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January 31, 2005: Knowing when

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I should have known things were going too well. Friday Allegra stopped eating; by that evening she was listless and dehydrated. Luckily we had no big plans for the weekend beyond sitting at home so I could finish up this doll for my niece's birthday (which was on Saturday so it will reach her a little late ah well). So I could be home to occasionally grab Allegra, stuff some food and pills down her throat, and stab her with a little needle to dump fluids under her skin to keep her hydrated.

I told a friend today that I feel as if I am on an emotional roller coaster with Allegra. I wish she would either stabilize, or just get sicker and be done with it. Not, mind you, that I am eagerly anticipating her death - I just want to know. Watching her go up and down over the past few days has been extremely frustrating. There is never any clear answer to the question of how far I should go. I firmly believe that quality of life for the cat; what's best for her, should always take precedence over my desire to keep her around because I'm not ready to lose her. But where do you draw the line? I told myself this weekend that if she did not respond to the treatment - hydration therapy, force feeding - that this would be the end of the line. I have told myself that if it comes to it, I will give her a week on any drastic treatment, since that seems like it should be long enough for there to either be improvement, or for her to let me know in whatever way she can that enough is enough. But it's so easy to be calm and rational about it when she's not sitting there, lethargic and dehydrated, and you are faced with the prospect that 'someday' might just very well be now.

The happy ending to the story is that this time, a few doses of sterile fluids under the skin, a few quarter pills of anti-nausea medication, and a few rounds of force feeding (which she tolerated far better than I would ever have imagined) and she's now right back to being her perky and opinionated self. Plus now that I've had a taste if some of the bad side of kidney disease I'm prepared for the next bout - and I do not doubt for one instant that there will be a next bout, and a next one after that, and so one and so forth.

I had to call my old college roommate on Friday because while I know how to give fluids (it's insanely easy if the cat's being cooperative), I hadn't a clue how to actually set up the bag with the infusion drip set and I knew she would be able to talk me through it. She's the one I spent four years fostering baby kittens with, so she and I have been through a lot over the years. One of our first litters was a group only a few days old, where they all got sick and all but one of them died. The one who survived had some issues from being abandoned and orphaned and from being sick. And now that little kitten who I will always remember as this tiny black and white thing barely big enough to fit in my hand, even though I have seen him often enough as an adult, is her oldest cat. Between the two of us, in between all of our cats, Sebastian still is the oldest, at 13, but then comes that little holstein cow-patterned runt. During the conversation she mentioned that a friend of ours who'd also done a lot of fostering, back in the day, had just had to put one of her oldest kitties to sleep. And she asked me, when did we get this old? How did this many years pass without our noticing, so that our babies are now starting to die?

You don't think about it when you look at the little kitten in the cage; when you are coaxing this hamster-sized thing, whose eyes are still not even open, to take formula from a bottle. You do not think about the fact that in far too few years you are going to likely be trying to convince them to take food from a plate for a far less hopeful reason; that you will be trying to get them to swallow the pills without fighting or spitting them back out; that you will slowly accumulate a small pharmacy of needles and syringes and bottles and bags to keep them happy and stable just that much longer, and that eventually you will have to make a decision you do not want to make; eventually you will have to watch them die.

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