“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France
My family, especially my father’s side, has always been known as animal lovers and healers. I grew up in an apartment that was conveniently located across the street from a veterinary hospital, which only seemed natural. Over the years, we slowly adopted more and more pets, rescuing several from terrible situations. Mary, the baby kitten with kidney issues, came to live with us for a very short life that was full of love. Annie, the German Shepard mix who was severely abused, was rescued from a campground and brought to live in the peace and protection of our home. Lucas, the feisty mutt, who was minutes from being euthanized, was brought home as pooch numero dos by my dad. The list goes on and on…
During March 2011, my boyfriend and I started discussing adopting a new kitten. We share a small apartment and already had Duncan (dog) and Charlotte (cat), but wanted one more fur member for the family. We began casually looking in shelters, but couldn’t find many available kittens due to the season. One weekend, we strolled into a rescue shelter and first laid eyes on Savannah.
There were signs on her cage stating she was very sick and wouldn’t be available for adoption for a bit. Despite this, one look in her eyes and I was in love. We talked to the shelter workers and learned her story. She was found on the streets in a city roughly one hour away. She had chronic upper respiratory infections and some other health issues. And that was all… no further history was known, or could be told. She was heavily medicated when we first met her, but I knew in my heart, I had found my new cat. A month and a half later, she was medically cleared to come home.
Savannah immediately fell in love with her brother, Duncan, and sister, Charlotte. Humans were another story. I cannot recall the number of hours I spent in the living room, on the floor, talking softly and assuring her she wouldn’t be hurt or harmed again. She didn’t trust humans, and feet were especially terrifying for her. But hour by hour, and day by day, I slowly taught her to trust me and know that she was in her forever home.
For an extremely short period of time, Savannah flourished. She always stayed a petite cat in weight, but her mane grew large and her hair resembled a lion. She would play with her brother and sister with no fear. She would slowly trust my feet moving through a hallway, knowing they wouldn’t kick her or go after her. She was a nervous nelly and extremely skiddish, but she was my fur-baby and I was so happy to see her adjusting. I treasure those moments, with every bit of me.
Before long, Savannah started going downhill gradually. She became increasingly scared and stressed out. This stress led to excessive scratching, which eventually led to skin irritations. Next thing I knew, we were in the vet’s office… Savannah had dug at herself so badly, she had a large wound on her neck. The vet ran tests and looked into everything as much as she could. The final verdict was she was a rescued kitty that had severe anxiety, and wasn’t the healthiest kitty around. The back-to-back upper respiratory infections topped with the excessive medications given to her as a kitten had set this little lady up for a challenged immune system and several health issues.
Skip forward through more skin infections, stress issues, food issues, and health issues. A few months ago, Savannah stopped eating hard food. She was never big on food to begin with, but when I saw her refuse to eat, my heart sank. We temporarily fixed the issue and began feeding her wet food. Again, a few weeks later… absolute refusal.
Two weeks ago, Savannah stopped eating altogether. She wouldn’t touch anything. She was still drinking and playing, so I prayed it was a slight set-back. A week and a half ago, she stopped drinking water. A week ago, she positioned herself on the couch in a comfortable place, which would be her final resting spot.
I’ve had a lot of loss in my life. I’ve seen a lot of things that a 27-year-old shouldn’t have. I’ve witnessed the life leaving people and animals several times. Nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared me for having a pet pass away naturally at home.
I internally struggled between force feeding her and accepting that it had been a long year and a half struggle and she did her best. Savannah became severely underweight months before her refusing food and water, and it was heartbreaking to try everything, with no success. I couldn’t picture her last days involving feeding tubes, kitten bottles, and forcing formula and nutrients in her. I loved her so dearly, I couldn’t put her through the trauma of being held down and forced into a situation… especially after her past and her fearfulness.
After a very long, tear-filled week… Savannah passed last night. She passed with dignity, all curled up in a blanket, with her “Mom”, “Dad”, brother, and sister nearby. She was kissed, pet, and told she was so beautiful and loved endlessly. I know she’s in a better place now, but it will take some time for my heart to catch up to this notion. All I have done, and all I want to do, is fall apart into a million tears until the universe realizes what a mistake they made taking Savannah too soon.
Some people scoff when they hear me mention my “furbabies”. Some people dare say “it’s just a cat”. Some people snicker to themselves when they hear of a person emotionally crumbling at the loss of a pet. To these people, I say… I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry that you are missing such a large part of your life and you haven’t been able to feel your soul connect to another living thing, human or not.
But I’m not sorry for my emotions, my sadness, my reactions, or my actions. I’m not sorry that my soul connected to this little lady in a serious way. I’m not sorry that I loved her with every bit of me and will miss her so much, that my eyes are welling just at the mere thought of not seeing her when I get home.
Just like past furbabies that have passed over, she’ll always be with me. She’ll stay in my heart and memories forever. I will never forget the little song I sang every time she shimmied through the hallway. And I won’t forget the goo-goo eyes she would give me when she flipped over for a belly rub. Her kitten meow that was rarely heard, her new-found love for my boyfriend during her final weeks, her attachment to dirty laundry piles… all of these memories, I’ll cherish forever.