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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The sum of all tears

Regular readers of our blog, Blue Ridge Muse, know the story of Loki, our little black kitten with the terminal neurological condition that will end his life all too soon.

Regular readers of our blog, Blue Ridge Muse, know the story of Loki, our little black kitten with the terminal neurological condition that will end his life all too soon.

Loki is a “feral” cat, born in the wild. He came to us through the county humane society because Amy, who really does live up to her title as my better half, fosters kittens and then finds homes for them.

Little Loki, the runt of the most recent litter, always seemed to have trouble staying on his feet. Like most kittens, he approached life with abandon, flinging himself off beds and couches, running full-tilt at something before hurling halfway up and then hanging on with his claws. But he fell more than the other kittens. He fell a lot.

At first we thought it might be an ear infection, which affects balance. But our vet couldn’t find any problem with his ears. After all his brothers and sisters went to new homes, Amy decided Loki would be ours, joining our other three cats.

Loki didn’t grow and his balance problems got worse, He fell more and more often, laying on the floor and shaking after a fall. Over the Christmas holidays, he convulsed into full seizures.

Our vet suspected a brain problem and suggested we take him to the Virginia-Maryland Regional Veterinary School at Virginia Tech. They ran a number of tests, including an MRI, and found two inoperable masses deep inside his brain. They suspected he might have a liver shunt, rare but not unknown in cats, and ordered up more tests.

We held on to that slim hope. Liver shunts can be cured with diet, medication or surgery. Maybe Loki had a shot at a normal, long, healthy life.

The hope died when the tests came back negative.

So Loki came back home with us. Home to live as best he could. Home to die.

With each passing day, it becomes more and more obvious that Loki’s days are coming to an end. He falls more often than not, has trouble focusing his eyes and must be cleaned after frequent, aborted trips to the litter box.

Amy’s neck is scratched because he caught a claw in her skin while flailing with his front legs. A few days ago, he ripped open my lip when a seizure hit while I held him. He doesn’t mean it. He doesn’t even know he’s doing it.

On rare, lucid moments he will lay quietly in my arms, purring and looking as peaceful as any normal kitten. But those moments are fewer and far between. We try to make those moments last for him and then make him as comfortable as possible during the non-lucid times.

What is it about pets that pull so strongly at our heartstrings? How can they trigger a compassionate trait that no human companion can find?  I have watched human beings die more times than I should and have always managed to remain stoic about those deaths but realizing this kitten will die soon leaves me bawling like a baby.

I’ve long admired Amy’s ability to deal with such things. She used to volunteer in hospitals, caring for the sick and dying. I watched her care for her mother in the final days and marveled at her compassion and stamina. I can’t do it. I have limits. Watching the little black kitten stumble and fall and lay on the floor, twitching in seizure-induced spasms becomes too much. I too often have to leave the room and find a quiet place to cry alone.

Some days I just want to scream at the walls and ask “why?” This little kitten never hurt a living thing. Why take him before he has a chance to live a full and enjoyable life?

There is no answer to such questions.

I learned long ago that life isn’t fair.

Fairness was never part of God’s master plan.

But knowing that doesn’t ease the pain or stop the tears.

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