I’ve spent a week typing and deleting this post. My eyes all too frequently filling with tears, I tell myself I’ll try the next day. Between the ache of losing you and the knowledge I may have let myself get too attached, I’m filled with worries.
I worry that I may not honor your memory; I worry how this post will portray you; I worry that any mistake will forever exist on the internet. Accessible to anyone, at any time, even years down the road, I have dwelt on this post being perfect. In coming to terms with your passing, I must also face my own perfectionism. This post doesn’t have to be perfect, because, my dear Abalone, you were also not perfect, and yet were so loved.
For a while, we’ve been asking ourselves, what went wrong? The question began even before you departed this world. Initially, as with many of our other cats, we frankly had no clue. After you passed, we did get an answer to our question. You were stricken with an aggressive, and almost always fatal, form of the calicivirus. In most strains, the calicivirus passes with treatment, but you were not as fortunate. So, we had an answer, at least one, to question of what went wrong?
Even with this answer, I remained engulfed in negativity. Was there something I could have done? Were there symptoms I missed? It took time for me to collect myself. Even though I know the emotional dangers of getting attached to any individual cat, even though I’ve done a decent job so far of separating compassion from attachment, I still fell in love with you, Abalone.
As I allowed myself to grieve, to cry, to process what has happened, I decided that we’ve been asking ourselves the wrong question. Its not a matter of what went wrong; we’ve established that answer as best as we could. No, the question we should be asking is, what went right?
Abalone, your time with us was brief, and your passing unexpectedly tragic, but there’s so much that we haven’t looked at. Or, I suppose, we’ve been looking through the wrong lens.
So many things, as we look back, very much went right. You came to us from another shelter, dumped on the street, and with a medical history such as yours, it was very likely you would be euthanized. It was by chance that I discovered you online, a young, handsome orange tabby, an outpouring of comments, shares, and pleas for help. Why were you on, as is brutally called online, “death row?”
This is the start of your story, Abalone. You were reported to have been hit by a car, dumped, and then noted to have possible seizures. A few days after intake, there was additional noted seizure activity and a note of a heart murmur. Ah, I now understood your situation: a cat with an unknown neurological condition and an unknown cardiac condition. A cat needing expensive follow-up care. A cat…perfect for Tabby’s Place.
Within a few days, you arrived through our doors. I held you during your intake, and you were such a sweet boy. We tried to make some sense of your medical records, but it was unclear if you indeed were hit by a car or were having seizures. We set up precautions in your crate in case you were having seizures, but we couldn’t find evidence of any significant trauma that would indicate you were struck by a car. It was puzzling.
After a couple of weeks, you cleared our quarantine area and came back to our hospital for monitoring. You’d spent so much time in a crate, between your previous shelter and our quarantine area, so I began to give you supervised time to explore our hospital area.
You were curious each time. Exploring the floor, the counters, and even, strangely, the recycling bin, every time it was an adventure. Soon your adventures would be continued in our Community Room. You were a happy resident Community Cat, and a bit too eager of a Lobby resident cat. I look back and smile now at how you instantly became a known escape artist. We put up signs on the Community Room door, warning people to not allow you into the Lobby. The other Lobby residents weren’t too thrilled with your visits.
Despite your antics, you won over a few hearts. This was all cut short when I noticed you lying on the ground one evening. As you got up to try and walk, you limped. You were otherwise neurologically appropriate, so with little information, we assumed you had fallen and somehow injured yourself. I put you in a crate for the night, gave pain meds as instructed, and padded the walls of your crate with blankets for extra comfort.
This was, as it turned out, the start of what would ultimately take your life. It became clear you weren’t improving by the next morning. X-rays were taken, revealing no obvious injuries, and still no response to pain medications.
Everything spiraled. One second, I was just tucking you into bed; the next, I was driving you to the emergency vet. We thought you had developed a blood clot and it had detached. I wanted to take you to the emergency vet myself. If our suspicion was true, we may have had to let you go. I wanted to be there.
There was no blood clot. I was relieved, but it was short lived. Your health declined over the next week; you developed mouth ulcers, pneumonia, an infection at your IV catheter site, and, despite the best life-saving efforts, you finally went into respiratory arrest and couldn’t be saved.
Yes, this is undeniably sad. But, Abalone, you were given a second chance at Tabby’s Place. You were loved deeply, you made people laugh, you found hope, you had happiness. And for you, Abalone, this is what went right.
I love you always and forever, my little Abalone-baloney.