Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Story of Hobbes

[This will be another post where much less We is used in lieu of more I. {Sorry Rachel.]

It's been a long time. Almost two years. Despite a whole load of things that have happened over the last few years, it remains prudent to keep them private...for awhile.

However, there are some things that don't require as much discretion.

This is one of them.

You're not supposed to have favorite pets. Just like you're not supposed to have favorite children (should you have them).

But it happens.

Juniper & Hobbes, 2008 
Hobbes (and his adopted brother Juniper) came into my life in the Spring of 2008. They were kittens from a shelter in Canada.

I had just bought my first house, and had only planned on getting one - because every home needs a cat. The cat I had selected was Juniper because he seemed the most friendly. Later it became evident that he was friendly because I had been eating potato chips before going into the shelter and he loved the salt on my fingers. Still he was beautiful, so I chose him. While scoping out the kittens the man I was dating at the time fell for one of the scrappy ugly loud cats,who was pacing back and forth across his shoulders screeching, and I couldn't say no. So I got them both.

Turns out the cat I never wanted would be the one I couldn't imagine life without.

In his first week Hobbes got sick. I was having a low-key house party and so I cradled him in my arms all night, walking among my guests. I believe that it bonded us in a unique way.

A year or so later I rented out my house and moved Hobbes and Juniper from a big three bedroom two-story to a one bedroom apartment...where, depending on who you ask, I lost my mind, had a mental breakdown, or found myself (or, myselves, as the case may be).

In that apartment I crumbled. For the better part of 7 months I experienced severe mental health issues. I was "a bit" out of control, having fits of panic, at one point laying on my kitchen floor screaming and crying because I thought was going insane. I would hardly sleep. I drank a lot and would pass out on the living room floor. I would be short with the cats, yelling at them when they would meow incessantly while I was trying to write (entries for this very blog). It was a painful time. For half the year in that apartment I was a bad cat mommy. I don't recall how often the litter box got changed, or how frequently the water got replenished or the dish got washed or if I kept them fed. I do know that Juniper and Hobbes deserved so much better. But we survived together.

In October of 2011 we packed up and moved back to the states due to some work permit issues. Ultimately I ended up living with The Mother for about a year and a half.

She took care of the cats when I went to England for a couple of months. In that time she got them declawed - if they were going to stay in her house this was part of her conditions.

Juniper and Hobbes had new buddies to play with, as Mother had her own cats and was taking care of my cat Louis (named after the vampire from 'Interview with a Vampire'), whom I had relinquished to her when I moved to Canada nearly 8 years earlier. We survived.

Finally, in spring of 2013 I bought a house in the Midwest of the United States. A small two-story with a basement and plenty of room for the cats. They made the house home.

They had very different personalities, Juniper - the cat I had chosen from the shelter so many years 
Christmas, 2017

ago - was a loner. A beautiful loner with wonky back legs, neurological issues, and abandonment trauma from when he was a kitten, which is common with cats separated from their mothers too early. He wasn't my favorite. But I loved him dearly. And so did Hobbes.

Juniper passed away this past December, 2018, dying while I was on one of my regular trips to Los Angeles. He had been sick for awhile, fluid had built up in his lungs. We caught it early and they were able to remove some of the liquid which provided him a few final months of love, cuddles, and treats. He was 10 years old and left behind his brother Hobbes, who was the same age, and his two new siblings - Whiskey, 3 years old at the time, and Baxter,1 year old at the time (two accidental rescues).

Hobbes and I grew increasingly close over the years. He would sit on my lap and push himself into my arms when I was playing video games and I would happily give in.
He would sit in my lap and look up at me in the most lovingly way. Some have said his love for me was unusual (some might use the term creepy), as they'd watch as he would slowly reach is soft paw up to my face as if he wanted to stroke my cheek, and then he would try to coax my face towards him so he could lick and nip at my nose. Kitty kisses

When I would get out of the shower he would be sitting on the seat of the toilet waiting. As I would dry myself off he would reach for my wet hair and lick the water from it - sometimes he would chew a small, but thick, bundle of it off, but it was hard to be angry about it. 

Anytime I was using the washroom he would put his front paws on my knees and pull my face down to his with his paw for kisses.

When I would mow the lawn he'd sit in the dining room window and watch me, and when I'd have to stop nearby it to empty the bagger I'd talk to him and pet at him through the screen.

Whenever I would fill my water bottles for work with ice from the outside of the fridge he'd reach up, stretching against the refrigerator, and meow. He loved filtered water and ice in his water dish.

Some have remarked in the past that he had a very unique personality compared to other cats.

He loved me unconditionally. He was the only living thing that has ever made me feel unquestionably loved. I don't care how crazy that sounds.

                                                                  ~     ~     ~

When I came home from Los Angeles last Wednesday and did my check-in with each of the cats he was the last to check, mostly because he didn't come to greet me at the door as usual.

I wasn't in the door more than 10-15 minutes before I was out the door with him, in the car on the way to the emergency vet, terrified. There was definitely something wrong with him. He had fallen sick during the day and was lethargic and despondent and his mouth smelled horrible and it was sticky.
I lost it.
I was crying, panicking, growing more fearful. I was sure he was going to die in my arms on the 40 minute drive to the nearest emergency vet (the nearest vet in general).
I was holding him, kissing his ears and singing him nonsense songs, covering him in snot and tears as I told him what an amazing companion he is.
I thought he was going to die in my arms on that interstate.

Instead he died in my arms in a private room at the emergency vet clinic about 24 hours later. 

                                                                  ~     ~      ~

I jumped out of the car and handed them my baby. My love. And they whisked him away to immediately administer an IV of liquids and stabilize him. Through the tears I tried to decide if I would opt for CPR if they had to revive him, or choose DNR. I went for the CPR, which later I would learn in most cases is probably not the best idea anyway.

It wasn't long before they decided they would have to keep him for at least two days. He had arrived dehydrated, body temperature dropping. His blood work did not look promising.
His creatine levels were at 11. The high end of the acceptable range is 2.4.
His globulin readings were also high.
He was in kidney failure.
And on top of that he was suffering from a fatty liver.
They kept him overnight, texting an update before bed, and one in the morning.

The following day I had to work but was able to plan to see him in the afternoon.
They sent me to a private room to spend time with Hobbes when I got there.
But before they brought him in I was greeted by the vet.

He proceeded to tell me that Hobbes had gotten even worse. For the past two hours they had him in an oxygen tent because his breathing had gotten shallow.
He said he wasn't going to recover. There wasn't even a chance.
Through my shattering heart and tears and wailing I told him we should end his suffering.
They brought him, wrapped in a blanket, and placed him in my arms. They said I could have 5 minutes with him. 10 minutes tops.

He immediately reached one of his soft paws up to my face, and as it dropped down he began gasping for air. Before the nurse even left the room I called to her and asked her to bring the shot. He continued to gasp for air in my arms as I sobbed and told him how much I love him, how lucky I was to have had him, how amazing he is.

They gave him the shot and his body started to relaxed against me..

I sat there for about a half an hour cradling my dead cat, the love of my life, in my arms. Kissing his soft ears, covering him in tears.
His ashes joined Juniper's today, along with an imprint of one of his paws, 
and several prints on paper of his little toe beans.
I thought I had several more years with Hobbes. All the cats I had known, which is numerous, up to Juniper, had lived to be around 18 years old. I thought Juniper's death was a fluke, a rare occurrence. Hobbes was going to live forever.

I was, and still am, in shock.

That this light in my life is gone forever. Now when I do all of the things around the house that he used to be a part of there's an emptiness. When ice comes tumbling from the ice maker, it's almost unbearable. It took me days to use it. He will never sleep in the crook of my arm, or be my little spoon again.

When I was done mowing the lawn last weekend I sobbed in the shower and then passed out on the bed. I miss him so much. His funny little face and his weird little ways.

And it was all preventable.

                                                                  ~     ~      ~

I use an app called Pet Desk. It's a communication app between you and your vet. On it you can review things like medication information and blood test results.

This past April I had taken Hobbes and Whiskey to get their teeth cleaned and opted for the blood tests - a very important thing to do before an older pet ,or a pet with health issues, goes into surgery. The primary concern for everyone was Whiskey because he's Feline Leukemia (FeLV) positive, so his immune system is compromised which makes him susceptible to infections.

I am in the habit of taking notes when the vet or the technicians call, so I have notes related to that time period - none of which reference Hobbes or the test readings that are now clearly warning signs. When I was prompted to go back and review his blood test results from April I was alarmed and angered to learn that at that time his creatine levels (a key reading for kidney function) were already at 2.8, a full .8 higher than Whiskey's 2.0 which they felt warranted a discussion. But they never mentioned Hobbes'.

As a matter of fact there were a couple of blood markers that were a bit concerning that nobody felt the need to address; a point that I have already brought up with my vet when I discussed what had happened, demanding an apology from the person responsible. I got the apology a day later, but it was weak and ineffectual. I have since had to take another cat in (Baxter, he's mostly fine) to the vet and I stayed an extra half an hour until his blood tests were complete so the vet was forced to go over them with me. I have told them that in the future when I get blood work done for my cats (of which there are now 4) at their establishment that I would be waiting the half an hour for the results fin order to have a face-to-face discussion about the readings. With as much money as I have poured into that place, in the several thousands this year, I am now going to make them work for it. Because there is nothing more heartbreaking than someone/something you love dying too soon because of the negligence of a professional.

In the end I decided to write this blog post because
a) This event needed to be documented, because Hobbes was a very important part of my life.
b) As stupid as it sounds I was having a difficult time participating in social media or post about this, save a private post on FB, or anything, because the crushing heartache broke me. I also could not withstand one single assclown who would try to demean my grief if I posted about what I was feeling. Social Media is a different place these days.
c) I wanted this story out here in the ether so that it may prompt other pet owners to be more proactive in the care of their own pets by using tools like Pet Desk, by reviewing test results and researching what they may indicate.

I was lucky to have adopted two kittens (Cori and Siri) at the end of May (who were sick when I adopted them) which prompted skipping my Los Angeles trips for the summer so I could be with them for the first few months, which meant I got to spend a lot of quality time with Hobbes.

I had often talked to Hobbes (as a crazy cat lady does) after Juniper passed about how I didn't want him to die while I was away. That it would be devastating. I know it's a long time from now, I would say, but please don't go when I'm not here.

He died in my arms at 4:45pm CST on September 5th 2019, while I kissed his soft ears and cried into his loving face.

He had waited for me. 

                                                                  ~     ~      ~

Selected photos from the thousands that exist...
Always helping with projects


Hobbes & Baxter, 2019