A lot has changed in the last year. I've been reflecting on that fact as I think about this week a year ago.
On Sunday, Mikenna wasn't feeling very well. She'd been started on an antibiotic for a uti, and it's not like she didn't have a fair share of stomach problems anyway. Nothing too much to think about. Matt and I went for a walk at Peaks View Park - we'd never been there before, even though it's pretty close to our house. It was a really sunny, warm day. It was nice to get out of the house and shake off some of the stress that comes from taking care of someone.
Monday, she still wasn't feeling very good, but that wasn't too abnormal. Tuesday was election day, and I was starting to get worried about her. I placed a call to the vet about maybe changing her medicine, because I didn't think we could make it through two weeks of her being this sick to her stomach. That night was long as we stayed up to watch the election results.
Wednesday, I had agreed to help out at a health fair. I set up the booth for the humane society and chatted with people about volunteering for the animals. Several people mentioned that their animal died at 13. Something about it felt really foreboding, as I hadn't brought up Mikenna. By that night, I was very worried. She was so listless, not even drinking much water by that point, which is always a red flag. So we opted to take her to the emergency vet. You know what I was expecting? That they would give her some anti-nausea medicine and some fluids, and we'd take her to the regular vet in the morning. I figured we'd take her home and get her better. But as we sat there after midnight, exhausted and cold, it began to feel like it was worse. They were taking an awful long time with their tests. They wanted to keep her overnight, and said that her kidneys looked off. I was too tired for things to really sink in. I agreed to it in a haze and we went home to snatch a few hours of sleep before picking her up bright and early.
Thursday morning, as the sun rose, we were driving back to the emergency vet to pick up our girl. The doctor came out and told us that she had not improved any over night and that we had to take her straight to our regular vet when they opened. When they brought her out to us, she stared, but didn't make any excited ear twitches or stretch out her paws for us. That's the moment it hit me that she was very very sick. She always got excited about seeing us. We could walk out the door and walk in a minute later and she was thrilled.
We walked into our regular vet and sat on the bench, holding her in my lap. The song "Chasing Cars" played over the radio.
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Will you lie with me and just forget the world?
Oh, how I wanted to just take her home and snuggle up with her. The vet came out and told us that they'd looked over her paperwork from the emergency vet. She definitely had pancreatitis and something was up with her kidneys - prepare ourselves, it did not look good.
We spent that morning and early afternoon trying to keep ourselves occupied. Matt and I shared stories with each other, talking about all the good and bad of Mikenna, how she had made our lives better, happier, more quirky.
When the vet finally called, it was everything I was afraid I'd hear. Pancreatitis, her kidneys were failing, and her heart. There was no way to treat all three of those things at the same time. Two of them, sure, but not all three. There was nothing that could be done. They recommended taking her home for one last night together.
That was the longest night of my life. I didn't want to sleep and miss a minute she had left, but going on a third nearly sleepless night, I was exhausted. I had expected that she would settle down and sleep, but she couldn't get comfortable. She was thirsty, but as her heart struggled, the blood wasn't circulating well and her tongue was turning black. She had a brief seizure because, as the vet warned us, blood wasn't making it all the way to her brain as it should. I told her over and over again that she had done well, and if she wanted to let go, she could. I wouldn't be mad. She'd done her best. We all had.
The sun eventually rose and Mikenna wanted to go outside. Of course she did. She loved the outside. We took her out there and she just sat. Didn't have the energy to do much else. But she seemed happy. Matt encouraged me to go grab my camera and take pictures of her. I didn't want to, but I'm glad I did. I treasure those pictures, even though they show a dog who was very, very sick.
Time went by too fast and too slow. I wanted her to just die at home, peacefully, so we wouldn't have to take her to the vet. I remember when they gave her that injection to knock her out, and I thought, she's never going to wake up again. Everything that we've done together, and this is it. She was so tired.
When I walked in the door after we had dropped her off at the humane society for cremation, it all hit me. Everything I had done to take care of her, to make her happy, it was all gone. It was like my calendar had been full and then suddenly wiped out. But it wasn't relief.
A year ago, I walked into the vet with a dying Mikenna, holding her tight, exhausted.
This year, on the same day, I'll walk into the vet with Buttercup and Vizzi for a checkup. The vet will tell me that they are adorable and perfectly healthy, and I'll tell her how well they get along with their older sisters, and we'll all smile and chuckle at them as they squeak in gentle protest.
This week has been heavy with grief, I admit. I had a dream the other night where she slathered me in kisses, and knowing I'll never have that again, that little paw holding my face still when I tried to move, puts a lump in my throat.
I thought about the ebb and flow of our family over the years. Koo & Aery; Koo, Aery & Gwen; Aery & Gwen; Aery, Buttercup, Gwen & Vizzi. Never has our family felt lacking. There's never been better or worse, just different. I've loved every version of our family. We've never lacked love or laughter, no matter what.
It hurts not to have Mikenna here. Were she here and healthy, she would enjoy chasing Cuppie and snuggling with Vizzi. But if she were here, they wouldn't be. (I love animals, but come on, I have my limits) Because she died, they have a chance to be in our family. Aeris gets to have kitty siblings who adore her as much as she did Mikenna, and even Gwen is amused with everyone. It's not better or worse, it's just different, and beautiful in it's own way.
I miss my little girl, and that's okay. I wish I didn't feel grief as much as I do, but I know that's not a bad thing. Although many holes have been filled with the kittens, no one runs up and pounces on me when I cry, the way Mikenna did. That, I admit, is the thing I miss the most right now.
A few weeks ago, I realized that the day the kittens were born (March 13) is also the day that my ashes ring arrived. Something about it feels significant. The day that the last bit of Mikenna's journey was finished, the kittens arrived. I think that's pretty cool, that there's a bigger picture, even when we can't see it and aren't looking for it.
Here's to Mikenna, and to getting what you need and not necessarily what you're looking for.