Thursday, February 7, 2013

Losing Zora

In May 1997, I was working adjunct at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen, WA, while also working part-time at the fabulous public library.  I had been thinking about getting a furry pal for quite some time and so when a co-worker at the library suggested that I take one of the many barn kittens she had off her hands, I decided that was a sign.  So on a foggy afternoon, I drove the thirty or so minutes to South Bend, WA, and found myself surrounded by what seemed like a million kittens! My friend had a huge barn and had managed to pull 5 or 6 kittens out of the wild cats that roamed her farm and she had quarantined them in a bathroom.  As soon as I sat on the floor to introduce myself to these kittens, a wee calico one placed herself on my lap and wouldn't leave.  I wasn't crazy about adopting a calico but there was no discussion.  Zora insisted and so the decision was made.  She never cried once on the way home and settled in as the center of the household.  Those who knew her back then can testify that she was an active, monkey-like cat (so unlike the older, chubbier, lazier cat that she became!).  She would jump straight from the floor onto the top of a door frame (I never saw her do it but found her stuck on door tops when I would come home from work) and I can't tell you how many times Zora would leap into people's arms for the chance at a hug.  She saw herself as a person.  Or maybe the Queen?

Fast forward sixteen years.  Jim and I had already decided that Zora needed to be euthanized next week (she has been going downhill for some time with kidney disease, a hyper thyroid issue, and a suspected brain tumor).  But yesterday -- when I came home from teaching my late afternoon class -- something was different.  Zora has never been listless.  Ever.  Even when she became chubbier.  But yesterday she was.  For weeks (maybe months), she has been bumping into walls and not walking very steady.  This wasn't a huge concern for me because she has been blind for at least half of her life but the more I thought about it, the more it disturbed me.  Even blind, Zora was the one creature in our house who was assertive in terms of where she wanted to go.  Something was wrong and yesterday it just all crashed down on her.  I knew that we had to do something when she peed all over Jim as he tried to comfort her.  This wasn't Zora.

Our vet, the wonderful Dr Louis, made Zora's last moments on this earth this morning comfortable.  And I know it was the best thing to do -- if anything, I didn't want her to suffer anymore (and I shiver to think that she has probably been unhappy and uncomfortable for at least a year).  I would be lying if I said I wasn't sobbing on the way to the vet, the whole time we were there, and afterwards.  But I also recognize that this bad situation was more than just Zora dying.  There was also something about a part of me dying, too.  Zora has been my comrade for 16 years that included a lot of changes: more graduate school, moving across the US to Mississippi, moving north to St Louis, working a FT job that I love, meeting and marrying Jim, moving to a fabulous loft in downtown St Louis, helping me through cancer treatments, and even becoming friends with her dog-sister, Stella.  I know that Zora had a great life -- she came a long way from that barn in South Bend, WA.  But as this bottom picture shows, I know that I am going to lose it when that next package comes in the mail and Zora -- with her intense radar capabilities of detecting an empty box -- will not be there to greet her new resting spot.