Wednesday, September 6, 2017

And Now We Are Three

My sweet Ember

As most of you know, I have shared my home and my heart with three cats for many years. The four of us have formed a happy little family with relatively few tiffs and lots of snuggles, purrs and playtime.

A few hours ago I held the newest addition to my little family, my precious Ember, a rescue kitty who came from a traumatic kittenhood six years ago to bask in the happiness and comfort of life with me and my other two four-legged fur balls, as the vet injected her with the drugs that would end her life.  Something happened to my precious charge over Labor Day weekend. On Saturday morning Ember was as playful and energetic as she'd ever been. By Monday evening she was hunched over, weak and listless.

I was at my vet's office first thing Tuesday morning when they opened the doors, but it was already too late for my little Ember. Bloodwork showed that Ember was suffering massive organ failure of her liver and kidneys -- and her blood sugar was off the charts. Spontaneous acute diabetic ketoacidosis was the diagnosis. But why?  The doctors speculated that she might have had some underlying disease that had gone undiagnosed, which had finally and acutely come to a head over the weekend, such as cancer, or perhaps she had eaten something toxic, although I've torn the house apart in search of what it might have been and haven't found anything suspicious.  I'll probably never know.
Ember returns home following
yet another surgery in 2012  

Ember was a burn victim, set on fire by a juvenile delinquent when she was just eleven weeks old. She endured a number of surgeries as a kitten, several after I agreed to foster her in my home. Ember was a fighter. She came through each surgery with remarkable stamina. She was a good patient, stoically riding to the vet without complaint each time she was subjected to the doctor's scalpel, as they tried on several occasions to stretch healthy skin over the raw burn wounds. Each time Ember endured her medical ordeals with grace. She always rallied.

When I officially adopted Ember in the Spring of 2012, I threw a party. Ember finally had a forever home.  When memories of her early trauma caused her to engage in compulsive licking, opening up wounds on her back that had previously healed, I designed a little shirt for her to wear which covered her back and prevented her from licking but didn't detract from her ability to run and jump and play with my other two cats. She wore the shirt for two years, until the compulsion to lick the old wounds finally left her.
Underfoot, top, could usually
be found curled up next to Ember

Elfie, left, and Ember share a shelf
in front of a window 
When I thought my elderly cat, Underfoot, would never be active again, Ember literally brought him back to life, engaging him in play every day. They could often be found curled up in their cats beds, side by side.  When my other rescue kitty, Elfie, needed a companion, Ember was always there for her. For the past six years, the four of us have been so happy together.

Upon my arrival at the vet yesterday, the staff drew blood and then pumped my little girl full of intravenous fluids and insulin. Dr. Brown said the organ failure was probably too massive for Ember to recover from, but he wanted to give her a few hours to see what happened.  When I called yesterday at 5:00 p.m. as instructed, Dr. Brown reported that Ember was ever so slightly more alert but still in grave condition. "Let's put off the decision to euthanize until tomorrow", he said. He got her blood sugar down to 295, but her liver was still terribly jaundiced. He wasn't sure she would live through the night.
Underfoot and Ember could frequently
be found "helping" me in my home

Ember was always my "official door greeter". It didn't matter that a human had set her ablaze when she was a kitten. When the doorbell rang, Ember was always first to see who was at the front door, always eager to meet a stranger, always ready to make a new friend.  She had lots of fans, and was even pictured in the Orioles pet calendar in September 2014.

My kinetic kitty was not afraid of fire, either, or at least she showed no concern for open flame. She curled up in front of my fireplace every night during the winter. By all accounts, she was as well-adjusted as any cat could be. She was happy and playful and full of energy.  Although she was considerably smaller than Underfoot and Elfie, she ate almost twice as much as they did, burning calories at a frenetic pace as she raced all over the house, playing with her toys, and with me, and with the other cats -- sometimes even with imaginary faeries visible only to her.
Ember loved to relax by the fire

When I called the on-duty vet first thing this morning to check on my patient, the doctor reported that Ember was not as alert as she had been after the first round of fluids and insulin yesterday. More insulin this morning did not produce any improvement. The vet said it was time. I had one last conversation with Dr. Brown and the decision was made.

Ember's favorite flying squirrels are
with her still
One of the most endearing traits of my beloved Ember was how she made sure there was always a toy to greet me when I came home after being away, even if I was gone for only a few minutes.  Of all the tiny stuffed mice, tiny hedgehogs, squeaky bird toys and assorted balls and bells tucked into the feline toy box in my dining room, Ember had three favorites; all were small furry flying squirrels. The toys were not alike, not even the same brand or color or fabric, so I don't know why she preferred those three, or why they all happened to be flying squirrels. But inevitably, when I came through the door into the kitchen from running an errand, there on the floor, sometimes grouped together, sometimes strung out in a line across the floor, would be one or two, sometimes all three of her flying squirrels.  Gifts I received from my sweet girl every day just for coming home!

I drove to the vet a little while ago and held my baby black kitty tenderly for one last time. She looked at me but she was too weak to raise her head. She couldn't purr. I laid her flying squirrels all around her and told the doctor to go ahead.  Ember blinked once -- and then she was gone.

Often my three kitties could be found curled up together --
never far from each other, never far from me
I am inconsolable at the moment, but I know that life must go on. While I am not one to dwell on the morose, especially in my stories, writing helps me deal with much of what life throws at me, and crafting this essay today has been especially cathartic. I hope you understand. My closest friends have reassured me that I gave Ember a loving home and a healthy, happy life for six wonderful years. I will lean on those kind words and good memories to lift me up for the next few days.  And I still have two other furry pocket lions to keep me company. I am simply a family of three now, instead of four.
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ” Anatole France


  1. Dear Lynell,
    I have just read all the stories about little Ember, the stories of your first meeting and fostering, the series of operations, and the cold laser treatment, the clever and colourful Kritter Kovers and watched the video of the adoption party; had a look at the happy photos of the "administrative assistant" curled up on the sun-porch and in your office and the gifts of the flying squirrels that Ember brought for you every time you arrived home.
    I remembered how kindly Ember has greeted me when you took me to your home in the middle of the night, only a couple of months ago.
    Your time with Ember was precious and you were the most caring and most loving Mom that a kitten could ever dream of.
    I am sending lots of love and hugs to your family of three, Eva

  2. So sorry to hear about your little Ember. Be thankful for the sweet time you shared. Know that if it wasn't for you she would have never known about you and the special love you so generously shared with her. Love you Lots and my heart goes out to you. XOXO

  3. Lynell, I am so very thankful you were Ember's mom. You gave her 6-years of love and affection which we both know she deserved. We all loved the little fighter who overcame so much.