This Sunday, after a long and challenging battle with feline diabetes, we made the difficult decision to put my little cat, Shodan, to sleep.
Shodan was brought to us as a stray at 3 weeks old, by a dear friend. She grew to be the gentlest soul I have ever known. We brought home a ferret, Shodan loved her. I brought home a bunny, Shodan would curl up with it to sleep at night. I brought home another rescue kitten, Shodan loved and cared for him like he was hers. Even when we found a mouse in our home, Shodan did no more than follow it around with her nose on the ground, proving beyond all doubt that she was a lousy mouser. She knew when you were sad, and wouldn’t leave your side. She had a tiny, quiet, sweet purr and big beautiful eyes. I loved her beyond words.
Shodan was diagnosed with diabetes 18 months ago. In that time we partnered closely with her veterinary team and learned how to care for her; we performed our own blood-glucose checks, our own glucose curves, administered insulin like clockwork twice a day, and monitored her clinical signs (urine, appetite, energy levels, water consumption etc.) very carefully. We learned to recognize the signs of hypoglycemia and how to treat it at home whenever possible (though we have certainly had our fair share of midnight emergency vets). We did everything we could to fight for our furry family member.
On Christmas eve, her sugar crashed. It was pure, lucky coincidence that I was home. Tito and I went into our routine of administering food and corn syrup and checking her blood-glucose levels on the hour, and managed to bring her up to 6.4 by the end of the evening. She was out of immediate danger, but not healthy.
At 1.4 Shodan had gone completely blind, her back legs had stopped working, she was disoriented and the other cat had begun to attack her. Because we were home to monitor and treat her, we could mitigate the situation, but I couldn’t stop thinking “what if I hadn’t been home?”.
We called in a vet and discussed the reality of Shodan’s situation. There was a strong possibility of another, severe crash, when no one was home, leading to a coma, suffering and death. We could not identify the cause of her crashes, so there was no variable I could control that would help prevent them. We began the difficult discussion about end of life services for Shodan, here in our home. A gentle, experienced vet came on Sunday to perform the humane, painless procedure and take my baby away.
I have had Shodan for 12 years, since she was the size of my fist. That year, I was unemployed, and she went everywhere with me, nestled into the pocket of my sweater as I ran errands and handed out resumes. She slept on my stomach and was my constant comfort and companion. She made me laugh with her little head butts (if you put your fist near her head she’d even give you ‘props’) the cuteness with which she learned to climb stairs, the squeaky-toy noise she made whenever she landed on the ground from a jump and the little quirks of her personality that I learned to know intimately because she was my girl.
I have never made a harder decision. I have read many articles on pet loss and grieving and here are 5 the most useful things I’ve found:
- Avoid people who will minimize your grief, or not allow you time and space to grieve because it was ‘just an animal’. You are not crazy.
- Recognize that the change of routine, particularly if it was an animal that required intensive care as Shodan did, can leave you feeling disoriented and depressed, and that this is natural.
- Recognize also that, where the decision to euthanize is concerned, guilt and second-guessing yourself are common and natural. It’s hard to know what they want because they cannot talk. You can only trust your love for them and know that you made the most compassionate decision you could with the information that you had available to you.
- Talk about your pet. Create a memoriam, express your feelings, write letters and share photos. This post is my way of expressing the past few days in a way that helps me make sense of things.
- Give yourself a ceremony that allows the closure we get from a funeral for human friends and family. Good friends of ours took us out and held a small wake for Shodan. We drank, told stories about her, reaffirmed our reasons for our decisions, and kept an honorary shot of milk on the table in recognition of her. It really, really helped. We named our car Shodan. It’s silly, but it helps.
Perhaps the blog is not the right place to express these things, but I have always felt that my readers are my community, not just for yarn, but for photography, creativity and life things. Celebrations like our wedding, and sadness like the loss of my beautiful Shodan. I have gratitude for all of you who have read this far.
On a side note (and I will be sending out personal messages via Etsy as well) this illness, combined with the holidays, have put a serious dint in my shipping deadlines. I beg your patience as I get sorted out this week, with the goal of having it all in the mail by Monday January 4th. I really appreciate your consideration at this time ❤
Rest in Peace Shodan. I honestly think I did the best I could for you, and my heart is broken to be without my furry best friend.
With love & gratitude,