This photo was taken on Wednesday night, after I’d taken her to the vet. She doesn’t like the vet, let alone a vet with broken air conditioning on a hot Summer’s night. So, on top of the usual indignities that accompany visiting a vet, she was heat stressed as well. This wouldn’t have bothered many cats, but my gorgeous cat is now 16 years old. She’s also starting to experience kidney failure.
The one constant in my life for the last 16 years, is dying.
To put her into my life context, I got Winnie one cold Winter’s night when I was living in Wellington. She had been caught in a humane cat-trap, in an effort to ease the number of stray cats in the area. She was worm ridden and tiny. She purred as soon as I picked her up and cuddled her on my lap. She was so tiny, but determined. She had a stubborn streak in her a mile wide. She had decided that I would make an acceptable feeder, but she wasn’t so sure about my partner. Winnie never did like any of the people that I was involved with… considering who they were, she has proven to be a better judge of character than I.
Winnie accompanied me when I went to university. She sat with me through late night studying. Threw up in the car during my travels between my home town and where I went to university. She traveled in my car through rough ferry crossings, and my loud off-key singing. Sometimes she’d come and curl up on my lap, sleeping the whole trip; sometimes she’d stand on my lap and peer over the steering wheel, almost like she was trying to drive us home quicker.
She proved time and time again, that cats were smarter than dogs. Well, at least smarter than a previous flatmates Great Dane. Winnie would sit on the couch with quiet dignity, watching the Great Dane run in faster and faster circles around the house – until a human happened to get in her way. You could almost hear Winnie tsking at the stupid antics of a dog with more energy than brains. I do like dogs too, but this Great Dane happened to be the dumbest dog I’ve ever met.
When I moved back to my home town, Winnie was a cat in heaven… a fire which produced good heat. But, it was soon after moving back, that I moved in with my now ex-husband. Winnie never liked him, but tolerated him with a disdain which fluctuated depending on whether he was offering her chicken or not – her weakness is cooked chicken. I was with him for approximately nine years, and she was my constant companion. She would come into the study with me when I was woken with the nightmares, or recovering from the abuse he inflicted. She would follow a young part who was scared and wandering the house. She would tolerate me picking her up and cuddling her – for a short time anyway. She seemed to know when I needed her companionship.
More recently, she comes with me whenever I venture outside into the garden. It makes both of us feel safer to know the other is nearby. When I go out driving at night, she is always waiting in the doorway to the lounge when I get home – almost like she’s checking that I’ve found my way back.
She’s often used as an excuse by parts of the system why we can’t complete suicide. In a world that had seemed out of control and full of pain, she’s been the one consistent positive factor. Now she’s dying. I know that she could have been taken at any point through accident or illness, but kidney failure can be awful. In the factsheet the vet gave me, I read the list of symptoms and freaked. I can’t let Winnie go through that. No way.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do. But there’s been chaos in the system ever since we knew we had to take her to the vets. We were half expecting not to bring her home on Wednesday. But, the vet said that we were to come back in three months for more blood tests, so they’re expecting her to still be alive then.
I’ve always valued her more than myself. When I was too poor to buy food, her food was always purchased first. But I can’t fix this. I can’t fix her and it’s causing chaos. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this.
One moment at a time…