A page about Marie
I've talked about what it was like settling into my new home, but I haven't mentioned how Marie took to Skylark. In a word, she adapted very well. Of course, at her age, not much is worth getting excited about. Her world is a small one.
Marie had just passed her 18th birthday when we moved into Skylark. She had been blind for the past year, but a small RV suits a blind cat well—you can't get lost easily, and you can't fall down stairs. Still, it gave me a pang to see Marie feeling her way cautiously from her bed to her food and water dishes to her litter pan. Sometimes she'd bump into things, get confused and turn around in a circle to try again. Sometimes she'd get tired of trying, give up and lie down where she was.
I bought a six-foot carpet runner at Camping World and laid it in the kitchen, where it made a pathway between her bed, her dishes and her litter pan. All she had to do was stay on the carpet and she'd be safe. It seemed to help, though she still got "turned around" sometimes.
Mostly she just slept the days and nights away. She'd wake up and rub her head against my hand when I stroked her. She didn't have much personality—not like the young cat I remembered—but she was still a comfort to have around. When you travel alone, having a warm furry body to cuddle means a lot.
By the end of October, Marie was slowing down even more. She was down to six pounds or less...my scale isn't very accurate at low weights, but I knew she was slowly losing weight. When she became sluggish and stopped eating and drinking (and peeing and pooping), I called up my friend Lisa and got the name of her vet in Albuquerque. My friend Kate drove me and Marie to the vet's office, and Lisa met us there.
Lisa said this woman, Dr. Rita Lawler, "doesn't do unnecessary procedures, and will tell you what she'd do with her own pet." And she was indeed very good. She ran blood tests, and the results showed that Marie's kidneys were failing catastrophically—all the numbers were WAY up compared to a year ago. Her weight was down to five pounds (down 20% from last month), and she was 10% dehydrated—close to the limit for survivability.
Dr. Lawler made the decision easy for me by the way she put it: "We can either go full steam ahead, or we can quit." She explained that she could hospitalize Marie and apply heroic measures to get her rehydrated and get her kidneys going again for awhile...but she couldn't turn back the clock and make her not be 18 years old. Given that, and the fact that Marie had been unconscious most of the time for the past few months, so she wasn't getting much out of life any more, it was clear that the time had come to put her to sleep.
The vet did it very gently while I stroked Marie, and aside from a couple of tiny coughs, she passed away quietly. Her mouth was open and her little pink tongue was sticking out part-way, just as it sometimes did when she'd been licking herself and had paused to see what I was doing.
I lived with Marie for a third of my life, and it was a good life together. It's hard to imagine her not being here. Yet in many ways she really was not here for the past six months or more...she was too sleepy to do much more than push back a little when I rubbed her cheeks or scratched her chin. She had gradually stopped purring about a year ago—I never knew why. (I could still hear her purr with my stethoscope, but it was inaudible to the unaided ear.) But even just as a warm furry body, she was a great comfort to me. I miss her very much.
But an amazing thing happened: the next day, I heard of a woman in the campground office who had a cat that needed a home. I hadn't been planning to look for another cat so soon, but this one reportedly was two years old and had lived and traveled in an RV...just what I was looking for. I decided I'd be crazy not to at least find out more. So I walked down the hill to the office as soon as it opened, and talked with Jaci (pron. "Jackie") about her cat Alix.
Alix is two years old, spayed, declawed and is up to date on all her shots. She originally belonged to a veterinary technician, but the tech's husband was seriously allergic to her, so they reluctantly decided that she had to go.
When Jaci saw her neighbor taking Alix to the pound, she took her in. Alix lived with Jaci and her three other cats, and traveled with her in her 30' RV. But Jaci's two other female cats ganged up on Alix and persecuted her mercilessly. Jaci was about to give Alix to a local cat shelter when Kate's husband Terry mentioned, while paying his campground fees in the office, that my cat had just died. Three days later, I had a new cat!
She's a real beauty, with a smooth glossy coat of slightly longer than normal hair. She's very alert and inquisitive, and doesn't seem intimidated at all—no hiding in corners, as I half expected. She's also quite affectionate, follows me from room to room and sleeps with me every night. And she answers to her name!
The first day I had her, she smelled Marie and was convinced there was another cat in the house...so she prowled and growled, looking for that enemy cat. But she quickly got over that. I laundered Marie's bed throughly and bought Alix a new litter pan, brush and a nice catnip mouse. She plays with the mouse at night when I'm in bed, but she'll chase a laser pointer any time of the day or night.
Alix is just about everything I wanted in a cat: old enough to not be a crazy kitten, yet young enough to be lively and interesting; accustomed to traveling and living in an RV; affectionate and attentive—I love the way she follows me around the rig. I think this is going to be a great relationship!