She was just shy of twenty. I have no idea what that means in people, or even dog, years. But according to the vet it was very old. Izzy spent the last five years of her life looking very much like a real-life version of Grizabella, the geriatric alley cat from Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Memory"-producing musical. She was matted and scroungy; I am not sure she ever weighed more than 4 or 5 pounds. We were just waiting for a sign that it was time. I felt blessed the vet could take her last Saturday morning. The sign, that she could no longer use her hind legs, came on with a vengeance on Friday night.
This wasn't the first time my kids have been through the loss of a pet. This coming January will mark the two-year anniversary of when we put another beloved cat, also 19, to sleep. And in many ways that one was much harder. We may have had three cats, one more than acceptable if you don't want to be considered "crazy cat people." But Emmy, a soft, sweet black and white shorthair, was the only one who paid the least little bit of attention to the children. The other two, an angry orange tabby we inherited from my father-in-law and Izzy, who was already starting to keep to herself in her twilight years, weren't particularly affectionate. Emmy was their lap cat. She was their pet in the very best sense of the word.
A few weeks prior, my husband noticed she had slowed down significantly, and then one Friday, this time in the morning, she was having a hard time standing. We let everyone stay home from school so that they could come to the noon vet appointment. I think I knew that it was a goodbye, but hadn't brought myself to be so sure when talking with the kids. We had discussed that the vet might tell us "it was time." But it was clear they were quietly praying that the cat doctor would have some miraculous cure that would allow for a "tenth life." They had hope--and I may have incorrectly encouraged it. At 11:45 a.m., we wrapped her in a blanket and climbed into the car for the five-minute ride. All three kids took turns holding her, no cat kennel, in the back seat. I told them she wanted to be cuddled. But the truth was I knew there was no way I could drive an empty carrier home.
The vet was kind, but direct. While it was possible Emmy's advanced kidney disease would allow her to live another couple of weeks, it was an equally compassionate choice to put her to sleep as part of this appointment. For me it was like pulling off a bandage. I just wanted to get it over with, to get to the other side. The idea of going to sleep each night worrying that my daughter would awaken the next morning to the cat lifeless in her bed sounded dreadful. The kids and my husband all said their goodbyes and left the room, where I stayed to hold Emmy as she gently drifted off.
The kids didn't go back to school that day and when we got home I asked them what I could do to help them feel just a little better. My oldest son didn't miss a beat. "The only thing that will make me feel better is to get another cat." And within two hours of one of the worst moments of their lives we were off to a different vet"this one with a sign out front advertising kittens for adoption. It was ridiculous, I knew, to even entertain the thought. We still had two cats at home and we certainly hadn't engaged in anything close to a respectable mourning period. But ice cream, my usual fallback for the hard times, wasn't going to cut it. And we welcomed Desi into our family that night.
It was different this time, though. The signs were so obvious and the kids didn't feel the need to hear the "Circle of Life" speech again. We all went quietly to the appointment knowing exactly what was going to happen. Everyone gently kissed her fur, and I again held her in her last moments.
This time we came home and reminisced about what an exciting life Izzy had led. We remembered how she had been purchased for the equivalent of 27 cents in a Mexican pet store. We remembered that she had traveled throughout North America spending quality time in Mexico City, DC, Boston and Chicago before becoming a Cheesehead kitty. We remembered how in her final weeks she'd taken to sleeping upstairs in the boys' room again, reclaiming the space annexed months earlier by the new kitten.
And we remembered that this time we probably didn't need another cat, especially that evening. But that isn't keeping my husband and daughter from talking about getting a dog. And I guess I'm open. Because that's what loving and losing a pet teaches you. That you can adore them with all your heart and that your heart can be broken. But you also learn that hearts open up again, especially for warm furry things that curl up on your lap.comments powered by Disqus
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.
My 11th-grade and 8th-grade sons have heard "the chant" for years. You know which one I'm talking about -- the ESFY (U?) chant (I'm not sure what the parenting post rules are for writing two of the more forbidden four-letter words in the English language) that appears to have both Barry Alvarez and Chancellor Blank quite concerned.
There are many different criteria parents use when evaluating which pre-school programs will be right for their children. Some parents might be looking for an educational philosophy that stresses creativity and community. Others may desire an option that revolves around learning through play or is more academic in approach.
We spent hours poring over name books and checking for inappropriate initial combinations. We looked at meanings, variant spellings and popularity charts. And, as I am sure every parent does, we thought we'd hit the name jackpot with each of our kids. But there are always surprises.
A generation or two ago, the pediatrician was the guy (yes, they were mostly guys) who gave your kids shots and prescribed big bottles of antibiotics for every sniffle. Madison's Dipesh Navsaria is a different breed of pediatrician.
Gamehole Con will be the premier tabletop gaming convention in the region. And with Wisconsin being the birthplace of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the nation's leader in gaming stores per capita, it kind of makes sense that the convention's organizers want the Dairy State to be known for more than just cheese, beer and bratwurst.
This year I will also try to ease up some of my previous costume concerns. Sure, the world is rife with inappropriate dress up choices for our kids; there is no parent out there that is keen on his or her child dressing like a pint-sized prostitute, even for one night.
This past Saturday, I took my youngest to hear Caldecott award-winning author/illustrator Kevin Henkes read from his latest work, The Year of Billy Miller, a short novel for the early elementary grades.
I was greeted at the door by Tom Moen, who has served as executive director of what he likes to call "Madison's best kept secret", for the past 39 of the center's 47 years. Located in the middle of the subsidized Truax Park apartment complex, EMCC, with its vast array of offerings for kids, seniors and everyone in between, is unquestionably the heart of the neighborhood.
Madison's Kashmira Sheth has written four award-winning novels for middle grade and teen readers, and a popular chapter book for six- to nine-year-olds, but right now her picture books are what she's excited to talk about.
A few summers back, my daughter, maybe 8 or 9 at the time, decided to take part in our swimming pool's annual water ballet show. I'm not really sure what initially piqued her interest in the somewhat under-the-radar, very much under-the-water sport of synchronized swimming.
We rarely included a stop at the Central Library as part of our regular outing. For those of you who've been in Madison for a while, I'm sure you'd agree that the old building was pretty run down. Not to mention, dark, cavernous and depressing. Libraries, at their best, should be portals to discovery, right?
My eleven-year-old daughter spent most of last weekend alone in her room, door shut. It wasn't a temper tantrum or an overwhelming need for tween privacy that led to her self-induced isolation, though. Instead, I didn't see her (except for meals) for two days because she was, in her words, "going through her closet."
Yes, the 2004 classic comedy Mean Girls is an absolutely delightful movie. But it's definitely not the smartest mother/daughter viewing as your child is about to enter her inaugural year of middle school.
Despite celebrating 30 years in business this year, Knowledge Unlimited Inc. remains relatively unknown in the community. Those concerned with closing the achievement gap in Madison's schools, however, may want to take note. This award-winning educational-materials producer, based in Middleton, is unique in emphasizing multiculturalism throughout its lines of educational posters, DVDs and children's books.