Monday afternoon we lost our big, handsome Russian Blue cat…Kirby Manskie, a gorgeous dude with stunning green eyes. He was one of the loves of our life. He adopted us in July of 2002 when we still lived in Southern California when he showed up at our house. When he came to us his tail was all cut open, raw and bleeding, the vet said it was probably due to a coyote attack. The whole middle section of his tale was torn to bits. We tried all measures to save it in its entirety, but to no avail…so he ended up a beautiful bobcat with a cute little stub of a tail that didn’t come close to covering his little booty. When he arrived he was already neutered and his front paws had been declawed, left outside he obviously could not defend himself. So we brought him into our home and he became a house cat and a new friend to our two dogs.
He was so much of a Mama’s boy and always convinced me to feed him more food than he needed and eventually over his latent years he bloomed to about 25 pounds, but he was always a happy little camper. However, as he got older his weigh became an issue, but who puts a 14 plus year old guy on a diet? Let him live what is left of his life, our vet here in Oregon actually agreed with me. We realized that if he stayed overweigh he might eventually develop diabetes, almost 2 years ago that occurred and on June 1, 2016 I started giving him insulin shots in the morning with breakfast and in the evening with his dinner. We got him down from 6 units of insulin in each shot to 1 unit each time. That was a real achievement. The Doc thought that his pancreas had repaired itself as apparently is possible in the case felines on Lantus insulin. We took him in for blood sugar tests frequently and he was doing really well. The vet said he was amazing strong with a good strong heart and great teeth. He did fine, but over the past year or so his legs started to develop arthritic joints, so I had to give him medication shots every two weeks to keep it as much at bay as was possible. It was starting to get pretty difficult for him to get around and he limped a lot, but was still happy and went about his life both inside the house and also roaming the front fenced hillside and on our back deck.
Since he became our little son so many years ago, both our previous two dogs have passed on, but we have three other cats that have adopted us. Little Minnie showed up in January, 2009. We live up in the forests of Southern Oregon outside of Rogue River. It snows here in January and she came walking down our driveway when the snow was higher than her. Even after 9 years she still is a little feral, but she is also a little cuddle buddy when she's in the right mood and has settled down a lot in her time here. Kirby was a little concerned about her in the beginning. At that stage of our lives he had been the only ruler in our house for some time and he let her know that. We took her to the vet to have her front paws declawed and when we asked we were advised that she was already spayed. Since all our neighbors live a long distance from us, she was obviously dumped around here by someone. I still can't understand how heartless people can do that. She was so tiny that we thought that she was a kitten, but the vet said that she was probably around two years old. Our second son, Riddy B., showed up on our back deck one evening. It was April, 2013. My husband was going into our master bath to take a shower and when he entered the bedroom he heard a cat meowing. He came out to the kitchen and said, "I hear a cat meowing through one of the bedroom windows and it's not one of ours." He went into the bathroom and I went out to see what was awaiting me on the deck. And it was Riddy B., the sweetest little black cat. When I came out he came running over to me. I sat down on one of the deck chairs and he jumped right up on my lap. For unknown weird reasons he had a metal choke chain, and a fairly large heavy one at that, around his neck. Someone had taken a cable tie and put it through the links of the choke chain so that it could not slide loose and tied onto it was something like a leash that was shredded on the loose hanging end. Again, who would do that to a little kitty? I clipped the cable tie and took the choke chain and leash off of him. When my husband came out from his shower he came out on the deck, saw Riddy on my lap and his first statement was. "And then there were three." When we came in from the deck Riddy started crying and rubbing up against the sliding door screen as though he was saying..."Hey, I live here, let me in!!" I took him out to my shop where he spent the night and the next day we took the little guy to the vet and had him neutered and his front feet declawed. We thought that he was at least a couple of year’s old because he was quite a strong little guy, but the vet told us he was probably barely 6 months old and he had a number of problems. His tail was about 1½ times the length of a normal tail and you could see that there were kinks in it. When it stuck up in the air it formed a distinct “question mark.” So we named him The Riddler, AKA Riddy B. For some reason I always seem to have to give a second name to my pets and therefore the B. in Riddy B. stands for Riddy Binsky. Minnie I call Minnie Minyeh. Kirby’s full name was Kirby Vincent Rogers, but we always called him Kirbits and Kirbits Manskie. I had this song that I used to sing to him: “Mr. Kirbits Manskie, the most magnanimous of all the Manskies in the world, I present Mr Kirbeen Manskie.” Guess it’s just a crazy flaw of mine.
To continue on with little Riddy: his tongue also was too long to stay completely inside his mouth, however nowadays it hangs only a slight amount and makes him look as cute as can be. His mouth itself had suffered some type of trauma and could not open fully, it has since healed and he now yawns like a pro. While he was at the vet he also had one of his front canines removed due to infection. Within the first week at home a little tiny tooth fell out and then his other canine fell out on the plate he was eating from. I called the vet and an assistant said that since he was young it was probably just a baby teeth and they would grow in. Wrong!!! When we took him back the following year for his yearly physical the little tooth had been replaced, but the area where the canine tooth had fallen out of had encircled itself with a hard skin capsule and he needed surgery to have it all removed.
Kirby and Riddy become immediate friends and romped around together, but Minnie was not so sure and Riddy kept constantly chasing her around. The more she ran away from him, the more he chased after her. That problem has eased up somewhat over the past almost 5 years since they have lived together here. Minnie has learned at times to stop, turn around and whack Riddy in the head. No claws…no harm. Besides these three little darlings there is another cat that has been with us now almost a year. More details on him in a moment.
Since we moved to Oregon years ago our children have pretty much disowned us due to numerous pre-existing family problems, so our pets are all we have. They are a purpose in life and they are a lot of our joy. They sleep with us on our bed, they spend the evenings with us, they eat when we do; they spend tons of time in both our offices and when we go on trips in our motor home they always go with us. In fact, they seem to all get along better in the tighter quarters of the motor home.
The three cats that I have detailed have been with us ever since they adopted us. None of them have spent a night away from us. Even when we had to make trips that included a motel stay, we would put them in the back of the SUV, get a room on the ground floor, away from the front office and then sneak them into the motels. We kept a litter box with us, so clean up was easy.
The fourth cat that I mentioned above is Felix. He showed up on our property at some point last May. He didn't look under nourished so we figured he belonged to someone nearby. I would see him roaming the hillside and often he would traverse our back deck. I tried to talk to him, but you could see that he was skittish and would always run away. My husband and I have our evening drinks on our front porch when the weather is nice. Generally Kirby would go out and roam around and eat the long grass in the patch that my husband would always leave for him when he mowed the lawn. If Kirby was out when Felix came through they paid little attention to each other. Then one day while we were out there Felix appeared out on the hillside and starting catching lizards. It was so funny because he would see one, stalk it and then pounce on it; we talked to him, but he just sat there and then eventually he left. The following night he showed up in our driveway and then crawled under the wrought iron fence, came up the sidewalk and jumped up on my husband's lap. It was then that we realized he was not well fed...he was basically skin and bones. He was eating the lizards to survive. I immediately went in the house and brought him out a bowl of food. For the next week or so he lived on our back deck. I put out a bowl of water and a bowl of food for him and brought out a heating blanket that I plugged in and placed on one of the padded deck chairs so he could have it as a bed. After a week we decided to take him to the vet and get his front paws declawed and we needed to know if he was a boy or a girl. My husband had already decided the name would be Felix, but I really thought he was a girl. When we arrived at the vet we were talking with one of the assistants about Felix and what we were planning to do. I guess the vet must have overheard the conversation because when he came in he advised us not to declaw the cat or bring him in the house, that it would crush his spirit. He said that he thought that it would disrupt the household and cause problems for our other cats, such as not eating or peeing everywhere. So with his advice Felix (who was determined to be a neutered male, 3-4 years old) we set him up in our sunroom. He has a connected window where he can access my shop and visit with me when I am out there. The sunroom also has a small doggy door that my husband built into one of the sliding windows so he can go out onto the rear deck and be outside. We put a brand new cat tree out on the back deck for him to sleep in when the weather is nice (I guess none of the 3 we already had in the house would suffice). Doc said it should not smell of other cats. When the weather is cooler he can use the doggy door, go into the sunroom, access my shop though the window and then walk into the guest room which is attached to my shop where he sleeps on the bed. I work off and on in my shop so he is not lonely and we have our drinks in the sunroom at night to give him a little company. Neither Minnie nor Riddy are allowed in the sunroom anymore beside they could exit via the doggie door to the outside and both of them are thin enough to go through the slats of the railings and run away. The two of them along with Kirby used to love to go out and spend the day out in the sunrrom. They would lie on their beds on the cover of the hot tub and sleep in the sun. Unfortunately after Felix took up residence there Kirby was the only one that had permission to be out there. Because of his weight he could no longer jump so he would not leave via the doggie door. Too bad that it had to go that way, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Plus Riddy has met Felix up close and personal and they hiss at each other. Riddy is the aggressor and Felix is petrified of him. Hopefully sometime in the future we can rectify this problem and become a united family. If any of you out there can give us some advice on this it would be much appreciated.
Tragically over this past weekend things for Kirby turn a drastic turn for the worse and went downhill quickly. He had been acting a little odd on Friday night, but he had done that in the past so I just kept a close eye on him. He was due to have his blood sugar tested last Monday at 2 p.m., but when he took this odd turn on Friday I called and rescheduled a complete appointment to see the vet at 3 p.m. on that Monday. As Saturday went by he started to lose his appetite and I had to practically force feed him. He drank, but not like usual. He was hard to get interested in water, but I warmed up milk and he would lap it slowly, but not for long. By Saturday night he was having trouble standing up and when he did he weaved. We had placed him on one of the large pillows that we had bought years ago for each of our cats that we had placed on the hot tub and we pulled him around the house on it like a sled. By the time bedtime came he could no longer stand up, he was able to move all his legs, but he could no longer stand, he could not turn over either so I had to help him with that. Rick picked him up and he spent Saturday night on our bed like he always did keeping my husband’s feet warm and when he started yelling my husband picked him up and placed him down by the littler box in case he wanted to use it, he had not urinated since that afternoon. Diabetics tend to drink a lot and therefore urinate a lot, but he wasn’t drinking so to some point it made sense. When I got up at like 4 a.m. he had made it out to the water bowl in the kitchen, however, he was not drinking. It was like he wanted to, but he just couldn’t. When I fed the other cats he would cry longingly and I knew that he knew what he was supposed to do and what he wanted to do, but he just couldn’t do it. When I put down food for him on the floor surface so he didn’t need to try and eat out of the bowl, he would try to pull it closer to him, but then would not eat it. As Sunday progressed he got consistently worse. In the afternoon I pulled him into our bedroom and placed him by the big window in the sunshine. That was always one of his favorite pastimes…whether inside or outside he loved to lie in the sun and warm his old body. Sometimes he would stay on the front porch or the back deck on one of his cushions for hours enjoying this warmth. I sat down on the floor to keep him company and eventually the other two guys came in the bedroom too and lay down with him.
As Sunday slowly came to a close the situation, I think, had already been pre-dictated. He no longer was even interested in food. During the weekend I had tried tuna fish off and on and got little to no response. It had been one of his favorite treats. He didn’t want to drink either. I placed him many times in the litter box and held him up in case he wanted to use it, but it was to no avail. I put his pillow next to my bed Sunday night and was basically awake with him all night trying to make sure that he was not too confused or scared. He would drift off to sleep for several minutes, but then would cry and want me to pet his little head. He felt a little cold so I placed the sweatshirt that I had worn that day and left on the floor beside the bed over his body. I will never think of washing that sweatshirt; I have placed it in a plastic bag in the hopes of keeping some of his smell to visit and enjoy periodically. Insane, but I am sure that many of you out there in the same position know how I feel.
When I moved him out of the bedroom on Monday morning I found a little piece of poop lying by his tail end. I guess it come out in spite of him. I’m not sure why but I resolved to try and feed him at least some water via a syringe, I think some of it went down, but not enough. Because he wouldn’t eat I hadn’t given him his insulin shots since Friday night, however, I don’t think that had any effect on his worsening condition. He wasn’t eating and I was afraid I might send him into insulin shock. I had checked his urine that last time he had gone for me on Saturday afternoon and there was no evidence of sugar. I think he was probably suffering from either liver or kidney shutdown.
All Monday he kept crying incessantly for me to be with him and pet him. He kept looking up and staring at me as though he was pleading for me to help him. “Mom, I really need your help, can you make me well?” It tore at my heart. It is a vision that will last in my mind for as long as I live. As Monday afternoon approached he was barely hanging on. His cries had turned to little murmurs and his eyes barely opened.
We left for the vet at about 2 p.m. and before we were even a ¼ mile down the road I could tell that he was leaving us. His sweet little eyes kept staring at me as he took his last breaths, but I know that he was no longer aware that they were open, it was impending death. I used to be a nurse and I know what the dying stare and the death rattle is. Rick pulled over to the side of the road and got out to come to my side of the car and we cried as little Kirby passed on as I held him and stroked his head as he lay on my lap.
We could hardly contain ourselves enough when we got home to even call the vet and tell them what had occurred. Then Rick tearfully went out and dug a burial site for the little guy near the top of the front hillside where Kirby once roamed so happily, while I sat and sobbed into his soft fur. We then wrapped him in a brand new large towel from the linen closet. It just happened to be the same color as we had used to bury our last doggie right after Thanksgiving of 2007. We then placed him gently in the ground and placed handfuls of dirt over him while saying prayers to him to rest in peace. We know that he was more than deserving of that. I went up to our other property and collected a lot of beautiful green colored rocks that are up there and I placed them on the mount that is his grave. I also made a nice white cross and put it at the head of the grave. I am going to sculpt a plaque memorializing him hang it on the cross.
I told him that “Little Minnie and Riddy B. were very concerned over the weekend when they could not understand what was wrong with you and why you kept crying. I know that they do not yet understand, but I think they are aware that something is different in our home and that you are no longer here with us. We will console them and try to help them understand and hopefully take care of them as God will now take care of you. We loved you so dearly and you were such a positive and wonderful force in our lives and we wait to see you again.”
I am so sad and overcome that I can hardly survive. I know that our little darling in now living in God’s tender hands in the company of Jesus. He no longer has pain and is now able to run and jump once again and enjoy his everlasting life. He no longer suffers. We know that we will see him again when it is God’s will. I know that in time the pain we are feeling now will ease and the memories, of which there are so many, will remain, but every time I pass by one of the house windows and see his grave on the hillside I am so uncontrollably sad. I am constantly telling him “please know that we will always love you and will always be grateful for the addition you made in our lives. Thank you little Kirby for selecting us to be your parents…rest in peace my sweet boy as you ascend to heaven as the angel that you are.”
The portion of the proceeding is what I wrote and placed on Facebook to our few friends regarding our dear baby’s death.
Then on Tuesday morning I was visited by an all consuming feeling. I could smell little Kirby as though he was right there sitting on my lap. Suddenly he was talking inside my head. He was telling me that he was very happy in heaven and was being taken very good care of. He felt surrounded by love and was having every need he possibly had taken care of. He told me how much he loved us and that he missed us very much. He said that he realized that we were very sad and that he knew that we were crying when we buried him, but he said to rest assured that he was so happy now. He said that he was so healthy now, that he was running and jumping like he used to do and meeting with all his friends and people from the past. Even though he knew that we missed him he asked that we not even think of wishing him back in the condition that he had left us, all the suffering and all the pain. He assured us that God was totally in control and that he felt as safe as he had with us. He also told me that he would be seeing us again when the time was right and that he would be waiting for us. I felt this nervous sensation throughout my body when he finally pulled away and left me, but at the same time I was happy for him and his present situation. I am not intensely religious, but I have always believed in God, although I have felt at times that he didn’t seem to be on my side. But we definitely knew that little sweet Kirby had gone to heaven and assumed that he was now pain free and happy and running around like the little nut case he used to be. He was, as are our other cats, always indoors; so everything I do and everything I see reminds me of him. But after his visit I felt completely assured that he was happy and safe and healthy once again and that he would be with us again in the future. Even though I still missed him so, I knew I would constantly keep re-visiting this so very special visit from him and felt so anxious to see him again. As he always did when he was with us, he gave me a sense of peace in the middle of chaos. I had to run down to my husband’s shop and immediately tell him what I had experienced, he was happy that it had made me feel a little less sad.
But then this morning I suddenly developed this all-consuming feeling of such dire guilt. Could I have done more???? When I realized on Friday that there was enough going on that I chose to change his vet appointment, why didn’t I make the effort to take him directly there at that time???? Could it have made a difference??? I keep remembering what Kirby told me yesterday about being sad that he is gone, but I am having a really hard time with the fact that I actually may have caused the events that lead up to his death. How do I live with that???? I loved him so much and yet I may have killed him by delaying what might have been done to save him. I am so sad that I can hardly think straight...