Honoring a beloved pet through writing

In February of 2009, I forever lost my wonderful cat, Samu (short for Samuel).  Because I'm a writer, I expressed my grief in an article that I posted to my Yahoo Voices page in hope to not only let out some of the pain I was feeling in my heart, but to hopefully help other pet parents who might be facing the loss of their furry friends.  My grief turned to purpose when I wrote and illustrated The Cat Who Wanted to be a Reindeer starring Samu as the lead character along with my other cats who were still with me at the time.  Now, I don't claim to be an artist, but I figured no one could capture the personalities of my pets better than myself so I spent quite a bit time working on the illustrations, more so than the actual story.  I'm proud of the result, and even more proud that people have responded to the "Sam" in the book the same way everyone who ever met the real-life Samu did; with lots of love.  The truth is, everyone loved Samu.  He as quite the social butterfly and he was the king of my household and natural leader of my other cats whom he treated as if they were all his babies.

The Cat Who Wanted to be a Reindeer is available in both paperback and digital format for Kindle on Amazon.com.  The Kindle edition has been marked down to $1.99 just in time for Christmas.  It's a heartwarming tale written out of love.  And much like in life, Samu continues to spread joy immortalized and memorialized in a story that teaches there is no greater gift than to be exactly who we are.

Original article "Losing a Pet" posted February 25th, 2009 (Samuel - April 2004-February 24, 2009)

"The worst feeling in the world for me, to date, was felt yesterday. Yesterday I had to make the hard, gut-wrenching decision to put my cat down after a four year battle with his medical condition, Megacolon. I hate that term "put down".  It sounds cruel when cruelty was what I sought to avoid - forcing Samu to keep living through such pain. Sammy was the best cat, best friend, and best companion I could ever have asked for, and although we only had seven years together, I loved him every single day of those seven years.

I'd previously written an article here about cat constipation which was, of course, inspired by him. I thought it was due to his weight which had climbed to near 20 pounds before his veterinarian and I started trying to control his diet. The funny thing is, I never overfed him, or gave him table scraps. He had a low metabolism; a factor not in his favor.

Sammy had a Bull dog build; wide, thick body and short legs. I often thought he thought he was a dog anyway by the way he'd come running when I whistled, and walked beside me everywhere I went in the house. He even growled when he heard people passing outside the front door of my apartment. I'm sure he was always surprised when he opened his chops to bark and a meow came out instead! He always made me laugh.

Sam's condition worsened, requiring periodic enemas at his Vet's office. I hated for him to have to go through it. For a while, we managed six straight months of normalcy on a diet of wet cat food with fresh, cut-up green beans mixed in. It seemed to work, but at the end of those six months, he started having not only the constipation, but also severe belly cramps. The painful sound he made when those cramps seized him made me cry. He began needing Laxatone (a cat laxative and hairball treatment) almost daily. I had to stop the green beans because I feared the fiber was causing him to have the cramping. His colon had already lost its ability to contract and properly push his stool down the pipe, and I took him in to the pet emergency clinic. He was so impacted, they had to anesthetize him to manually dig it out; and they still couldn't get it all. I found myself back in the E.R. one week later with the same problem followed by two follow up trips to his Vet that week.

Finally, they kept him over the weekend to "clean" him out, start him on a medication called Cisipride (used to promote colon contractions), and to monitor the progress before letting him come home. I visited him before and after work, bringing in a T-shirt I'd slept in so he could have my scent in his cage, and also his brush so I could brush him while visiting. Sammy definitely owned my heart, still does.

He seemed to be improved so his Vet let him come home with me on Monday saying we'd see how he did. He explained that they couldn't get all the stool out with the enemas, but the Cisipride should start to work. I felt hopeful. Sammy seemed really happy to be coming home and we had a nice evening until close to midnight. I was sitting in my recliner with him curled up in my lap when he was seized with belly cramps; and only two days after his last enema! I couldn't believe it. His cramping lasted for about three hours, and around three a.m., he vomited and finally got comfortable enough to sleep. These were typical signs of his constipation that I was used to. I let him sleep and went off to bed, crying myself to sleep because I knew that if he didn't improve by morning, that the new medication wasn't working. He'd already been on it for five days and it should have been working after two. In the morning, after only four hours of sleep, I got up and went into the living room to see how he was doing. I found him sleeping in the cat bed (which he only does when he feels bad). He lifted his head and looked at me. "How are you sweetie?" He seemed a little listless. I went off to the shower, and next thing I know, I heard him vomiting again. I broke down and cried. I knew that his situation had bottomed out. I knew what this meant, and my heart broke. I felt defeated since we'd wracked up quite a bill over the last two weeks trying to get things right. I can't say it was all for nothing because Sammy was worth every cent.

I called his Vet who'd asked me to call for the next three days for updates on his condition. Tearfully, I told him about Sam's bad night. I made the decision that Sam wouldn't have to suffer anymore just because I couldn't let go. I'd never be ready to lose him, and I had to do what was right by him. An appointment was made for 2:30 in the afternoon, and the rest of the day was spent doing whatever Sammy wanted to do.
I let him go out on my patio where he sniffed around all my plants. I took pictures. His grandma (my mom) came over to spend his last day with him too. We loved him, petted him, and tried to make his day a good one. He didn't eat. He took only a sip of water. He was running a small temperature. He had no real perk left in him.

At 2:00, we loaded him up into his carrier, and took him for his last ride in my car. At the Vet's office, everyone who'd taken care of Sam in the last week came to see him. Even his Vet felt sad because, like me, he wanted so much to get him past this difficulty. Sam's colon just didn't want to work anymore. Surgery wasn't even a viable option since his weight and his narrow pelvis would make the odds of both surviving and being successfully recuperated, very slim.

It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, let my best friend go. I held him close to me, and told him "Don't look Sammy; just remember how much I love you". When he was gone, my grief poured out. I don't think I've ever cried that hard in my life. Writing about it seems cathartic, but I'm still crying over this loss. I simply wanted to share Sam's story with others who might have a cat going through this same scenario. It's hard to see your pet suffer. As a cat mommy, making the decision to end his suffering was the most trying, and difficult one of my life. I couldn't be selfish and keep making him go through so much trauma for so small a result.

Now, I have to find my way through living without Sammy greeting me at the door, sitting on my lap, giving me head-butts, keeping me company in the kitchen, grooming the other cats, and making me laugh with his wonderful antics. Sammy will be missed always.

My wonderful Samu sitting pretty.

If any one of you reading this has a cat going through something similar, please get them checked out by a veterinarian. Simple constipation can turn into Megacolon very quickly. Megacolon is a condition where the large intestine loses its ability to contract and push stool out. The large intestine expands, holding a lot of stool which can lead to severe impaction. If caught early, medication like Cisipride can work wonders for maybe up to two years, but then eventually, surgery or euthanasia would have to be considered, depending on the health of your cat at that time.

If your pet means as much to you as mine did to me, I urge you to keep up with veterinary care so your pet doesn't suffer. I've been Sam's mom for seven fantastic years. I don't regret any of it. His loss will mark me for the rest of my days. I only hope that he watches over me, and will be there waiting for me when it's my time to leave this world."


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