My dearest Annie,
We got you when you had barely turned 1 years of age. You were supposed to be my healthy cat. All the other cats I had adopted before you were my 'broken cats' - aged one-eyed rescues with degenerative spinal conditions, and gentle giants with nervous disorders. You were special, I was told. The cat rescuer who had given me my other cats gave me you, as she said that 'she felt bad that I always got the problem kitties'. I was told that you were 'young and healthy', and that the only problem you had were crimped nostrils - a problem common with purebred Exotic Shorthairs, which would produce snorts and some breathing difficulties during exercise, but that we could have this corrected one day - "as it was not deemed serious".
And so you came and lived with us. You were a gorgeous pure-bred Tortoiseshell Exotic Shorthair cat with the most exquisite colouring I have ever seen. You were a submissive lady with a quiet and unassuming demeanour - no doubt a remnant of having lived a life of near-invisibility as one of 23 cats in a breeder's household for the first year of your life. You were a bit shy at first, but quickly became more exuberant and demanding of attention.
Such an agreeable little spirit! You quickly in your unassuming manner made friends with my geriatric one-eyed cat, Candy, and you were the perfect gentle personality to blend with her. You would delight in having the top of your nose rubbed, and would greedily wiggle your nose around my finger. During grooming sessions you were the first one to arrive and the last one to leave - always trying to monopolize the grooming session, even if it wasn't your turn. You would stare at me with such blatant admiration - the love in your eyes with the steady slow blink always made me infinitely happy.
You were going to grow old living with me. I would constantly tell you 'Annie - one day when Candy is gone I will spend all of my time with you, and you will grow old and have grey whiskers, and I will lavish attention on you every day and all day'. Because you always have been my healthy cat.
One day, shortly after you turned 9 years of age, I noticed that your breathing was different - more pronounced. It seemed as if you were sucking air with your chest. I also noticed that you appeared more fatigued - less interested in your usual activities and more winded from climbing stairs. I immediately took you to the local vet, who listened to your heart and chest. 'It is the small nostrils' she declared, and she suggested that I take you to a specialist to have the stenotic nares on your nostrils removed, as you were getting older and the strain of having to 'suck breath' with the small nostrils were taking its toll on you.
I sought out the best specialist in our nearest city, which is about 200 km from our home. I arranged to have the operation done in the same day of the consultation, in order to spare you the anxiety of two long-distance trips.
Yesterday, on the morning of our visit to the specialist and your subsequent operation, you were doing your usual yowling in the kitchen for food. 'No Annie', I said. 'No food! You are going to have an operation today so that you can breathe better - you will feel like a brand-new kitten when we're done'. And upon leaving, I unceremoniously bundled you into the cat carrier - you stalled about halfway in, and I unapologetically shoved your tail in and closed the door. 'Stop being such a little winey' I told you. 'You are going in to be made better'.
All the way in the car you complained loudly.
We eventually arrived at the vet. You were still loudly complaining. I checked up on you as soon as I took your carrier out of the car - you were bright-eyed and alert.
We then went into the reception area. You were still complaining - so much so that the receptionists had a chuckle when we arrived. I had to fill in an electronic form, and noticed that all the seats were occupied with other patients, including some people with dogs. I wanted to keep you close and safe to me, so I set your carrier down on the floor next to me.
I became occupied with the damn electronic form! Why do they torture me so to fill the form in on a tablet! In this time of preoccupation, I didn't realize that your mewls were becoming softer - I thought that you were just settling down.
I had just finished the form, picked up your carrier, marked out a seat to go and sit down with you to wait for our appointment, when I heard the oddest 'whoosh' sound coming from you. It was like a meow combined with a heavy single breath. I immediately looked into the carrier, and saw that you were lying down with the back of your head against the cage door - I remember thinking that 'this is a strange and relaxed pose for you to adopt'. I asked my husband to also check, and then realized that we could not see you breathing!
Sure enough - he quickly opened the carrier door, and pulled your body out of it. You were completely limp. 'Help!' I screamed. 'My cat is not breathing!'.
Within seconds the receptionist rushed us into a back room where one of the specialists started doing CPR on your chest. I saw people rush close - they pushed a tube down your throat, they said something about 'adrenaline'. We were told to wait outside. I was frantic! What is going on - why did Annie faint like this?! All the while I am hopeful that you just had a fainting fit, and that you were being revived by the good people inside.
Alas! Painful moments of frantic worry passed. The specialist that was supposed to operate on you, eventually came out, and called us to his office. 'Did you revive Annie'? I frantically asked. 'I'm afraid not', he replied. It was as if all of my mind and senses and emotions came tumbling down in that instant. 'What do you mean... it is not possible... Annie is my healthy child... she is supposed to live for many years still;... what do you mean!, this was just going to be a standard procedure!'? I could not understand that you had passed away. Because it is not possible, my dear child! How could this happen! How could you die so unexpectedly! This is not possible my dear child!
You were lying under a blanket on the specialist's table. I laid my hands upon you, and caressed you - feeling the familiar softness of your fur and the curves under my hand. You still felt warm and filled with life. I was crying hot tears and were mindlessly repeating the words 'I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry my dear Annie, I'm so sorry', 'this is not possible', ' this is not possible'...
The specialist, who obviously took great pity on me, and being a very compassionate man, did an X-ray and quick sonar of your body. I needed to know what had killed you. The news that you had a grossly enlarged heart due to heart disease, with fluid in your lungs and chest, came as a massive shock! You have obviously been an ill kitty for a long time, my dear. You have evidently been more ill than the other 'broken kitties' in our household. And the stress of the lengthy car trip finished you off.
I am so sorry my beloved. I am so sorry that I was negligent in realizing that you were so severely ill. I am so sorry that I always assumed that you were my healthy cat. I should've appreciated our time together more. I shouldn't have simply assumed that you would grow old. I should've realized that your breed is more predisposed to this disease. I should have looked closer. I should have acted sooner. I should have questioned the original vet's assessment. I shouldn't have been so damn complacent! I should have studied your symptoms more closely on the internet. I should have known that there was more to the shallow breathing than small nostrils! I should have listened to your body language - I should not have bundled you so unceremoniously into the cat carrier. I should have had you on my lap all the way to the specialist, and caressed you to keep you calm. I should have sat with you on my lap at the reception, and not placed you at my feet. I should have spoken softly to you - I should not have dismissed your complaints so flippantly. I should've known. I should've saved you. Instead you suffered alone - you as an innocent gentle soul suffocated silently at my feet - I cannot begin to know how much you suffered! What an ignorant fool I am!
The pain and the guilt is a very heavy burden to bear, and I can only hope that you are now at peace, my beloved child. I cannot process what has happened yesterday. It was too sudden and too unexpected. This is truly a grossly unspeakably horrible thing that has happened - and the weight of the grief is disabling me from carrying on with life.
I am sorry my darling. I hope that you are okay, wherever you are. Please forgive me. And please know how much I love you, how infinitely much I miss you.