We knew it was coming. We've been telling ourselves this for a while now.
"You know, he's an old boy."
"Eight's up there for a ferret."
"The day is coming..."
Last night was that day. I think Gabriel had a seizure -- maybe a stroke? It left him really "not there" and his body just twitching away.
He'd been sick about a week ago, doing some similar things. I thought maybe we were seeing insulinoma and began doing Karo syrup cotton-swab rubs on his gums when he looked "dazed" or "spacey". I spent about a full day with him, when he was not doing well last time. I gave him sub-cutaneous fluids as the veteranarian's people taught me. Randy has said those fluids probably saved Gabriel's life.
I say I just did what I had to do. I try not to think about the process too much -- it squicks me out. The actual doing doesn't -- maybe because you only do it when you must and that means a ferret's in trouble and there's no time for the squicks?
So, back to last night. Similar signs of not doing well. I had Nick haul out the bag of fluids and the container of sharps. We warmed the fluid in my heating pad -- that's one "home appliance" which has been really busy lately (more on that in a later post). Once it was warm enough, I gave him enough to create a lump about the size of a medium gumball, right between his shoulder blades.
Meanwhile, he just deteriorated as the night progressed. I spend so much more time with the furbabies that I think I come to The Decision more readily -- I 'd say it's perhaps because I hate to see them in pain, but that has reverse implications I don't agree with. I knew, watching him in Randy's arms, what we'd be doing on Saturday. But I waited for Randy to speak first; I just hate sounding so "blood-thirsty" and ready to "kill".
"Parents" of furbabies understand what questions and doubts go through the mind when The Decision must be made. It's easy to fool myself and think, "Oh, a little longer and he'll snap out of this."
I sat up with Gabriel all night. Randy took turns cradling him as he could, but he's been through a lot this week too -- and not had as much opportunity to sleep as I have, so I let him sleep when he did. I should have slept. A smarter person would have -- there was nothing I could do.
Except keep him from being alone. And that was what I did. I knit and listened to an audiobook. I read from the paper version of the same book, when I was cradling him. When I thought he might slip towards sleep, I laid him in our "quarantine cage" and went to spend a little time with Rowan and Nick. When I returned, he was just as I'd left him and I cradled him to me again.
I watched the clock. The vet opened at 8am. At 7:30am, I asked Randy if he wanted me to go in alone or to go with me. We arrived at the vet's at 8:04am. Dr. Funk remembered Gabriel -- he's the one who neutered our big boy when we adopted him in 2008. Dr. Funk agreed it sounded like a seizure. He saw the continued signs of how it had ravaged our furbaby's body and agreed Gabriel has had a good and full life. Why put him through more? I adore Dr. Funk for being so kind-hearted and caring so much about what's best for the animals -- sometimes aggressive treatment isn't the best answer.
Gabriel slipped into peace and across the Rainbow Bridge this morning, in my arms. We brought him home for the remaining five to say good-bye to. We also gave the cats a chance to recognize a change in "the roster" -- and for the humans to come to terms with the new loss.
We'll have his ashes back in a week or so and then I'll have nine little ferret urns on my desk.
goes away to cry a little more
Gods, I'm so tired of writing these good-byes. Yes, another sweet ferret of ours crossed the Rainbow Bridge sometime Tuesday evening. Horatio has been acting oddly since we lost Sebastian. We weren't expecting him to be the ferret we needed to cradle and cuddle through Seb's death.
Horatio has been stumbling and wobbly, tired and lethargic. Some advice has suggested he was having a glucose problem, but I just wasn't sure. I've snuggled him extra, loved on him and watched him play with Samuel and Raphael (though not as much as he used to).
During a late round-up, Nick came to us with the news that Horatio was dead. I hate that he keeps finding the babies like this. Horatio was cold and stiff, gone maybe 6-8 hours we're guessing. I don't know why he died, I just know I've got another hole in my heart... and soon, another urn on my desk.
We did an abbreviated version of our usual wake, bringing the babies out one at a time to sniff their cage mate and brother and recognize he's gone. After just updating a profile tonight to say we're down to seven ferrets, suddenly it's only six.
And then the double whammy hit. We can't find Samuel. Randy remembers seeing him at the door when he came home late tonight. He remembers "toeing" Sam away from the door... but we can't find where he's hiding since then. I only hope we can find him in time to let him say good-bye to Horatio.
I hate to say this, but I've realized that as much as I love my ferrets, I can't adopt any more. This just hurts too damn much, coming one on top of the other like this. I'm going to love the ones I've got, to the very last one. But right now, I don't see me adopting any more.
Horatio, love, you've broken my heart again. I hope you're at least happy over the Bridge, my sweetling.
Today we said good-bye to Sebastian. He was diagnosed with massive tumors in his abdomen which had been pressing against his intestinal tract. A barium-contrast series of x-rays proved he had no blockage (like a piece of rubber or some such thing) in his GI tract. Our vet felt that operating, while an option, would only buy us a couple months, putting Seb through much pain and discomfort for very little return benefit. We elected to take him home and spoil him rotten. That was February 23rd. The vet said he didn't expect Seb to last a month.
He was right. Last night, Sebastian just seemed to be so wasted away, both physically (which has been painful to watch) and finally, mentally. He licked at some guacamole (his favorite food) but didn't really seem to care much any more. Instead of trying to run off with the chip and guac, he walked a few inches away (without the treat) and just sacked out. The tumors were obviously pressing and making things uncomfortable. He would wake up and pee almost immediately -- no matter where he was. He clearly hated this, but had no strength left to do otherwise.
This morning, we took him in to the vet. We weren't able to see Dr. Funk, but one of his colleagues was just as kind to us. She administered the shot and he was gone in less than two minutes. I'd even say he was gone in under a minute. He just took a couple last breaths and was gone.
We brought him home, as we've learned to do, and I gave him a bath. Since he couldn't bristle his fur and fluff it dry, I used my hair dryer on the "cool" setting, to fluff him dry again. It was hard seeing how this once-vibrant and feisty ferret had been whittled down to barely skin-and-bones by that fucking disease called cancer. I'm so sick of cancer stealing from me and mine.
We called Rowan, who knew we were going in today, and he came up to sit with us and cry. When all the animals and the humans had been given a time to say good-bye, I collected a small snip of fur for Rowan and put it into a glass vial.
We are having Sebastian cremated, like all our other ferrets have been. But I know he's really no longer here, but across the Rainbow Bridge, frollicking and nipping the toes of all the ferrets who have gone on before.
Sebastian, we'll see you again someday.
Why is it that, even when we know death is coming, we're still not ready to lose the one we love?
We had to make The Decision -- the one all pet owners are aware of and dread -- today, for Theodore. This boy has had a really interesting life (and we're sure we didn't know the half of it!). He was found, running the streets of Savannah, GA by a gal by the name of Melanie. Her friend Julie had a ferret that wasn't doing well after losing a companion ferret. Julie took this friendly, curious boy in and named him "Snaps". He was a great comfort to his new ferret friend, Ginger until she passed on and joined her ferret companion Fred.
Julie knew she couldn't adopt again, but he deserved a chance to play and have much more ferret fun. So she made a different tough decision: to give Snaps a home with more ferrets.
That's where we came into this amazing boy's life. I remember the day I met him -- he almost lept from Julie's hands, he was so excited to meet new people! And he's always been like that. What surprised us most was that he bonded with Maya, our first re-homed ferret who'd been brought to our vet's office, having been found wandering the streets of Savannah. It seemed they either knew each other or were able to communicate to each other about their free-range lives before us.
When we lost Maya so suddenly on my birthday in 2007, I thought for sure we'd lose Theo soon after that. We all spent a lot of time with him, cuddling him and making sure he knew how loved he was. He pulled through her loss.
Then, he started having seizures and my research told me he had insulinoma. This meant we had to make sure his blood sugar didn't drop too low and be ready to treat a seizure with a little Karo syrup rubbed on his gums. The seizures were terrifying. A couple of them were so bad, I wondered if The Decision was close at hand. But each time, he pulled out of it and was back to his bouncy, playful self.
Oh, he was older. And it showed in the less frequent playful periods, but when he played, he played. And when he slept, he was so sacked out, he'd sleep himself into a crash. So, our vet said to wake him and feed him "gushy food" (usually a mix of Gerber baby food and feline a/d) to prevent the crashes.
Then, earlier this year, I noticed a knot or a lump on his belly, near his penis. I was worried his "boy mechanics" were being tied up and causing problems, so we took him in to see Dr. Funk again. Without anesthesia and surgery, he said it would be hard to be sure, but he felt confident it wasn't interferring with the internals much. It grew rapidly -- I mean scary-fast. Today, after he was gone and there was just a body there, I felt around and it was about the size of a large walnut or bigger.
I think all pet owners question all their decisions when there's no clear-cut right or wrong to follow. We work from our hearts and from what we believe we can read in the eyes of our beloved pets. I chose, with Randy's agreement, those several months back, not to pursue removal of the tumor because it would require anesthesia. My reading and the knowledge of vets past and present has led me to believe that the older ferrets just don't do as well coming out of surgery. Something about the anesthesia just messes them up and some just fade away. So, we decided to pass on the surgery and give him as many love and treat filled months as we could.
That came to an end today. We're not sure exactly what changed, but Randy found him huddled up in a corner yesterday weaker than a new-born kit. With supportive care, he curled up for sleep. Sixteen hours later, he still had little to no mobility. Holding him, he was constantly shivering/shuddering. And his eyes, normally bright and attentive, seemed glassy with pain to me.
We scheduled with Dr. Funk and this tough street-smart ferret hung on, even in pain. When he was gone, it was just like a light had left the body and the shell was dark. We brought his body home to let all the ferrets say their good-byes. It's a step which is so important to our pets. Considering how social ferrets are, I believe it would have been cruel to not bring Theo's body home for this good-bye.
Once the good-byes were all said, we returned to the vet's to give over Theo's body for cremation. It's a private cremation, so we'll have his remains back with us soon.
Theodore will be joining his first companion, Ginger, his second companion Maya and other cage=mates Elijah, Octavia and Zoë. Theodore never knew Kittanning and Maxwell, but they'll be there to greet you. Remember Nana's Wheezy and Mousey and Huskers, too! You'll have so many friends -- remember Heinlein-kitty? -- just have fun and we'll see each other again, someday.
Elijah Benjamin, rest in peace
We lost Elijah during the night last night. We don't know exactly why and we are not having an autopsy done. Randy told me he's felt like he wouldn't have Elijah with him much longer... Elijah is one of three ferrets I had on my "I'll be surprised if they are with us in 2010" list. Still, he wasn't the first I expected to go.
This little stinker has been the hardest of all the ferrets to get good photos of. Almost every picture we have of him where he's actually looking at the camera has "demon eyes" because of how his eyes pick up the flash. This was the best picture of the group.
Rest in peace, sweetie. No more gimpy knee for you! Say "hi" to Maxwell for me.