Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My sweet ScoutI had to wait until I was ready to post this, as it's taken a while to process it.

Scout my, beloved sixteen-year-old tortie, crossed the Rainbow Bridge on February 16, 2012 at 4:50PM. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through, and I miss her so very much. She came into my life when a woman I worked with sent an office-wide email titled, "Sweet kitty needs a home." In the email, she explained that a cat around one or two years old had been abandoned by her callous, previous owner in an apartment. Apparently, it was a couple who moved, and the boyfriend returned with Scout and left her there in the empty apartment. The girl, who also gets a twat award, is just as guilty. If a guy did that with one of my cats, I'd immediately return to get her and kick the POS boyfriend out. Anyway, I responded, and during lunch, the woman who posted the email drove me through torrential downpour to meet the cat. Turns out she was two streets over from me in the Hollywood Hills. Despite her ordeal, Scout had been lucky. Along with my coworker spreading the word to find her a home, another neighbor who was a renowned animal behaviorist had seen her plight and took her in. However, she couldn't keep her. She'd already bought toys, a litter box and bed for her, and was keeping her in a large, carpeted, comfortable cage in her garage. I met the sweet woman who took me to a beautiful, dainty tortoise shell cat who meowed at me when I walked toward her. Against a sound backdrop of thunderous rain, I pet her, and that sweet little cat and I became instant friends. That night after work, I picked her up and took her home, and for sixteen years she was my loving, sweet kitty.

Scout, Asleep in a HutchA little over a year ago, she was diagnosed with kidney failure and since then, though certainly slowing down because of age, had been doing fine with a diet of prescription food. A few weeks ago, I noticed she was rapidly losing weight and wobbly on her back legs. I took her to the vet and got the devastating news that her kidneys were shutting down. With Scout's comfort and quality of life at the forefront, the vet gave me the options. Aggressive treatment, which would not guarantee anything and perhaps diminish her quality of life, home care, which included giving her fluids subcutaneously once a day, or letting her go. Through tears, I asked the vet what she would do, and she suggested to go with the home care option. She made sure that I understood that both treatment options would only prolong her life for a few months at best.

Scout on my TT back in 2001I chose the home care, which involved sticking an IV under her skin to administer the fluids. For a couple days, she seemed to perk up. Then on the third day, which was a day before her follow-up vet appointment, she quit eating, peed constantly and became wobbly again. She also peed on her pillow, which she'd never done before. It was just water, with no color or odor to it at all. This meant that her body wasn't absorbing the fluids. The next day, I placed her on a towel in my car and took her to the vet. When I walked inside the lobby, holding Scout in her towel, she peed on the floor. It was then that I was about 90% sure that I'd be saying goodbye. After washing my hands and bathing Scout with damp paper towels, I returned to the lobby and waited for my appointment, Scout in my lap. I put on a brave face with a man who was paying his bill and thought his puppy had peed on the floor. I'd already told the vet assistants, and told the man that it wasn't his puppy. I then joked to Scout, "We should have let the dog take the rap." As if on cue, the puppy did one of those adorable dog poses, flattening himself on his tummy, head between paws. "See? He even looks guilty," I said. The man, who was laughing with me, had no idea of what our situation was. Neither did the vet assistants, who kindly cleaned up the floor.

Scout my tortieAfter the man left, I couldn't hold back the tears anymore. I sat in the lobby and cradled Scout, scratching the back of her head and keeping her warm and comfortable in her towel. I spoke to her softly, and the vet assistants, three sweet girls in their 20s, noticed and figured it out. I won't go into the detail here, but after the vet did one more blood test and saw she'd lost weight, it was clear that Scout was wasn't enjoying a good quality of life. I believed that by quitting eating, she was letting me know.

Because of an emergency that came into the vet, I got a long time to sit in the room and love her, scratch her ears and cuddle her. The vet, who was so sweet and sensitive, checked in on us and looking at Scout in my lap said, "She's really bonded to you." She apologized for the emergency taking her away, and I told her that of course an emergency took precedence and not to worry about us. It was more time for me to sit with Scout and talk to her. I told her how much I loved her and how special she was. I thanked her for letting me take care of her and for making me a better person. I said that I hoped she had a happy life, because she'd added so much happiness to mine. I thanked her for the laughs, friendship, and love, and for always cuddling up to me when I slept. I named all the people whose lives she touched and that they all knew how special she was and loved her. That she mattered. And, so much more. We got 20 private minutes together and I'll treasure that time always. The vet couldn't have been more sensitive, loving and caring toward both Scout and me. When the time came, Scout went peacefully and surrounded by love and tenderness.

A princess on her pillowThat night, I decided to go to yoga but only lasted forty-five minutes until I had to roll up my mat and leave. I apologized to the teacher, saying I had to leave early, and exited the large studio. I walked down the stairs and took a seat on a bench on the landing half way down. One of the women who works there passed by, spritzing a lavender air freshener. She saw me and asked if I'd had a good class. I explained that I had to leave early, and of course the waterworks started. I briefly described why, then said that I felt that going to yoga was better than being home and sitting with it. Yet, I didn't want to freak out the other students by bursting into tears. She was a stranger, and could have backed away from my sudden emotion and tears, but she didn't. "The pain lessens," she said, and told me that she'd had to do the same with her dog a few years ago. As traffic and pedestrian noise from outside floated up the stairs and mixed with the teacher's instructions and music floating down, she said, "You'll always miss them, but over time the good memories of them start to replace the pain."

Indeed, they will. Scout would expect no less of me.

Scout on the roadScout, you were a beautiful friend with such an incredible spirit. My mom called you an exceptional cat, and you really were. We had many adventures together, including two road trips across country, one with my dad. You were such a brave, bold girl who lived up to her name. I'll treasure our walks we took together when I lived in West Hollywood, much to the amusement of the gay men who were amazed that you'd follow me, your collar jingling in time with your gait. I loved how you figured out how to jump from the second story balcony into a tree and use the branches and rooftops to navigate the neighborhood. That proud moment when I heard a man exclaim, "That cat just jumped from the balcony into that tree!" And the smug answer of my neighbor, "I know, she does that all the time." I loved how you'd wait for me by the front door and even before I'd gotten out of my car, you knew it was me and meowed loudly and excitedly, chattering at me as I walked toward you, up the stairs and not stopping until that key went into the door. Again, amusing passers by. You invited yourself into neighbor's houses, even before I'd met them, and became such a part of their lives that their mothers brought them treats to give to you. You were always such a presence and brought joy to those who you met. And ironically, with your name chosen from the novel because you so reminded me of that precocious, smart, observant, spirited and independent Scout, you killed a few Mockingbirds, but they started it with their trash talk.

Here are just some of those happy memories:

Scout in my apartment in Baltimore.

In my apartment in Toluca Lake, Scout sits next to my iron kitty doorstop enjoying the beautiful day, May, 2011.

Scout in Little Rock, Arkansas at my Aunt and Uncle's house, during my road trip from Los Angeles to Baltimore. Beside her is her kitty bed that I took along. Of course, she chose my suitcase as her bed.

My brave little flower face
Back in Los Angeles, my sweet girl wearing the Cone of Shame, after an operation on her backside. The story is here.

If you build it, they will climb. Scout and Atticus on a ladder seconds after I placed it in my living room to change a light bulb. I had twelve-foot ceilings in my apartment in Baltimore.

Scout in 2008
Scout in my Toluca Lake apartment, photo taken by Shannon Treglia in 2008.

I love you Scout. Thank you for being such a beautiful friend.