A Fairwell To My Beloved Jen Jen (AKA Mr. Shoes)Sunday, November 03, 2013
November 2nd 2013, was the day my family and I lost a very dear friend.
I know that not everyone understands the type of bond one can have with an animal, nor the immense sadness and loss you feel when you lose them.
Some people sigh, shake their heads and say "it was only a cat". But she was so much more than that.
She was always there, always willing to listen when you talked to her (which I did, often). She even answered you back sometimes. She had the strangest but most melodic meow, and rarely purred like a regular cat, but instead wagged her tail like a dog when she was happy.
She could balance on her triangle tail and two back feet when she wanted a treat, or to pull on a hand that was a little too high for a pet.
She would stretch out and with her cotton-puff feet, grab a hold of you to pull your hand down, so you would pet her. When she wanted attention and to let you know that she was there, she would reach up and pat you with her paw, staring intently and meowing (just in case you didn't see her, you know).
One of her previous owners had removed her front claws. While claw removal makes me sad because they remove part of the toes as well, she had the cutest, softest, little fluffs for front feet, and they never failed to bring a smile to my face.
She loved being around people. She was content sleeping beside you while you watched the telly, or just being in the same room as you, whatever you were doing.
She would run up beside you when you walked, so she could be near you, but then she would run even faster to get right in front of you and slow down (almost to a stop), so you ended up almost tripping over her. (She did this on the stairs as well, which was a bit terrifying XD.)
When she thought she was alone at night, she would let out this mournful cry, the sound of which was one of the saddest things I had ever heard. But she wasn't alone, and I would call out to her that we were here, and that all she had to to was walk into my bedroom (or in someone else's).
She was very inquisitive, and had to explore (especially plastic bags!). You could hear her creeping in your room, making crinkling sounds as she inspected and stepped on the enthralling plastic.
She loved chewing on thin pieces of it (like shopping bags or the wrapping on cigarette packages), and I would have to tell her to stop and sometimes take it from her, so she didn't eat it outright. If she could, she would sit or sleep on any bags around her, instead of the floor. She would make a home for herself on any pile of laundry, on a coat on the sofa, on towels on the floor. That is, until she made it too hairy for her own liking, and the she would be off to find a new place to sleep (she shed hair everywhere!).
Sometimes you wouldn't see her (she was very good at camouflage), and would close your door to go to sleep. A short while later, you could hear her moving around, and then you would have to get up to let her out. If she wanted to open a door that was the tiniest bit open and would swing towards her instead of out, she would hook her little paw around it, and pull it until she could get through.
She was a muted calico, and I adored her big, green eyes. Her fur had an interesting pattern on her back, which looked like two squares from a checker board.
She also loved to eat her own hair! I would brush her (a hard thing to do, as she would constantly wander around you, rubbing herself affectionately all over your legs, arms, and back). I had to hide the hair I took off the brush, or else she would make a beeline for it, and try to gobble it up! (I still haven't quite figured that one out yet.)
When we first got her just over ten years ago, her name was Jenny. Over the years she acquired many names, and was known also as Jen Jen, Mr. Shoes, and Shoesie. She also responded to Pen Pen and Jube Jube, as they sounded close enough to her ears if you said it with the right sing-song voice. :)
Over time it got harder for her to ascend and descend the stairs, and we moved her belongings up to the main floor of our house. She had slowed down her movement significantly, joints sticky with arthritis.
Despite that, she would run as fast as she could (you could hear the thump of her jumping off of the couch or a chair), any time she heard the familiar crinkle of a bag of treats.
A lot of the time you had to point her to where the treats were, as she had trouble spotting them even if they were right in front of her. If she could see them in your hand and you held it out, she would eat right out of your palm, licking and gently crunching (and sometimes accidentally nibbling at your skin). If you held a treat in one hand and dropped it into your other, she would look for it on the floor, a bit mystified, thinking that it had somehow transferred right through.
She also liked eating a little hole right in the middle of her food, but then would feel that her bowl was empty, even though there was still so much of it around the sides.
Her midnight runs throughout the house were hilarious! She could have been napping for most of the day, but sometimes she would just have to gallop through the living room and down the hallway, for no reason at all.
She made "old man face," which was what I liked to call the expression that would come over her when you scratched under her chin. She would jut her chin out, squint her eyes until they were almost closed, then slowly lower her head towards your hand. She loved it, and always made that face when you did it. :)
She loved to talk to you. One night, she galloped as fast as she could, and ran through the length of the house only to stop right in front of my sister's room. She stared at her, meowed loudly, then proceeded to run away again. We always wonder what she was saying XD.
She loved running into the bathroom anytime she was near it and you went in. You would hold the door for her so she could get out (she got anxiety anytime she was in a room and the door closed, she had to have an 'escape route'), but she would still linger. So you would close the door, and she would go up to it with urgency so you could open it for her. But when you did, she just stayed there, staring at it. "Uugh fine," you would say. Then she would rub up against your legs, and you would sigh because it was obviously not the best time for a pet.
She sometimes would get up on hind legs, then pat at the wall or piano repeatedly with her paws. We decided that she was trying to open up a portal to somewhere else, but hadn't gotten it right just yet.
I wish we could have communicated better. I wish I could tell her that it was okay, her nails just needed to be clipped. No, I didn't step on your tail on purpose. Yes, if you give me a moment, I will get you some food, a pet, a brush.
I wish we could comfort her better when she was in pain. I wish she could have told us how she was feeling, what we could do to help her.
In the last couple weeks, she started showing her pain. Cats are known for internalising their suffering, and many times the owners will not realise what their cat is feeling. Sometimes they will know that something is 'off', but they can't quite pin-point what it is.
She seemed like she had a little cold for a few days, with some sneezing, sleepiness, and only a few other symptoms. She seemed that she would get better very fast, and that she would be fine.
But then she started hanging her mouth open, in too much pain to close it the whole way. When it gets to this point, it means that you cat is in an incredible amount of pain and/or very nauseated.
She started drooling a lot, moving less, sleeping more.
We looked at her mouth (which was a very hard thing to do, she never liked being picked up and she especially did not like someone opening her mouth for her, despite being as gentle as you could), and she had some redness and what looked like a small open abscess on her palate. Within only a couple of days, it had spread a significant amount, and the affected skin on the roof of her mouth had turned from red to brown.
When the vet saw her, it had spread rapidly, and the abscess had taken over a large portion of her mouth.
All of this happened in less than a week.
She was 15 years old, and it looked like a very invasive cancer had been attacking her. She was in an incredible amount of pain, and would most likely have died within the week. Because of the hole in her mouth, the cancer had to have already eaten through some of her bone, and possibly had started in her sinuses, spreading so fast. We had no idea, and I don't know for sure how long she had been in pain.
In the last couple of days she almost completely stopped eating. She would wander off to strange parts of the house (like the bathtub!), and would keep to herself a lot more than usual.
Her tongue would always be sticking out of her mouth, in an attempt to soften the pain. She also couldn't clean herself anymore.
She managed to go down the stairs, but stopped midway on her way back up, meowing because it was so hard for her to keep going.
She was becoming afraid of food.
When you went to pet her, she would wince, and most of the time she would wander out of reach.
She would be on the couch, and when you turned to her, you could see that she was in so much pain, and her eyes now had a very sad look to them.
She stopped meow-purring when you would touch her and she would be taken by surprise (which she almost always did). She didn't run to the fridge every time you opened it anymore.
I think one of the saddest things is that she would get so excited when she heard you preparing food for her. She would run up to you, a sudden burst of energy, and wag her tail with happiness.
But she could barely eat. She was so happy and excited for those moments, but when she got the food, she couldn't even eat it.
We decided that the best bet would be to have a vet come to our house, and possibly euthanize her.
When the vet arrived in the morning, Jen Jen ran into one room, than another (she was always scared of the door opening, strangers, loud sounds, and almost everything XD). But after only a couple of minutes, she came out (very rare), and went straight to the vet. She never did that. We've seen her do it only once before, in the whole ten years that we had her (to my dear friend Tomoko). She would always hide when she heard the door, not coming out for a bit even if it was her family, and certainly not to a complete stranger. But she went straight up to her, let the vet pet her, then went to the large living room window and sat there, looking out at the world. She hadn't done that in a while, and it was so strange to see her doing it now.
The vet was an incredibly kind and compassionate woman. She knew how to relax Mr. Shoes, as well as us. She told us that she would look Jenny over, and would say if there was something we could do, anything, to keep Jenny with us (if her quality of life would be good enough). We had all been second-guessing ourselves, and the potential decision we had come to agree upon.
The night before, Mr. Shoes would allow some pets. I took some photos of her, and a video of her watching our fish tank, eyes wide with wonder. She ate a decent amount of the mushed up soft food, smothered in that extra gravy you get when you buy the food in cans. She let us brush her.
Maybe she would get better?
But when the lady examined her, we learned just how serious this was. If we did nothing now, Jen Jen would not live for much longer, and her last moments would be filled with incredible amounts of pain. There weren't many options for treatment, because of her age, condition, and the speed at which this sickness had settled upon her. If we tried to hold on, her suffering would only linger, then she would die soon either from the illness, or from starving to death, as she could barely eat anymore.
If we kept her alive, it would be for selfish reasons, as Jenny would not be improving, and we would only be prolonging the inevitable, as well as her pain.
It turned out that her skin had started to yellow, and that her liver had already been affected.
The decision was made (and it is one that I would not wish on anyone to make). We said our goodbyes, held her and stroked her fur, murmuring words on encouragement and love. When she got the first shot, a sedative and painkiller, she didn't quite know what to do with herself, so we reassured her softly. Soon afterwards she was asleep.
Turns were taken holding her, cuddling her, hugging her and kissing the top of her head, and we whispered how much we all loved her. I told her that it was going to be okay, keeping my voice high and steady, mimicking the tones I would use when she would be happy to hear me, wagging her tail with delight. Inside my heart was being broken over and over, but I had to keep my composure for her.
A short while later, after being given the go-ahead, the vet administered the final shot.
Mr. Shoes was laying on one of the most comfortable, fluffy blankets that I have ever seen, asleep in my Dad's arms.
She took a couple of deep breaths, and within moments the tip of her nose and ears went white. Her heart had stopped beating, and there she lay, silent and still.
We transferred her to a light blue fleece blanket, and wrapped her up in it.
We were unable to bury her until that evening. Up until then, she lay wrapped snugly in that fleece, with a ribbon-tied bundle of dried flowers resting on top that my sister had placed there.
Night had fallen when we took her outside, and she was lowered into the hole that my Father had dug for her.
Her favourite treats and catnip were scattered over the grave, and we slowly covered her up with earth.
I've been to about 7 or so wakes and several funerals, most of which were extended family. In 2003 we lost a whole generation of our family, when 3 of my grandparents passed away.
Of course these have been so sad and such a horrible thing to go through. The worst of it was knowing the pain my parents felt, and not being able to do anything about it.
But for me personally, this death is the one that has hurt me the most. She was a friend and a close family member, someone I saw so frequently, and who had comforted me almost on a daily basis. I think the reason why is like what my Mom had suggested, that it hurt so much more to me because this loss was in my home. I would think that with getting older I would not be as heavily affected by loss, especially having had experienced it in many ways so many times before, but I've found the opposite to be true.
It feels almost wrong somehow, going on with life the same way as I did before. It feels like time should stop, at least for a little while. How dare the sun come out on a day like today!! How can that lady or man on the street be so cheerful and carefree... can't they see what I have lost? Why are the birds chirping, acting like nothing has happened?!
But life goes on. When it feels like it has stopped, it keeps going on, all around us. Before us and after us, it will always be there, constantly moving. There are 7 billion people in this world, and only a tiny handful of them have been effected by this loss. It feels so unjust.
But I think we have enough sadness in our hearts to make up for everyone else.
I haven't just lost a pet. I've lost a companion, a family member, a creature that brought so much joy and comfort in our lives. She didn't judge me, she had so much love for us, and us for her. She was there through some of the toughest things I have ever experienced, and some of the best times I have ever had. She could tell when you were sad, and would come up to you and sit by you, making you feel even the tiniest bit better.
While suffering through mental illness, she was always there. When she would sleep beside my bed she brought me such calm. Watching her curled up, tail tucked around her, her fluffy feet in the funniest and cutest positions, she brought me so much peace.
When everyone else in the home were out and I was feeling alone, I was never 'alone', as Jen Jen was always there, whenever I needed her.
She always loved us, and we will always love her.
So you see, I haven't just lost a pet.
I've lost one of my best friends.
We all have to continue on, even after such significant loss. While my blogging for the next while may not be every day, I will continue to do so. Getting a routine is one of the best things you can do while you are grieving. I will still write in my usual manner, expressing my excitements and joy at everyday things. I will try to be as upbeat as I can. My reviews will still have the tell-tale "omg I LOVE this", and I will be just as truthful when I write my thoughts about the items, as I was before.
But inside, I know that I will be sad for a while, and that it will take a long time to recover from this experience. The grieving will be slow, and every day for the next while, I will be doing many "firsts" again. My first book after Jen Jen. My first soup after losing her. My first hot chocolate.
Each of these can bring more pain, and memories. It will be a while for me to adjust, and it will be hard.
But I will always remember the goodness in her, the sweet kindness that she shared, and I will cherish those moments we had together, for the rest of my life.
We love you so much Jen Jen. I hope that you are in a much better place now. I am so glad that your last moments were without pain, surrounded by those who love you.