we had to have waffle put down last night.
i reeeeeeally, like really really, do not want to blog this all out and relive it, but since he was more than just our cat, thanks to yall saving him so that he could be ours in the first place, i owe it to you. i also feel like i owe it to him to share the impact that loving him had on us. it wasnt for nothing.
let me say, i KNOW this is a first-world problem. i KNOW a lot of people hate cats. i KNOW we only had him 39 days. i know that. i get it that maybe i shouldnt care so much. that if this is the worst thing that ever happens to me that it would be a great life. I GET IT. but that doesnt help any. i can only be where i am. please give me grace even if you cant empathize.
this is the story of a tiny cat that we spent 39 days loving.
i first laid eyes on waffle on july 11th. my friend and 3-doors-down neighbor, megan, had found him in her back yard and had sent an email out to our girls group seeing if anyone wanted him. i said i would talk to jesse because i had been wanting a cat to defend (and de- fiend) our garden.
in the meantime, she posted another "anyone want a cat?" on facebook and when i saw it i was so protective
because in my head, this guy was already ours.
when i got home i took the kids over to see meet him and kind of instantly fell in love. despite being tiny and clearly having had a rough time on the streets, this little guy was nothing but cuddly, trusting and chill. we did notice a big bump on his side that looked like a tumor, but it didnt seem to bother him so we closed the deal and took him home, naming him "waffle" along the way.
after some googling, we realized that night that the bump was probably pretty serious so we rushed him to the vet at petsmart (they were the only place open) and found out that it was an infected abscess and would cost about $300 to treat. this for a cat i had known for 2 hours.
on the way to petsmart. oh, i'm a wild animal who has never ridden in a car, but i'm just going to curl up and be adorable here.
we took him home to figure it out, falling in love with his sweetness more every hour.
so excited to sleep on concrete and a broom.
the next day was friday and jesse took him to a low-cost mobile cat care place to at least have him neutered, vaccinated and checked out for the wound, hoping they could help him for much less money. well, overnight the abscess had burst, and was now a huge gaping wound that prevented him from being able to be vaccinated OR neutered and gave us a grisly visual of just how injured he was (since they shaved his fur around the wound we could now see it).
we took this news hard. we had JUST met this cat and the cost of getting him just to baseline health would be more than it would cost to adopt 3 healthy, fixed, vaccinated kittens. but, again, i felt like this was OUR little fella and we had to help him.
so i posted about him and asked for help with the cost of fixing him up, and holy man, yall helped. in less than 3 hours, at $10 each, yall had donated the money to get our little man better.
prancing around despite a gaping flesh wound, as yall contributed money for him.
he loves you!
we took him to the vet the following week and got him all checked, out, fixed up and set right. during the exam we discovered that all of this probably had happened from a fight with another cat. he had probably been bitten on his side, on his face by his mouth (which was just a tiny wound, healing fine, compared to his side), and probably scratched in the eye (it was kind of closed and goopy).
we were thrilled that this guy would be ours and when the vet said that after care, he would do great. over the next week, he healed so fast from the gross side wound and we had him neutered and vaccinated the next week. he did brilliantly.
the next 5 weeks we spent loving him and settling in to life with waffle. he continued to be the chillest dude in the world. layla, hesitant about him at first and kind of afraid, became his biggest stalker. he was HER BABY. and despite her sometimes-rough 2 year old love, he never once scratched or bit or even seemed remotely miffed by her. he really just seemed happy to be here.
judah was in love too. he would kiss him goodbye whenever we were getting in the car (he lived in the garage/outside since he needed to be litter trained...we learned this after he pooped thrice in the house, being an older cat it would take him longer to learn) and would call for him as soon as we returned home, "WAFFLY BOY!"
my heart. oh.
exploring with his pal.
jesse was the most anti-adopt-this-cat at first and then fell hard for waffle as his personality came out. all he ever wanted was to cuddle up next to us, purr his brains out and nip our toes. he was beyond laid back and sweet and this won jesse over like whoa.
snuggling jesse at the vet.
i was so excited that he had started using the litter box in the garage this past week and that we could bring him inside soon. i had even talked to the pediatrician about allergy medicines since layla got itchy around him. we needed a long-term solution for living happily with our new forever family member.
poop in the potty and come do this forever!
well, on friday night i was bringing him in to eat and said, "wow, waffle-man, youre getting big!" and then i noticed that most of his bigness was in his face. i got down on the floor to look at him and was horrified to see ANOTHER, WORSE abscess on that "minor" face wound. i guess it had healed up so fast but that there was still bacteria in it from the mean cat's mouth and it just slowly infected itself over 5 weeks until it escalated so fast last weekend and overnight it was huge.
yikes. that cant be good.
we were so bummed. his side would was completely healed by this time and his fur was growing back and here we were with another massive ordeal. despite looking like an oral surgery patient, he was just as happy-go-lucky as ever. jesse and layla took him back to the vet on saturday and they pin-pricked the swelling and gave us antibiotics.
we gave him his meds saturday night and then put him in the garage to sleep. he hated the medicine and while trying to hop down from my arms while jesse fed him it, he accidently scratched my arm. so tiny and yet such a fighter.
surprisingly, we didnt see him at ALL on sunday. this worried us. he still wasnt back yesterday morning when i left to take the kids to school (he would ALWAYS come around when he heard us leaving or returning from a car trip) and i was getting really concerned. despite looking scary at first, the vet had assured us that the face abscess really wasnt a big deal, so we couldnt figure why he was missing.
it seemed so weird that he would be somehow worse (bad enough to "go to ground" like animals do when theyre sick) after seeing the vet and having the infection treated.
when i brought the kids home from school i told them that we couldnt find waffle and we should pray that he was okay. i called for him a few times just to show the kids that i didnt know where he was. all of a sudden he appeared from inside the garage, walking out toward us. we were thrilled and i ran up to greet him.
he looked beyond terrible.
i noticed that his face was completely better so i was confused about why he looked so sluggish. i looked closer and he was all wet along one side of his body with what seemed to be vomit. this was a big red flag since cats are so clean. the fact that he hadnt cleaned himself up was alarming.
he just walked all wobbly over to us and plopped down on the ground. his breathing looked labored and i got worried. i put the kids down for a nap and called jesse. he came home and agreed that our guy was sick.
he wouldnt eat, wouldn't move and when i lifted him, he made the most pitiful yowling noise. if he did stand up it looked like he was drunk: so unstable and weak.
we figured that maybe the infection had gotten into his blood and the antibiotics werent working fast enough to get it out (despite the site of the wound clearing up). we decided that rather than take him BACK to the vet, and paying more money and prodding him with tests and such, we'd give the meds more time to work. i gave him another dose (he wasnt even strong enough to resist...he just moved two feet away to hunker down under the car).
it just didnt make sense that he could decline SO FAST and out of nowhere.
as i googled his symptoms i did get more worried, but they all appeared to be side effects of an abscess. we left at 6:30 for a church cookout. i tried to get him to move from under the car but he wouldnt budge or even move a muscle at my voice. i had to drag his limp little body out from beside the tire.
he meowed so weakly at me, and i felt my heart freeze.
i put him on a soft beach towel in the garage with some food and water next to him (which he didnt even glance at despite not eating for 2 days) it was like i was moving a stuffed animal around. he just didnt move a muscle and was utterly limp and felt like he weighed nothing. when igo to church, i told jesse that waffle was really suffering and that i would be surprised if he was alive when we got home.
i left the cookout by myself so that the kids wouldnt have to see anything if the worst had happened while we were gone. i was so scared when i opened the garage but was happy to see his sides moving with his breath.
but he hadnt moved more than 5 inches in 2 hours. he had pooped and was just laying in it. he had inched his head and shoulders up under laylas doll's bed (instinctively hiding while sick) and was just the saddest little thing i had ever seen.
i decided at that moment that i just couldnt let him suffer and die in our garage without doing something. even if it was just to hear a vet say, "yes, it is in fact the infection, he needs more time to recover" i needed to hear it. at that point, after only 6 weeks, i loved him enough to pay for the exorbitant after-hours vet bill.
i RUSHED him to the hospital in his carrier box (he only gave two faint, pitiful, yowls as i loaded him in) and prayed that it would be something so easy to fix or that he would already be gone when we arrived. the thought of having to choose between thousands of dollars of treatment and letting him die in pain was too much for me.
i handed him over to the nurse immediately. about 5 minutes later they came out and moved me to a private room with a bench, a metal exam table and a box of tissues. i still didnt totally get it.
the doctor came in and had me repeat what was going on. he said that he had examined him (he had actually been the one to neuter waffle and remembered how sweet our guy was) and that it was really bad.
surprisingly, he said the illness probably was completely unrelated to the abscess. something was attacking waffle's red blood cells. his skin and gums were totally yellow. the vet guessed that he had contracted some blood-borne illness from another cat or a mosquito or tick back before we even got him and that it had just slowly drained him until he couldnt fight it off anymore. he said if we hadnt brought him in he wouldnt have survived the night.
i'm thinking...okay, so blood sickness, there is a pill for that. we're okay. thank god i brought him.
then the vet said, we had two choices: we could draw blood (difficult since his BP was almost nonexistent and he was so dehydrated), run tests, order a transfusion and keep him in the hospital for days treating him. he said even with all of that he very well might not make it. i was thinking, "ugh, option one sucks!"
but the vet didnt continue.
i said, so naively, "okay, so what is option two?"
and the vet looked at me so empathetically that it just hit me all of a sudden what i hadnt wanted to face: he said option two is to euthanize him now.
i 100% never expected to cry over this cat, even though i loved him so much already, i had only known him 6 weeks. but in that moment when i heard those words, i realized how much i did love this little guy: for trusting us so completely from day one. for never getting mad at my smotherly-loving kids. for being the first cat i have ever seen to act grateful and just happy to have a family.
i freaking lost it (and am losing it again as i type this).
i begged the vet to tell me what to do. he reiterated that waffle really was suffering. that treating him would be very expensive and invasive and painful to him. that even with thousands and thousands of dollars of care, there was a good chance he would still die just because his little immune system wasnt strong enough to rebound.
he assured me that there really was nothing we could have ever done for him. that life as a stray cat was really really hard and despite us giving him a great home, we could have never known how sick he had been from the beginning. he promised me that we would take really good care of him either way.
i said, "do you think we should just let him go peacefully?" and the vet looked at me so sweetly and said, "yeah, it totally sucks, but i think that is what i would do."
he left me alone to call jesse (the enormity of being all alone for this was just hitting me) and jesse was crushed but agreed that ending his pain was the way to go. i told them our decision and signed papers and paid so that afterward i could just leave.
and then they brought waffle in to say goodbye. i know he is just a cat, but my heart broke.
they handed him to me in a red fleece blanket. despite seeing his head sticking out, for a moment i thought they had forgotten to put him in because it was just so light. as soon as i looked at him all sad and bundled and just so, so sick, i melted down.
i had expected the sadness of saying goodbye. i had not expected the guilt and feeling that i had somehow failed him. i just held him and cried, "i'm so sorry buddy. i'm so sorry we couldnt make you better and keep you forever. you are such a great pet and we love you so much. i'm so so sorry."
seeing him fighting to remain conscious and alive and just to breath in and out and keep his eyes open, all the while knowing i had already made the decision to end that fight was unbearable.
i spotted his little arm where they had shaved him to try to get an IV in and it was just so tiny and pitiful. more sobs.
even in the midst of this fatal sickness, jaundiced from his blood being attacked, in terrible pain and close to death already, as soon as they gave him to me and he opened his eyes and saw it was me, he started purring.
even then, it seemed like he was just so grateful to have been loved.
i kept waiting for the disney miracle. for him to bounce up totally healed. it never came. it seemed that despite my heart begging it to not be, this was old school disney, old yeller style.
they had told me to crack the door open when i was ready to hand him back, and standing up to walk over and do this was just so painful.
the sweet nurse came back him and i handed him over but she could tell i just wasnt in a good place. i told her not to give him back to me even still because i would really never be ready to let him go and would just hold him forever while he suffered.
i asked her if she thought this was the right thing to do and she said absolutely. i looked at him there so tiny and trusting and holding on, trying to peep out through his heavy eyes at me and i knew i had to let him go. that delaying my pain was only prolonging his.
while he was in her arms, i took one last picture (he opened his eyes during this and was so out of it that it nearly killed me) and put my phone away as slowly as possible to delay the inevitable.
fully knowing this would be the last time i ever touched our little guy, i reached out and cupped his face in my hands and then kissed his head and said, "i love you, waffle." then i just closed my eyes and turned away as she took him out.
i cant explain why this is hitting us so hard. maybe it's because i've never said goodbye to a pet before. all of my pets either ran away or died while i was at college. i was never present for the end and they were all so old or completely crazy that it wasnt unexpected. maybe it's because we only got such a short time with him and it feels like he deserved more. maybe it's because so much love from so many people helped to bring him to us to begin with.
jesse says it's none of that. jesse says he really was special. jesse's had cats all his life and says that waffle was by far the best one. i like this theory.
for whatever reason, we fought hard to have this guy for the short time that we did. we were supposed to have him and to go through the love and heartbreak of being his. i am so glad to have known this funny, weird, ever-chill, endlessly sweet, adorable little animal. my heart grew while loving him. even as it's breaking now, it's growing.
i cant help but feel like we failed him, or failed yall who gave money to save him. the only thing that comes close to the sadness is this feeling of, "could we have done more?" "could we have acted sooner?" "would he have been better without us?" "should i not have given him up last night?"
i know it's just a pet and like any grief, big or small, it will heal and get tons better. probably to the point where i can identify how i'm feeling now as silly or an overreaction. but right now i just miss my sweet waffle so so much.
goodbye, my sweet guy. thanks for being ours. we love you.