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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Not Just a Cat

My childhood memories of Sunday School have become a blur of choruses of “Jesus Loves Me” (not the Whitney Houston rendition) and memorizing the Lord’s Prayer for prizes of candy bars and prayer cards. One particular lesson, however, still sticks with me.

The topic was heaven. We were not at an age where we had serious theological debates, but were nonetheless old enough to have some notion of death and the afterlife, at least as much as anyone understands such things. Some precocious child (it wasn’t me) asked if our pets would go to heaven when they died, and I remember distinctly what our Sunday School teacher said as she tried to answer the question. "Only people go to heaven," she said. "The Bible says that animals will return to dust.” She quickly changed the topic, content that we wouldn’t question the authority of statements that begin with ‘the Bible says…’.

I suspect she wasn’t expecting that question, and she was even less prepared for the discussion that should accompany it: the concept of soul. The notion of the human soul is problematic enough, but what about those of our four-legged friends? I remember that at the time, I couldn’t imagine my cat suddenly turning to dust and I also doubted that there could be a heaven that didn’t have puppies and kittens. I still have the same basic reaction as my eight-year-old self; I don’t want to go to any place, especially for eternity, where my pets wouldn't also be welcome.

These days, I’m not religious enough to dwell much on thoughts about eternity, but concepts like love and loss, birth and death have been at the forefront of my mind this past week. Since Ullrick left me on Wednesday, I’ve been asking myself if I made the most of the short time that I had with him. There could have been more walks in the park and more snuggles in the bed, but I can’t go back and change that now. It doesn’t help me, and it won’t bring him back, to dwell on such thoughts, but it can remind me that I have another cat who needs all of the love I can give her right now – and I need all the love that she can give me.

I’ve experienced a whole gambit of emotions – sorrow, disbelief, denial, anger, shock. At times, maybe there have even been hints of reconciliation and acceptance, but I don’t think I’m there yet. It mostly doesn’t seem real…Monday night he was curled up in his ‘puddy basket’ with his (not-so) little sister, Tuesday was an excruciating day at the vet’s, and Wednesday he was gone. Now it’s Sunday night and I’m still struggling to come to terms with it all. I've spent a large chunk of the last few days curled up in bed with Vessa and looking at pictures of Ullrick.

I’ve been very lucky this week in that I’m surrounded by animal lovers, both in real life and online. I’ve been very touched by the outpouring of thoughts and well wishes I’ve received in my inbox. Mamma Mu, a Swedish friend I met through my personal blog, was staying with me this week and was a lifesaver in that she went to the vet’s to pick up the empty carrier and pay the bill for me. I’m not sure I could have handled it myself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the prevalence of “pet bloggers” and humans’ tendency to anthropomorphize their animals. (It’s nothing new; the ancient Egyptians even deified their felines in the form of the cat goddess Bast). Jokes about lack of opposable thumbs aside, there is a human behind every cat, and I think it’s our way of giving them a voice. It’s also a way to express our love for them, because it taps into a community of animal lovers who care for their pets as much as we do.

Although I miss him dearly, I don’t regret a single second of the last nine months I spent with Ullrick. He was still a baby when he came to live with me, and I watched him grow into a handsome cat. I saw his immediate affection for his little sister when we brought her home, and those big green alien eyes always seemed to see right into my soul, as if he could read my mind.

I’m glad I could tell when there was something wrong in his little body, and despite the sorrow, I know that the final decision was the right one. I would have figured out how to pay for it if there was a treatment that would have given him a fighting chance, but I have to trust that the veterinarian would have given me those options had such existed.

I know that sometimes people who have never loved or been loved by an animal might have a hard time understanding how you can be so shaken up over the death of a pet. “It’s just a cat,” they might say.

But Ullrick wasn’t just a cat. You see, he was my cat and I was his person. He didn’t belong to me; we belonged to each other. I’m counting on the fact that if there is a heaven, the souls that belong to each other will be together.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


This morning, I said goodbye to Ullrick at the vet's office with the knowledge that he might not be coming home. I had a feeling that would be the last time that I would see him, and a phone call around 4 pm confirmed that feeling. He had a lump in his lymph node that was inoperable and untreatable. Rather than bring him home just so I could spend a few more days with him, I made the decision to let him cross the Rainbow Bridge while he was already asleep. To make any other decision would have been unfair to him, and I had already said my goodbyes. It happened so fast, I'm still in shock, but I know that this was the right decision for him. But knowing I made the right decision somehow doesn't make this any easier. It's just such a shame that he was such a young and beautiful cat with a full life ahead of him. He was my first cat that I had as an adult, and he will always hold a special place in my heart.

Vessa and I are hanging in there, but time is the only thing that will lessen the pain right now. It's a visceral emptiness and I keep thinking about his big, green "alien" eyes.

We will miss you.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Calling all paws...

We havn't updated in awhile because things have been crazy with work and life in a foreign country...but I now have bad news, and I'd ask you all to keep us in your thoughts the next few days.

In the last two weeks, Ullrick has rapidly lost weight and has been pretty listless. But he was still eating and drinking, so I waited a few days to see if he would improve. Over the weekend, it became clear to me that something was very wrong.

Today we spent six hours at the vet doing various blood tests, ultrasounds, and x-rays. It seems that Ullrick has some sort of lump in his intestines and the results of the blood tests were not good. Tomorrow morning they are doing exploratory surgery to see if they can figure out the cause of his illness. Hopefully, it's benign and can be removed immediately. And I don't really want to think about the other possibilities right now until we have a definite prognosis...

The vet gave me some non-conclusive information this afternoon, and I missed half of it since it was in Swedish and my thoughts were elsewhere. There is a possibility it is feline leukemia, which means that Vessa will have to be tested for it as well, even though she is a healthy, happy, and very friendly 10-month-old. Ullrick is just a year...he's too young to be going through this.

Ullrick is laying right here next to me on the bed and is one very unhappy kitten. The day at the vet was hard on both of us, but especially him.

Please keep your fingers and paws crossed in the next 24-hours, and we'll let you know when we have more information.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Birthday boy

Friday, July 28, 2006

We make shit so your cat doesn't have to...

The scenario:
A very happy cat dances in the sand of a very clean litter box. A very relieved owner is very happy that the very irksome task is almost complete. The only thing left to be done is a trip out to the hall to drop a very shit-filled black plastic garbage bag down the trash chute.

Two milliseconds later:
A very confused cat poops in sand, which is no longer in either the litter box OR the black plastic garbage bag. A very unhappy owner releases a string of very explicit expletives that neither you nor your children would want to hear. Sand is everywhere; it's like a beach, except shittier and stinkier. If there had been a fan blowing, the shit would have literally hit it. me, you'd rather skip this part (and so would we)...

The next day:
A non-plussed feline, probably having forgotten about the incident from the previous evening, sleeps very blissfully. A very seething owner explores whether or not there is a legal precedent to sue a garbage bag manufacturer for emotional damage resulting from a faulty product, which was neither "Glad" nor "Hefty". The cat is clearly not the only one making shit. We Make Shit (TM) brand garbage bags get the prize for the shittiest shit bags ever.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Please feed me

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Spic and span...

Doesn't a fresh, clean litter box just make you want to poop already? I just can't stand the sight of that untouched sand...Muuuust dig......