|Tonka - R.I.P. |
Is it time for- dinner yet?
|Purred: Sun Sep 11, '11 3:34pm PST |
|When I was a little girl, I wanted a cat so badly. My mother, being allergic to cats, would not allow me to have one. She would say to me, "Emily, when you're an adult, and you have a job, and you have your own place - then you can get a cat."
So, 15 years later - that's exactly what I did.
I rescued Tonka from the shelter on June 28, 2009. It was a rainy day and I came into the shelter with no idea about what I was looking for (except I knew I wanted an adult cat, because I worked full time and did not have the time it takes to train and raise a kitten) - I was just going to go in with an open heart and see what happened.
When I went into the cat room, Tonka was not the first cat that I saw. I looked around and was actually interested in a calico cat - and then Tonka made himself known. Funny, because he was the largest and loudest at the shelter, I don't know how I could have missed him. He was out of his cage and following me around the cat room, meowing, and eager for my attention. I knelt down and called him over and he came running into my arms. I just felt he had "chosen" me.
When the shelter volunteers saw me holding Tonka, they looked at me sadly and explained to me that Tonka had a Grade 4 heart murmur and that it was unlikely he would live long. In fact, I was told "don't be surprised if he just drops dead one day". I was not dissuaded from their comments and warnings - I just smiled and said, "That's OK - we're never guaranteed a tomorrow." And I went home with that cat.
That cat was the best companion I could ever, ever ask for. He was an extraordinary cat. He never did anything wrong. Meanwhile, I felt I did everything wrong. I had never had a cat. I read up on cats only after I got one. But Tonka helped me become a great cat owner.
Tonka had no symptoms of his condition. The heart murmur, that I was warned was so serious, did not seem an issue for him at all. I took him into the vet for a check-up who seemed optimistic - she heard the murmur but recommended no treatment. She said to simply "keep an eye on him". I told her that sometimes he coughed - and she said that coughing is not usually a symptom of heart trouble in a cat, and she did not seem worried about it. He was otherwise happy and healthy.
And Tonka was extremely friendly! Tonka was so cuddly. He would cuddle in bed every night, he would knead, but never on skin - it was like he knew that hurt. He never hissed, he never growled, he never bit or scratched. He rolled over and let you pet his belly, and hold him like a baby. When I was in the bathtub, he'd come to investigate. He would give me "kitty kisses" and would greet me at the door when I came home from work every day. He demonstrated unconditional, perpetual love.
Tonka went through a lot with me - I got him during my first serious relationship and when that didn't work out (shortly after), I paid an extraordinary amount of money to keep him in a new apartment where I lived on my own. Six months later, I moved into a new apartment with my current boyfriend - and we've been here for over a year and just renewed our lease.
He was immensely forgiving - when I would get mad, when I came home late (or not at all, because sometimes I stayed at my boyfriend's for a few months before we moved in together - I'd drop into home after work only to take a shower, feed Tonka, and leave again for the night - only to rush home again for a short period in the A.M. to change, feed him and leave again...), when I would ignore his pleas for attention, when I would forget to clean his litterbox. I know I want to avoid "If only..." thoughts - but sometimes I wonder if I really did give him the best life he could have had. I know in my heart I did do a good job, especially in the last year when I was more settled in - I loved him, I played with him, I fed him well, I cuddled him, I cleaned up after him, I took him to the vet when he started pulling his hair out and was diagnosed with feline alopecia. I worked *for* him - I couldn't wait to go home to my cat. But sometimes I wonder if someone else could have done it better.
Tonka was fine - right up until the day of his death. I was convinced his heart murmur had actually gotten better and posed no threat - I had almost forgotten completely about it.
Until last Wednesday - when I noticed Tonka acting very strangely - suddenly hiding and sleeping in odd places in the house. He was still moving around and eating, so I didn't think too much of it. The weather has been changing here, so I figured he might just be adjusting to the change.
Then, Thursday - during the day, when I was at work - my boyfriend told me his health suddenly declined. He wasn't moving around anymore. He stopped eating. He was hiding. His breathing pattern changed, it was heavy and labored. He was gagging - and vomited once. When I came home, I held him in my arms and scratched under his chin. I was wondering if it was time. He meowed in pain when I picked him up, and his eyes were glazed over - and he sighed.
My boyfriend and I rushed him to the E.R. vet, who put him on oxygen and an IV and began treatment. He had fluid in his lungs and his heart was not pumping blood well. The vet said his heart murmur was likely a symptom of "hypertrophic cardiomyopathy" and said he always had it, and it just got worse. Unfortunately the first symptom of this disease is usually death. The vet explained that treatment would be expensive, and may not be effective. I cried because I knew the only thing we could do is put Tonka down.
He was only 6 years old. When they brought Tonka into the room, I scratched him under his chin again, told him he was a good boy and I loved him - and he purred.
I cried and cried and cried and told him he was a "good boy" and that I loved him - as the needle went in and he quickly fell asleep.
We buried him nearby in a forest that I often visit.
I really struggled with this - if it was the right choice, if I did all that I could have - if Tonka wanted to die, or if I should have found a way to afford the treatment. If I let him suffer too long. If I should have done more. What his last thoughts were as he fell asleep. If he could forgive me one last time.
Tonka was an amazing cat and I'm not sure I'll ever find a cat like him. I really miss him. Every day I cry a little less. Some day I may choose to get another cat - but I will never forget Tonka.
R.I.P. Tonka ~ 5-8-05 ~ 9-8-11
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