Life Lessons from my Angel
By Nancy Stone
Be Happy. Be joyful. Play. Nap and play some more. Snuggle with your partner. Eat with gusto. Smile. Roll around in a patch of sun. Be positive. Be there to greet people when they come home from a hard day at work. Be gentle. Be energetic. Be kind. Be loving. Make your person always feel special and loved. Live life with a positive spirit. Be grateful. Don’t look back. These are just some of the wonderful life lessons I learned from a very special cat, my Angel. Here is her story.
Angel came to PAWS in September 2014 as a young cat, almost still a kitten herself, with a litter of kittens. She was an excellent mother even caring for other two kittens in addition to her own. As all cats who come to PAWS, Angel was tested for Feline Leukemia (FeLV), FIV and parasites. With her diagnosis of being FeLV+, Angel could not reside at the ACF to wait for her forever home. I was asked by Bob and Corinne to consider fostering this beautiful golden tabby and I did not have to think long. Even though I had four cats of my own and knew Angel would have to be separated because the effects of her diagnosis might have resulted in her passing the illness on to my cats, I could not resist Angel and I said yes.
Angel’s foster home was my den. Angel was just that. In spite of being a young cat (less than a year old when she came to live with me), she was the most gracious, kind and loving cat. It did not take Angel long to settle in. When I came home from work or errands, she would hear me and call out a greeting. Sometimes the meows were pretty demanding and strident as Angel liked having company and always loved a good lap to snuggle on and a soft scratch behind the ears and lots of pets. Angel liked attention but was always so gentle. She would sometimes run a few laps around the den as she had lots of energy and spunk. Angel was always great at giving allorubs and head butts and was so full of purr. She would start purring just hearing me speak to her. And when I said her name she always meowed or chirped at me and would come to me. Angel started every day with a bright-eyed, happy outlook. Very easy to care with the only thing she was not too happy about was getting her toenails trimmed. It was a little challenging the first time as she just did not think I needed to restrain her and cut those beautiful claws. But with her gracious spirit, she accepted it and each time did better with less fuss.
I cared and shared my life with Angel for 17 months when the call came of a potential forever home match for Angel. An older woman who had lost her cat to cancer a few weeks before had read Angel’s story and wanted to adopt Angel. The woman did not mind about Angel being FeLV+ because Angel would be an only cat. That Wednesday when Corinne told me about this wonderful development, I was so excited for Angel. As much as I cared about Angel, I wanted her to have a forever home with her own exclusive person instead of just a room. I told Angel about the good news and she was gracious as always. I told her how she was going to have another adventure and have a whole house in which to run and play. I was asked to schedule a pre-adoption exam for Angel which I did for Saturday at 11:30 AM. The plan was after the exam, Angel and I would meet Bob and Corinne at the woman’s house to introduce Angel to her and to see how they took to each other. If all went well, Angel would then be in her forever home. I expected everything to go well. I trimmed Angel’s claws on Thursday evening (Angel took this in stride) and we settled down as we did most evenings to watch a little television as Angel laid in my lap and got the rubs and scratches and pets she enjoyed so much. On Friday evening when I came home from work, everything changed. Angel seemed to be breathing with short, shallow breaths. Not alarming, but I did not like the change, which had developed so quickly from one day to the next. I contacted Corinne and let her know about my observation and that the exam was timely as I would have asked for permission to bring Angel in to be seen. This was the first time Angel had ever been sick while in my care. The next morning I took Angel to her appointment. I explained to Dr. Jarvis my concern and she saw Angel’s breathing as well. I figured Angel might have picked up a bug and some antibiotics and she would be back to her normal self. Dr. Jarvis said she could barely hear Angel’s heartbeat which might mean there was a fluid build-up around her lungs. It would require an ultrasound to see what might be going on. PAWS was contacted to get authorization which was approved. Bob and Corinne came to be with me while Angel had the ultrasound done. Dr. Jarvis came in to let us know the results. The news was devastating to us. There was a tumor in Angel’s chest that was twice the size of her heart. Dr. Jarvis believed the tumor was a lymphoma. She said that many times there are not any symptoms that something is wrong until the lymphoma is advanced. Fluid had built up on either side of her chest causing Angel’s lungs to compress which was why she was having difficulty breathing. Dr. Jarvis said that they could drain the fluid but it would come back in a few days, in a week or maybe Angel might have another month. I could not believe the diagnosis. What should have been the happiest day for Angel and the good fortune of her new home became our worst nightmare. Bob and Corinne gave me the choice and said they supported me either way as they understood how difficult the situation was. My thought was draining the fluid would give Angel relief and ease her breathing and give her some more time until the fluid returned. Angel was still purring, rubbing and had her bright-eyed look. So I asked for that option. Dr. Jarvis had done that three times with her own cat when faced with a similar diagnosis so I thought Angel deserved at least one time. Dr. Jarvis ended up removing 100 ml of fluid (50 ml on each side of Angel’s chest). She said the fluid was clear with a little blood and that was a good sign as there was no infection appearing in the fluid. When she brought Angel back, even though Angel was a little groggy from the sedative, Angel was breathing much more normally and started to groom herself (always a good sign in cats). I had tears of relief and sadness mingled together as I knew that this was only a reprieve.
So I took Angel back home with me and we settled in. I spent a lot of time with Angel on Saturday. She was a little subdued but feeling better and breathing okay. On Sunday we also hung out together and watched the Super Bowl and other television shows. Angel spent a lot of time in my lap and beside me, resting. She purred and purred and kept rubbing me and enjoying pets and scratches and some grooming. But on Monday morning, Angel was starting to breathe a little more heavily and was more quiet. She did not seem to be interested in any of the treats and food with which I tried to tempt her so I knew as much as I did not want to, for Angel’s sake, I needed to be strong and do what was the best for her. I called and made the appointment at Crown Veterinary Hospital and took Angel in for the last time. The hospital staff was very compassionate and gave Angel and I time to be together. The doctor agreed it was best for Angel. So as I held her in my lap for the last time, Dr. Jarvis helped Angel cross over. Angel passed quietly and I know she has already made many friends in heaven and is brightening everywhere she goes.
I was as blessed as Angel that we spent this time together. My heart is still sad and there is a hole that will always remain because Angel is gone too soon. At the same time that Angel became ill, I had another cat who had cancer, but Samuel was almost 16 years old and we got to share many adventures together in our years together. Samuel had a long and happy life and as long as he was still purring, eating and drinking, I tried to be the best human I could for him until he told me two weeks to the day after Angel passed that he was ready to cross.
I will be forever grateful for the support and caring of Bob and Corinne and PAWS, the skill and compassion of Dr. Jarvis and for the 17 months I was able to share my life with Angel who lived up to her name. I believe we are surrounded by angels throughout our lives and I believe they come in four-legged as well as two-legged forms. Angel was a guardian angel to me and I miss her so very much. I long to hear one more meow in greeting or to watch her running around the den, up and down over furniture and tables and around the television one more time. But for now, I have to be content with remembering my special Angel and seeing and hearing her in my mind until we meet again across the rainbow bridge.