Kia came into our lives quite by accident. One day about three years ago my friend, Yukari, asked if I would be interested in joining her as a volunteer at a local city shelter. She further enticed me by saying the volunteer position would be in the Cat Enrichment Program; basically showing up and playing with cats.
It was something I had been thinking about for a long time ~ volunteering at an animal shelter. I was nervous but knowing I would be doing it with a friend made it easier. So we agreed we would show up on Friday mornings and play with cats and kittens for a couple of hours. It was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot.
I have always loved cats and have always had a cat or two (at one time I had four) in my adult life. When my last cat, A-choo, passed away at the age of 21.5 rather than adopting a cat, we adopted another dog. Life with two dogs, both adopted as seniors, was very busy and very full.
Or so I thought. I joked that I fell in love with a cat or two every Friday morning. One particular morning a very shy but oh so beautiful white long haired cat with caramel markings crawled up on my lap, purred and fell asleep. I started to cry. There was something very special about this one. She was an owner surrender and 12 years old (who knows for sure). I was desperately afraid she wouldn’t be adopted. I couldn’t let anything bad happen to her.
Yukari picked up on my emotions and gently suggested maybe I could foster her. Although I was a little worried about how the dogs may accept her I called my husband, Charlie – crying – asking if he would be ok with us fostering this beautiful soul who was 12 years old. His response? Do the paperwork, I’ll pick up cat food, a litterbox, litter – is there anything else she’ll need?
I asked the Shelter Director if I could foster, got permission, had Animal Protection Officers visit our home, filled out the papers, we were approved and within three hours we were off to the Shelter to bring her home!
We decided a slow introduction to our two dogs was best so “Puddy Tat” (as she was dubbed – and we knew that had to quickly change) took up residence in our guest room. We didn’t want her to feel lonely so I spent that first night with her; something that, as it turns out, we would take turns doing for the entire 2 month introduction period.
Since our dogs were Kizzie and Koko we decided to stick with the K theme and named our sweet foster, Kia. Within 18 hours of Kia’s fosterhood with us, Charlie turned to me and said, “Should we just keep her?” And just like that *snap* two Foster Fails were created.
Kia was a shy girl so it was truly a sloooooooow introduction to the rest of the home and the dogs. They were curious, but for the most part, just left her alone. Before long she was venturing into the kitchen on her own, climbing on the bed to cuddle next to my pillow at night. She was one of the family.
We quickly learned that Kia’s favorite thing to do was cuddle. If you were sitting down, that lap was hers. For as long as she wanted it. As my steadfast studio assistant she helped me sew. She helped me edit photos and do online shopping.
She helped Charlie with his IT work, both in his office and in his satellite office (his recliner).
Every single night she curled up next to my pillow and slept there. And every single morning, round about 4 am, one soft paw would tap my cheek and not stop until I pet her endlessly.
She loved the sunny bedroom and would spend hours napping there.
Sometime into her second year with us I started noticing little things that concerned me. During her annual exam it was discovered she had a slight heart murmur and a few weeks later that she had a hyper thyroid. Medication was prescribed and we all went about our merry way. Life was good and she was fine.
A few months later, however, kidney disease reared its ugly head. I learned that treating that in addition to treating the hyper thyroid was walking a tightrope. Treating the thyroid can disguise what’s going on with the kidneys; yet both had to be treated. So, ok, we will treat them and keep a close eye on her.
When the kidneys started to fail, it seemed like things in general started failing and fast. Charlie and I were trained to give her subcutaneous fluids under the skin to keep her hydrated and keep the kidneys working. But within a few weeks she wasn’t retaining the fluids. She was anemic and had ulcers on her eyes.
Her world became very small – a corner of the kitchen with her food, her litterbox and a soft rug to sleep on. And it’s funny how people always say, “You will know when it is time…” And even though we have been thru this before, I always struggle with -- when is it time?? But, amazingly, we did know. We didn't want to, but we did. She wasn’t Kia anymore. We carried her around the house to give her human touch and she would purr. But she resisted being held very long. She looked confused all the time. She slowly started eating less and less and sleeping more and more. She lost a lot of weight. She had trouble walking.
|The last photo...|
And so we sadly agreed that it was time. Our experience with our Vet was calm, loving and serene. I had wrapped Kia in one of her soft blankets and held her in my arms. She purred gently as we kissed her, told her we loved her and then she drew her last breath. The tears flowed but she left surrounded by love.
We know it was the right thing to do. That doesn’t ease the pain of losing this most loving and gentle soul. We lit candles. We saw goldfinches appear at the feeder for the first time. Was it Kia sending a message that she was free of pain and in a good place? I’d like to think so. We watched a beautiful sunset over the mountains. We raised a glass and toasted our beautiful, beautiful girl. She was with us just shy of three years; oh how I wish I had more time with her. There are empty rooms in our hearts where we will carry her with us forever.
I read a quote that expressed it perfectly:
"Grief is the last act of love we can give to those we love.
Where there is deep grief there was great love."
Our grief is deep. Our love is deep. And it is the price we pay for loving animals.
Koko kissed my tears away this morning. A reminder that life goes on, I guess. How blessed we were to have Kia, if only for a short time. Wherever you are, Kia, know that you are loved. We are better people for having been graced by your gentle soul.
I cried when you came into my life, Kia. And I cried when you left.
Run free into the sunset, my beautiful girl.