lulu is gone

Lulu knew in her own way she was ready to go. She hadn’t eaten since last Thursday, and before that she was beginning to throw up again. The “miracle” of the steroid had run its course, and the cancer in her colon had in all likelihood spread to her stomach. She spent her days in the warmest parts of the house, under the sun coming into certain windows, in all probability because the heat from the sun helped ease her pain. We’d already made the decision that today would be the day to put her to sleep. Today she didn’t put up any fight when the vet tech came over to pick her up. She was ready.

In spite of her pain, she was still holding her head up and was aware of her surroundings. She still had her dignity. When she went it was very peaceful and without any pain for her.

In spite of how much my wife and I will miss her, we’re also aware of what a problem cat Lulu was. She intimidated all the other animals in the house, even the dogs at times, but especially the other cats. She’d been found wondering the streets as a feral young cat (the vets estimated between 6 mos and a year of age) by a friend of my oldest daughter. As a consequence Lulu came into the household as a fighter and never really gave that up. When we needed to take her in to the vets she fought like a wildcat, screaming and fighting until we could somehow wrangle her into the biggest cat carrier we ever owned for any of our cats. We loved Lulu like we have always loved our animals, but the other animals kept their distance. Where-ever Lulu went, or whatever Lulu claimed as her own the others kept away.

And yet, if we let her come to us she could be as sweet a cat as any of the others. I could rub her head and ears and immediately get purrs coming from her. But it was always, always on her terms. And sometimes I’d make a move that spooked her, and she’d turn, growl, and run off. I spent nearly all the years she lived with us trying to figure Lulu out, and perhaps, just perhaps, in the last year, I might have finally broken through. For in the last year Lulu was a lot more laid back, and a lot less skittish, than she’d ever been before. If only I’d figured Lulu out sooner, or if only she’d managed to live a few years longer she might have become the kind of cat we all want, and I have, in the calico and the two gingers. No matter what we loved Lulu unconditionally. I believe Lulu came to realize that.

Lulu’s was an outsized personality that won’t be quickly forgotten. The gingers will eventually forget and re-claim their bed and place in the back bedroom window which she claimed towards the end, which is as it should be. And then the cycle will roll on and we’ll enjoy all the other creatures in this household, dealing with the losses of all the others when their time eventually comes.

If there’s anything positive about these events it’s that Lulu left us in peace. Furthermore, the other animals are a lot more laid back than they’ve been for some time. The gingers in particular are moving around the house without any fear. It fills me with considerable warmth to see them, especially Beau, the shyer of the two gingers. And Ellipses, the calico, spent a good portion of the day either roaming the house or else sitting in my wife’s lap. It’s as it was when Ellipses and Lulu first came to this house Thanksgiving 2007. Calmer times have returned.

I’ve included a few of my more favorite photos of Lulu. The one leading off this post was taken nearly a year ago. I finally got the green in her eyes to show through.

This photo was taken in 2013 and shows those big dark eyes that Lulu had when the irises really opened up. Lulu was up on the kitchen table waiting for cat treats to be dispensed.

This photo was actually taken Christmas 2014, but published the following January. This is my favorite Christmas photo of her, and of all the cats. She was asleep in her chair in front of the lit Christmas tree. Lulu loved the Christmas tree and every year would just sit or lie in front of it for hours, watching the twinkling lights and moving decorations. It seemed to mesmerize her. In this photo she reminds me of a little child dreaming of “visions of sugar plums.”

And this is our closing photo. In spite of her weakened condition the vet and I selected to give her a regular dose of anesthetic gas, as if she were going to be operated on. We waited until she fell to sleep, then took her out and administered the euthanasia drugs. Lulu was a beautiful example of a gray mackerel tabby. At the very end she’d lost weight and her coat had gotten a bit ragged. I wanted this one memory of our final moments together.

My wife and I have had many animals since we started dating back in 1982. We had a Best Lab (Rhett) at our wedding. I got my very first dog, a black Lab (Katy) from the same breeder as Rhett. Over the years we’ve had Spook (another black lab), Babe (a chocolate Lab rescue) and Max (a yellow Lab rescue, who we put to sleep last year). I’ve participated in all our animal’s exits. I’ve always believed that’s part of the responsibilities of being an owner. And I’ll continue to do this until I can no longer own a pet, which I fervently hope that day never comes. Pet ownership fulfills a vital need in my life, just like marriage and my children. In this frightful world they bring me peace and the belief in something good and wonderful outside of myself. Even Lulu did that.

the long goodbye

Lulu is dying from feline lymphoma. She was diagnosed back in March, when she started to throw up. A biopsy at our local vet narrowed it down. This isn’t the first cat to die from some form of cancer. Lucy died from lymphoma back in 2015. What I experienced with Lucy has helped prepare me for what’s happening with Lulu, and to reach a level of acceptance far faster than I ever did with Lucy.

Lulu, like Lucy, was a rescued feral cat. In Lulu’s case she was taken in by my daughter when Lulu was between six months and a year old back in 2006. She came to live with us Thanksgiving 2007. She’s had a good long run for a feral cat. Ferals, unlike true house cats, don’t live quite as long. With Lulu at least we got to know her for a good ten years.

Instead of keeping Lulu at the vets for long periods for chemo therapy, I’m feeding Lulu a ground-up half-tablet of Prednisone, 10mg, every morning mixed in with her Fancy Feast and keeping her with us at home. Prednisone is a kind of chemo-therapy for cats that helps them to cope, and even induces a bit of remission. Most mornings, and most days, she eats all her food, and for a time after we got her going on the steroid she had a very healthy and normal appetite. But recently she’s gone back to throwing up about once a week, and then not wanting to eat for a day. She still moves around the house and spends her time at her various favorite spots, such as the sun-warmed box window that Lucy used to love to lie in as well. The steroid has at least given us an extra six months with her.

Rather than being caught off-guard the way I was with Lucy’s cancer, this time I’m prepared, so I keep adding more specific moments while Lulu is still with us. That’s the best way to keep a pet. Spend as much time as possible engaged with them so that there are no regrets when they leave. It’s a good formula not just for cats, but for all living things.

all creatures small and smaller

ruby and annie

It’s been a while since I lead off with any of the household animals, especially the Labs. I can still call out plural Labs because Annie is a Labradoodle mix. Pride of place in this photo belongs to Ruby, who has perfected the side-long look like no other Lab that’s ever lived with us. She loves to hop up on the sofa next to me, sidle over close, and then give me that “come hither” look, which for a Lab means “walk hither.” Annie, back in the shadows, is watching, picking up tips. Her schtick are her flying leaps, which I’m assuming come from the Poodle side of the Doodle mix.

cat condo

The Mackerel Tabbies seem to be getting along pretty well these days, at least in the big cat tree. I’ve not checked in about a month, but back in April, at six months, the Gingersnaps were weighed at nine pounds each. Lulu, resting at the bottom, is a little over fourteen. Everybody realizes Lulu is our special needs cat, and they give her reasonable wide berth. But when it comes time to nap, everybody gets along in the cat tree. As long as nobody but Lulu goes in the cat condo.

Gear

I’m photographing more, but posting less. The breaks are good as long as the don’t become indefinite. Top photo was taken with the Olympus E-M10 and the 14-42 EZ pancake zoom, bottom with the E-M10 and 45mm Zuiko. I also took the luxury of post processing with Lightroom 6.

slowly healing, with feline friends

lying about slowly healing

It’s been a week and a day since my right knee was fully replaced. I can walk about the house without any aid, and I can use my collapsible Traverse trekking pole when I’m outdoors to help with stability, just in case. Otherwise I stay indoors and move around helping to keep things clean and straight as best I can. These past few days I was able to do things like wash dirty pots and scrub the kitchen sink, as well as fix spaghetti Saturday night. These sound like such little, trivial tasks until you can’t do them or only with difficulty. Even getting a shower requires I wrap the incision with Glad Press ‘N’ Seal to keep water off and out of the wound to avoid any possibility of infection. Right now my dressing is almost totally clean when I change it daily. One more week of this…

I’m not the only one needing special comfort. Lulu went to visit the vet on Thursday, the same day I had to visit my surgeon for a post-0p checkup. She went to get her teeth cleaned and checked. Unfortunately for her she lost three, two of which are feline equivalents to wisdom teeth. When she came back she was OK, but she started to stay next to me a lot more than usual. Friday night she came up and slept next to me in my chair for comfort.

resting with dad

She’s since gotten back to her old Lulu self, but this past week seems to have deepened a bond between us even further.

The Florida Gingersnaps have been out and about in the central part of the house, running and playing. At 16 weeks, which was the week of my knee operation, they were six plus pounds each, or two pounds ahead of schedule. Kittens are supposed to add a pound/month. The Gingersnaps and Lulu seem to be getting along pretty well. More than once I’ve seen all three just lying close to each other on the floor, usually when the Gingersnaps get tired from chasing toys and themselves.

a doodle’s gonna do what a doodle’s gonna do

is a doodle a cat?

No, I don’t know what prompted Annie to nap in Lulu’s bed on the stuffed chair. All I know is that today my wife, sitting in her comforter and recovering from her knee replacement, called me into the main part of the house and told me to bring my camera. There Annie was in the chair, trying her best to stuff all four feet into Lulu’s cat bed.

It isn’t as if Annie doesn’t know what it is. She’s very, very bright. She’ll sit and watch Lulu a good bit of the day do Lulu things around the house, including lie in that bed. Apparently Lulu didn’t care that Annie was in her bed, and later in the evening, Lulu put herself into her bed as if Annie hadn’t been in there earlier.

I have no idea what’s developing between those two.

But in thirty-plus years of keeping Labs, I’ve never seen a Lab do anything like this. I guess the behavior is from the Poodle side.

lulu in her bed

Here’s what it looks like when Lulu is in her bed. There’s just enough room for Lulu to comfortably snuggle in.