I don’t even know what to say right now. My grief is so big and raw I don’t even think I can fully comprehend the scope of it.
My beloved friend, furry familiar and Top Cat and Queen Of All Western Cats, Siouxsie Mew, earned her wings today with the help of a very compassionate and kind veterinarian. She was just a week shy of celebrating her 19th birthday.
I promised Siouxsie a long time ago that if she wanted help to leave her body, I would honor her wish. A couple of days ago, in the wee hours of the morning, she told me in no uncertain terms that it was time. And today, I kept my promise.
Siouxsie and her sister Sinéad adopted me in June of 1996. They were only six weeks old at the time, but they knew what they wanted. Back then I didn’t know that cats should be at least 8 weeks old before they leave their mama, but by the time I realized they could have used a couple more weeks of weaning, they’d already stolen my heart. So I bought kitten milk replacer and fed them “kibble cereal” so they could get the nutrition they needed.
Siouxsie outlived Sinéad and two other feline housemates, Dahlia and Kissy, and became one of the most well-traveled cats I’ve met when she, Thomas and Bella made the cross-country drive with me from Maine to our new home in the Pacific Northwest.
She enjoyed robust good health until about a year and a half ago, when her senior blood panel revealed hyperthyroidism and some degree of kidney disease. The arthritis that had been a minor annoyance for her became much more severe, and she developed a couple of severe urinary tract infections.
She was a brave and strong cat, and she soldiered on. I did my best to manage her pain and treat her illnesses, and I thought things were going pretty well until just last week, when she developed such an epic urinary infection that she was losing control of her bladder. Although antibiotics got the infection taken care of, Siouxsie decided she’d had enough. One night as I was half asleep and all my “left brain” filters were down, she looked up at me and I heard, “Mama, I’m tired. I’ve had enough.”
I picked her up and hugged her and said, “I hear you, I honor you, and I’ll respect your wishes. Just one thing — could you help me make sure I heard you correctly — come to me in a dream or something like that?”
Well, bless that amazing cat. She didn’t come to me in a dream, but as I lay awake in bed with her snuggled between my left arm and my body, wondering if I’d ever fall asleep, I rolled over and she peed all over me.
That was about the most concrete sign my logical mind needed.
I’m grateful to work in a place where everybody knows how important our animal companions are to us. After I called the vet during my break to make the euthanasia appointment, several of my friends noticed that I looked sad. When my friend Carmen asked how I was doing, I broke down in tears. I got so many hugs that day. My friends cried with me. My supervisor was incredibly compassionate and kind when I apologized for not being on the ball. Everyone there has been through it.
The end of this amazing and magical 18-year friendship is about the saddest damn thing I’ve ever experienced. The fact that I knew it was coming didn’t make it any easier.
Everyone at the clinic, from the receptionist to the techs and assistants and the vets, was amazing. I felt so loved and supported. Doctor E, who performed this final mercy for my beloved friend, explained what was going to happen — first the sedative, which would make her very relaxed, alive but anesthetized, followed a few minutes later with an overdose of a barbiturate anesthetic, which would stop her heart peacefully and quickly.
He hugged me as I cried and thanked him for walking through the last couple of months of Siouxsie’s journey with me.
My friend Carmen drove me to the vet’s office today. She sat with me as I reminisced. She took the photos of Siouxsie and me that you see in this post. She held me as I wept after the final injection. She listened as I told her the amazing things Siouxsie had done for me, not the least of which was saving my life by giving me a reason to live when I couldn’t find any others. She took me out for coffee and ice cream and a walk in Sunset Park.
When I got home, I picked up Siouxsie’s dish and hung her collar in a place of honor with Dahlia’s and Kissy’s.
I still can’t quite believe she’s gone. My heart aches and my head hurts.
I know you all have come to know and love Siouxsie over the 12 years we’ve been writing this blog together, and I know we’re all going to miss her so much. Paws and Effect will, of course, continue on with Thomas and Bella at the helm (and of course, me as their devoted secretary and slave).
If you want to do something concrete to honor Siouxsie and you have the resources to do so, please make a donation to your local shelter or your veterinarian’s compassionate assistance fund (if they have one). Advocate for black cats and work to overcome the ridiculous prejudices against them. Encourage people to adopt adult and senior cats. Spread kindness and compassion — the world needs as much of that as it can get!
Blessings and love to you as one journey ends and a new one begins. There’s a new star in the heavens tonight, and her name is Siouxsie Mew.
Farewell, Siouxsie. I leave you with this mantra from the Buddhist Heart Sutra: Gaté, gaté, paragate, parasamgate — Bodhi soha! (Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone far beyond — O, what beautiful enlightenment!)