Klowe (pronounced like “Chloe”) and Kris came into our lives together, female and male rescue cats, respectively, via the local PetSmart store, about six years ago. They were already grown and had no actual birth records, so we always had to guess at their ages.
Admittedly, of the two, Klowe was the one who was in trouble more. She had a tendency to do things to irritate us, not the least of which was leaving “Tootsie Rolls” in places around the house instead of in her litter box. She could be obstinate, such as when she would decide that the dining room table was a comfy place for a nap, and then object (verbally and vehemently) to being told to get down. Whenever I would try to write something down, she would jump up and stand on the paper so I couldn’t write.
She wasn’t a particularly attractive cat. She had a unique gray spot to one side of her white nose, a definite defining mark. She was solid gray with white “boots.” Her fur, while very soft, had a kind of natty look. She was, in most senses, an ordinary house cat.
But she was also a “lover.” When we decided to get a cat (and ended up with two), I had said that I wanted a cat that would curl up on my lap and purr while I petted it, and Klowe fulfilled that request. Often, while I was sitting in my recliner, she would hop up into the chair with me and either settle down on my lap or snuggle down beside me. She had an odd habit of pressing her head against my thigh before she fell asleep, purring — it seemed to give her a sense of security or something. I thought it was adorable.
Speaking of purring — could that cat purr! I sometimes thought she had swallowed a lawn mower motor, it was so loud. And she could purr at the drop of a hat — at the first stroke of a petting — at the first second of settling down next to you. More recently, we developed a nighttime “routine” quite by accident, and much to Kianna’s chagrin (Kianna is Evelyn’s hearing-assist service dog). Once Evelyn and I were in bed, Klowe would arrive, walk between us, and, every so often, put her nose right in my ear and PURR-RR-RR! I would tell her to lie down beside me so I could pet her, which didn’t usually work, as she was a peripatetic pussycat and found it hard to stay in one place for very long. But when she did finally settle down, she would stay until she decided it was time to leave, jump up as though something startled her, and head out the door.
Klowe could be playful when she wanted to be. If I got a belt out to wear and she were on the bed, I knew I could have fun with her by pulling the belt slowly across the bed, because she could never resist pouncing on it. Even Kianna and Klowe had a “game” they played together where Kianna would teasingly nip at Klowe’s ears (and sometimes her whole head), and she would stand there and let her do it!
None of this is particularly unusual for a house cat. And that’s why I’m taken aback when it comes time to say good-bye to such a pet.
We knew that something wasn’t right with Klowe for the several days before we decided to have her checked out at our veterinarian’s, for example, there was no indication that she’d been eating. She started spending time in secluded spots around the house. She didn’t have her usual “spark.” She wouldn’t come out for “treats time,” even when I found her on our bed and shook the treats bag in front of her (lately, if she did come out for her treats, she would sniff at them and then walk away). When we called the vet’s, we expected that they would find something treatable.
We were wrong.
On Thursday, June 27, we took Klowe into the office in her “pet taxi” and came home with an empty “pet taxi.” It was horrible. Evelyn, Karlyn, and I listened as Dr. Levinson returned to the exam room after each test to tell us the results of those tests and the conclusion that they were gradually being narrowed down to. Finally, there was no other conclusion other than: Klowe had lung cancer. And there was nothing that could be done. While she might not have been in any actual pain, her breathing was labored due to fluid that was forming around her lungs and would continue to form even if it were extracted repeatedly. In a kind way, Dr. Levinson was telling us what we knew was going on, but didn’t want to hear. We hadn’t left the house prepared to hear this news — not anything this drastic. We knew she was sick. We didn’t know that we would never see her again.
I don’t handle these things well. It doesn’t matter how many times you go thru this (and we’ve been down this road many times over the years), there’s just something about having to make the life-ending decision for an innocent animal — a family pet who has trusted you to do your best for her — that carries a plethora of emotions: guilt, doubt (will we second-guess ourselves when this is over?), loss, grief, and a soul-wrenching appeal to the one we’re losing to ask forgiveness.
All three of us shed tears that afternoon while stroking Klowe’s natty fur for the last time. In a moment that defies explanation, Klowe seemed resigned to her fate, as seems to happen in these situations. It’s almost as though she could somehow sense that God was waiting on the “other side” for her to trot thru the gates. As though she was saying, “Don’t worry — it’s OK. I’ll be fine.” She showed no resistance. She gently lay her head on the blanket she was lying on. We kept petting her. The doctor inserted the needle in the catheter, and within seconds, her little head went softly limp. It was over. It was quick. It was peaceful. For her. I swear she even had a smile on her face as the life left her.
The rest of us brought our pain and tears home with us. There will be changes now. We won’t have to cover the baskets of clean laundry for fear of finding “Tootsie Rolls” in the unfolded clothes. I won’t have to cover our bedroom humidifier while I fill the reservoir to keep her from drinking the water from the tray. I won’t have to account for the whereabouts of two cats before I go to bed. I won’t have to scold her for being on the dining room table, kitchen counter, corner shelf, etc., nor put up with her flailing back claws when I remove her from those places. Most of all, I won’t hear that soothing purr or feel her contentedly lying on my lap either. It hurts.
At times like this I take great comfort in the words of Psalm 36.6c: “You save humans and animals alike, O Lord.” (NRSV). In that belief, I commend Klowe to God’s love and care. Thank you, Klowe, for enriching our lives with love and laughter.