On Sunday morning Sandra noticed that Sam was walking funny. She said it was if her left rear foot was "inverted", like she was walking on the top of her foot.
I went downstairs and found Sam lying on the kitchen floor. She looked up at me and meowed as if to say "feed me". She didn't appear to be in any pain or discomfort. Her back leg look ok. I got out a bag of cat treats and tossed one in front of her. She got up and limped awkwardly to eat it, just as Sandra described.
At first I thought maybe there's some kind of paralysis on her rear leg. Then I thought that perhaps she had an accident during the night and broke her foot. Regardless, it was painful to watch, despite the fact that she didn't appear to be in any pain. She even hobbled off to the living room and hopped up onto the couch.
We decided to take her to the Alta Vista Animal Hospital Emergency Care.
We woke up Kyle and Kaitlyn and told them we were taking Sam to the vet. They gave her a hug and Kyle loaded her into the carrier.
Sam really dislikes being in the carrier, and being a house cat, the outside stresses her out. She panted for at least half the ride to the animal hospital, which we had never seen her do, and she meowed the entire time — that was normal for her.
The vet was actually more concerned with Sam's breathing, even though this was the first time we had seen her like this. After the assessment, examination, a mild sedative, and chest x-rays, it turned out that the problem she had with her foot (he called it "knuckling") was due to a blood clot in her leg, which was caused by a heart murmur that she had been diagnosed with years ago. The labored breathing was caused by fluid in her lungs, as shown on the x-rays. All of this was leading to eventual congestive heart failure.
Back when she was diagnosed with a heart murmur, it was explained to me that this day could eventually come, but today this was totally unexpected, which makes it more difficult.
Two options were explained to us. The first was treatment which would have been extremely expensive with about a 50/50 chance of recovery, and yet there would always be a chance of more blood clots in her future with potentially worse results. From what I recall, the existing blood clot in her leg would also remain because the repair could do more damage than leaving it. The second option was euthanasia.
Given all of the facts, the decision was pretty clear.
Saying final goodbyes to pets is not new to us. We'd had to make this decision four times in the past. It's never been easy, but for Sam it was really difficult.
Up until a few years ago, Sam had always been the quiet one. Timid and shy. She was always wary of our kids and anyone else who came over. A few years ago, we believe that she lost her hearing. As strange as it sounds, this was probably one of the best things to happen. Without hearing, she was a calmer cat. She didn't startle.
She opened up a lot to Kyle and Kaitlyn. She let them hold her. She actually seemed like a much happier cat. She started approaching them for attention. She hung out in the den with Kyle and I while we used the computer. I have to admit that I was actually a little jealous of Kyle because she would willingly sleep on his lap as he used the computer. She didn't like my lap.
She also became very vocal. She'd often wander around at night talking to herself and anyone who would listen. Thankfully, this happened for only a few minutes at a time.
No matter where she was snoozing at night, which was usually on the floor near the den closet, when I got ready for bed she'd wake up and follow me to the kitchen and ask for food. She sensed it. I'd pour a little bit of dry food in the bowl, add a little water to it, she'd be content until morning.
By the time I was in bed, she'd start meowing in the dark in the living room. Perhaps she was saying good night, like they did on The Waltons.
It's almost sad to think of how much attention she missed out on in her life because she was so timid and shy for most of it. For the last 4 or 5 years of her life, there was certainly no shortage of attention and she enjoyed every minute of it.
Tonight, for the first time in 18 years, our home has no pets.
I keep expecting to see Sam sleeping on the floor when I turn around. Or as I walk into the kitchen to get a drink, she'll meow at me for food.
All there is is silence, and it's eerie.
Rest in peace, Sammy.