Monday, October 1, 2018

Jerry (1999 - 2018)

Right after finishing my benefit show on Sunday afternoon for Relay for Life at SLCS, I went downstairs and I immediately sensed that something was wrong. As I walked out to my patio, I looked back into the living room, and all four of our cats were there, but our oldest kitty Jerry seemed to not be well and the other cats seemed to want me to notice this. It's hard to describe; she was laying down as she often did, but in an odd position, and just seemed deflated in some way.

Jerry had been going through a series of health problems that are common for any elderly animal, including humans. A number of months ago she was diagnosed with diabetes, which required some changes in her diet and a daily injection of insulin after her meals. But then, on top of the diabetes, she began having other health issues. She developed lymphoma, and her veterinarian had also recommended a biopsy.

When you have an animal that's going on 20 years old, you're faced with the difficult decision regarding the treatment of various maladies. While the procedure itself may extend the animal's life by a short while, eventually the inevitability of age-related problems catches up and you have to wonder whether what you're putting the animal through is worth the extra time you might get with him/her. There's a point where you have to put aside your own selfish desire to have your animal friend be there forever... and frankly, there are some parallels to human family and friends in this as well. In Jerry's case, we're talking about a feline that was the equivalent of a human who'd lived to be well over 100 years old.

Saying Goodbye
Anyway, I'd finished my show, and Christina joined me a couple of minutes later. The moment she walked out to the patio, she said, "I need to take Jerry to the vet." It was a pretty common thing to hear at our home in recent times, but there was a greater level of concern in her voice. I pointed out that I'd also noted Jerry wasn't looking too good. She couldn't even stand, and it was hard to see her in that condition.

Jerry had received excellent treatment by the folks at Hermosa Animal Hospital, a place that has helped care for every animal in my life for more than 20 years, but they are closed on Sundays, and there was another place nearby where Jerry had gone for health care. It's called VCA Advanced Veterinary Care Center, and it's where Hermosa Animal Hospital recommended for after-hour emergencies.

Christina scooped up Jerry into a carrier, and I got behind the wheel as we headed up to Lawndale. They took Jerry in right away, and we stayed in the waiting area while she was examined. When we were called back to the room, the prognosis was not good. Her temperature and blood pressure were both very low, and the treatment we'd been giving her for the lymphoma had caused a spike in her blood sugar. The vet who spoke to us was very kind and didn't push us toward any specific decision, but she said that the only thing they could do would be an aggressive treatment that involved Jerry being left there, sedated and hooked to IVs and so on.

For a younger animal who'd perhaps had many healthy years ahead of her, we'd have gone that route in a heartbeat. But at Jerry's age, Christina and I both knew that any effort to prolong her life wouldn't be fair to the cat, and would only satisfy our own selfish desire to hang on to her as long as possible. I left the room so Christina could spend a few minutes alone with Jerry while they prepped her for euthanasia. I am happy to say that in those last moments, when they got her warmed up and medicated so she was no longer feeling pain and discomfort, she purred and held Christina's finger with her paw. Then she was gone.

Driving back home with an empty carrier was among the more difficult things I've done in my life. I could barely see the lanes on Hawthorne Boulevard due to my vision being obscured with tears that flowed like a dam that had burst inside of me. I've been through it before; most people have if they're lucky enough to have grown close to an animal in their lives. But, as I told my son later that day, it never, ever gets easier. Not when you're nine, not when you're 29, not when you're 49. It's a hard thing to handle, tempered only by the knowledge that the animal you loved is no longer in pain.

A Proper Memorial
Jerry Lee was born in 1999 in Tacoma, WA. She was adopted as a kitten from Pierce County Animal Shelter by Christina. Jerry's namesake was Jerry Garcia, the founder and frontman of the Grateful Dead, because her tortoiseshell coat resembled a tie-dye. Jerry had many feline friends with whom she shared various residences over the course of her life, and was never an aggressive or overly territorial cat. She was equally friendly and kind to all humans who knew her.

Jerry had multiple residences in Washington before moving to Southern California in 2008. She seemed to enjoy a leisurely life, with her favorite activities including eating, sunbathing, and watching TV. She leaves behind her cat roommates Sneak, Dash, and Pan, as well as a number of humans who loved her company. She will always be remembered and missed.

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