The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

And just like that she was gone

My daughter’s cat Gracie died yesterday afternoon, quietly at home.

She was only 3-years-old and had been Mini-Me’s 7th birthday present.

 

We knew this was coming. We just thought we had more time.

Gracie hadn’t been herself for about a month. It started with her peeing in places where she shouldn’t—never pleasant.

Thinking it was a UTI, the vet treated her with antibiotics, and we quarantined her for 4 days to see if she’d improve.

But she didn’t. She continued to pee everywhere. It was awful. I was losing my patience and threatening to get rid of her.

Then Gracie stopped eating. And she climbed up into Nature Boy’s top bunk and started to sleep all the time, much more than usual.

We took her back to the vet about 10 days ago and she was diagnosed with Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). The vet told us it was fatal and untreatable, and that it could be months or just days—there was no way of knowing. She gave her some steroids to make her more comfortable and sent us home.

I’ve been slowly getting the kids used to the idea that Gracie wasn’t getting any better.

“Be gentle with her, kids. She how skinny she’s gotten? If she doesn’t start eating soon, she could die.”

“Eat, Gracie. Come on, girl. Eat something. Just a bite,” the kids would encourage her.

But two days ago, she really took a turn for the worse. I found her behind the washing machine, panting. I tried to coax her out, but she just meowed at me, weakly, and put her head down.

In the morning, I found her resting under the TV armoire. She was exhausted and weak. Her nose was beige instead of its usual bright pink color. I tenderly picked her up and held her for a long time, telling her over and over how loved she was and how much we’d miss her.

When the kids woke up an hour later for school, I told them how sick she was and that I didn’t think she’d make it through the day. I encouraged them to all say goodbye to her just in case.

It was absolutely gut wrenching to watch.

We made her a bed on her favorite brown blanket, but she slowly meandered back under the TV armoire to rest on the cool hardwood floor.

My hunch was correct. That would be her last day.

I checked on her throughout the morning, watching her breaths get shallower and shallower.

Right before lunch, I lay down on the floor next to her and stroked her again, pleading with her to let go. “Please Gracie. It’s time. I love you and I’ll miss you, but it’s time for you move on, sweetheart.”

Half an hour later, she was gone.

Our dog Ike came over and lay by me, putting his head on his paws and looking up at me with his big brown eyes. He doesn’t like it when I cry, but I sensed he too was sad.

I delicately wrapped Gracie’s limp body in one of Mini-Me’s old pink flannel crib sheets, thinking it would make us all feel better, especially Mini-Me. Then my husband and I waited for the kids to get off the bus.

“Is Gracie still alive?” Mini-Me asked.

“No sweetheart. I’m so sorry,” I whispered as I held her.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sound of their crying.

They wanted to see her and pet her one last time and kiss her goodbye. We all cried, even my husband who isn’t really an animal person.

Then we all picked out a spot in the yard to bury her and Bucket Head and I went to the store to buy a tree while my husband dug the hole.

We picked a white flowering Dogwood tree because the white blossoms will remind us of Gracie’s pretty white coat. The irony is not lost on my 12-year-old son, Nature Boy. He insists we call it a “Catwood” tree instead.

Everyone said a prayer and we all helped with the burial and tree planting so there would be closure for us all.

Then Mini-Me spent a long time sitting by her new tree, saying goodbye.

At dinner, we went around the table and shared what we’d miss the most about Gracie.

She used to love to do organizing projects with me and sleep on my lap while I was writing. Her furry toes always cracked us up. She loved when we rubbed her feet and would spread her toes for us to make it easier to massage in between each of her little pink paw pads.

She loved to play with our dog Ike’s tail and swat at it as he passed by her.

Gracie was a big hit at Preschool Pet Day last fall!

But our favorite thing about Gracie was watching her groom herself on Nature Boy’s freshly-shampooed head. They had a special bond.

For such a small creature, she sure had a big personality!

She was only in our lives for a short time, but those three years were good ones, for all of us. Today we are sad and missing her, but we are also filled with gratitude to have had such a great pet in our lives. The name Gracie is truly befitting for her, as she has gracefully taught us about unconditional love, loss, and the circle of life.

Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. This is shaping up to be a pretty difficult week.

With love and fond memories,
Leslie

PS – We’ll resume our Just the Tip Tuesday Back-to-School for Bloggers series next week. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

59 Comments

  1. Cats and I don’t get along, ever, but my lord, I’m bawling over here.
    Sorry for your family’s loss ;(
    x

  2. Oh, I’m so sorry…Losing a beloved pet is sooo hard…

  3. Poor Gracie 🙁 It is so hard to lose a pet. You don’t realize just how much they become a part of your lives or how much you change your routine to suit theirs just so they know they are loved. I will be praying for all of you and I’m glad Gracie is no longer hurting. You can come over and play with my cats any time.

  4. I’m so sorry. She was so loved, and I’m sure she knew it.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss of Gracie. My cat, Callie climbed up on my car and onto the open garage door and I didn’t know it. When I left and closed the door with the remote she was crushed, needless to say I was devastated for weeks! Give mini me a hug from this fellow cat lover and assure her of my prayers. I bet Callie was waiting for her in cat heaven! U might google the rainbow bridge story about losing a pet and share it with the kids. Wishing u all peace and healing. Never easy to lose a loved one!

  6. Bringing back memories of losing my special kitty to something similar when I was young. He didn’t want to leave the bathroom floor on his last night, so I dragged my blankets in there and slept on it with him so he wasn’t alone. Gracie knew she was (is) loved. I’m sorry for the loss of her.

  7. Dangit, I’m crying!! Our kitten got FIP and was gone within hours. It was the saddest, awfulest way of losing a beloved pet. I’ve been there for several last breaths of my kitties and it rips my heart out. RIP Sweet Gracie. She’ll meet you on the Rainbow Bridge.

  8. Oh gosh, I’m so sorry. My heart is breaking for all of you. 🙁 I’ve lost a few pets in my day but never had to go thru it with my children old enough to really understand. . . yet. Not looking forward to it.

  9. I’m sitting in my studio with my classmates fighting back the tears. Having lost 2 cats sooner than I’d planned, I know the emptiness that you’re all feeling. So sorry, Les 🙁 She was as lucky to have you guys as you were to have her.

  10. O.K. – I am just gonna cry my way through this. I am so sorry about Gracie. A little bob-tail orphan baby cat found us Monday. It had ants and fleas all over it and it was very hungry. I bathed it, and fed it, but was not going to keep it. Is it ok if I name it Gracie?

  11. I lost my cat, Molly, about five years ago. She lived a long happy life and we adored her. She too died quietly at home. I had already called the vet and scheduled an appointment to have her put down; that would have been a terribly difficult thing to do (alone, everyone else was at work and/or school)… and I prayed that I wouldn’t have to do it. Well, God came through as He always does, and she died quietly, with me (like you) lying on the floor talking to her and petting her about a half hour before her appointment. Your story about your Gracie touched me. Thank you.

  12. I’m so sorry. It’s never easy to lose a pet. Sadly, I think that’s why we haven’t gotten any (also, yeah, ok, my husband’s allergic to things I can’t pronounce, but you’d think he’d be willing to take one for the team, you know?).

  13. Oh, Leslie. . . I’m so sorry. My heart goes out to all of you. . . We lost our 14 yr old lab two years ago and then our cat (unexpectedly) this summer. As adults it’s never easy, but even worse to see our children in pain. ((HUGS))

  14. So sad. I’m sorry for the loss. I remember losing my cat many years ago and it still makes me sad to think about her. She died in a similar way, and not that I’ve read this it makes me wonder is she also had FIP.
    Love and light to your family.

  15. Oh my goodness- my son was shattered when his fish died this past spring. I cannot imagine the loss of a bigger pet. This is so sad, but I love the touching tribute to Gracie and the beautiful gesture of planting a “catwood” tree in her place.

  16. I’m sorry. I must have missed the posts on facebook. I know how hard it is to lose a pet. We all send goat hugs. Even AbbyGoat

  17. So sorry for you and the family. We lost a dog about 4 years ago who was sick for a while too and it was awful. Your story brought tears to my eyes. It’s so hard for the kids too, usually their first experience with loss.

  18. So sorry for your loss. We have this impending doom waiting for us with two cats over the age of fourteen. What a beautiful post for such a sad day.

  19. I’m so sorry, Leslie. It is so awful to lose a pet, but witnessing the grief our kiddos go through is gut wrenching.
    The picture at the tree killed me.

  20. How gut wrenching. My mom was the local animal shelter. People just dumped animals on her all the time, and she never turned them away. It got to the point (13 cats and 3 dogs ; yes, we had a big barn for them, no it was not a cheap endeavor, no we couldn’t afford it, yes we did it anyway) that the vet declared us a herd and made house calls. We lost some to FIV, we lost some to FIP. Mom always did the appropriate vaccinations, but sometimes it was too late, and sometimes, it just didn’t matter, they died anyway. And it was awful to watch. Just awful. Sometimes, they came to us so badly hurt that all we could do was have them put down. The herd is down to six cats and 1 dog now. And she has one, a 20 year old tabby, who has been living with FIP for the last 3 years. It’s impossible to tell what symptoms are old age and what are the disease. But by god that cat still zooms to the kitchen when he hears the treat bag rattle, so he’s still got a good quality of life. My Mom has 24 trees on her immediate quarter acre. There isn’t an animal planted under all of them, but quite a few represent lost friends.

    I’m so sorry for your whole family. We are an only pet family ourselves, and our dog died at age 11 back in April. My husband cried harder than any of us. We have a new dog now, but you know how that goes. It’s never a replacement, always a new friend, and we still miss our old guy. I know you will, too.

  21. I am in tears now and so sorry for your loss. We also lost our cat this year. A book that helped my kids was “Cat Heaven”. All about the fun things kitties get to do in heaven. They were able to imagine her having such a great time. It really made them feel better.

  22. awww. i’m so sorry. you are making me cry at work (instead of snort). i love animals (more than most people). losing a pet is really hard. thinking of you and your family.

  23. Oh, I’m wiping the tears away! That is such a tough thing to go through! What a sweet kitty Gracie was. I love the pictures of her. This story brought back memories of when we lost our cat. We had him for 8 years and he was quite the character. He got taken by a coyote and we never saw him again. We all cried our eyes out, except for my husband. He never liked animals and the cat used to hide when he heard his footsteps. My ex left the cat outside that night and I’m still not sure if it was on purpose. Anyhow, I digress to my own story. Hope you and your kids are doing okay!

  24. I’m so sorry and so sad for you all. It is hard to lose a loved one. (My mascara is running here at work). The video of Gracie and Nature Boy is precious. What a wonderful thing to have. And I so happy you planted a Catwood tree. Gracie was lucky to have a family like you.

  25. Oh man, I am so so sorry for your lose. Pets are amazing and complete our families. I will keep you all in my thoughts this week. Sounds like she was one special cat that left so many memories with you all.
    xo-Jen

  26. I’m so sorry about Gracie. I’ve lost several cats – two to old age (22 and 17), one to raccoons and two to cars. It’s never easy whether quick or slow and I can only imagine how hard it is with children. You seem to have handled it very well. I especially like the “Catwood” tree. When Tija (17-year-old) died in early March this year, I realised it was the first time in 36 years I had been without a cat! Luckily for me, an older cat (10) who needed a new home came into my life. She’s not a replacement – and I still miss all my other fur people – but she does have her own place in my heart as we learn to adjust to each other.

  27. tracy@sellabitmum

    September 19, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Bawling. So much love coming your way, my friend. My daughters lost their beloved feline friend nearly 2 years ago. It was awful…and the innocent and sweet love they showed in the little ceremony we had will forever be etched in my heart.

    Oh these little furry things – that drive us crazy at times – they are the real deal to teach us what it’s like to love unconditionally.

    My heart breaks for you all.
    xoxo

  28. This was absolutely heart-wrenching to read. My 11-year-old cat, Boo, also has a big personality. And yet, lately whenever he begins to meow at me or beg for affection – especially later in the evening after Lil’ Bit goes to bed – I get annoyed with him. In many ways, he’s become eclipsed over the past three years by our “real” child. It’s easy to think that, as a cat, he prefers the solitude, but the truth is he’s actually a very affectionate little guy. And we’re his family – me, especially. I adopted him during a very lonely time in my life; he’s my buddy, my first baby. And for the past few years I’ve completely taken him for granted. So, tonight I’m going to give him some extra love and attention. And going forward, whenever he starts in with his incessant yowling (I swear to God he’s part Siamese!), I’m going to remember you and Gracie and this post and count my blessings that he’s still around to annoy me.

  29. I’m so, so sorry for your loss. I’ve said goodbye to many a kitty over the years, and it never gets any easier. Two years ago I had to banish my current cat from the house because she became inexplicably incontinent. Vet diagnosed FIP, and gave her 3 months. That was 2 years ago. She looks awful, and ticks off my husband by crushing the plants to bed down, but we still love her and spend quality time on the porch, butting heads and snuggling. She follows the boys around like a dog when they play outside, and she and our lab have finally decided to give up the pretense and sleep together openly.

    Thanks for sharing with us – it’s a hard thing to do.

  30. I am so sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is hard enough but sharing that loss with children – experiencing it through and with them must be devastating. I haven’t lost a beloved pet in forever, perhaps because I haven’t had one since middle school. But we gave a cat we had had for 5 years to my mother because of some moving issues we were having at the time, and that cat is now 12. Sigh.

  31. I am so sorry for your loss!

    I lost several Pets growing up, and I remember the pain. It is a good reminder for all of us about the frailty of life. May we cherish each moment!

  32. Oh, what a beautifully written passage. So glad you took lots of pictures, and that video is priceless! It’s a tough lesson for everybody, kids and adults, but not a bad reminder to treasure all the time we have with everyone!

  33. OMG I cannot stop crying..be at peace little Gracie.. So sorry Leslie. Love and Hugs..xo

  34. Aaaaaaaaaand bawling over here. I’m sorry. It is so, so hard. We lost one of our cats this year, and it was really tough on me. I feel for you all. xo

  35. Shit, I lost it at the kids begging her to eat. I am so sorry, this tears me up. We have a 5 year old dog with a terminal bone tumor. He might have a few months, he might have several weeks. He’s also on prednisone (and I swear he’d eat us alive right now it’s making him so nuts).

    I love what you did with the tree. I love your kids. I’m so heartbroken for you all. xo

  36. You did a fabulous job helping the kids grieve. You should be VERY proud of yourself. Now you can let it all out, sister. Big hugs and tears!

  37. Dogs do know when we are sad. My guy always find me when I am upset. My daughter has a cat she loves like you loved Gracie. She’s already asked me if she has to go to school the day after Oreo dies. We lost a beautiful white kitty as a child to that disease.

  38. This is why I hate having pets. They always rip your heart out in the end. But, we have them, love them, and they are part of our family. So sorry for your loss.

  39. I am a dog person who has been stuck with a cat for 8 years.

    She will be wondering why she actually gets to sit in my lap tonight and be pet.

    So sorry for your families loss. You did Gracie proud – that was a lovely tribute.

  40. Losing a fur baby is the worst. And it sounds like your Gracie was a very special girl. I don’t care if people say they’re just animals. It’s more than that. They are family and they occupy a huge place in our hearts. At least you were at home with her when it happened.

    I was about your daughter’s age when I lost my first cat to feline leukemia. It was really rough for a while. The best thing my parents did for me was let me talk about her. They also reminded me that there are many other animals out there who deserve a loving home and a year or so later, we got my next cat. Surprisingly enough, she came from the meanest teacher I ever had (or so I thought at the time). The lady was quite observant and recognized that the stray her daughter found and I would be good for each other. She was right. Give it time, Gracie will point another deserving kitty in your direction.

  41. So Sorry for you and your family. We had a jack russell terrier for 17 years and when he died it was gut wrenching for the whole family. It will get better with time-as my cousin, who is a veterinarian says, it’s too bad that we outlive them and not the other way around.

  42. I’m so sorry for you and your family. For what it’s worth, it sounds like you handled it absolutely beautifully. I know it’s just a matter of time before I go through this with my own kids and our kitty; my heart’s with you guys.

  43. Aww. Poor kitty.
    🙁
    So sorry for your loss.

  44. I am so sorry for your family’s loss. Pets integrate themselves into our lives so easily, and sometimes we don’t realize how much we love them until they are gone. Your Gracie was lucky for the time she had with your darling family, and she has already taught your children some wonderful life lessons. I’ll be thinking of you guys.

  45. I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s touching how much everyone in your family loved her- how wonderful that you were able to find each other.

  46. I’m a dog person too, but it doesn’t matter – pets are family. I’m so sorry about Gracie, and I know how difficult it must be right now for all of you (especially you and Mini Me). Thinking of you 🙁

  47. I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your cat. Non-pet lovers never understand that pets are family. I remember crying bucks when my first 2 dogs passed away. Planting a tree is such a beautiful tribute as it teaches that each soul gives breath to new life.

  48. Leave it to Nature Boy to bring on a laugh when I’m sniffing away!

    Please tell Mini-Me how sorry I am for her loss. My special cat died 20 years ago, and I still miss him sometimes. Mostly, though, I just enjoy the memories he left. ((HUGS)) to you all.

  49. What a beautiful, touching story . . . you and your husband are such good parents, helping your children to fully experience and understand the circle of Life. I’m sure you already thought of this, but did you also let their teachers know? We want to be there with extra hugs and conversation; sometimes it’s too difficult for kids to say the sad words out loud. (I’m a middle school teacher ~ best job in the world!)

  50. I’m so sorry! It’s so difficult to lose a pet!! I’ll be thinking of your family in the coming days!

  51. My heart breaks for your and your family, especially your daughter. I cried buckets when I saw the picture of her by the tree. We, too, lost a feline friend at the tender age of two. Eddie was born with a heart defect that went undetected until his heart just basically came apart in his chest. He went from playful kitten to gone in less than 2 hours. I was devastated. Believe me when I say I can totally empathize with what you’re going through. But I know, in my heart, that Eddie and Gracie are chasing the butterflies together in heaven now. XO

  52. I know. Losing a pet is absolutely gut wrenching. She was lucky to have a family who was able to provide good medical care and if she was able to be saved you would have done it. I know this sounds silly now, but at least you know what happened. We lost our dog Maggie years ago and we had already spent over $6,000 trying to save her that we didn’t have any more left for a doggie autopsy. I still wonder what it was…

  53. We have a sweet sweet kitty too. And I dread the day he leaves us, whether it be this year, or in 10 years. My children have not really experienced death of anyone/thing close to them yet [knock on wood] and it gives me a knot in the stomach to think about the lessons they have yet to learn, and the pain from which I cannot save them. <3 You and your family have my sympathies and prayers. <3

  54. Oh.

    I’m so sorry.

    This is the truth: my IRL BFF’s kitty, Runty, just died from this very same thing last week Tuesday.

    She had him for 18 years.

    She cried so hard and I didn’t know what to do.

    So I brought her flowers and lemon cake.

    But, really, Runty has been there for her for 18 years.

    It breaks my heart.

    I’m so very sorry, Leslie. Please, let your kids know how many people are so very sorry.

  55. It’s so hard to let them go. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  56. I’ve lost two beloved dogs (one when I was exactly the same age as Mini-Me…I think I even asked my mother the same question) and it’s always so tough. They are family member, no matter what anyone says. It’s especially unfair when they’re young like your kitty. Crying as I read this. Peace to you and your family.

    • Thank you Rachael. We sure do miss her. I still expect to see her some mornings when I wake up and am always disappointed when she’s not there. She was so special though and will always have a special place in our heart. Thanks for the peace and sympathy. XO

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