Ronnie James’ paw print, healed (and while I’m at it, here’s a look at some of my other tattoos).

One month ago last night, my heart disintegrated. It shattered into the ether, and the fragments fell and settled into an urn, the dust of my heart together with Ronnie James’ ashes. Well, Ronnie James is my heart. They are the same, and they are in a little box, and I still haven’t figured out how to navigate myself from here.

Our three hearts are broken… mine, Callaghan’s, Nounours’. I took a picture of Nounours last night at exactly the time of his brother’s death:

 

Nounours with Ronnie James, one month later.

Nounours with Ronnie James, one month later.

 

It’s like that urn is alive with Ronnie James’ pulse. We all feel him; his spirit and love are so strong.

Meanwhile, my tattoo of Ronnie James’ paw print has healed. I thought it was beautiful before, but now I can see that it’s an exquisite work of art. It’s smudgy and unevenly pigmented, looking, in other words, perfectly real – like Ronnie James left it there, himself. I’ll always be able to see the paw print of my (precious-angel-baby-bunny-dragon) Ronnie James, my petit Wrah-Wrah, my son who could never get enough cuddles or kisses.

 

My new tattoo has healed and transformed into an incredibly realistic imprint of Ronnie James' paw.

My new tattoo has healed and transformed into an incredibly realistic imprint of Ronnie James’ paw.

 

I’ve never loved a tattoo more, and that’s saying a lot, because I have a lot of tattoos that I love. My collection of tattoos spans three decades; I had my first one done on my 18th birthday in 1987 (it was before tattoos went mainstream, a “bad girl” thing to do at the time, but I didn’t care what anyone thought), and this last one was done three weeks ago. 90% of my ink is on my back, though, where my eyes can’t reach. Every once in a while, I stand at an angle in the bathroom and admire what I can see in the mirrors.

I’ll show them to you, while I’m on the subject. I took the ones of my arm – may I just remark how awkward it is to take a selfie of one’s arm? – and Callaghan took the pics of my back. All of the pictures were taken yesterday, and they’re just of my arm and back. (Not pictured: pelvis tattoo, anklet tattoo.)

 

While the wind blew! Here's a string of outlined hearts spiraling up my left upper arm. Callaghan drew them, and then I had them inked over by the tattooist.

While the wind blew! Here’s a string of outlined hearts spiraling up my left upper arm. Callaghan drew them, and then I had them inked over by the tattooist.

 

The inside of my lower left arm... and now you know one of my favorite numbers.

The inside of my lower left arm… and now you know one of my favorite numbers.

 

I took those at lunch. We did the rest when I got home from work. This selfie was the last picture I took as the sun was setting (the window is behind me):

 

I took this by fading daylight in my home office. As usual, I did nothing to the picture... the alignment of the string of lights on my hair was a total fluke that I discovered after the fact.

I took this by fading daylight in my home office. As usual, I did nothing to the picture… the alignment of the string of lights on my hair was a total fluke that I discovered after the fact.

 

And here are the back tattoo pics Callaghan took before that (I put on my very lowest-rise jeans for this, since the tiger at the bottom goes quite low):

 

It looks like a single piece, but I added to the work over time, starting in 1988 and ending in 2010.

It looks like a single piece, but I added to the work over time, starting in 1988 and ending in 2010.

 

My poor mother strongly disapproves of all of this ink. Close your eyes, Mom!

 

Here's a clearer view. The Sanskrit script at the base of my neck reads, "om mani padme hum," my favorite Buddhist mantra.

Here’s a clearer view. The Sanskrit script at the base of my neck reads, “om mani padme hum,” my favorite Buddhist mantra.

 

The dragon was my second tattoo (1988), and the first one to be done on my back. It was touched up by a different tattooist in 2010.

The dragon was my second tattoo (1988), and the first one to be done on my back. It was touched up by a different tattooist in 2010.

 

A talented friend designed my horse, which represents freedom and fortitude to me. I wanted the horse to be facing forward while looking back.

A talented friend designed my horse, which represents freedom and fortitude to me. I wanted the horse to be facing forward while looking back.

 

I’m kind of fascinated by how my phone’s camera managed to pick up little beads of sweat on my spine!

Happy Friday, All.

Callaghan and Ronnie James, bonding (instagram series)

Just over a year ago, I took a picture of Callaghan and the Wrah-Wrah together in a companionable moment, and I instagrammed it with a b&w filter. I shared it on Facebook, and people loved it. Over the course of the year, I did this six more times. That first photo was taken before Ronnie James started coughing. The last one was taken on the 14th of this month, the day he died… four days shy of the one-year anniversary of the first.

All along, I had no idea that I was capturing the last year of Ronnie James’ life.

Last night marked two weeks since good-bye. I wanted to share these pictures here today, together as a collection. There are only seven. I’d taken many more, but I’d carefully selected the images for this series with certain qualities in mind. Above all, the photos show the special bond between Callaghan and Ronnie James, each one spontaneous and now extra precious in its memorializing the enormous and profound love our feline son carried in his strong little lion heart.

I’ll say it again: Ronnie James loved like no other. He lived from cuddle to kiss, from nuzzle to hug. He measured his days in snuggles, rather than in minutes. He loved to be picked up and carried. He loved to be held, and, unlike most cats, you could hold him until your arms got tired, because the urge to get down never overcame him. He always had to be touching us, including with the unique way he had of flicking his butt to the side to brush against us when walking by. (We thought this quirk of his was so funny and cute.)

The Wrah-Wrah loved all three of us so much, Callaghan, Nounours, and me… and his love was such a huge, constant and present force in our lives that now, the emptiness where he used to be is just crushing. It is to me, at least. I’m having a difficult time with the absence of our “little lovebug” who was actually the greatest source of love I’ve ever encountered in a being, believe it or not. In that sense, he is divine. He’s with us somehow, I know… but still, when I walk through the house and see his favorite places, the realization of his physical goneness sucks the breath out of my own lungs, and I hinge forward under the weight of it.

It’s been rough, friends. Really, really rough. I don’t think that time could help me to miss him less, but it may help me to adapt, eventually.

Without further ado, here are the seven pictures in the “Callaghan and Ronnie James, bonding” series. At the end, I tacked on a pic of me with the Wrah-Wrah (and Callaghan’s leg!), and another of the Wrah-Wrah with his beloved Nounours, both from instagram, as well.

“Callaghan and Ronnie James, bonding”:

 

May 17, 2014. The first photo in the series. Ronnie James hanging out with his Daddy in bed, each of them doing their thing.

May 17, 2014.
The first photo in the series. Ronnie James hanging out with his Daddy in bed, each of them doing their thing.

 

June 2014. Ronnie James often kept his Daddy company in the studio (Callaghan would place the second bar-stool there just for him). This was still back in our old apartment.

June 2014.
Ronnie James often kept his Daddy company in the studio (Callaghan would place the second bar-stool there just for him). This was still back in our old apartment.

 

August 2014. Looking up attentively at his Daddy, probably asking for more belly rubs. He loved his belly rubs!

August 2014.
Looking up attentively at his Daddy, probably asking for more belly rubs. He loved his belly rubs!

 

November 2014. Ronnie James was never happier than when being snuggled by me, Callaghan, or Nounours.

November 2014.
Ronnie James was never happier than when being snuggled by me, Callaghan, or Nounours.

 

December 2014. He loved to drape himself over us. Look at his paw on Callaghan's arm! He loved to touch us.

December 2014.
He loved to drape himself over us. Look at his paw on Callaghan’s arm! He loved to touch us.

 

March 2015. Ronnie James and Callaghan sharing a moment right before we went to France for a week.

March 2015.
Ronnie James and Callaghan sharing a moment right before we went to France for a week.

 

May 14, 2015.  Last photo in the series, almost a year since the first. This photo was taken the day Ronnie James died... just hours before he died, in fact.

May 14, 2015.
Last photo in the series, almost a year since the first. This photo was taken the day Ronnie James died… just hours before he died, in fact.

 

And here are the two extras:

 

August 2014. Ronnie James with Callaghan and me. I remember the ferocity of his purring, he was so happy.

August 2014.
Ronnie James with Callaghan and me. I remember the ferocity of his purring, he was so happy.

 

March 2014.  One of many photos of Ronnie James and Nounours cuddling together.

March 2014.
One of many photos of Ronnie James and Nounours cuddling together.

 

Poor Nounours is so forlorn without his Wrah-Wrah. He still seeks out and cuddles with his brother’s urn and collar.

We will get through this. On Monday, Callaghan left for France suddenly because of an urgent family situation, so he’s preoccupied with the goings-on over there. I’m here with Nounours, doing my best to nurture him through his grief as I work through my own. I value this time to bond more with Nounours. We’re helping each other.

We love you, Ronnie James. As I often used to sing to him: Precious-angel-baby-bunny-dragon-Ronnie-James!

The Wrah-Wrah’s paw print.

Why good morning, friends. As of three days ago, I have a new tattoo, and I wanted to share it with you. It’s a small one, but of all my tattoos, this one is the dearest to my heart.

Right after Ronnie James died, I suddenly, desperately wanted to apply ink to his little paw pads and press his paw onto paper. It wasn’t a thought I’d taken the time to formulate beforehand. As much as I’d tried to prepare myself, his passing was harder for me than I’d imagined it could be, and in the aftermath, I wanted something of him that would stay with me forever.

Since it was a last-minute decision, we were ill-prepared. The inks in Callaghan’s studio yielded fuzzy prints, but we thought we could work with them. They were certainly better than nothing. My idea was to have his paw print indelibly inked on the inside of my wrist, where I could see it all the time. I wanted a permanent, visual remembrance of how Ronnie James loved to touch me, and of how comforting and sweet his touch had been.

 

The Wrah-Wrah's first fuzzy little prints. The one I chose didn't come from this set, but we're going to have this sheet framed.

The Wrah-Wrah’s first fuzzy little prints. The one I chose didn’t come from this set, but we’re going to have this sheet framed.

 

When our house-calling vet brought the Wrah-Wrah’s cremains home to us two days later, she surprised us with another sheet of paper on which she’d stamped some lovely, clear Wrah-Wrah prints, a thoughtful gesture that touched us deeply. I vacillated between my two favorites before deciding on this one:

 

Getting an idea of how it would look....

Getting an idea of how it would look….

 

Callaghan loved it and decided to get the same tattoo. We went to the Club Tattoo down the street here in Tempe to make an appointment with the person who’d done my last (spiral of hearts) tattoo. We made our double appointment for Saturday afternoon.

 

Ronnie James' paw print realistically done in four shades of black/gray.

Ronnie James’ paw print realistically done in four shades of black/gray.

 

The same tattooist did that spiral of hearts around my arm in 2011, right before the move to France. (In case you're wondering, no, I don't lift weights. I just do Body Combat 3x / week. I do want to get back in the garage to work out, though... it's been a good couple of months.)

The same tattooist did that spiral of hearts around my arm in 2011, right before the move to France. (In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t lift weights. I just do Body Combat 3x / week. I do want to get back in the garage to work out, though… it’s been a good couple of months.)

 

I explained to our tattooist that I wanted the tattoo to look smudgy and real, as if Ronnie James’ inked paw had been pressed directly onto my wrist. He expertly used four shades of black/gray to achieve the effect with shading. I’m extremely pleased with how it turned out. I absolutely adore it.

 

Now I'll always have the Wrah-Wrah's paw on me.

Now I’ll always have the Wrah-Wrah’s paw on me.

 

And here’s a bad selfie, just for fun. (How do people take mirror selfies, anyway? It never worked out the few times I tried it. It must be an art form.)

 

Thwarted by lighting! Useless selfie attempting to show my freshly bandaged wrist... but you can see Callaghan in the background getting his tattoo done, so there's that.

Thwarted by lighting! Useless selfie attempting to show my freshly bandaged wrist… but you can see Callaghan in the background getting his tattoo done, so there’s that.

 

Callaghan loves his tattoo, as well. He asked to have the print altered just a tiny bit, and we wanted ours angled slightly differently, and he positioned his further down his wrist than mine, and he has his on his left wrist, while mine is on my right… so our Wrah-Wrah prints aren’t exactly identical. The Wrah-Wrah loved us both, but differently. He touched us both, but differently.

The Wrah-Wrah is Forever.

Phenomenon: Nounours with his beloved Wrah-Wrah.

(First things first for you English-speakers:  Nounours is our other cat, as many of you already know, and his name is pronounced “Noo-NOO’orse.” I’m afraid that’s the closest approximation I’m going to achieve in writing. The second two parts – the vowels – flow together quickly, pronounced as one syllable. “Nounours” is French for “teddy bear.”)

In the wake of Ronnie James’ departure, Nounours has been grieving along with us this past week. We feel badly for him. We’ve been trying to console him, giving him as much love as he can handle. He and the Wrah-Wrah were extremely close. They were attached close.

 

Two proverbial peas in a pod, Ronnie James and Nounours.

Two proverbial peas in a pod, Ronnie James and Nounours.

 

Nounours holding Ronnie James' hand. Now, we believe that Nounours knew things we didn't know.

Nounours holding Ronnie James’ hand.
Now, we believe that Nounours knew things we didn’t know.

 

Nounours took such good care of his  brother.

Nounours took such good care of his brother.

 

Nounours always nurtured Ronnie James.

Nounours always nurtured Ronnie James.

 

Easy-going Nounours is a big goofball, and a lovable goofball he is, too. We often affectionately joke that he isn’t “the sharpest blade in the drawer,” but there are different types of intelligence. Nounours’ intelligence, it turns out, is other-worldly.

For instance, Nounours is the lone feline in the house now, but he doesn’t lie by the front door anymore, as he was wont to do when Ronnie James was away in the hospital. (That, in itself, was indicative of Nounours’ sixth sense. He otherwise never planted himself by the front door.) The reason? He knows that this time, Ronnie James isn’t coming home. He knows that his brother will never come through that door again. Nounours was with us when Ronnie James died. He was there and he witnessed the whole thing, and then he approached and sniffed the Wrah-Wrah’s lifeless little body. He understood. He knew.

However….

Two days after Ronnie James’ death, his cremains came through the door. His ashes came home to us in an urn – a small, locked box – last Saturday afternoon, hand-delivered.

 

A little padlock hangs  beneath the heart name-tag, and there are two keys for it taped to the underside of the urn.

A little padlock hangs beneath the heart name-tag, and there are two keys for it taped to the underside of the urn.

 

And somehow, Nounours understands this, too, at what seems to be a very deep level.

There’s a large, flat cushion lying in the inner corner of our sectional couch, a relic from the love-seat we had when we were living in Austin. We brought the love-seat with us from Texas to our apartment when we moved back to Arizona, then donated it when we moved into this house and got a new couch. We kept this one cushion, though, along with the matching ottoman. The two pieces add a touch of muted color to the beige-on-beige thing we’ve got going on in our living room.

In the last weeks of his life, Ronnie James loved to rest on the cushion when I was sitting next to it… and only when I was sitting next to it. It started because he would sit near me along the top of the backrest couch cushions. One day, when he was up there by my right shoulder, I set this oddball cushion down in the corner. He came down and arranged himself on it immediately. He wanted to be near me at all times, if not actually touching me or lying on me.

The cushion became Ronnie James’ special spot when I would sit on this section of the couch, and it’s still there today.

 

Stretching out on the cushion and touching me with his head and hands. He loved to be in physical contact with me, and he never touched me more than he did in those last three days of his life.

Stretching out on the cushion and touching me with his head and hands. He loved to be in physical contact with me, and he never touched me more than he did in those last three days of his life.

 

Nounours, on the other hand, never paid attention to the cushion. Its purpose was always decorative, so no one ever sat on it but Ronnie James once I set it down in that spot a few weeks ago.

 

Ronnie James sleeping next to me on his cushion on May 14 - his last day in this world.

Ronnie James sleeping next to me on his cushion on May 14 – his last day in this world.

 

We were steeped in grief when Ronnie James’ urn came home on Saturday, but we were grateful to have it so soon. It’d been less than 48 hours since his death. We received the urn and then left to attend a friend’s evening wedding – a welcome distraction, focusing on someone else’s happy occasion! When we got home, we sat next to each other on the couch. I was in tears again. Ronnie James’ cushion was terribly vacant next to me. Without really thinking, I set his little urn and his collar on it.

Then Nounours came out from the bedroom and went directly to the corner of the couch.

Nounours appeared when I set the Wrah-Wrah’s urn and collar on the cushion, and we couldn’t believe what happened next.

Nounours, who isn’t a cat who does things deliberately, like Ronnie James did (they were opposites… actually, Ronnie James was like me, whereas Nounours is like Callaghan), walked straight to the corner of the couch and jumped up to Ronnie James’ cushion. He found his brother’s collar. He found his brother’s urn. We’ve never seen him so curious, interested in or focused on anything.

 

First, Nounours discovered the Wrah-Wrah's collar. He pulled it close to him before turning his attention to the urn.

First, Nounours discovered the Wrah-Wrah’s collar. He pulled it close to him before turning his attention to the urn.

 

We couldn’t believe it.

 

Watching this, our hearts broke all over again.

Watching this, our hearts broke all over again.

 

Rubbing his face on the urn...

Rubbing his face on the urn…

 

Flipping it over...

Flipping it over…

 

He seemed to be confused and almost frantic trying to get the box open.

He seemed to be confused and almost frantic trying to get the box open.

 

Callaghan and I were floored, to say the least.

 

It looks like Nounours is reading the label on the bottom of the urn. It's printed with the Wrah-Wrah's name and the date of his cremation.

It looks like Nounours is reading the label on the bottom of the urn. It’s printed with the Wrah-Wrah’s name and the date of his cremation.

 

After pawing at Ronnie James’ urn, hugging it, rubbing his face on it, turning it around and flipping it over twice, he pushed and nosed it into the corner of the couch and rested his face against it. He seemed sad at first, but then he started to purr.

 

Resting his head on the Wrah-Wrah's urn, purring.

Resting his head on the Wrah-Wrah’s urn, purring.

 

Callaghan and I were dumbfounded by this astonishing and obvious display of recognition. Nounours somehow knew that his brother had something to do with the urn. I picked my jaw up from the floor as I reached for my phone to catch a few seconds of Nounours purring with his brother’s ashes.

Apologies for the bad quality of this video… I don’t have the equipment or the experience to make good videos… but here it is, nonetheless:

 

 

Last night, I captured a second recording of Nounours snuggling with his brother’s cremains. He does it every day, no matter where we’ve placed the urn. In this video, they’re on the futon in my office.  (Please excuse not only the bad filming, again, but also the airplane noise cameo at the end! We’re in downtown Tempe, near the Sky Harbor flight paths.)

Also, it just so happens that Ronnie James died one week ago in this exact spot.

 

 

We’ll often find Nounours sitting or lying with the Wrah-Wrah’s urn, hugging it or just touching it. Or, we’ll find him curled up with his brother’s collar, or actually holding the collar in his paw.

He misses his Wrah-Wrah so much.

A second phenomenon is that Nounours has taken on some of Ronnie James’ traits since Ronnie James died, including cleaning himself more, talking more, giving us eye-blink kisses the way the Wrah-Wrah did, walking near us to brush our lower legs with some part of his body, and occupying spaces and places in the house that Ronnie James used to occupy.

 

Poor Nounours.

Poor Nounours.

 

He looks so sad.

He looks so sad.

 

Sometimes, we find Nounours lying on or next to the cushion, arm outstretched, paw resting on his brother's urn.

Sometimes, we find Nounours lying on or next to the cushion, arm outstretched, paw resting on his brother’s urn.

 

And sometimes, we find Nounours just sitting protectively over his brother, like he used to.

And sometimes, we find Nounours just sitting protectively over his brother, like he used to.

 

It’s not just the cushion, either. Nounours will find and snuggle up to Ronnie James’ urn and collar no matter where they are.

 

When I placed the Wrah-Wrah's urn and collar at the foot of the bed, Nounours went to them. We found him like this, holding the Wrah-Wrah's collar close to him.

When I placed the Wrah-Wrah’s urn and collar at the foot of the bed, Nounours went to them. We found him like this, holding the Wrah-Wrah’s collar close to him.

 

This is the last picture taken of Ronnie James and Nounours together:

 

Ronnie James absolutely adored his Nounours. This picture was taken the day he died.  It was the last time Nounours got to nurture his brother.

Ronnie James adored his Nounours. This picture was taken the day he died. It was the last time Nounours got to nurture his brother.

 

Last night marked one week since Ronnie James’ death.

The Wrah-Wrah is Forever.

Ronnie James will have been gone for five days tonight, and it’s still so hard to walk through the house seeing all the places and things he loved… seeing where he should be or would be, were he still here with us in his furry gray suit, and thinking of what he would be doing. This house without him in it just isn’t right. Callaghan, Nounours and I hope you know how much we appreciate your caring, compassion and concern for the loss of our little lovebug.

Here are the words I wanted to say on Friday, but couldn’t. I just wanted to share with you the events of the week leading up to Ronnie James’ death. I also wanted to write a little tribute to the Wrah-Wrah.

 

Ronnie James the night we brought him home (Monday). Wide-eyed and content.

Ronnie James the night we brought him home (Monday). Wide-eyed and content.

 

We brought Ronnie James home from the hospital on Monday night last week, and the next day, he had an exceptionally good day. With his chest freshly tapped, he was his usual happy and active little self. I took the day off from work to be with him. He ate and drank well, also as usual, and he kept himself close to my side all day… and I do mean even closer than usual. Everywhere I went, he went. Every time I settled on the couch or on the bed, he climbed up on me to snuggle, or he curled up next to me. Callaghan was mostly not here, as he spent much of last week working on-site, but later, when I told him about the day, he was encouraged. We ended the day with the tiniest bit of hope.

On Wednesday, I stayed home with the Wrah-Wrah again – I’d asked for those two days off in advance, as soon as we knew that we were bringing him home on Monday evening – and again, he was happy.

But he also told us that he did not wish to keep his appointment for Thursday’s x-ray/fluid re-check. As heartbreaking as this was to us, it made sense, and it wasn’t unexpected.

I thought I’d seen hints of maybe a miracle the day before. He’s eating so enthusiastically! I thought. Maybe if he eats a lot, he’ll get strong enough for his body to be able to absorb the fluid accumulating in his pleural cavity! Maybe he can be one of those lucky cats who survives chylothorax!

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Deep down, I knew I was kidding myself. They don’t call it “end stage” when it’s not. There’s no turning back from the complication of pleural fibrosis. That was the problem… the pleural fibrosis. And that was what I was afraid of all along.

I called Dr. M., anyway, to talk about the Thursday follow-up appointment. He explained that if Ronnie James had accumulated enough fluid to be tapped, the radiologist would have to insert the needle into each pocket in order to aspirate enough of it to relieve the pressure around the lungs. This would create even more pockets for fluid to fill in the pleural cavity. At the rate Ronnie James had been accumulating fluid in the hospital up until the moment he was released, the likelihood of finding a tappable volume of fluid on Thursday was 99.9%.

Did we want to put him through that again for those kinds of odds? Certainly not… and Ronnie James didn’t want to go back there again, either.

We didn’t want a single minute of Ronnie James’ short time left to involve anything but pleasantness and contentment for him, and getting stuffed into his carrier and carted back to the hospital wouldn’t qualify as pleasant. We didn’t want to “buy him time” for selfish reasons. The reality at that point was that nothing we could do would change the outcome, so we canceled his appointment in order to spare him the ordeal.

I spoke with Dr. M. a second time, and also with his primary care doctor at our main clinic, who referred me to someone she knew who made house calls. Then, with my heart crumpled into something unrecognizable in my own chest, I made the phone call. The house-calling vet had room in her schedule for us for the next evening… Thursday night.

Thursday morning, I woke up planning to go to work, but as soon as I got out of bed, I knew that I had to be with Ronnie James on his last day in this world. His favorite thing had always been me being home with him. That was when he was the happiest, and I didn’t want to deny him that at the end, if I could help it. I asked my supervisor if I could take one more day. I’m incredibly grateful to have been able to spend Ronnie James’ last three days at home with him. That time with him was invaluable.

So on Thursday, May 14, Ronnie James got 100,000 more kisses. I got to press my face against his, feel his whiskers on my cheeks, and breathe in the adorable, sweet smell of his kitty breath (a scent that only a cat mom can love, I know). I got to feel his purring on my heart as he stretched out and slept on my chest.

One of the most frustrating things about chylothorax is that it doesn’t lead to a typical, end-of-life decline… a decline that you can see. A decline that makes you feel better about the euthanasia. Ronnie James continued to eat, drink, and use his litter box normally until the very end. Not only that, but he was excited about his meal times and his treats throughout the day. He loved drinking from his water fountain. He loved hanging out in his toy corner. Psychologically, all of this made the decision to euthanize even more difficult. We never observed a diminishing quality of life, so we felt like we were killing him unnecessarily. We had to keep reminding ourselves that the fluid filling up his little chest would soon suffocate him.

With chylothorax, cats and dogs are just fine, until they’re not… and when you can see that they’re not, they’re suffering. You see them struggling to breathe. We didn’t want to take that chance. We didn’t want to end up at the E.R. with him in the middle of the night again. That was not how we wanted his death to happen; that was not what we wanted his last experience to be. When we brought him home from the hospital on Monday night, we promised him that we wouldn’t let him suffer, and honoring that promise became our mission in life for those few days we had left with him.

All day Thursday, the most painful thing was to see Ronnie James being so totally normal. He acted like a normal cat on a normal day. He scarfed up his food and drank water from his water fountain. He came running for his treats. He sat at the window and watched his birdies, chattering at them. He roamed around the house, checking everything out with his usual curiosity, and the only odd thing there was that he did this looking kind of detached, as if he was exploring a house that he’d never seen before. It was like he was patrolling, or doing a military re-con exercise. He investigated the whole place thoroughly and purposefully. It was like he was making sure that everything was okay.

As on the previous two days, he spent lots of time snuggling with me. He spent lots of time snuggling with his beloved Nounours. When Callaghan was home, he spent quality time with him, as well.

The vet arrived that night, and Callaghan, Nounours and I were as ready as we were going to be. Ronnie James was ready, too. He was still behaving normally, but his breathing had started to grow faster in the last few hours, so we knew that our timing was good. Chylothorax parents at the end of the struggle know the nuances to watch for very well. We know how to count our baby’s breaths every four hours to gauge when some kind of action should be taken. We were confident in our decision regarding what action to take this time. At 9:59pm, from the comfort of his own home, Ronnie James entered into a better dimension, leaving his embattled body behind in this world. He died in my arms, with his head in his Daddy’s hands, as he loved that so much, and with his brother Nounours nearby.

My heart was destroyed.

I’m going to reiterate, because I can’t say it enough… it was agonizing to put a perfectly normal-looking and behaving cat to sleep. It wasn’t at all like when I had to put my Frankie kitty to sleep because of kidney failure. Frankie did all of the typical things. He stopped eating. At the end, he pretty much stopped moving. It was visibly clear that he was near death. Looking at the Wrah-Wrah being so normal, we just had to keep reminding ourselves of the Armageddon happening inside his chest. We had to remember that in a very short period of time, he would have started to suffer. Liberating Ronnie James from his earthly body was the only humane thing we could do.

The venomous caterpillar that set off this disastrous chain of events won. We did everything we could to save Ronnie James; the damage was just too extensive. But if we hadn’t rescued him from that woman in Montélimar, he would have continued living in misery before dying horribly on his own, slowly suffocating to death from the inside. That is how Dr. M. described a natural death from chylothorax.

I categorized all of my posts about the Wrah-Wrah’s experience and put the category as a link in my blog’s sidebar to make it easier for people to find. There’s a paucity of information about this disease online, and I hope that my documentation here can be helpful to cat and dog parents who find themselves confronted with this terrible diagnosis for their fur-babies.

The Wrah-Wrah was extraordinarily brave and so strong and so full of life until the very end. His love of cuddles and kisses never abated. He never lost his taste for his favorite treats. His beautiful gray fur stayed velvety soft. He continued vocalizing his conversations with us, and he continued saying “I love you” with long, slow blinks of his wide eyes. No one gave kitty eye-blink kisses the way he did, by the way. He would find our gaze, hold our eye contact, and initiate the gesture, keeping his eyes closed for a few seconds before slowly opening them again, making sure that we didn’t miss it.

Ronnie James was my little soul mate from Day One. As I said to a friend the other day, he was my angel kitty who came and saved me when I was grieving the loss of Detta, my kitty who went missing in the French Alpes. I love Nounours dearly, but the Wrah-Wrah and I immediately formed a bond of a depth and strength I’ve never experienced with any other being. It was only in mid-October 2012 that we brought the two little guys home. When I start to dissolve in anguish over having had such a short time with Ronnie James, I remind myself that I should be grateful for every day that I had with him. And I am. I’m so very grateful for every day that I had with the Wrah-Wrah in the two years and seven months he was with us.

Sometime last fall, when we thought we were just dealing with asthma, I started to feel panicky about Ronnie James. I had an ominous feeling. We would be administering his inhaler asthma medications, and I would suddenly tear up and ask Callaghan, desperately, Can the Wrah-Wrah be Forever? I wanted to hear someone say, Yes, the Wrah-Wrah is Forever.

And you know what? He is. The Wrah-Wrah is Forever.

Like his namesake, Ronnie James was a little rock star. Throughout it all, no one could believe how brave he was, how alive he was. Everyone who knew him adored him. He was just such a smart, sweet, and most personable and loving little kitty. Ronnie James will always be my Rainbow in the Dark.

Here is a sampling of some of the pics I took of the Wrah-Wrah in his last three days. I especially wanted to capture his snuggly moments.

On Tuesday the 12th:

 

Curled up on my robe on the couch.

Curled up on my robe on the couch.

 

Curled up against me....

Curled up against me….

 

Laying on my belly, hugging me.

Laying on my belly, hugging me.

 

I couldn't resist taking a picture of it reflected in my laptop screen.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of it reflected in my laptop screen.

 

Stretched out on my legs, looking at pictures of himself.

Stretched out on my legs, looking at pictures of himself.

 

On my legs, on the bed. I ruffled his fur to demonstrate his new mohawk.

On my legs, on the bed. I ruffled his fur to demonstrate his new mohawk.

 

On Wednesday the 13th:

 

Sleeping, hugging my legs.

Sleeping, hugging my legs.

 

He jumped up to sit on his favorite bar-stool even the day before he died.

He jumped up to sit on his favorite bar-stool even the day before he died.

 

On Thursday the 14th:

 

He kept eating up until the very end, too.

He kept eating up until the very end, too.

 

Ronnie James fully enjoyed loving on his Daddy, too, when he was there.

Ronnie James fully enjoyed loving on his Daddy, too, when he was there.

 

On Friday, I have a story of Nounours’ to tell, as we’ve been witness to a true phenomenon in his grieving process for his brother.

Thank you again for reading, and for being here with us.