Sunday, December 7, 2008

Saying Good-Bye to Rocko. :(

This is a long entry about our kitty, Rocko, who we had to put down on Saturday morning. It was a really difficult experience, so I'm just going to tell it all... as therapy, maybe?? Anyway, you can read it if you like, that's why it's here. But if you want to skip most of the details, I'm going to put a little section at the bottom of this blog with more pictures and a list of the some of the things we remember about Rocko the most. If anything, please read that and help us remember our sweet Rocko kitters... . :)

I think it was early October when our Rocko kitty started getting sick... everything happened so fast. He's not quite 7 years old, so it didn't seem like anything drastic should go wrong. When we first got our youngest (3rd) kitty, Buckley, he had a sensitive stomach, so he threw up a lot. But we started giving him lamb & rice food, and he got better. So when Rocko started getting sick 3 times every single time he ate, I figured it was probably the same thing Buckley went through. We were working through the end of the bag of Iams we had, and we planned on switching his food or something. Then his messes turned pink, and we started to worry. I read up online, and his symptoms said it was probably just an ulcer, which could be fixed. So Adam and I planned on bringing him to the vet right after we got home from Padre. We weren't too concerned yet.

The vet first thought maybe it was an allergy to his food, or something food related, just as we thought. So we switched his food to a special, mild food from the vet's office, and sprinkled some pro-biotic on it so he wouldn't get the runs from the cold turkey food-switch. We also started giving him pills (which he HATED, of course) for the vomiting. He stopped eating, and we thought it was the powder pro-biotic he didn't like. So we tried the food without it, and he still wouldn't eat much. We kept trying, and wondered why he got so fussy with his food so suddenly. But we continued his pills and gave him Pepcid AC, as directed by our vet.

Meanwhile, the vet had a blood test done, and called to tell us everything came back normal. A short time later, we had Rocko in for an x-ray to see if there was a blockage or something, and there wasn't. The only thing they noticed was that his stomach lining looked a little "thicker" than normal, but there were no masses that could be felt during his physical, and none that could be seen in the x-ray.

So we brought him home and contemplated having him go in for a $600 ultrasound to look into the "thicker" stomach lining, but at that time, he stopped throwing up. He would kind of dry-heave every now and then, but nothing was coming up, so we actually thought he was getting better, and that made us decide to wait a little on the ultrasound.

I went to Phillips for a week over Thanksgiving, and about a week before I left, I noticed that Rocko was losing quite a bit of weight. He's always been a larger cat, and we joked about his huge, "bowling ball belly." I noticed one day that his eyes were looking sunken in just a little, and I really was starting to feel worried. Adam and I decided we'd wait and see how he was doing over Thanksgiving, and if things didn't get better by the time I got home, we'd bring him into the vet. Well, when I got home, things weren't better. In fact, it looked to me like he lost more weight. And he was eating less.

On Monday we got him into the groomer to have some mats removed, and he always seems to feel so good afterwords, so we figured that would cheer him up a bit. He seemed to really enjoy the shaved belly. :)

On Tuesday, I was able to get an appointment for him at the vet's office. Adam and I went to that appointment with the thought, "Okay, so he's still sick. We'll take out a line of credit and get him in for the ultrasound so we can find out why he's not eating and get it fixed." We were mentally-financially preparing ourselves for further appointments and testing.

We talked to the vet a bit, and she weighed him. He'd lost 4 pounds in less than a month. That's a lot for a kitty. She seemed concerned right away, of course. I told her that I just wanted to see what our next step would be, and said to her, "I'll get him in for the ultrasound if that's what we need to do." And she said that would probably be our next step, unless we find something during the physical, which she began.

The vet reached under Rocko's belly, pressed in, and instantly, "Oh, yes. We definitely have a mass here today." She looked up at me, and I think I was denying the look on her face. She got down in front of him and listened to his heart, looked at him, petted him, and said, "You aren't even a senior yet, little guy..."

I don't remember exactly how the rest of the conversation went and what order things were said, but for the position we were all in suddenly, it was a very solemn discussion. Our vet did a really good job answering our questions, and we really appreciate how she dealt with the situation. I could tell she really didn't want to have to tell us everything that was but she said less than a month earlier, there was no mass there. She brought the x-rays in for us to see and explained them to us and where things were. She said with his health and how quickly the mass grew in his tummy, it all points directly to cancer --almost without question. She then continued to tell us that even if it wasn't cancer, she doesn't know if there would be a surgeon comfortable going in to remove a mass that large and in that location. And either way, cancer or not, it was making him sick... and fast. There really wasn't any "getting better" at this point.

This was a moment I don't think Adam and I were quite prepared for... euthanasia came into the conversation, and I just couldn't believe it was happening. My poor, sick kitty sat there having no idea what we were talking about. He had no idea that we were talking about ending his life.

When we asked the vet if he was in pain, she said, "Well, he's probably very uncomfortable." He wasn't eating because of this large tumor in his tummy, and eating made it hurt, so he stopped eating... and he was hungry, so either way, he wasn't feeling good at all. And because he wasn't eating (or drinking), he was dehydrated, too... and we know how icky we feel when we're really dehydrated, so poor Rocko had all these yucky feelings going on. No matter what, he wasn't feeling good at all.

We asked the vet about the best time to put Rocko down, and she pretty much told us there probably wasn't much time left for him. Now, we did discuss the "ifs" and other possibilities, and the only other direction we could've gone in, was to send him to the Referral Center for an Ultrasound, then when they had a better idea of what we were looking at, they would open him up and take a sample of the tumor, then decide whether it's cancer or not. We were 99% sure it was cancer already anyway, but if confirmed through the biopsy, we'd be looking at removing it and hoping it hadn't spread anywhere else, and hoping they caught it all -- in addition to chemo and radiation... so we were talking tests, car rides (which Rocko hates), risky surgery, chemo and radiation... Adam and I agreed we didn't want to put our cat through all that, and we weren't sure we would be able to handle it emotionally ourselves... it was so hard to see him as sick as he was, and to see him go through all that additional crud just seemed like torture for everyone involved. And the chances of us beating that with how fast the mass grew was very unlikely. The window we had was so slim, it was pretty much sadly inevitable. Rocko was going to die. We knew he was sick when we brought him in, but I don't think we knew we'd come home having to prepare to lose our first pet together. This was going to be hard.

We asked about timing for the euthanasia, and the vet actually fully supported our doing the procedure at any time. She even said they could do same-day if we chose, but we could most certainly wait, too. So she left us alone to talk about it, and Adam and I decided to set the appointment for Saturday morning to put Rocko to sleep. Oh, the tears... :(

So we had him for the rest of the week, and we wanted to make the most of it. I didn't go back to work right away on Tuesday, as I had been bawling my eyes our for a few hours, and I just couldn't hold back anything if someone would ask me what was wrong -- and I knew that. I would've been a slobbery mess. So Adam and I got home and petted Rocko hoping to end his life due to a purr overdose, and then collapsed on the bed in exhaustion for a nap.

How do you explain to an animal that you love them? How do you tell them just how much? How do you explain to them that they didn't do anything wrong, and that this isn't their fault? I could only hope that he understands why we made the decision to end his life, and that he will forgive us for it. It seemed so unnatural to have to make that decision, but we started to quickly notice how uncomfortable he was. He walked slow and weak, and just to cross the kitchen floor, he'd have to take a break or two. His tumor was on his left side, and you could tell when he laid down that it bothered him. He'd try to lay on his right side, and when on his tummy, he'd sort of lean to the right. Most of the time he'd hide out in the pantry closet where it was dark and cool, and he'd only come out if we went in and got him. He still purred when we petted him, so we held and petted him as much as we possibly could in those last few days. He would munch down treats, but no food, so we kept feeding him as many treats as his nauseous little tummy could handle. We let him roam around in our spare room, where the kitties aren't allowed, but ALWAYS want to go... we did everything we thought he'd enjoy. When he wasn't getting petted, or held, he was back in the pantry closet.

Friday night, Adam and I went home after work and spent as much time with Rocko as we could. We got him to lay on the glass end table with us as we watched an episode of Animal Planet. Normally, he'd be sitting on the back of couch freaking out when something like birds or flopping fish came up on the screen, but instead he just laid back really quiet and rested. We were happy he was in the living room with us. When it was time for bed, we put him down next to us (he was always the first in bed, even beating us to get a good spot and take up his 1/3 of the bed). He stayed for a little while as we petted him and talked to him, but soon he hopped down and made his way back to his dark closet for the night.

Saturday morning (12-6-08).
We weren't going to have him ride in the carrier. He hates car rides as it is, so we figured if I could hold him as Adam drove, I could at least pet him and try to comfort him a little. He wasn't much for struggling at this point anyway. When we'd hold him, it would feel as though he sorted of just "melt" into us, even resting his head on our shoulder. I think he was just getting really weak and quickly out of energy. So the car ride went okay. He cried quite a bit, but would look out the window and check stuff out every once in a while.

We got to the vet's office, and we paid up for the euthanization and Tuesday's appointment right away so we could just leave afterwards... I still wasn't quite sure how I was going to deal with the whole situation.

We were brought into a small, low-lit room with cushy chairs, and a table with a fleece blanket on it. We took Rocko out of his carrier (we put him back in it for the lobby in case there were any dogs or something out that would scare him). The attending doctor came in and explained the process. She said that she would take him for just a few minutes to insert a catheter into his front leg so they could administer the drug. She said is was basically an overdose of anaesthetic, and that it doesn't take long before the animal's heart will stop beating. She asked if we were ready, and we were... I mean, I didn't know how much more ready a person can be, anyway... so she took Rocko out, and when she came back he had a red bandage on his arm, and she laid him on the fleece blanket on the table in the room. The other doctor that was going to administer the drug came in and talked with us a little bit. While we talked, Rocko just laid there calmly and looked around.

This is all pretty morbid, but it feels good to just write it all out. I have to tell you, though... I couldn't be happier with how the doctor handled everything. I feel weird even saying this, but under the circumstances, everything went as well as I could ever imagine it to. The doctor was really sad for us, and seemed very upset to see such a young cat with such terrible cancer.

She began pushing in the syringe as I pet Rocko's head, and Adam stood next to me. He just stared ahead, and in a very short time, the doctor said very softly, "With how bad his health was, he may already be gone." I still pet him and talked to him until the syringe was empty. I started crying as the doctor checked his vitals to be sure he was gone. Once she confirmed that his heart had stopped, I looked at him, and he just looked like he was lying there peacefully. I said one last little "good-bye," gave him a little kiss on the head like I'd always do and stepped back.

Afterwards, the doctor took quite a few minutes to talk to us about everything. We had her feel his mass one more time, and she looked absolutely shocked at the size of it. I remember petting him and feeling it -- it had to have been the size of a baseball, at least... and in a kitty, that's pretty darn big! She reassured us that we absolutely did the right thing, and that putting him through more tests would have pointed to 3 things: cancer, cancer and cancer. And the end result would've most likely been the same. So we did the right thing, and Adam and I feel okay about the timing of it. We started doubting it a little, the closer and closer we got to Saturday. "Should we wait one more week? He seems to be doing okaaaayyyy..." But in a day or two, he could've been at a very advanced stage of cancer where he was no longer able to control his bowels and things... so none of us had to go through that. She used the analogy of a locomotive heading down the track towards us, and we got off in just the right amount of time.

I even said to her it bothered me that we were putting him down, when obviously I could still give him some joy... I could pet him and love him, and he'd purr and seem really happy." She responded, "Be glad you're doing this while he can still purr..." It was right the way she said it. I've heard from a lot of pet owners that they wait too long (and I can completely understand their reasoning, too), so even though I was tempted, I kept telling myself that... I don't want to wait too long... it's got to happen... so afterward, we felt okay with the timing.

After putting him down, the doctor even cried with us. She was a great doctor, and we really appreciated her explaining everything to us. She really did a nice job counseling us directly after. She even explained about cat's behavior's a little bit, and how they don't think, "This isn't fair... Buckley and Peanut feel okay, and they're going to live longer..." She went on to tell us that cats don't have the self-awareness to "compare notes" -- all they think is, "boy, my tummy is really hurting..." They know something hurts and it's not right, but they aren't going to be upset because it's unfair for this to happen to them.
It sounds so silly as I type that out, but at the time, that statement really put me at ease. I think I was really worried about Rocko feeling like he was a bad cat and was being punished in some way, because he was a really well-behaved cat... so mellow all the time.

The doc gave us a few pointers for Buckley and Peanut, because they might go through some grieving stages, also. So we'll be watching their eating habits and things to be sure they're doing okay.

I know this is morbid again, but I want to write it all out. We had the option to get Rocko cremated or bury his body. We decided we'd bury him up north in my parents' backyard by my mom and dad's dog Grizz, their cat, Brat, and a little kitten Adam and I tried to rescue about 6 years ago named Scooter that didn't make it... so we're going to be taking him up there the weekend of the 20th to bury him. It'll just be nice to know that he's buried there and that he's safe.

Without Rocko
So without Rocko being around, it's just really weird. It really feels like there's a "chunk" missing out of our day or something. Buckley and Peanut are noticing it... they kind of walk around like they're looking for something, then they stop and look around with an expression on their face like, "What was I looking for? Something's off..."

It'll be interesting to see how they adapt, because Peanut and Buckley never really got along too well. Rocko got along with both, and would cuddle and play with both of them, but Peanut and Buckley would kind of swat at each other... every once in a great while you'd see them laying next to each other on the couch... but they're not the best of friends. So we just hope they adapt okay.

Me... I just get waves of emotion every once in a while. I picture Rocko and the way he was laying on that table just after the confirmation of his death, and it's just hard. I just miss him and wish I could have him back... I'm not going to be shy about it. It's freakin' hard... I feel like I'm being a big obsessive baby about it, but honestly, I don't care. I loved that cat... I love all my cats so much... and I'm not going to hold back. I would want Rocko to know we cared about him and loved him that much. He was always a happy kitty, so I'm sure he knows that. :)

So if you're one of the few that reads through this entire blog entry, please don't think I'm insane... I just really wanted to write everything out to kind of "let it all out," as well as remember everything that happened. I have a terrible memory, and I know in a year, I'll be questioning how quickly it happened or something, and now I'll have this to look back on and remember. I'll have to have Adam run through and read it, too, in case I already missed something...

As I wrote for my status in Facebook today: Please give your pets an extra treat and pet on the head today, in honor of Rocko. We appreciate it so much! We know everyone out there loves their pets, and I feel for all those that have had to or will have to deal with this. It's not easy. But there is comfort in knowing it's the right path to take for the animal's sake.

We love you and miss you, Rocko!!!

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A few tidbits about Rocko:
-- I think the best thing about Rocko was his "purr-ability." If you just LOOKED at him, he'd start the motor...

-- He'd dance with me to "Love Me Do" by the Beatles... the other cats wouldn't put up with that. ;)

-- He loved drinking out of the bathroom sink

-- His favorite spot to sit was on the back of the loveseat in the livingroom while we watched TV.

-- He always laid in bed with us at night. He'd usually beat me there, and pretty much take up 1/2 the bed. I'd have to squeeze myself in between him and Adam until he'd slowly nudge towards the edge and readjust.

-- If you look at his pictures, he's got a little goatee... so cute!

-- He hated cameras.

-- He hated car rides.

-- He hated being outside. He'd cry constantly, even while he chewed on grass.

-- He loved having his belly rubbed.

-- He'd get really terrible mats twice a year, and we'd bring him to the groomer. He hated the car ride, but when he got home, he'd roll around and purr.

-- He looked like a little piglet the first time we had him shaved.

-- As a kitten, he'd let out super-stinky farts

-- He had a huge belly (before the tumor). It was like a big bowling ball.

-- When he'd chase the laser pointer, he'd try to catch it each step instead of just running after it.

-- When he was first born, he was named something like Fred or Frank, and we wanted to change that... Adam says he's named after Rocky Balboa... we thought Rocko was fitting and a good name for a kitty.

-- Some of the other things we'd call him besides "Rocko": Rocket, Rocket-Man, Rocker, RockoMeTaco, Rockstar, Rockhard, Rock 'em Sock 'em, Bud, Rocko Man, etc...

-- If there was a closed door, he wanted in... badly. He'd mew constantly until we distracted him.

-- He liked to play with plastic bags, and would often get his head stuck in the hole for the handle and be walking around with it like it was the latest fashion.

-- He loved when we opened the patio blinds. He'd come running from wherever he was to see outside when he heard me touch the handle.

-- He wouldn't eat any people food, except for shrimp. No milk, no tuna, no soft cat food, nothin. Just normal kitty treats and cat food.

-- In the 7 years he was alive, Rocko moved 11 times with us. (We move a lot, wow!)

-- He got along with everyone. He was a very sweet kitty.

-- He only bit two times. When I would pull mats out of his hair, and his way of telling me he'd had enough for the day was to bite me (I had it coming). The other time would be when one of us were on the toilet and we stopped paying attention to him, he very lightly nibble our leg... what a weirdo! :)
Rocko really hated the camera, so we'd sometimes take his picture with the flash off. Got some cool shots of him, too!
Rocko, Christmas 2007

Chillin' out on the couch.

Rocko right after we had his mats shaved off. He seemed to really like it, actually...

Close-up. Such sweet eyes... and check out that goatee! :)

Rocko a couple days before he was put to sleep. He got sooo little!!

Typical cute cat picture. It's a little blurry, but still cute.

1 comment:

lisa laatsch said...

I cried almost the entire time reading this entry and still now as i type this. I just had to put my dog Heidi to sleep the day after christmas. I had her longer than Ben and Cheyenne! That was the hardest decision i've ever made. I tried to put it off as long as i could because i wadn't ready to let her go yet. But Christmas day i dicussed the situation with my parents and it was obvious what i needed to do to end her suffering, she had been sick almost a month at that point. When we had her last weigh in she had lost 23 pounds and for a 12 year old boxer it was alot, i could see every bone at that point she was starving to death. Before the final injection i told her i loved her and that i was so sorry. I miss her every day.