As you might guess, the topic of this post might not be completely pleasant, but I need to say it anyway regardless. We are far enough away from the event now where I don’t lose my crackers when I think of it, and so now is the time.
I don’t really write about the cats very much on this blog since they have their own space on the Internet. Our boy, Pixel, is the topic of this post today, and the extraordinary life he lived. It’s not because he was talented, though he did know how to play fetch. No, the thing that made Pixel amazing boiled down to one event in his and my life. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Pixel came to us on a Tuesday evening, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving actually in 2005. Not quite a year had passed since we lost my first cat, Callie. I was still working at the bank and had been there about eighteen months and I had secured the most coveted spot: the drive thru. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia just a year before and because everything was close I could sit for the majority of the time as I needed.
With about ninety minutes until closing time, a lady drove through the commercial lane, a box of mewing kittens in the back seat of her old sedan. She casually asked if I knew someone who was looking to adopt a kitten, and I asked if she had a male. This in itself was an anomaly for me, as I tend to prefer female animals (don’t ask me why, I have no idea.) So she reached into the box and pulled from it a scrawny, skinny tabby kitten, the only boy in the litter. “This one,” she said and held him up for me to see.
She pulled forward and I opened the door that we weren’t supposed to open, and when she handed me this kitten, it was love at first sight. Without consulting with Hubby, I took him. He was tiny enough to fit into the deal drawer in the commercial lane and for the most part he was happy to curl up on the back of my neck while I finished my shift.
The ride home that night was quiet despite the fact I had a kitten in a banker’s box. We didn’t live far from work, and the commute was easy. With my purse in one hand and the kitten in the other, I acted confident as I entered the apartment with my living treasure.
Hubby was NOT happy nor was he amused about springing a kitten on him that night. We fought about it, but in the end the kitten and I won the fight and he got to stay. He earned the name “Pixel” because he loved to watch Hubby play on his laptop computer.
While I worked during the day, Hubby bonded with my new little buddy. At the time, Tika was still with us and she mothered him like she did every other kitten we brought home. But she was the queen of the household and Pixel had to learn his place. That said, he never stopped trying to be the top cat. He and Sassy, our purebred Ragdoll, never saw eye to eye and hated each other until the day she died in 2017.
When we lost Tika in 2010 to liver cancer, Pixel graduated to the place of honor in the pecking order, otherwise known as my lap. He was five years old when she passed away. In the months that followed her passing, I was extremely grateful for his companionship, for she left a void that remains to this day, and I suspect it always will.
In the time period between 2010 and 2014, we lived in an apartment we now affectionately call “the ghetto.” Though the property was well maintained, the units themselves were repaired on the cheap, and nothing worked as it should have. We had electrical outlets that never worked, the toilets in four apartments shared one line, so when one clogged up, we were all affected. In short, it was a terrible, miserable place to live.
I don’t speak of this often because many people think I am a lunatic when I describe it, but both Hubby and I sensed an evil presence in the apartment. Whether it was just our unit is still a mystery but the evidence of it was clear. Our marriage experienced its worst five year stretch in those walls. We constantly fought, and I don’t mean just bickering. These were knock down, nearly drag-out fights, screaming at each other until we had no voice. Sometimes I am amazed we survived those years. It was only by God’s grace that we did.
At the time, I was taking a newly-approved medication for Fibromyalgia treatment, an anti-depressant that is still widely prescribed as a first treatment: Cymbalta. At first, the drug did its job but as time progressed it was less and less effective and harder and harder to obtain. My insurance didn’t cover the dose I had been prescribed, leaving me to either pay for an extremely expensive brand-name drug on my own or relying on my doctor for samples. We were struggling financially at the time, so my doctor promised me samples to fill in the gaps that my insurance coverage left.
I can’t put my finger on what day it was, or what the date was, or even what time of year it was when I decided I had suffered enough pain. I felt worthless being unable to work and I was convinced my father would have been so disappointed in me if he could see what I had become. My marriage was flailing, the relationship between Hubby and my mom was strained, I was missing Tika. I was in tremendous physical, emotional and spiritual agony.
I do know it was late, maybe one or two in the morning. I remember distinctly looking on my computer to find a lethal dose of oxycodone. I figured out how many of my pills it would take and took that many out of my new prescription bottle and held them in my hand. I remember looking around the room, and I felt a little guilty that hubby would be the one to find me in the morning. I didn’t write a note, I didn’t leave any indication that I was contemplating it. My sudden death would have been a shock to my mother, but even that wasn’t enough to stop me.
The pills in my hand, I paused a moment. Then Pixel, the cat I rescued years before, set out to rescue me. He did something he had never done before, and he never did it after that night: He got in my face, nice and close, and purred. He rubbed against and licked my face. He poured out every bit of love he could muster and he reminded me that no matter how despondent I was, no matter how sad and worthless I felt that he still loved and needed me. I looked at him, looked at the pills in my hand. I twisted the top off the medication bottle and put every last pill back into the bottle. Then I held my cat in my arms and cried into his fur until he had a soaking wet patch on his side.
It was years before I told anyone about that night. We were out of the apartment from Hell, and I remember telling Hubby about it. The look on his face, when he realized he would have been the one that found me, the love of his life, dead from an overdose, broke my heart. We held each other and cried. All the regrets he had that I brought Pixel home disappeared that day. From that day on, Pix had a special place in both our hearts.
Late last year, we noticed that Pixel was failing to maintain his weight. And though we knew he needed medical attention, we could not afford to bring him. So we did the best for him that we could and fed him. A lot. At first, dry food with its extra calories and protein was helping. He began to gain some muscle mass around his shoulders and backbone again and he looked good. And then after the new year, he got worse again.
I won’t say I’ve written “at length” about the COVID-19 pandemic but it brought its own set of curses and blessings. One such blessing we never counted on was the stimulus package with payments to each person. I never expected it since we weren’t financially impacted by the virus, but yet we were included, quite by surprise. This was right around the time Pixel was eating close to six cans of Fancy Feast a day, about every 4 hours including during the overnight hours.
We waited for months for Pixel to tell us that his end was near. We waited for his decreased appetite, the telltale signs of a sick cat, one on his final days. But those signs never manifested. In fact, the longer he went, the hungrier he got. But his behavior was changing in the most subtle ways until it was evident. The final straw for Pixel was when he got aggressive with me in the kitchen over food. We couldn’t risk him biting either one of us, nor could we risk him harming Mercy, either. Hubby and I decided that keeping him in that state was selfish and cruel, and no matter how badly I wanted him to get better I knew he wouldn’t.
The Friday before Mother’s Day I called the vet to make his last appointment. I told them I wanted one last weekend with him, the chance to spoil him rotten, and for me to make peace with his looming demise. The jury is still out on whether this was a good idea, knowing his last day was coming was excruciatingly difficult. But I did everything I wanted to with him. I got pictures as though I didn’t have a million of them already. I took video of him. I held him in my arms and loved him, despite his protests.
When we brought him, the vet agreed with us one hundred percent that we made the right choice for him. He guessed, by listening to Pixel’s symptoms and behavior, that he was suffering probable intestinal cancer, starving because his body could no longer absorb nourishment from food. I held him in my arms after two injections of sedative, because in true Pixel style, he was not going down without a fight. And when he breathed his last breath on this Earth and crossed to the Rainbow Bridge, my heart broke into thousands of pieces.
Pixel was an incredible soul. He will always have a spot in my heart, in my memory. I would not be alive today if he hadn’t been there for me, if he hadn’t come through. He saved not only my life but he saved my family the anguish I would have caused with my selfishness.
Well done, my sweet boy. Well done.