{saying goodbye} Westfield New Jersey Family Photographer

Dear Chloe,

17 years ago, my parents told me that I’d be able to get a cat. I was so so excited, but at the time I could have never imagined the impact that you would have on my life as I grew.  We found out that the ASPCA rented a space in the Woodbridge Mall for the day where families could come in and adopt a dog or cat.  I remember getting there early, and there were already a ton of people were there.  People were trying to see inside the darkened space to choose which pet they wanted before even getting inside.

Once we were in, I started looking around for my kitten.  You were one of the first kittens I saw, and I knew that we were meant to be friends.  You were the tiniest little thing, all gray, with bright green eyes.  I remember my dad saying, “Are you sure?  She’s so tiny and just gray.  I just want you to be sure!” I was sure.  After checking our references (I remember that taking awhile) I carried you out of the mall in a cardboard box.  When we got to the car, I took you out, and wrapped you in a towel.  Oh Chloe.  You snuggled right into me and fell asleep. That’s when you had me, I was only twelve.

You were such a spunky kitten. Playing with everything, swatting everything.  I wish I could have explained to you why we had to have all of your claws removed – your enthusiasm for life encouraged you to use your claws to climb the pillars in the house, so they had to go.  It didn’t slow you down, though, you seemed inclined to find the highest perch you could, and then jump straight up to it with a single leap.

You were immediately attached to me, sleeping with me every night for as long as I can remember.  You’d always want to get as close to me as you could – I’ve woken up with my face in a pile of fur more times that I can count.  You’d snuggle right in on top of my shoulder and flop right onto my face.  You not only loved rubbing the side of your face onto what ever part of me was readily available, but also made it a point to touch your nose to my nose, my cheek, or my chin.  Oh, that would drive me crazy!

You were a lap cat to the extreme, and were constantly (cooooooonstantly) kneading on my leg and stomach.  I guess you wanted to soften me up before you laid down.  You also adored cuddling in my dad’s lap.  For years, whenever we’d watch TV down in the basement, you would choose my dad’s lap over any other lap available.  And we were all available.  There really was nothing like having you snuggle in and warm me up.  I think that when I started knitting, it only reinforced your lap-behavior.  You loved sticking your head into whatever I was knitting and making it as difficult as possible for me to continue on with my project.  We’d always end up finding a halfway point in the end, so many of my projects have stray Chloe hair included, knit in with love.

With all of your love and affection came equal parts attitude.  You did not like change, from actions as simple as having to move you from my lap when standing up, to ones as monumental as going away to college, and having my first baby.  During some of these times, I thought you’d completely lost it.  You sure did let us all know how angry you were by peeing on everything, sulking around, swatting, spitting, and hissing.  And when we got two more cats? You wouldn’t want to admit it, but you had a love/hate relationship with the whole thing. I know that you loved being the alpha cat.  You led the pack and put everyone in their place, and there were times that I would catch you grooming Roxie or Winnie when you thought no one was watching.  A majority of the time, however, you acted like you hated them and never missed the opportunity to hiss and swat them in passing.

Other than snuggling, your favorite thing to do was hang out in the sink.  I have no idea why.  Probably because you were so tiny (you never really grew up, sweetie), it was a nice little space for you.  Every morning as I’d get ready for school (and later, for work), you would lay in that sink and watch me.  I used buy dixie cups just for you and fill them up with a little bit of water so you could have a little drink while I got dressed.

Even later on, as you grew old (and outgrew your need to fill my sink with cat hair), you would still loiter in the bathroom, watching the girls while they’d take their bath, or learn to use the potty.  Even over the past few months, as I would take pictures of my growing belly, you would sneak into the shots…

One of my favorite stories is from when we were living in State College.  Matt and I were taking a trip and didn’t really have anyone to take care of “the girls”, so we had to hire a pet sitter.  She thought it was so funny when I explained to her that the other two cats were fine sharing the same food, but Chloe’s portion needed to be put up onto of the fridge.  The fridge?! Yup.  Once we moved to State College, your favorite place to be was on top of the refrigerator.  You took all of your meals up there (your majesty), and loved to flip and play with us over the edge.  I think that it was your way of escaping the other two cats, because at that point they were relatively new to you.  You really only came down when I was home to snuggle with me while I’d knit, or cuddle with me at night.

Chlo-bear, you were a part of my life for so long.  You saw me go to high school, and then graduate.  My first year away from home was really hard on you, as I wasn’t allowed to have you with me.  I came home every weekend, and every weekend you would follow me around the house, as if stalking me would keep me from leaving again.  The next year, when I moved to Boston, was also very hard on you.  You didn’t like leaving the house in Westfield for the first time, and had a very very hard time transitioning to the apartment on the Fens, and then the house in Medford.  You finally seemed to settle down when I moved to State College, and I’m glad you did.  We were to the point of seriously considering putting you to sleep because you were peeing on everything and you were so so angry.  We couldn’t find a shelter or anyone who would take you in.  We kept giving you just one more chance, and I’m so glad we did.

You loved the light filled apartment in PA.  You loved having Matt around so often, and we spent so much time laughing as you’d try to cram yourself into the smallest cardboard box or paper bag that you could find.  You certainly loved small spaces, and it was usually comical seeing a little tuft of fur poking out of a ridiculously tiny box.  Other times we’d get you special catnip treats and watch you go crazy.  Absolutely crazy.  I have never ever witnessed a cat go so insane over catnip.  You would rub your face on it so hard, I thought that you may actually just explode if you weren’t able to get closer.  We decided soon after that it would probably be better if we kept the catnip away from you.

You weren’t crazy about the time we spent in Maryland, and we’re happy to have a full house to roam in when we moved back to New Jersey.  After we moved into our home, we soon began to prepared the nursery for Thaya’s arrival.  Of course, you assumed that we had created the space for you.  You took over the rocker, the changing table, and the bench, but we managed to keep you out of the crib.

And once she arrived? You were kind enough to share your space…

When it was just Thaya, you worked hard to remain in the forefront of my attention.  You never got aggressive towards me or the baby, but you did everything you could to make yourself a part of the new dynamic.

When I was pregnant with Aubrie, things changed a little.  As I worked at opening my heart to two children, I wasn’t able to show you love in the same way that you’d grown used to.  You started to become a part of our peripheral.  You were always there, and always a part of things, just not in such sharp focus anymore.  You started to grow older, you started to slow down.  You became content to steal some time in a lap here or there, but in general, you started spending more time at the foot of the bed instead of at the head of the bed.  Around this time, you also stopped touching me with your wet nose in the middle of the night.

But then we moved back to Westfield.  This was not only a really good move for Matt, the girls, and myself, but an amazing move for you.  You instantly fell in love with the house, and spent time enjoying the big windows.  Not only that, but you did something that I never ever imagined you would do – you began to spend time snuggling with the girls!

I can’t begin to explain the happiness I felt when I saw my girls with you.  You began sharing the love and snuggles with them that you had always given to me (and almost exclusively to me).  Not only that, but you have helped to teach my children how to love, care, and respect animals.  Whenever the girls were with you, they were so gentle with you, and you trusted them.  Every nap you would sleep with Thaya, and every night you would spend time with her before coming in to cuddle with me for the rest of the night.

Some of the most challenging moments that I have faced have happened in the past few months.  The same week that Thaya was in the hospital with Croup, and Aubrie was diagnosed with Bronchitis, you started to really slow down and showed signs of being sick.  Soon after, I was in the hospital with Kidney Stones.  By the time I was home, I realized that you weren’t fighting this one off.  You had a fair amount of sneezing along with a runny nose.  At this point, I heard that you had started wheezing, so I brought you to the vet.  They sent us home with some antibiotics for you, and a diagnosis that didn’t really seem to fit with me.  I didn’t really feel like they addressed your labored breathing, only your runny nose.  I had to file it in the back of my mind though, because once again the family was sick and I was struggling with my own sinus infection and fever while taking care of sick girls and a sick husband.

I knew by this weekend that things were really serious with you, and in my heart I knew that we may be parting one another soon.  After bringing you back to the same vet for a “recheck”, I was incredibly disappointed with how they treated your condition.  He absolutely would not stick to a diagnosis, and I feel that they would not give me the advice I needed unless I shelled out hundreds upon hundreds of dollars we didn’t have.

I was sick over it, Chloe, just sick.  I didn’t know what to do.  They sent me home with antibiotics and basically told me good-luck-making-it-through-the-night-don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out.  I decided to drive to the vet we had used when we lived in south Jersey. We’d had such a good experience with them, and I trusted them to help me.  After calling them and telling them the situation, the had me drive down, even though they didn’t have any appointments open and it was an hour until closing.

When I got there, they came right out to look at you and make sure that you weren’t distressed.  They concluded that you were not in critical condition, though your condition was serious and I did need to be there.

I was hoping that all it was was pneumonia.  I was hoping that I could just give you the antibiotics and that maybe we’d have a few more months or years together.  Once we were in the examining room, I tried to explain to the doctor all that had happened.  I told her flat out that we didn’t have the money to run the extensive tests that would be needed to get an exact diagnosis.  I told the doctor that I needed her help to determine whether antibiotics would help, or if it was something much more serious.

It only took her a minute or two of listening to your lungs and heart to know that your condition was very very serious. We’ll never know exactly what was wrong because we decided not to have xrays taken, but the doctor was able to narrow it down to a tumor, lymphoma, or cardiomyopathy based on the fact that your lungs were filled with fluid and your heart was not pumping as it should.  The doctor said, regardless of whether or not we have xrays done, if we know we will decide against treatments, you only had a day or two left.  For us, treating you for a terminal illness seemed like a selfish thing to do.  It just wasn’t an option for us to extend your time and extend your suffering just so we could be with you longer at the end of an already very long and full life.

As I said goodbye to you, I whispered to you how much I loved you.  I stroked your head and let you know that you were such a pretty girl, and such a good good girl.  I thanked you for the time you gave me.  You were there for me through so much of it, Chloe.  Especially on my saddest days, it was endearing to have your warmth and love.  It seemed like whenever the tears would start during my deepest depression, you would be there.  It just breaks my heart to know that you were going through this, and I regret the possibility that I didn’t give you enough love and comfort over these past few weeks because my focus was extended towards others in the family.  I hope that you somehow know how much you’ve meant to us, and as I held you, I hope you were comforted by a lifetime of love and companionship that we’ve been able to share.  I hope you weren’t scared as we said goodbye, I tried to sooth you by holding on to you, stroking you, I tried to talk to you and tell you that it would be ok, and that I loved you so much.  I just pray that where ever you are now, that you are in peace, and comfort, and that you get to be the alpha cat.

I’m so happy that we’ve had so much time together, but I can feel that a part of me is just a little empty.  I keep half expecting to see you in my peripheral as I have for so many years.  I half expect to stumble upon you curled up in a ball as I enter a room, or see your reflection looking back at me from the bathroom mirror as I dry my hair.  The thing that hurts the most is knowing that you won’t be sleeping at my feet at night anymore, or curled up against my belly, adding even more heat to an already established oven.  I’m not so sure that I remember how to sleep without you, and I’m afraid that I’m going to have another sleepless night tonight, missing your presence.

I’m sad Chloe. I really love you, and now I miss you.  I know it will get easier, but for right now I’m just going to go ahead and cry for you.

With Gratitude and Thanks, and Hugs and Kisses Laced with Catnip,

Your Mama,

Meg

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3 comments
  • Oh my goodness. This post was so sweet and loving but I’m crying my eyes out at work! Poor Chloe, but I’m glad she isn’t suffering anymore. I wish you well Meg, and the family, as this time I’m sure is very, very difficult. Sending a hug from Colorado.

  • Terri

    I’m so sorry Meg.
    Love and Hugs, Terri

  • Wow Meg. I feel your loss like I am there. It’s been a year to the day since I had to put my Rajah down. I’m crying horribly reading your post and remembering my own heartache. My Rajah was 17 too. We knew his was renal failure. I had him for about a year after his diagnosis and often beat myself up wondering if I waited too long. I miss him horribly. Even though we adopted a 2-year old rottweiler this weekend. I still was and am not ready to be a pet mommy just yet, but the boys won out. Nothing. I mean nothing will ever remove my black fur balls memories: from how how sounded like a mini train when he purred, to funny little lick he would perform with a belly rub, the obsessive need to groom my freshly washed hair. I wish I could give a huge hug. It hurts I cried for days and it just made a bad case of depression worse. I’ll say little pray for you and your family.

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