Thursday, November 12, 2009

The enemy's gate is down

About two weeks after Dan moved in with me, we went to the Denver Dumb Friends League to find a kitty. I'd wanted one since I moved to Denver, and had purposefully found an apartment that was pet-friendly. But I wanted to wait until Dan moved in, since I knew he was going to, and figured it would be easier to wait until after that happened.

Luckily, Dan was amenable to the idea of kitty-having. So we went to the DDFL and looked at the kittens (I wanted a kitten. Sue me.), but didn't see any that seemed like OUR kitty. A week or so later, we went in again. Our neighbor Paulene was a volunteer there, and when we got there we put our name on the waiting list (for a "hang out with a kitty" room, and the option of hanging out with three different kitties) and wandered around, looking at our options. We saw a few that looked promising; they'd just gotten a couple of big litters of kittens in so we figured we'd find one in that bunch. Right after we came in, a couple with a little girl came in as well, so they were just below us on the list.

We brought in one kitten. It wasn't ours. We brought in a second kitten. Not ours. Paulene came by to see how it was going, since she knew we were there to find a kitty, and she asked us, "Have you seen the little one with three legs?" No, we had not, and opted to visit with her next. She was brought in the room and we were instantly smitten, particularly Dan (I suspect she stole his heart right then and there). "This is our kitty!" we knew, just as that family with the little girl was walking by, pointing at our new friend, saying how that was going to be her kitty.

Sorry, little girl. We were first, therefore, she was ours.

We brought her home and spent the next couple of weeks trying to determine her name. The shelter had named her "Bug" (as in, cute as a? I'm not sure. She didn't look like a bug.) but we knew her real name was something entirely different. Our kitten was strong, a fighter. When she had been a tiny kitten, probably no more than six or eight weeks old, something had happened to her, and someone had found her at the side of the road with her left back leg all mangled and smashed. They brought her in to the DDFL, who amputated her leg. The vet who had cared for her there was so enamoured that she fostered the little kitten herself for the month that it took for her to convalesce and get healthy enough to be adopted out.

Over that first week or ten days when we had her home, we ran through any number of names. Miette, maybe, after the scrappy girl in The City of Lost Children. Or Leeloo, after the character of that name in The Fifth Element. One afternoon, we had our door open and she ran from one of us to another, hiding behind us and other obstacles in her path to get to our neighbor's door on the other side of the hallway. "The enemy's gate is down," I said, and we knew right that her name was Petra, after the girl soldier in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. It was perfect.

Petra charmed everyone she ever met. All of our neighbors loved her. How could you not, with a face like this?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Two weeks ago, we took Loki and Petra to the vet. It was partly because they needed booster shots and a checkup, as it had been a while since their last visit, but also partly because we'd noticed some disturbing things. Petra had peed a few times outside of the box, something she'd never done before. She seemed thirsty all the time, and would get really excited about having her water dish refilled or the tap turned on in the bathroom sink for her to drink from. She was also throwing up water, and seemed like she was losing weight. Thinking maybe she had diabetes or something else managable, yet still scary, we told the vet about the worrisome symptoms we'd noticed.

Loki was given a completely clean bill of health (and later, when his lab results came back, the vet told us that he was about as healthy as a kitty could possibly, yay!)

Petra was a different story. "We'll have to wait for the labs to come back," he said, "but it's entirely possible it could be one of many different things - none of them good." Her kidneys were enlarged, and that on top of her other symptoms pointed to either renal lymphoma or a congenital kidney defect, neither curable. He asked us about her breed background, if we knew anything about it, and asked if she'd ever tested positive for FeLV, since that was a primary cause of kitty lymphoma. At home, we went through her records from the DDFL but didn't see anything that said she'd tested positive for FeLV. The next morning, the vet called with her lab results: an elevated white blood cell count, which could point to a bacterial infection. We put her on a ten-day course of antibiotics and waited to see what would happen.

Nothing happened, except that she got really pissed about having to take a pill twice a day. She didn't get any better. She continued to drink a lot of water, puke water, and lose weight. So yesterday we brought her back in for the news we'd been dreading, the news that I'd had nightmares about all Monday and Tuesday night. The vet said that we could do an abdominal ultrasound, an asperation of the kidneys, a biopsy. But with her symptoms, and the fact that she'd lost almost an entire additional pound in two weeks, and the fact that her kidneys were an additional 25% larger, made it pretty clear. Petra has renal lymphoma.

Lymphoma in cats can be treatable but is not curable. And after doing some extensive research online last night, we realized we had made the best choice about what her treatment will be. Some forms of feline lymphoma respond well to chemotherapy, giving pets an additional five or six months, a year, even two years in outlier cases. But renal lymphoma, especially at the stage where Petra probably is, does not respond as well. We would rather have her for a few more weeks and give her a good quality of life, where she is happy and comfortable, rather than put her on chemotherapy (when who knows how she will respond to it, if it will make her feel worse, etc.), and try to prolong her life at the cost of her happiness. We will be treating her with administered-at-home subcutaneous fluids (to help her kidneys function better) and prednisone, a cortical steroid that will help slow the progress of the disease. But she is not going to get better.

I don't know how much longer we will have with our friend Petra, but we plan to make the best of it. We're going to take lots of photos and videos, give her treats every day, and make sure she knows how much we love her. And I'm going to write more about her, about her other brush with death, about her likes and dislikes, about the things we are going to miss so much when she is gone.


Anonymous said...

I am so, so sorry. Petra is such a lovely family member. My eyes are welling with tears for her too-short life.

Sara said...

Oh man, I am so sorry. :( Petra is THE CUTEST and I'm sure you two will help make the rest of her life as comfortable and happy as possible.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Oh, I am so, so sorry. :-( Losing a furry family member is never easy. Hang in there and give her lots of extra cuddles.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I'm so sorry...

Matt said...

I believe that in metaphysics the term for this is "bullshit."

Erin said...

I'm so sorry for Petra's pain and your coming months. You're all lucky to have found each other. Poor, brave Petra!

Anonymous said...

Oh man, that is quite sad! Petra is both well-named and adorable, I hope the next few weeks are as pain-free as possible.

Crafty Mama said...

So sorry, Emily. What a beautiful kitty.

Hillary said...

I'm so sorry for poor little Petra. I admire you and Dan for making the difficult decision to not put her through chemo.

Average Jane said...

So sorry about poor Petra.

Cilicious said...

As you know, we just went through this--still are, truth to tell.

Petra has had a wonderful life with you. Letting her go will hurt so hard. I wish we could fast-forward through this stuff, but we can't.

From Irving Townshend:
"We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached."

intheswim said...

So sorry to hear this news. What a cutie she is, and lucky to have you two to love her.

Yank In Texas said...

I'm crying for you. I know this is heartbreaking for both you and Dan. It's never easy to lose a pet. But Petra had a great life once she met you guys and it couldn't have been better. Spoil her rotten.

Leah said...

Ugh. My heart is just breaking for you guys. I've had to say goodbye to too many beloved pets, and it's never ever ever easy. Petra's such a sweetie, and you've all been lucky to have each other for as long as you have.