Wednesday, February 15, 2012

RIP Stripey


This mongrel cat of dubious parentage… He loved to eat things he shouldn’t, starting with plastic shopping bags, then onto butter, and ice cream, and cookies, and cake. A few houseplants here and there to satisfy his mouth from time to time. He would find ways to climb onto counters, tables, and anything for a forbidden, tasty treat.

Amy named him Stripey when she was about seven years old. In an accidental litter, he was the first of the kittens to start showing some stripes.

He was born in Aloha, Ore., then made the ferry trip to Petersburg, Alaska when we all moved up. Vivace, our Bengal was his constant companion from the time they were kittens together.

Shelley was his favorite person. When we first brought him home, we had an older cat, a Siamese named Tora. In order to try to get the two used to each other, Stripey was given a home in Shelley’s room. From that time on, she became “his person.”

No huge wonder that at age five his obesity caught up with him, getting him sent on Alaska Airlines to Juneau Veterinary Hospital for emergency treatment. His long-term prognosis at this time was already questionable.

His defective heart, whether born that way or caused by his obesity, threw out occasional clots, resulting in thromboembolism. Cats that suffer this condition don’t typically have a very long future, if they survive at all. But he managed to survive almost three years after the first episode.

He loved laps. Complementing his love of food was his love of inactivity. Naps on laps: his favorite activity.

Oh, he would engage cat toys from time to time if he felt like it. He had a habit of yawning once or twice in preparation for play with a toy.

He never did learn to properly cover up his business in the litter box. (Bad parenting, I imagine…) He often leapt out of the box, scattering litter all over the floor.

Yes, he had annoying habits, he was messy, he cost us a lot of vet payments, and resulted in quite a bit of lost sleep and anxiety these past couple of months. But we loved him anyway. He was a fighter. Until this very last time he wouldn’t give up. He fought to live; much longer than any of the professionals thought he would.

We will miss your adorable, pretty blue eyes; the luxurious and silky coat; the hefty warmth; the plaintive, quiet meows; the intensely loud purrs; and the nightly ritual of sleeping on someone’s legs and sometime their neck.

It was so wonderful to have you around for eight years and nine months.

RIP, Stripey.

God suffers too (reflections on our cat, Stripey)

Our mixed breed cat, Stripey, not quite nine years old, has had health problems for that past three years.

Three years ago, due to his obesity, he came down with hepatitis (fatty liver syndrome) which required him to be flown to Juneau for emergency treatment and surgery to put a feeding tube into him.

A short while after his return he experienced his first episode of feline thromboembolism (blood clot blocks the arteries where it divides and goes down into his limbs, usually the hind ones) due to his heart murmur. It resulted in paralysis of his hind legs for a short period of time. With some injections of Heparin he recovered from this episode.

It was this first episode that I took as a sign that I needed to go visit my mother. I consider it a sort of miracle because it was only a few months later that she passed away due to ALS.

From then until last Thanksgiving Stripey was fairly healthy though he experienced a few minor thromboembolism episodes. Each time he recovered fully.

But since last Thanksgiving (2011) he has been experienced more frequent and severe episodes. Around Christmas time he experienced a series of episodes, some more severe than others.

Around the middle of January he experienced his worst case yet. He was in severe pain and appeared to be suffering greatly. (Why is it that this nearly always happens in the middle of the night, on weekends, and/or when the vet is out of town; i.e., higher vet bills?) It was to the point where I didn’t think he would recover and euthanasia was the only reasonable course of action. Elise and Shelley were in Hawaii at this time and Stripey being “Shelley’s cat” I debated whether or not to try to keep him alive until they got back (It was just a couple of days to wait).

Surprisingly his suffering decreased dramatically about 24 hours after the onset, so I chose to wait it out. Over the four weeks since then he has recovered and this past week he has been acting more like his old self.

However (the big word…), this evening (Feb. 14) approaching midnight as I was on the phone with Shelley, right after he was being himself, trying to jump on my lap he showed some suspicious signs that something was again the matter with him. I still had Heparin from the last episode so I injected that into him immediately. Unfortunately as the minutes and hours passed, his condition, rather than improving or even remaining the same, appeared to get worse. As I write this he appears to be in considerable discomfort and pain.

There is nothing I can do except to watch him, be with him (though I can only handle that for very sort periods at a time), try to comfort him, and pray that his suffering will somehow be reduced.

I suffer with him.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the parallels between Stripey and me, and with me and God.

I am sick and suffering. There is only so much God can do (I realize some readers will disagree, but this is what I believe) while preserving the freedom of all by allowing sin and all its consequences to run its course. Just as I stand by wanting to fix all that is wrong with Stripey, I believe that in most cases God must stand by, wanting to fix everything but unable to do so because to do so would violate freedom of conscience.

So God suffers with me (and with Stripey, I’m certain).

I cannot fix Stripey, but God, potentially, has the power to fix everything that is wrong in the world. I hear Stripey’s wails, and I hurt – deeply. God hears our cries, yet he is unable to fix things – at least not yet. How much greater is his suffering…

Stripey can’t understand why he is suffering. But he loves me (as much as a cat can) and he wants me to be with him.

I may not fully understand why I go through all the suffering, disappointments, hurts, and difficulties of this life. Hopefully I have a bit more grey matter in my brain that I can partly grasp some understanding, but in the end all I can do is love God and want to be with him, and he with me so that I can simply take comfort in his presence as he suffers with me.

The Bible doesn’t discuss whether or not our beloved pets will be reunited with us in the world recreated. I trust God will do what is best, yet I hope that I’ll be reunited with Stripey, with Tora (our first cat), and with Vivvy (if our time here lasts long enough for her to pass to death).

I can only tell Stripey (and I doubt he understands) that soon, his suffering will be over when he is euthanized.

We have a better hope. While we may suffer in this world, we can have hope and joy because we are promised that once sin is seen to be what it truly is, God will come to eradicate sin and all that is wrong with the world.

While I do the best to live each day in joy and peace today, I look forward to the tomorrow when the promise of recreation and restoration will be fulfilled in its entirety. I look forward to being reunited with my mom and my beloved pets.