A Farewell to Elsa

Well, in about a five-year time span, the Duck has lost her third cat.  Elsa was going to turn five in a few months, but six months ago, she developed a sudden case of what the vets thought was asthma.  None of the medicine provided did much to help her, and coaxing her to sit still long enough to use her inhaler was typically a failed affair.  Even so, nothing could have prepared me for what happened.

On 1/3/19, at night after Mother Duck has gone to bed, I find myself crying as I near the end of Kingdom Hearts 3.  It’s silly, really, but the prospect of finishing this particular collection of games after nearly twenty years, one that has been so dear to my heart, is enough to send me into quiet sobs.  Elsa gets up from where she had been sleeping in my spot on the couch, where she had been sleeping every evening for some time, to sit beside me and stare up at me in concern.

On 2/17/19, for whatever reason, she watches me from behind the laundry basket.  I go to the kitchen, and when I look back, she’s peeking around the basket, watching me.  I return to my seat, and when I look over, she’s turned around, eyeing me once more.  After a short time, she relocates to sit beneath my computer table, where she proceeds to stare an me for several long minutes.  We exchange blinks, and I wonder what she’s thinking and wonder if she’s thinking the same about me.

On 2/18/19, I was relaxing on the bed, reading another chapter of a particularly funny Kingdom Hearts fan fic I revisit from time to time.  At first, Elsa is looking out the window, as she always loves to do, until she decides to jump onto the bed and nap on the corner.  She never goes on the bed, not unless I am there.  Sometime later, the chapter nearly complete, she decides instead to come closer and sit next to me until a coughing fit interrupts her attempts at snuggling.

On 2/19/19, in the morning, she comes to sit next to me, and I give her a hug.  She then goes to her special window and paws at the blinds until I open them for her so that she can look outside.  A short while later, she returns to the living room and coughs, as she usually does.  I, too, have asthma.  I, too, cough every day and have learned to get used to it.  It’s unfortunate, but it was just one of those things.

When I look up again from the computer, she’s laying on her side, with her tongue sticking out.  The inhaler doesn’t work, and I drive her to the vet, where Mother Duck joins me from work a short while later.  It is 11:30 in the morning.

We don’t see Elsa again until about 5 PM.  Until then, she had been staying in some sort of oxygen chamber.  The steroids that should allow her to breathe outside it for the next 24-48 hours don’t work.  No one is certain what happened.  Had her coughing been due to heartworms this whole time, a terribly difficult thing to diagnose in cats, and virtually untreatable if it was the cause?  Had the heartworms finally caught up with her or was it, rather, a blood cot that had travelled to her lung?  But this morning, she was completely fine.

She needs a specialist, who is 45 minutes away.  She can survive outside her oxygen chamber for 15 minutes.  There is no other choice but to give up and end things.  She is brought to join us in the x-ray room, where we hold an oxygen tube that she can breathe from whenever she needs it.  Even so, it’s a happy reunion.  She is exactly the way she’s always been, before she got sick.  She is happy and energetic, and we give her hugs and kisses.  We rub heads, and she licks our faces.  Her first priority is greeting us, for many long, happy minutes.  Then she gets to work, cleaning every inch of herself after a long, exhausting day.

It’s nearly impossible to make the decision to leave the room, knowing that I will never, ever see her again.  But the time comes that I finally have to tear myself away, even if I would have been content to live in that room, with Elsa and her oxygen tube, for the rest of my days and hers.  Mother Duck stays with her, and I wait in another room.  Mother Duck joins me, and we are given a clay impression of her paw prints.  When we get home, we spell out her name in small beads, and add one final embellishment, a tiny porcelain cat I got twenty years ago.  It doesn’t look like her, but I wanted to give her something, one final token of my love.

A good animal is the best friend life can give you.  Elsa loved us.  We loved her.  In recent weeks, I thought to myself what a shame it will be when she’s gone, unaware that such a day was drawing steadily nearer like a shadow stretching ever closer as the sun draws low.  All this history we have together, the experiences we have shared and the bond that has grown ever stronger between us, I muse that losing such a thing is like deleting the contents of one’s hard drive, but immeasurably more grave.  When that history is gone, it can never be brought back.  Not without years of work and devotion, and only with a companion that will never be the same as the one you lost.  Even if we find another animal that loves us as much as Elsa, it will never be the same.  Some things are irreplaceable, and it makes everything that I own like so much dust in comparison.

I would do anything to get her back, to rewind the days to a time when she was still here and healthy.  I would take her disease and make it my own.  I would sooner hear the news that I was the one for whom life had grown short if it would bring her back.  Of course, no amount of bargaining can resurrect the dead or turn back the clock, and I have learned that nothing can stop memories from fading.  I don’t want to forget.  I’ll never forget, not entirely, but things will grow fuzzy.  That is why I wanted to write this, before I forgot a single detail.

Elsa, just because you’re no longer here, that does not mean I will ever stop loving you.

If I could only be with you once more,

And hold you tightly to my heart,

We could walk this road together

And never, ever be apart

-Pieces of a Broken Heart, Ni no Kuni

19 thoughts on “A Farewell to Elsa

    1. I’m doing as well as can be expected, thanks. I keep expecting her to come out of a room or to see her when I get up in the morning, but alas. To help make myself feel better, I’ve been writing down memories and have kept the habit of singing little songs about her, just as I used to. All her toys and such are still out where she left them, too. The less change right now, the better.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Cary. Elsa was a sweet cat indeed. Even during her multiple vet visits in the past, the people working there all talked about how she was one of the sweetest cats they ever met.

      Fortunately, I have a lot of photos and videos this time around, which I didn’t have for Alex and Arwen. It’s nice to have things to look back on, even though I haven’t been able to watch any of the videos yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. My heart breaks for you. I wish I could say it gets better, but it’s just one of those things that you just become used to. It’s been a year since we lost my grumpy old man Kin-mei, and I still have “Kin-mei is alive” dreams that I know aren’t true. It sucks. It really sucks that there was a specialist who couldn’t get to her. I’m asthmatic, too. It feels like such a cheap trick: living on a planet with plenty of oxygen that you need medicine in order to breathe ;_;

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, asthma is so unfair. Sometimes just taking a short walk around the house makes me out of breath. Anyway, thanks for the support. Though my initial grief has worn off with time, it still hurts every time I remember that there used to be a cat that lived here. I miss being greeted when I come home, and I even miss having to hide my pencils so Elsa won’t carry them off and push them under the couch.

      I have dreams like that, too; in fact, last night, I dreamed that Elsa was alive again. And as thrilled as I was to have her back, I was terrified she would get sick again, and I would lose her all over again. I dream about my other cats, Alex and Arwen, from time to time, as well, whom I haven’t seen for years.

      It’s so weird because I am still in the process of editing videos for Youtube that I recorded months ago where I talk about what Elsa is doing at the moment.

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      1. Even though we have two cats again, I still miss my grumpy old man. I was reading an article that suggested losing a pet can be as heartbreaking if not worse than the death of a person. You see your pet EVER DAY. You have a routine around them. You know them as much if not more than some humans you’re close to, and it’s wild because we don’t even speak the same language as them. We know them deeper than words can say, and they love us unconditionally. It’s a devastating loss. I miss having to outsmart him, because he would do ANYTHING for food and was absolutely brilliant at getting it. He’d even use Cid as his workhorse while he was the look out.

        Do you think you’ll get another kitty any time soon? I think we adopted Garnet two months after we lost Kin-mei. I’m happy we were able to give another kitty a home. I really want to foster one day when we have a bigger place.

        That’s so rough…I wanted to put together a photo album, but I can’t look at pictures of Kin-mei without crying my eyes out. It sucks, because I’d love to have something like that. At least I have plenty of time to do it. It’s not like the photos are going anywhere.

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      2. That is so true; I work remotely right now, so I spent all day, every day, with Elsa. She was such good company, and I loved when she’d visit me when I worked or even laid on the table next to my computer.

        Elsa was pretty smart, too. She knew exactly what to do to get attention. I think she pushed toys under furniture because she knew I’d get up to retrieve it for her. It was also hard to get to bed because she’d suddenly lay on her back, and I couldn’t resist petting her tummy. It would almost always delay me for at least another ten minutes. Arwen was my smartest cat. She learned how to open sliding doors and Tupperware just by watching us do it. She liked destroying toilet paper, so we put it in Tupperware, but she’d just open it up anyway. Once her and Alex were in a hotel bathroom with a sliding door (we were moving to another state), and she set them both free while we were out getting dinner by pulling the door open. We were so surprised to return to find two cats roaming freely about the hotel room.

        I’d really like to get another cat. Actually, I’d really like two kittens, a brother and a sister, since I’ve never had cat siblings before, and I haven’t had a kitten for over 15 years. The problem is, I worry that there’s something in our current house that might be making everyone sick. Alex and I were healthy before we moved here, and then he got asthma, and my asthma from childhood returned, and Elsa was so young when she got asthma. Breathing issues seem to be common where we live, and I’m so afraid that I’ll get another cat that will get sick again at a young age.

        I’ve considered fostering, too, but it would be hard giving up kitties I grew attached to. Of course, I’d just have to remember that I’m giving them away to their forever homes.

        Hopefully you’ll eventually be able to make that photo album. That actually might be a nice thing to make for my cats someday. All my photos are on the computer, so it would be nice to have something physical to remember them by.

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      3. Kin-mei was outsmarting us when he was a kitten. Apparently Siamese are considered extremely intelligent and he was at least half. You could see it in his face. He had a very long nose and beautifully shaped eyes. I should post the video I have of him opening up a plastic container of cupcakes. It was amazing lol.

        Oh geez, that’s kind of scary! I’m hoping it’s not a mold or god forbid asbestos. I know cats can get asthma, but it seems like it’s a lot more common where you are. I think they recommend getting two kittens actually! They keep each other company and with siblings you’re less likely to have in-fighting or introduction problems since they already know each other. I mean…they’ll still fight lol, but it’s a lot easier than introducing another cat which is always a crap shoot.

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      4. Aww, Siamese are cool cats. Yeah, if you post that video, I’d love to see it. Arwen was a Manx, with just a nub of a tail. I think they’re supposed to be smart cats, too, and she was certainly the smartest cat I ever had.

        My house is fairly new (about ten years old), so though it’s probably not asbestos, I wonder if there’s some kind of new, currently unknown substance the house is made from that’s causing everyone to get sick here. I’d feel more confident getting kittens if I could figure out what’s going on.

        Alex and Arwen didn’t get along too well, so I’d love to have two cats that like each other. Alex was rather cowardly, and Arwen was quite bossy, so I was frequently having to protect him from Arwen’s bullying. I think she just liked to play rough, but poor Alex wasn’t used to it.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Okay good; I’m glad there’s no asbestos threat. That stuff is NASTY. It’s probably not going to be lead either if it’s new. They stopped using lead paint a while ago. Hm, if you get an allergy test it might tell you what you’re allergic to and you could parse it out from there? It’s odd that if affects both humans and cats.

        Next time I adopt I’m getting two bonded kitties lol.

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      6. Yeah, I’d certainly like to know what kind of allergen or whatever is causing our asthma. We had considered getting our carpets and maybe even air ducts cleaned to see if that helps, too. For all we know, it could just be accumulated dust and other airborne particles from over the years that’s finally caught up with us. It would be great to make our house healthy to live in again.

        Oh, speaking of bonded kitties, you might be interested in checking out Kitten Academy on Youtube right now. They have a new mom cat named Tempest who just had three babies, and her best friend Teacup has been helping to take care of them. The two of them snuggle together all the time. The kittens basically have two moms. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

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      7. I know I”m allergic to dust mites, so I could see that happening after years of accumulation. It sucks though because you can never fully get rid of those little critters.

        I heard Kitten Academy and I’m immediately interested ♥

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