Goodbye to Maple


Remembering Maple, created by Nicole

I just received the news from my friend Carolyn that Maple lost her battle with, most likely, lymphoma.

Maple was a dilute tortie, rescued as a kitten by Carolyn’s daughter Nicole. We will miss our sweet, gentle cousin-kitty, but her image will live on in the many products she modeled for Carolyn’s website and the many photos of her I used in designing ads and brochures for Carolyn’s company, My Three Cats & Co., Inc. Though she was quiet she was very playful and silly, and I loved her very roundness, not fat, but thick plushy gray and peach fur and a rather blunt nose and rounded whisker pads. And she was always very quietly happy.

Nicole designed the lovely tribute, above.

Near the end of Maple’s life, Carolyn contacted a hospice veterinarian to visit Maple at home and make further recommendations for care beyond what Carolyn’s regular veterinarian had offered. I have never used one, but know a veterinarian who offers this service, Dr. Nancy Ruffing of Gentle Journey Veterinary Hospice, and suggested that she call Dr. Ruffing to help with Maple’s care and to be available in the case that Carolyn would need to choose euthanasia. And because Dr. Ruffing deals almost exclusively with end-of-life issues, she may have more pertinent suggestions for Maple’s care and comfort, which she did.

When your cat, or other pet, is struggling with a chronic illness or simply nearing the end of its life, consider the possibility of finding a hospice veterinarian in addition to your regular veterinarian. Managing end-of-life issues yourself, even if you are skilled, can be exhausting physically and mentally, and many veterinarians don’t offer in-home euthanasia. The hospice veterinarian, as with Maple, can help with managing day-to-day care and comfort near the end, and knowing that they can visit your home if euthanasia is necessary can be a great comfort to you to know, and much more comfortable for them when the time comes.

So we will remember our beautiful cousin Maple, and send our good thoughts to Carolyn’s household.

To love that well, which thou must leave ‘ere long

First in a series of “pet loss and grief told from personal experience”

pastel painting of black cat rolling on floor

Are You Looking at Me? pastel painting of Kublai Khan © B.E. Kazmarski

This week I’ll be writing about pet loss, beginning with my own recollections of “how I learned to lose”, and including interviews with persons who deal with pet loss and their journey to what they do for others, such as Deb Chebatoris of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation, whose services I’ve used, and Karen Litzinger, author of Heal Your Heart: Coping with the Loss of a Pet, a pet loss CD I highly recommend. I’ll also feature a guest blog from Ingrid King, author of Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher.

I’ve illustrated this writing with paintings, sketches and photos of my fondly-remembered kitties.

The title of this blog is a quote from Shakespeare’s sonnets, number 73, the final couplet of which reads:

This thou perceivs’t, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ‘ere long.

Except in rare circumstances, we will always outlive our pets. It is best for them and for us to consider options and prepare, and to take care of ourselves afterward, in their memory. Let the knowledge that we will someday live without them strengthen our love for them and make each day with them all the more special.

I have the full sonnet at the end of this blog, because I thought it easier to understand after considering the process of loss.

My first loss

a photo of Bootsie, the gray and white cat I had growing up

My first cat, Bootsie photo © B.E. Kazmarski

The first time I lost a cat, I did it all wrong.

There is no “right” way to lose a pet, but that first experience was a trauma in part because it was unexpected though it didn’t have to be, and because I didn’t know the first thing about what to do or what to expect when her time came.

From that, however, I learned to face the eventual loss of each of my cats and do my best to prepare for it, to monitor and learn about medical conditions and plan what I might do in various situations, and what I’ll do afterward, giving me some sense of control in a situation that is out of my control. And, while I’d rather share a happier lesson, I’ve been able to help friends and others to navigate their loss.

I have found my peace with my decisions about Bootsie because I now understand that I just didn’t know my options and I made the best decision I could. I relate the story, below, in the case that you may have made similar decisions and carry the burden of regret, or that you may be headed for a similar situation and wondering what you might be able to do.

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