Friday, January 9, 2009

"The Guys"

Ann with Pickles.

On Wednesday, Lara and I were privileged to meet Ann, a Chevy Chase residents who asked us to photographer her cats, Pickles and Wheatie. Both of them are terminally ill, and we were touched by Ann's dedication to caring for them during their last years of life. I asked Ann to write me with a few to details to explain their illness. Her message to me was so beautifully written that I wanted to share it in its entirety.


You asked me to send you some information about Pickles and Wheatie. We always referred to them, and then included Poppy, as "The Guys."

Both were adopted from the Montgomery County Animal Shelter in 1992, chosen from the shelter director's office, which was filled with tiny kittens too young to put out yet formally for adoption. They are now almost 16 1/2, and both, so sadly, have cancer.

Pickles, a grey/tiger tabby, has lymphoma and in undergoing chemotherapy, which seems to be helping since the mass in his abdomen is gone. He still has three more treatments to go if all goes well, and then we will actually see the results. He has a thirty percent chance of surviving a year and another thirty of two years. I will be grateful for one year. He is too thin, but seems healthier, though still slow, than he was. Pickles is "my heart." He has lived up to the prediction of the director of the shelter who said that he will be a love bug. I'm sure he was abused as a kitten because he was so frightened of strangers most of his life. Only in recent years as he became more exposed to people has he become friendly. But he always trusted me. My husband used to say, "You are so patient with these cats," and I was. How could I not be?

Pickles in his favorite spot by the window.

Wheatie, a golden tabby, also lived up to the shelter director's prediction that male golden tabbies have gentle dispositions. Despite a general physical exam last September in which no tumor was found, by mid-December, Wheatie had developed a large tumor on the inside of his upper right leg. The doctor was shocked---it had grown so fast. Wheatie has fibrosarcoma, a kind of cancer that for him, at least, did not have really any alternatives. His chemotherapy prognosis was much lower than for Pickles' lymphoma, so I decided against it and to let him live out the rest of his life enjoying the things he loves, including lots of affection. So the tumor continues to grow, and I give Wheatie the good food and milk (which he hadn't had for a long time because he, like Pickles, also has kidney disease and were given a kidney diet for a number of years) and treats he loves But he will die soon, I'm told, despite the fact he seems healthier than Pickles. He, too, is too thin.

Both of them now love Fancy Feast which they never had in their lives. Gone is the kidney diet.

I wanted a photo of the three of us before Wheatie dies. I only had one other good photo of me and the two of them when they were kittens (I was always the one taking photos). I love them dearly and can't imagine them not being here. It is a burden on my mind and heart every day.


Ann has had Pickles and Wheatie (right) for their entire lives--16 1/2 years.

1 comment:

Catherine said...

My heart goes out to Ann and her sweet kitties. The decisions that have to be made at the end of an animal's life require such bravery and strength from their owners. They rely on us to make the difficult calls when they become ill, and I know how much it hurts to say good-bye. I am snuggling with my own two boys as I write this, and I am touched by Ann's words and love for her cats. Mr. Moochie, my black and white mischief maker, and Gracie May, the fiesty bunny, also came from the Montgomery County Animal Shelter, and I have enjoyed every minute I have had with them, as well as with their brother, Keith Sweat. Ann, Pickles, and Wheatie will be in my thoughts and prayers!