Loving something with all of your heart means opening up your entire heart to being broken.
This idea is something I have talked to my daughters' about over the past few days. That we can't live our lives fearing sadness and hurt, that instead we embrace love and joy, and know that with opening your heart that wide will make you susceptible to the grief. The sadness comes in direct proportion to the amount that you loved.
We loved Inky with every ounce of ourselves.
Adopting two kittens last December shook up our family in the biggest, and best, possible way. Two kittens! It's practically grounds for being committed. They were so small (Inky was about 10 weeks, Opal 8 weeks), just teeny little things ready for their forever families. At the shelter the girls were drawn to the kittens that we would eventually name Inky and Opal. Iris picked Inky quite quickly. A black and white Manx who waited patiently at the door of his cage. Eloise had to lobby hard with buckets of tears for Opal. Matt and I wanted to pass her up because one of her eyes was already crusted over with green goop-- and she was climbing the door of her cage, a troublemaker from the start! We caved, as you already know, and shoved the two furballs in to the carrier, paid the lady behind the counter, swung by the pet store for supplies, and then brought the kittens home.
New kittens at home
Inky spent about six weeks at home being a perfectly normal kitten. He played with toys, he wrestled with his sister-- in fact, we had to pull him off of her constantly when her eye goop eventually mutated in to a full blown upper respiratory infection and she was too tired to play. The girls layered a bunch of their favorite blankets in the bathroom, which served as the kittens' home for the first couple of weeks, and Inky discovered his very favorite blanket was a super soft and fluffy one. He would suck on it, as if nursing. I read that kittens who were weaned too early will suck on blankets like this. We thought it was adorable, if not a little sad, and supplied him with all of the fluffy blankets he desired.
Inky on his favorite blanket
Inky and Opal were inseparable for the first few weeks. They played and ate and snuggled together. Often Opal would just lay right on top of her brother, which was pretty much the cutest thing ever. Inky appeared to tolerate it, like a big brother would of a little sister.
At the end of January Inky was spending more and more time on a bottom shelf in our bathroom. It wasn't until I noticed that he had spent an entire day there without moving that I became concerned and brought him in to the vet's office. We discovered he had a mild fever and when they ran a blood test, there were quite a few things off. The doctor talked to me about all of the things it might be, but I still came home and did hours of internet searching. Most signs pointed to one thing: FIP. Everything I read said FIP is 100% fatal, but that it presented differently in each cat and was difficult to diagnose. Other than lethargy, Inky wasn't yet displaying any other outward signs of being sick.
Playing for a moment
As time went on he ebbed and flowed with how much time he spent laying around. He alternated between shelves, eventually preferring the bottom of our shoe rack, but he also spent time on the back of the couch as well as under a rack in the kitchen. Some days he would bat at a toy, or briefly respond to one of his sister's many invitations to play, or scratch on the scratching post. He started to become more fearful of pretty much everything and darted from room to room when he had to go eat or use his litter box. He stopped enjoying being held or pet, though we loved him so much, we always tried. It was a struggle between warning the girls not to bother him because he was sick, and letting them bother him because they so desperately wanted to snuggle and love on him.
We call this Opal's "smiling position"
One thing Inky always loved was eating. In the morning he was the first one ready for breakfast (even if there was still food left in the bowl from the night before). He meowed, loudly, until he was fed. He also loved treats, sometimes sitting on the floor under the treat shelf, gazing up at it. I tried not to feed him treats if he "begged" for them, as I didn't want to start a bad habit-- little did I know, though.
In healthier days, Inky would sleep on Matt's belly.
They bonded, being the only two guys in the house.
The week before he died we noticed Inky wasn't walking very well. He basically looked drunk and was having a harder time jumping up on the low surfaces he could previously reach. He also would fall over when he tried to walk on an unstable surface. I realized over the weekend that he wasn't bringing himself to the litter box, so I picked him up and set him in and while he couldn't really hold himself up, he immediately pottied. That little guy, he couldn't move himself around, but never went to the bathroom outside of his box.
The night before Inky passed away.
He rarely tolerated Opal near him at this point, so it was extra special she was able to snuggle in.
She even got to lick his ears a bit. This was Inky's blanket nest on my bed.
On Monday I was watching him closely and his body language made me extremely concerned. He was laying in a way that was more relaxed than his usual tensed up position. I had a brief flash in my mind that he was dying, that if the girls and I went out to run the errands we had planned, he could die. I called the vet and asked if we should bring him in, hoping they would tell me I was over-reacting. Of course, they didn't say that, and told me to come in right away. I frantically texted Matt, who was at work, and I loaded up the girls and Inky and drove to the vet. Matt met us there.
The vet told us she thought Inky was blind, or at least mostly blind. His eyes weren't responding normally. He wasn't able to really get around. She broke the news that Inky was dying and we could let him die on his own or we could consider euthanasia. We decided to bring him back home and plan our next move.
Sleeping on my lap on his last afternoon
Matt and I decided euthanasia was the kindest thing to do. Not just for Inky, but for the girls. We had no way of knowing when he would die or how awful it would be, and the waiting would have been hell on the girls, and honestly me, too. We called the vet and planned to have the doctor come to our house that evening.
During the afternoon we fed Inky tuna and laid by him as he rested on his shoe shelf. We petted him, then left him be, then petted him some more. Eventually I picked him up and held him on my chest as he drifted off to sleep. He would have never done that before, it was so bittersweet. We told him we loved him about eighty billion times.
The vet came that night. We all sat around, Inky on my lap in his blanket. He got a sedative, which was a shot and he hated it. One last little burst of fight from our boy. He then relaxed, and a few minutes later got the shot that would stop his heart, surrounded by the people whose hearts were breaking at the same time.
This is by far the most difficult thing the girls have ever had to go through. I am glad they were there with Inky as he passed, I don't think being gone would have made it any easier. They got to hold him before and after he died. I placed Inky's body on the floor on a soft blanket and Opal came over to say goodbye. She licked her brother's body. The shattered pieces of our hearts broke all over again as we watched. We waited for Opal to finish, and when she walked away, we knew it was time to let our Inky go. I carried him out to the vet's car, and it briefly tickled us all that she drove a VW Beetle, aka a "slug bug", because we play the slug bug game. I laid Inky on her passenger side seat and said goodbye.
Opal kissing her brother goodbye
Inky will be privately cremated and his ashes returned to us. We will have a funeral for him when we get the ashes back and as of now the plans are to put some of his ashes in the ground with a new plant.
I could write a billion more words on the conversations we have had with the girls over how such a horrible thing could happen to a little kitten. It all boils down to "I don't know" and "it isn't fair". We could fill an ocean with the amount of tears that have already been cried in our house. We talk a lot about cat heaven, about how Inky now has a chance to be a real kitten, in a healthy body.
We miss Inky in all the silly little ways you miss a cat that hides away 95% of his day. We miss calling his name, and all of his funny nicknames-- Inky Dinks, Inky Dinky Doo (sometimes adding many, many "Dinkys" to the name), the Inkster, Inks. We miss checking for him on his shoe rack. We miss his loud cries as we struggle to serve up his breakfast quickly enough. We miss that he no longer snuggles in to his blanket nest at the end of the bed.
Since we adopted two kittens so they could have each other, we have also been sad for a long time that Opal lost her buddy when Inky got so sick. We are hoping we can get another kitten soon. It will help our fuzzy little girl, who desperately wants a playmate, and our human little girls, too (who also want another playmate).
Our Inky Dinks