some water, but didn't force any food on him.

Steve came home from work around 12:30. We put Graeme down for a nap and then just sat together in the living room with Knox, crying and hugging and talking. I cherish those last few hours. Maureen came over around 3PM to stay with Graeme. When it was time to leave we took Knox out to the patio where he just laid on the warm bricks. I brought Madison out to say good-bye. She sniffed him a few times and then rolled around on the bricks next to him. She knew. She's probably long known it was time.

Steve and I then drove over to Capital Cat Care. Knox was nervous on the car ride. He hates the car and we felt nauseous for putting him through one more ride. Steve was able to calm him and hold him for most of the ride. Once inside the office Knox started panting. He was hot, stressed and sick. After a few minutes of holding him and stroking his paw (something I always did in the mornings when he slept with us) he relaxed. We took care of the paperwork and then went into a room. Dr. Hernandez couldn't have been more kind and understanding. They weighed Knox and he was down to 8.15 pounds, a dangerously low weight. They explained the procedure and then took him to be sedated. I always hated when they took him for any kind of procedure. I would never let Graeme go for a procedure alone and I felt the same about Knox. But, I didn't protest. We heard Knox give a yell, his last cry, probably when they inserted the catheter. They then brought him back to us and Steve held him tightly. We were able to say good-bye. I whispered in his ear how much we loved him and would miss him and asked him to protect us. Whenever we left the house for a trip Steve would tell Knox to protect the house. It was fitting then for us to ask him to continue to protect us forever. He then took his last breath and his body relaxed peacefully into Steve's arms.

We were able to hold him and weep loudly for as long as we needed. I took a few clippings of his fur. One from behind his ears where the fur was the softest and one from his hind quarter with his distinctive markings. We then nuzzled him one last time before saying good-bye.

We are having him cremated so that he can always be with us.

Steve and I then held each other tightly and drove to our wedding site along the Potomac. It was a fitting place to spend some time. We talked about our wedding day and the last five years with Knox. It seems like such a fleeting time, but packed with so much love and laughter that I consider myself to be lucky to have this family.


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