The Final Chapter : A Rose Withers And Falls
It seemed to have happened suddenly. Too suddenly. One moment vibrance. The next: withered away to nothingness. How could I have not seen the signs. Things were fine just a month ago. Or at least I thought so. There is no blame. There is only the sorrow and ravages of age and all that it entails.
She came into our lives with the passing of an unseen brother. She was Grace—before she even knew it. He was Will. They entered this world together in a barn on the outskirts of Seattle; the result of a carefree mother. Their destinies not yet foretold or fulfilled. But by some miracle, they were “saved”. Not in a born again Christian way, but in a more practical and humane way. They weren’t the second coming, but they sure healed us, in ways seen and unseen. Yes. Miracles.
Will and Grace (OMG! How gay!) later renamed Rocky and Rose, were found and rescued from a barn somewhere outside Seattle, Washington. When my then partner Chris and I had to put down his sixteen year old Manx cat, Mason, after succumbing to cancer, we started to search for another cat. I came into our computer room and said something like: “I was thinking. Maybe we should get another cat or two.” And as I looked at Chis’ computer screen, he was already searching PetFinder. He said: “Yeah … I was thinking the same thing.” He showed me the photos of a brother and sister duo: Will & Grace. Yes. How damn gay! We went to see them that day.
Long story short: we rescued them/they rescued us that same day. When we saw them for the first time in that woman’s tiny little bathroom, Will climbed from the sink up Chis’ back. To which Cris said: “He’s a little rock climber—let’s call him Rocky”. A few days later I decided to name “Grace” after my paternal grandmother, Rose. So there they were, in our shared apartment—Rock & Ro!! Oh …. and let’s not forget Angel (my found street cat) too. The five of us: one big new happy family.
Fast forward several years a break up and a shared condo short sale later … I was moving back to Asbury Park, NJ. I ended up taking both Rocky and Rose because they bonded with me. Chris took Angel to his new home, because she bonded with him. Strange. But it worked for all concerned.
That’s how this all started. That’s how we got to New Jersey. We lived in my Asbury apartment for seven years, before moving in with my Mom in Lanoka Harbor NJ. My health was in pretty bad shape. I took early retirement on my 62nd birthday and we all moved to Bev-er-ly … or Lanoka Harbor—if you will.
We lived with my mom for three years. During that time, shortly after his fifteenth birthday, Rocky became ill. Very ill. I ended up having to put him dowm. Thaty was one of the most heart wrenching times and decions of my life.
A week later I found a Manx brother duo an hour away from Mom’s place in the hinterlands of the Pine Barrens. We met … and I was in love—AGAIN! I later dubbed them Rocco (in homage to Rocky) and Rudie (in homage to the Clash). Worked for me!
We were once again just oner big happy family: Rose, Rudie, Rocco, my mom, and myself. My mom was quite taken with those two new fur balls. She never had cats in her home before. But she fell in love with them. How could she not?
When my mom passed away January 3, 2022 I had to start looking for a new home for me and the three fur balls. We ended up in our new house and home here in the Englewood neighborhood of Independence, Missouri. Things were going fine until about a month ago.
I know it didn’t happen suddenly. But that’s exactly how it felt. One day Rose (AKA “The Bear”) was her weight appropriate self. Even for seventeen year—she was pretty damn healthy. Or not. One day I picked her up to hug her and she was so “light”. I couldn’t believe my senses or my eyes. She was so emaciated. She had even lost muscle mass. Wasn’t really sure how long this process took, but it sure seemed fast. Or not.
When I took her to the vet 2+ weeks ago her blood tests were so out of whack. Her red blood count was unbelievably low, and she wasn’t producing enough red blood cells to keep up with the loss. Her white blood cell count was through the roof—indicating some kind of infection. I was flabbergasted that The Bear now weighed 4.5 pounds. When she stopped eating (from depression) after Rocky died she went down to 6.5 pounds. This means she had to have lost 4-5 pounds in a VERY short time.
The vet put her on steroids and an antibiotic that I administered via pills to her once a night. I was also trying to force feed her this fish oil weight gain solution, via oral syringe. It became quite an ordeal to have to hold her, not get clawed to death, pry her mouth open, pop two pills in, hold her mouth closed until she swallowed, THEN … pry her mouth open AGAIN to try to squirt a teaspoon of the fish emulsion down the back of her throat. Some days successful. Some days half of it got all over her fur around her mouth, and down her neck. Then I’d have to hold her down to try to clean it off—because she was not able to clean herself very well. It was so stressful for her and for me!
I also bought a bag of freeze dried turkey nuggets I used on Rose when she lost weight last time. I would rehydrate them in warm water, so they were easy to chew and swallow. Between the steroids, the fish emulsion, The Bear was eating on her own again—just not in the amount she really needed. All this went on for two weeks.
When I took her back for her second round of blood work, she had only gained .2 pounds. She was having more and more problems standing, walking, and got confused easily. She could no longer jump in the bed with me each night, the kitchen counters, the bathroom sink, or my computer desk. She just didn’t have the strength. She had difficulty walking a straight line. She spent most of her time in a box/bear cave I created for her, complete with a towel cushion. When she was feeling social, or sometimes at night, she was still able to jump/climb/claw herself on to the couch & sleep there. Sometimes all night. But in her last days she spent her time mostly in her box. When she was on the couch at night, she was either on her pillow on my lap or next to me, or lying on my legs—purring and just looking back at me with her beautiful eyes—as if to say thanks, Dad. Even in her moments of pain or discomfort, she always had a way of connecting with me. Looking deeply at me and into me. Or so I want to think. Through it all she was so dignified. Right to the end.
Ending her life was the hardest thing I have ever had to choose to do. Even more so than when Rocky was ill. And I LOVED that boy! But I mustered the courage and did the humane thing—letting her go.
The morning of her final vet journey, I got up, made coffee, kissed on her for quite a while, then went into the yard and dug her grave. If you’ve never done it—it’s one of the most sobering tasks one can do. I chose to burry her next to one of the six lilacs I planted our first summer here. I planted them in memory of my grandmother Rose Streno—The Bears namesake. I figured it was fitting for both of them. They never got to meet here on earth. Maybe they are both looking down one me now. Guiding me.
I want to believe she is in a better place. I don’t know if I believe in the “Rainbow Bridge” … but one can hope our energies will reunite sometime in the future. I just say she’s now off with her brothers and sister chasing bunny clouds in the sky. Can’t think of a better way to spend eternity for her & those that came before her.
My Rose. My Monkey. My Bear. My Heart: where you’ll always be.