Friday, May 8, 2015

I'll Remember

It was as though I had experienced a premonition. A couple of weeks before, I removed the photos of her as my desktop wallpaper. I forgot to pick up more tins of cat food during my usual weekly shop. My baby girl had lost her appetite a bit during those last few days, but this was not entirely unusual. She had also gone to the toilet less and less.

On the Sunday night, she suddenly let out a howl. She crouched on the floor and tried to vomit, but only saliva came out. I knew at this point it wouldn’t be long. When I carried her to the bedroom that evening, I had a suspicion it would be our last night together.

At 2 a.m. Fizzgig awoke me as she clambered onto my pillow and rested by my head. I dozed in and out for about an hour. At 3 a.m. she issued another wail and struggled down from the bed. I immediately leapt out from under the covers and followed her. She choked up a little more saliva and then skulked off into the living room and lay down behind the sofa. I grabbed my quilt and a pillow and went to lie down beside her (moving the sofa out of the way first). For the next couple of hours, I just stayed with her, talked to her, stroked her beautiful fur coat and reassured her that I would not leave her. She tried to move around from place to place, but it was a struggle. At one point she managed to get to the rug in front of the heater and as she lay there breathing heavily, I looked into her eyes and told her not to worry and it was OK if she had to leave me, even though it was the last thing I wanted.

At 5 a.m. I knew I would not be going into work, so I phoned my boss and left a message on her voicemail. I barely got to the end of the message without my voice breaking… “I don’t think she’ll last the day”, I croaked.

I’d had less than four hours sleep, but I was too emotionally wrought to nap and I wanted Fizzgig to see I was with her all the time. I put on some familiar TV show and lifted her onto the sofa and cradled her in the crook of my arm as I watched through blurry eyes. At one point, she grabbed my right arm with her fore-paws and dragged it into her and hugged it as tight as she could muster. She looked up at me and gave a meek meow. I cried.

At 7:10, I sent a text message to my usual vet (a mobile vet who has looked after Fizzgig for various ailments in the past few years). He phoned back soon and said that although he couldn’t make it out today, I should take her to the local vet and maybe get an X-ray as, he said, it might only be a blockage that is making her uncomfortable. This did give a slight ray of hope, but deep down I knew the truth.

At 8:30, I called the local vet. They could only book me in for 10:15 at the earliest and, because I hadn’t been there before, I should arrive at 10 to fill in the registration forms. I then booked a taxi for 9:45.

The next hour was awful.

I messaged one of my closest friends in order to get some support. He was magnificent. He kept giving advice and tried hard to aid me in my distress. Fizzgig dragged herself to her water bowl and drank for a while before collapsing down onto her side and she began panting heavily.

I knew I had to shower before leaving, so I quickly got myself ready and then returned to the kitchen.

Fizzgig was on her side in an awkward, twisted position, she turned her head slightly and saw me, adjusted her hips into a more comfortable place. She had coughed up some more saliva and he cheek was soggy. I wiped it away and she cried to me a couple of times. I held her head, put my head to her body and heard a much slower heartbeat than I had heard before. I was now crying and my tears fell on her body.

I phoned the mobile vet again and, through sobs, I told him what was happening. She was limp and all she was doing was letting out these large gasps of air.

Then he told me, “I’m sorry, she has gone.” He explained that those gasps were an automatic reaction as the lungs were giving out the last of the air. There was no heartbeat when I listened again. Her eyes were open and her pupils were the widest I had ever seen them. The vet was so kind with his words, but I had to hang up, but not before thanking him for all his help.

I messaged my friend and simply wrote ‘She’s gone’.

This all happened between 9:30 and 9:45. At that moment, the bloody taxi arrived. I lifted her body into the carry cot. My arms were shaking, tears were streaming down my face. I carried her out and apologised to the driver for making him do sucha short trip, but when I explained, he was sympathetic.

When I entered the reception area at the clinic, the reception dropped everything. She saw the state I was in. I was ushered into a private room and the female vet took Fizzgig out of the box. She explained that Fizzgig showed signs of liver failure as she was a little jaundiced. She asked if I would like a few minutes alone and I said I would.

I stayed with my baby girl. I kissed her, stroked her head, and said my goodbyes even though she had already gone.

Then I did something I never thought I would do. I took a photo of her. As morbid as it seems, I felt I had to take one last photo of my surrogate daughter.

The people at the vet were fantastic. They said they would take care of the funeral arrangements but they waived the normal consultation fees given the circumstances.

One of the nicest moments was when the vet saw Fizzgig’s name on the carry cot. She said “Fizzgig? Is that from ‘The Dark Crystal’?” And I actually laughed as it is so rare for anyone to know where the name came from – but this vet said it was one of her favourite films from her childhood.

I left the clinic with the empty pet carrier and Fizzgig’s blanket. I was numb, cold and lost. I walked home in a haze of tears. I didn’t know what to do with myself that day. I couldn’t watch anything. I really don’t remember what I did apart from put on old childhood favourite films.

Despite the anxiety, pain and stress I was going through, I was buoyed by the amazing support I got from friends and family. My Facebook page was flooded with so much support. My mate Chris came around in the evening armed with pizza, wine and a beautiful card. Other friends sent me flowers, another prepared a care package of my favourite foods, friends and colleagues sent beautiful text messages and some called me (although speaking was a little harder to do)… At times like this, I am reminded how incredible people can be.

The hard moments continue. I find that distractions like TV shows and (I hate to say it) work keep my mind free from wallowing, but it’s the little things and quieter moments that break my heart. If I am walking around or even taking a shower, I start to think about her and I begin to cry. Seeing the spot where she died in my arms, the fork in the cutlery drawer I reserve for her cat food, the place where her litter tray used to sit… I haven’t even been able to throw away her food bowels – it’s just too difficult.

I had friends provide company on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night, but on Thursday evening, I arrived home after a long day at work and, as I entered the dark flat, I burst into tears because Fizzgig wasn’t there to greet me. I went from room to room sobbing my heart out and saying out loud to no one “She should be here!” My sobs were akin to panic attacks as I struggled for breath.

I opened some wine, knocked back a few glasses of red, watched a few TV shows and skulked off to bed.

It has to be one of the hardest things I have ever been through in my life. I have lost pets before and it has always been sad. I have lost friends and family members which has also been very painful. However, Fizzgig was special beyond words. We were a duo like Wallace & Gromit. She loved me and I loved her. I have never had such a connection with a creature like I did with my baby girl.

I don’t feel like the Ben I was any more. I will plough forward, though, despite being less than 100%. No one will fill that void and I don’t want them too.

Fizzgig is gone, riven from my life, but she will never, ever be forgotten.

The last photo of my precious baby girl.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Bye Bye Baby

For nearly fifteen years, Fizzgig has been more than just a pet. She has been a companion, friend and daughter. Although often aloof, she has always held me in high regard and would frequently follow me from room to room just to be close. When I have been ill or upset, she has sat beside me in comfort. I will miss our snuggles. I will miss her voice. I will miss her beauty. Most of all, I will miss her company. In fifteen years of personal highs and lows, she has been the one constant I have always relied on.

On her last morning, I sat with her from 3 a.m. onwards. She was weak, unsteady and confused. I stroked her, held her and returned the companionship she has given me all these years.

At 9:30, she passed away as I cradled her.

I grieve, I ache and I cry until I am exhausted.

Fizzgig, my baby girl... thank you for everything.