Moira (rhymes with boy-ra) is my very first chosen family member. We've been together since 1999. She was an explosion of fur and spunk that found her way back to The Humane Society a second time. Her first family returned her because she was "too much" for their other cat to handle.
I get that. Sixteen years later she continues to be . . . uh, lively.
She joined my family when she was three months old. I was able to hold her entirely in one hand. One week later I adopted Vaughn, the greatest Dane of all time (1999-2007). Our family now includes a total of three cats and one Dane.
Moira is the queen of the house. Not everyone listens to her, but she nevertheless runs things. She is intolerant, particular, and strident. She is also clever and loving.
Now she is dying.
In the course of an average day, Moira vomits six times. Yes, I have kept track. She huddles by her water dish for hours at a time and laps water until it drips from her fuzzy chin. She shouts at me when her water hasn't been changed within the hour.
Although she streaks through the house with her tail a flagging question mark behind her on occasion and still enjoys a good game of cat fishing, these bouts of wildness are less and less frequent. I can see that it hurts her to move.
On days she is upset or feeling especially crummy, she seeks locations other than the litter box. She pees on clean laundry, porous bathroom tiles, and piles of papers. She really likes piles. She prefers The Man's (my husband) stuff to mine for urine targeting, which not-so-secretly pleases me.
She sleeps on my face or my chest. I can feel her spine and ribs beneath her facade of fluffy, long hair when I stroke her. She marks me countless times in a day. She taunts green beans that land on the floor and challenges them to play. She's really extraordinary. She's very settled in who she is and makes absolutely no apologies. I learn from her each day.
We talked about our options with our fantastic veterinarian, Dr. Kate Cutting, whose house calls make our lives so much easier and less stressful. She visited with us several months ago after Moira stopped eating and drinking for more than 24 hours. Moira is a horrible patient because she is so intolerant. Treatment isn't a viable option. That doesn't even matter because diagnostics aren't an option, either. She won't allow a blood draw. It took three adults to safely administer subcutaneous fluids to a frail, nine-pound cat. We agreed that subjecting her to any diagnostic work or treatment wouldn't be the right thing for any of us. That also means that comfort care or an assisted death aren't good options. The stress of receiving that intervention would be too much for her.
So a natural death it is. We have time to prepare and we don't know if it will be next week or four years from now (Moira is also tenacious and I can only imagine her notable intolerance will increase with age). I expect upwards of 3,864 wet cleanups of vomit and urine.
I'm Shannon, and I love and am loved by four Great Danes, four cats, and one horse (four Danes, one cat, and one horse are no longer walking this earth). Here I'll share stories of my adventures in grief photography for companion animals, my own grief journey, and thoughts on caregiving.