It was so unexpected that It almost seems like a dream. However, our altered daily routine is a constant reminder that Smoki will not be with us this holiday season. We will miss Smoki’s sudden appearance in the kitchen once the aroma of turkey begins to permeate the house. I think she could actually smell chicken or turkey cooking from outside. She always got the first taste; while Baylie waited patiently.
Halloween night, 2015 will never be forgotten. The events of that night still run through my mind, playing out the sequence of events; every detail, again and again and wondering if there was something I could have done differently to save Smoki but, in my heart, knowing there was nothing I could have done. Was I too focused on Baylie’s recovery from surgery that I didn’t recognize the signs?
Two years ago, Smoki’s vet told me that Smoki appeared to have been in the early stages of renal failure, but Smoki continued to thrive except for some weight loss. A few days prior to her death, I noticed that she had been drinking more water than usual; even raiding Baylie’s water bowl at times. But, otherwise, she seemed fine. Her daily routine hadn’t change. Her activity level and appetite were good, until the day we lost her.
It was Halloween night, and I was extremely exhausted from caring for Baylie. She had luxating patella surgery on Thursday morning and we brought her home on Friday afternoon; the day before Halloween. She was in so much pain and nauseous from the morphine, that I got very little rest and slept beside her in order to soothe her and administer her pain meds. When she awoke around 11:00 p.m., on Halloween night, I noticed that her leg had become extremely red and inflamed. Fearing infection, I immediately called the vet. Thankfully, the veterinary hospital that performed her surgery is now the emergency care hospital for the City. They told me to bring her in right away.
It was a horrible night with torrential rain as my neighbor helped us load Baylie in the back of the SUV for the thirty-minute drive. After returning home around 1:00 a.m., Sunday morning, I was able to get Baylie comfortable enough for her to fall asleep next to me. Our sleep was short-lived, as I was awakened around 4:00 a.m. by a scratching noise that sounded like it was coming from the wall next to the patio. My first thought was that it was the opossum that Baylie and I encountered a few nights prior. If only it had been. Instead, it was Smoki behind the TV; a place she never goes.
Even though I was half asleep, as soon as I scooped Smoki up in my arms, I knew something was terribly wrong as she was limp and lifeless. Words cannot express the fear and panic that I was feeling. My mind was racing…..this couldn’t be happening. I made a frantic call to my sister and she drove Smoki and me back to the hospital; to the care of the same vet and vet tech that treated Baylie just a few hours prior. And now, they are trying to save Smoki’s life as they met me at the door; quickly taking her out of my arms and into the examining room. It was a nightmare that began on Halloween night and just wouldn’t end.
Feline kidney disease is common in older cats who are especially at risk for chronic renal failure, which was the case with Smoki. Cats are notorious for hiding their illness until it is too late. It’s in their DNA. This was the case with Smoki, as her acute renal failure seemed to have happened within a matter of hours while I was at the vet with Baylie. Even though it suddenly robbed her of her sight, the vet told me that she could still hear me. I knew she could as she let me know it by swishing her tail back and forth as I whispered in her ear how much I loved her. She seemed at peace knowing that she was safe in my arms as she took her final breaths. In hindsight, I realize that she was trying to get to me that night when she made it to the living room. Any other night, she would have been sleeping next to me.
It will be a month on December 1st. I packed up her toys and gave them to other kitties to enjoy, but not her bed. It sits on top of the dresser in the master bedroom where she liked to sleep during the day; especially during the Winter months, next to her ashes, ceramic paw print and cards of sympathy. I’m just not quite ready to move it. There are so many reminders of Smoki around the house. I miss driving up the driveway and seeing her sleeping in her patio chair where she hung out during the day watching the birds and keeping other kitties out of her territory. I miss our nights before bedtime when she would play with her toys and then snuggle up next to me as she purred herself to sleep. I miss her goofy antics and ability to keep Baylie in line. And, yes, I actually miss the fifty some odd times a day I let her in, then out, then in again.
For those of you who have pets, you will get it. They are not “just a dog” or “just a cat”, it is the loss of a beloved member of the family. When they leave us, they take a part of our soul with them that can never be replaced. The grieving process is gradual. I know that a sound or a special anniversary will spark memories that trigger grief but, in time, they will bring solace and comfort. Rest in peace, Smoki.