Ode to Annie

Yesterday afternoon I took our cat, Annie, to the vet. She's been coughing for about a week (like cats do when they're trying to eject a hairball, but no hairballs ever came out), and she started eating about half as much food as she normally does (very strange for Annie, who is not a self-regulator when it comes to food). I figured she might have bronchitis or even pneumonia, since she was acting like I do when I get pneumonia.

So the vet's office is only 8 blocks away, and it's tough to get a cab without walking at least halfway there, so I figured I'd just walk the whole way with the cat carrier. How hard could it be? As it turns out, much harder than I'd hoped—probably because I was lugging around extra pregnancy weight in addition to the 10-12 lbs. of cat and carrier.

The most comfortable position to haul the carrier, for both of us, turned out to be held out in front of me, like a tray. The only problem with this position was that I couldn't see where I was going—a dangerous thing when you're pregnant. (I already fell off a curb on our last visit to San Francisco, and my vision wasn't even obstructed then.) I shifted the carrier from one side to the other so I could see, which wasn't quite as efficient weight-distribution-wise, but it was better than any other position I tried.

I'd made it about four blocks when a businessman who looked like a thinner Dick Cheney passed me, smiled, and uttered what would have been the caption for the photo had he taken one just then: "Precious cargo." It was obvious from his glance that he meant both the cat and the belly, and I smiled back at him. A few steps later I had to stop and rest. I was beginning to regret having stashed a library book in my backpack in case there was a long wait; the hardback, combined with my water bottle (never leave home without one when you're pregnant), were adding another few pounds to my load. I ended up having to stop for rest three more times before I made it to the vet—good thing I'd left early. I resolved to take a cab home.

As I finished filling out the paperwork for a new patient at the vet's office, Annie popped her head out of the top of the carrier (which I'd unzipped a bit upon arrival, so she could see me if she wanted to) and began to cough—this time with her tongue hanging out, which I'd never seen before. "Uh oh," I said. "Uh oh." The receptionist was on the phone immediately, and I heard her say, "Dr. Vine, your 4:20 is here, and she's not doing too well." Annie and I were ushered back into an exam room asap.

Dr. Vine was about my age, and really nice. She asked questions about Annie's symptoms, and she listened to all the answers intently. She then listened to Annie's heart and lungs (she said her heart sounds were muffled, possibly due to fluid around the heart) and felt her abdomen. "I can feel something in her belly," she said. "It might just be a poop, or a bit of undigested food, but it might also be a mass of some kind. Do you mind if I take some x-rays?" I said no problem, I'd brought a book, so I could wait the 20 minutes it would take to develop the film.

After reading for a bit, Dr. Vine came out to tell me she had Annie's x-rays ready. She showed me what she'd felt in Annie's belly—a huge mass that was squishing her intestines down (which explains why Annie's been crying when she poops lately—it wasn't hemorrhoids)—and said it could be related to any number of organs in the area, including the liver or pancreas. Then she pointed to the x-ray of Annie's lungs. "All of this should be black," she said, outlining an area that was almost completely white, except for a small, oval-shaped space in the middle.

I'm not sure when I realized that this was Very Bad and started to cry, but it was probably right after Dr. Vine started outlining my options. She got me a tissue, and then took one for herself. I think perhaps the fact that I'd been so calm up until that moment and then broke down got to her. The tumor was so massive, and the fact that it seemed to be spreading to her lungs, made surgery and chemo the pipe dream option (one that I probably wouldn't have considered anyway, since it would have made Annie's life miserable). That left two options: tap her lungs so that she could come home with us for a couple days, or euthanize her right then.

I opted for the tap, since I was so shocked and saddened that I didn't think I could cope if I didn't have time to say goodbye. I know that she only has a couple days—a week at best—but in the last 24 hours I've had a chance to tell her how much she's meant to me, and that has meant all the world. Annie has been an amazing companion; Al and I were just saying the other day how she's "so my cat," even though Al got her long before he met me. She follows me everywhere, seems sad when I'm not around, has gone from a don't-touch-me cat to one who actually *wants* to sit on my lap, and gives me someone to talk and sing to when I'm in the house all day alone. And perhaps most importantly, Annie helped me prepare for parenthood. Before I met her, I was afraid of taking on a houseplant, much less a pet or a child. She showed me that along with responsibilities come rewards. Thank you Annie, for everything.

Annie and I hang out on the stairs

[Incidentally, I didn't have to take a cab home. I called Al from the vet's office in tears, and he came to meet me right away. He carried Annie home tray-style, while I watched for potholes.]

Posted by Lori in our cat and pregnancy at 7:39 PM on October 22, 2004

Comments

Any of us that have loved a pet and felt that our pet was part of the family can completely empathize and sympathize. The hurt you feel now will fade with time, but the smiles and laughs you've enjoyed that Annie has provided will last your lifetime. Best of thoughts...

Posted by: PSoTD at October 22, 2004 8:58 PM

Thanks for the kind thoughts -- I really appreciate it. There will be more political posts again soon, btw, I promise. Just need to get over the Red Sox elation and the Annie sadness first.

Posted by: Lori at October 22, 2004 9:46 PM

Hi Lori,

Probably because Ripley's death is so fresh to me still and I still ache for her, my dear dear friend, I couldn't make it through your post today with out crying for you and Annie. My thoughts are with you and Al this week as you face the loss of such a dear friend.

Sincerely
Lori

Posted by: Lori Herrington at October 22, 2004 11:41 PM

Hello,

I just want to let you know that i was moved by your story. I wish you all the strength you need for the coming days and a lot more happy compensation, especially if it is delivered by more Red Sox victories.

Kind regards,

Dollev (Dutch cat lover and more or less a Red Sox fan)

Posted by: Dollev at October 24, 2004 6:13 PM

Hey Lori,
I'm so sorry to hear about Annie. I'm so glad you're getting a chance to say goodbye. There's something special about the way we get to love our pets. Not a lot of words just a lot of love.

Posted by: Stephen at October 25, 2004 9:54 AM

I'm at a loss for words...I've never had to deal with the loss of a pet, but can't imagine my life without our dog, Gracie. Oh, Lori, I'm so sorry you and Al have to go through this! Perhaps Annie "knows" she has fulfilled her destiny and that, with her help, you are now confident in your ability to be a great mother! To Annie...

Posted by: Josie at October 25, 2004 11:36 AM

The photo of you sitting on the stairs is very touching, I hope you keep it and put it up. It seems to be showing some deep connection that the two of you shared. I'm sorry you lost her and that it was so shocking. She seems like a treasure. Take care.

Posted by: Lauren at October 25, 2004 3:15 PM

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