We’ve lost our Lyra, the tiny feline ragamuffin picked up with her kittens and sent to the pound to be euthanized. We’ve lost our Jones, one of those kittens and my familiar. (Or, I was her familiar; it amounts to the same.)
In 2005, I was doing some volunteer research and writing for a Toronto cat rescue group that turned out to be pretty awful, when they sent out an email saying asking for extra foster homes; they were hoping to take 60 queens and their babies from this pound before they were all put down.
B. and I agreed to take a family to foster as long as it was small; we already had two feisty rabbits (Greg and Penny) and the brilliant, traumatized Columbo.
That was the best mistake of our lives. When the kittens who would become Jeoffy, Aoki, and Jones—about three weeks old—and their mama, Lyra, were dropped off, we immediately fell arse-over-kettle in love with them all.
Lyra, who was so emaciated that we didn’t think she was going to make it, had been given a topical treatment because they were all just open sores from being so flea-bitten. But the kittens were too young for adult flea treatment, so we had to bathe them with diluted dish soap, which kills both fleas and their eggs.
The kittens were so wee, I was afraid of hurting them while I gave them their first ever spas; they were just palm-sized; they squeaked and struggled and brandished their little claws in my general direction. I washed Jones first and B. wrapped her in a face cloth and put her in his shirt pocket, where she fell asleep with just her head visible.
When I saw this baby in my 6’2” husband’s pocket I started to cry; he asked what was wrong and I just told him to go look in the mirror; he did and when he came back, his nose was also red.
That’s when we knew they were all staying; having bathed all the babies, B. and I stood looking at one another, him with a kitten in each pocket and me with one kitten in mine.
We tried to be sensible anyway, tried to pretend we weren’t ever letting them go; we went so far as to ask the rescue group to adopt out Jeoffy and Aoki together; they had quickly shown themselves to be best friends. That’s when the rescue’s shittiness truly blossomed:
After Jeoffy and Aoki’s profile had been posted for less than a week on the rescue website, they said they’d would have to be split up because no one was expressing interest. (They’d already threatened to “disinherit” all the cats to us when I took Aoki to a vet for an eye infection that almost killed her; they wanted us only to treat her seeping eye and dangerously high fever with some useless OTC human eye drops.)
With no shred of trust left that they’d do right by these babies and their mama, we eventually formally adopted them all. We then had five cats and two rabbits in an apartment and I’d never been happier; I felt like I truly had enough beings to love.
B. and I bought them a house. We knew the apartment would become too small as they grew up (Jeoffy was bigger than his mama by the time he was only four months old!). We got married that December and moved our clutch of beloved beasties in the week after Xmas.
Over the last seventeen years, we raised, nurtured, cared for, soothed, adored, were adored by, and said goodbye to every animal we bought this house, and built this home, for. The last two, Lyra and Jones, died November 18 and 21, 2022, respectively.
Both had aged noticeably after Aoki died in January 2022; in fact, we’d rushed Lyra to vet emergency the week after Aoki passed because she was in severe distress. And never as close to each other as they had been to all the other cats in the house, Lyra and Jones built a pretty good relationship over the next ten months. But they were tired and their lives were winding down; Lyra was at least eighteen this year and Jones turned seventeen in August.
Lyra had developed kidney disease and eventually ended up on daily appetite stimulant; Jones developed severe arthritis on top of her own previously diagnosed kidney disease and chronic irritable bowel; she also eventually needed appetite help.
We treated them both with various meds and daily subcutaneous fluids. They were stable and mostly happy. I don’t know for how long B. and I had to keep daily routines; I just know that after dinner, I keep walking over to the sink to get the sub-q bags warmed up for their injections.
In early November, Jones’s mobility began declining rapidly, so our vet came to examine her; she found a racing heartrate and murmur that hadn’t been there before. She also examined Lyra, who seemed great.
Referred to a cardiologist, Jones was soon after found to have not heart disease, as expected, but lungs surrounded by fluid and what looked like tumours inside. She was dying and our job became just to keep her comfortable as long as made sense and then to say goodbye. We’d wait for her to tell us when.
A week after learning this news about Jones, still trying to digest it, I sent video to our vet of Lyra having breathing issues not there the week before. She got us into a local clinic for X-rays right away and we found out that Lyra, too, was dying but had much less time than Jones seemed to have; Lyra’s heart and chest cavity were full of fluid and there were cardiac tumours. They offered to euthanize Lyra there but also said we could take her home for the night and have our regular vet come the next day.
That’s what we did and we said goodbye to our darling Lyra, a tough bitch from Hamilton, who we thought would live forever; she’d always been much healthier than her babies. We didn’t want her to die with strangers and we didn’t want Jones wondering what’d happened to her.
Jones let us know pretty quickly after her mother’s death that she was ready to go, too; our vet came on Monday and we said goodbye to Jones 72 hours after losing Lyra. We’ve been crawling since.
Flora Sweet, who we adopted in May, has been perhaps the only thing that makes getting out of bed in the morning seem truly worth it. Her personality matches those cartoonish bunny ears and the junk in her fluffy trunk; she’s so big we felt she deserved her own surname.
The only babies I have ever wanted are beasties and we lost four in less than a year and a half, three of them in 2022. We are bereft.
Animals have always made more sense to me than most humans do; and in an early life short on good humans, animals were essential members of my first chosen family. B. is so cognizant of what they mean to me that and of how much I love him, he considers himself an honourary beastie (and he is correct).
This house doesn’t purr anymore. Flora Sweet is doing her best to help us make friends with the quiet. But fuck. My heart. My beating heart.