There is a sadness about the house these days as the results of Starr's annual physical last week indicate that her life is drawing to a close.
Fritz and I got her at the Animal Rescue League shelter in Boston's South End in 1997, just a couple of months after we had met. We had no idea then that we'd be able to legally marry in seven years in Massachusetts, of course, or that it would be an additional three before we could actually live together. But Starr was with us all the way. The tag on her little cage at the shelter read, "Reason for being at ARL: owner incarcerated." There was no information on how old she might be; she was not a kitten but a young adult cat, lively and curious, with a loud, raucous voice that she used constantly.
We quickly became very close. I adore cats, which I think they pick up on quickly. I play with them on the floor and do chase games with them and talk to them and tickle their tummies and just plain love them. When I took an early retirement from MIT and moved up to New Hampshire, I lived with Fritz in a wing of his house that dates to 1792 while our own new house was being built. Starr liked it, a new place to explore mark as her territory. She was a little stand-offish with Fritz at times as she wasn't used to having to share me with him full time, but she eventually softened.
The day we moved into the new house, I opened her carrier in the laundry/deep freezer room where her supplies, litter pan and food dish would be. She stepped out, looked around and immediately ran behind the washing machine. This seemed like pretty normal behavior to me and I figured we'd see her in a couple of hours. But no, in less than a minute, she came striding out, walked confidently through the house, checking everything out, and took firm control. She took particular control of the kitchen dining area. I had made new seat pads for the six chairs around the table. For the first six nights in the house she slept on each of the chairs, in order, all around the table so that they were properly marked. She was home, as were we.
At the Vet last Friday, they found that for a second year in a row, her weight was down another pound. The doctor felt her abdomen and said one of her kidneys was smaller than the other and that there was a mass in her bladder. When they took blood for the lab, she peed on the table -- there was blood in her urine. The results of the blood test showed that Starr has pancreatitis, which can be the master problem that causes weight loss, the slow shutting down of kidney function and several other problems. But the mass in the bladder is undoubtedly a cancer. Saturday she was not herself; she hid in dark corners or under chairs she had formerly stood, sat or slept on whenever she liked. She didn't eat. I said to Fritz, "She knows something's up."
The Vet said she was probably reacting to being poked and prodded during the exam and to the blood taking-needle that looked and probably was very uncomfortable. She began to be more herself Sunday and today is back pretty much to normal, which is comforting to both of us. But her illnesses remain. Operating to remove the cancer would probably remove too much of the bladder to leave her a functioning urinary system. And the kidneys will continue to fail slowly. I think we will all live together as we have, loving her and taking care of her until such times as I see any sign that she's suffering, or in pain. Then I will do as I have done with all my cats -- take her to the Vet and go with her into the examining room. hold her and talk to her as they give her the shot, then lay her down gently, and say good-bye with so much gratitude for the joy of having had her in my life.