Tangerine: April 1995 to September 2009
Here’s all I can really say about Tangerine.
She was a beautiful cat. She really was my favorite. I bonded with her in a way I’d never bonded with another cat. We both had respiratory issues; I have asthma and allergies, and Tangerine was permanently sniffly due to some upper respiratory issues she had as a kitten. We described her funny little noises as “snorfles”, and we could always tell when she was coming by her snorfles and sniffs. She was not a stealhy cat. And every now and then she would seem to get “oversnorfed” and would end up in a sneezing and sniffing fit that we could hear all over the house. Because of her breathing problems, she had a very loud and squeaky purr that we could hear from just about everywhere in the house.
Most mornings after waking up I spend half an hour or so puttering around on my computer. Tangerine would often jump onto my lap when I was doing that, and sometimes she would crawl onto my chest and lay ther purring, which would prevent me from sitting upright or standing up; she was a great excuse for avoiding my morning chores. If she didn’t jump up on me, she’d rear up and put her front paws on my leg, or just wander around the office, making her silly snorfs and squacking noises. Feeling her settle in on my chest and curling up and purring was one of my favorite parts of the morning, and it never failed to cheer me up.
She wasn’t much for playing or overt affection; she liked being on me, but she wasn’t too keen on being carried around or held. She hated being on her back, but sometimes she liked being on her side. Let’s say she liked affection but it had to be on her own terms. And even though she came with Jennifer to our marriage, Tangerine and I really bonded to the point where it was clear that she was really my cat more than she was Jennifer’s.
When she had her first seizure on Tuesday morning, we both panicked. I called the vet and brought her in as soon as I could; it was an hour until they opened, and during the entire time I worried. I took the day off work so that I could take care of her when she came home, and check in with the vet for the half day that she was there. When I went to the vet, the vet informed me that Tangerine’s heart was enlarged and she had some fluid buildup in her lungs, as well as a significant heart murmur. But we thought maybe it was something that could be managed at home, so Tangerine came home with me.
That night, while Jennifer was at her class, Tangerine had another seizure. Panicked, I call an emergency veterinary hospital. I took Tangerine in and let the ER techs take care of her while a vet took a complete history (every vet who’s examined Tangerine needed assurance that her “snorfles” and sniffles were normal for her). We worried and waited all day Wednesday while the hospital staff examined her and tried to figure out what was wrong.
By the end of the day on Wednesday, we had an answer: endocarditis. Endocarditis is essentially a bacterial infection of the heart valves. Bacteria build up, and as the heart beats, bacteria can break off and enter the blood stream and end up establishing colonies elsewhere in the body. The best theory is that bacteria or a clot had entered Tangerine’s brain and was causing the seizures. They started giving her antibiotics and some other medications, but she showed no improvement. Despite two rounds in an oxygen tent and continued medications, Tangerine showed no improvement; in fact, she was declining pretty rapidly. And on Thursday morning I asked the vet what he would do if Tangerine were his cat; and he told me that he would honestly consider euthanasia. And I knew it was the right choice. Tangerine would not get better. And the time she had left would not be pleasant. So I asked the vet to just keep her comfortable until the evening when Jennifer and I could be there, and I spent almost the entire day in tears; I honestly don’t remember when the last time was that I cried so much in a single day.
Last night we went to the veterinary hospital. The vet let us have a few minutes with her before it was time. I held her on my chest the way she occasionally liked to be held. She didn’t purr. She couldn’t purr; it was too hard for her just to breathe. We stroked her and gave her pets and told her how much we loved her. The vet let me hold her on my lap while he gave her the injection, and it was almost like the mornings and evenings when she would sit on me and purr and accept friendly pets. We both gave her pets and strokes while the injection did its work, and I take some comfort knowing that she was being held and surrounded by people who loved her when it was time for her to go.
There’s so much more I wish I could write about Tangerine: the little games we played; the way she sat on a pillow in the middle of the couch, staring at the back of the couch for hours on end; the friendly way she engaged people whenever we had gatherings or parties by sitting on the coffee table in the middle of the room; the way that everyone who met her seemed to want to take her home; how proud she seemed to be of her very fluffy tail; and so on. But writing this so far has been painful enough.
So long, my snerky and snorfly fuzzy friend. You’ll always be my fuzzy buddy, and words can’t express how much I miss you.