Friday, 9 November 2018

Goodbye Jaffa - The loss of a pet

This isn’t going to be an easy to post to write, which is probably why I’ve been putting it off. But it’s a post I need to write before I can even think about talking about anything else. On Saturday 27thOctober my lovely boy Jaffa sadly had to be put to sleep. He was fourteen, so not especially old, and it all came as such a huge shock. It honestly just felt like one day he was his normal crazy self, and the next he had to leave us. It was completely unexpected. 


In the weeks before he died, we had noticed that he was drinking a lot more water than usual. We were keeping an eye on him, but apart from the drinking he was absolutely fine. Then, in the days before he died, little things started to happen that made us worry a bit more. He had an upset stomach (not abnormal for him though, as he’s always had tummy troubles) and started going outside his litter tray, which wasn’t like him at all. He’d always been so diligent about cleanliness and routine, so I immediately knew something wasn’t right. I was going to make an appointment with the vet on the Monday, but on Friday night that idea went out of the window. He had done his usual going to the toilet in the wrong place, but this time there was some blood in it. He had also started hiding afterwards and letting out a horrible cry, which broke my heart as he sounded like he was in pain. He also started to become wobbly on his back legs. It was horrible to watch and I was in tears not knowing how to help him. 


I barely slept through Friday night, listening out for Jaffa in case he needed me. He actually seemed a bit better when we woke up on Saturday morning, but I rang the vets anyway and they said they would see him straight away. The vet examined him, took his temperature and gave him a general once-over, and apart from his gums looking quite pale, everything else looked absolutely fine. The vet suggested that he do some blood tests to see if they would shed any light on what was making Jaffa poorly, so he took him off to another room to take the samples. We could hear Jaffa crying and all I wanted to do was give him a cuddle – and then it all went silent. 


After a while, the vet came back out to see us and told us that, as they were doing the blood tests, Jaffa had collapsed. They had given him some oxygen and he had come round very quickly, but because the vet had seen him collapse he wanted us to wait for him to test the bloods there and then. More time went by, and when the vet came out again, he seemed to look fairly positive. He told us that Jaffa’s bloods had mostly come back absolutely fine. He was a bit anaemic and a couple of things were a little bit out, but there was nothing obviously wrong, which we thought was a positive sign. However, because Jaffa had collapsed, the vet decided he wanted to keep him in to run some more tests to try and get to the bottom of what was going on.


Our vets shuts at lunchtime on a Saturday, but thankfully the vet was heading over to the next town, to their partner practice and offered to take Jaffa over there to continue his investigations. It was such a nice gesture, which really made me feel like Jaffa was in safe hands. He said he would give us a ring in the afternoon to let us know what was going on; so all we could do was go home and wait. I tried to distract myself with talking to family who were round and starting to design our pumpkin carving pattern, but my mind kept going back to thinking about Jaffa.


Just as I was drawing out a design for my pumpkin, the phone rang. Initially, I thought the vet sounded quite upbeat. He said he had done an x-ray of Jaffa’s chest and that he had a few nodules on his lungs, but they weren’t too significant. But he then went on to tell me he had also x-rayed and scanned Jaffa’s abdomen and he could see that it was full of fluid. It had been tested and they found that it was blood. My heart sank – I knew this was bad. He told me the only thing that was likely to have caused this was cancer, which had started to bleed and had also spread to his lungs. As Jaffa’s blood tests had all been fairly good, the vet thought it was a bleed that had only started very recently but that had happened very quickly. 


I already knew the answer to my next question, but I knew I needed to ask – “In the vet's opinion, what was the best thing to do for Jaffa?” Hearing the vet tell me that the kindest thing to do would be to put Jaffa to sleep just broke my heart in two. We had started the day thinking Jaffa might just be having a flare-up of his bowel condition and were ending it having to say goodbye to him. The vet asked if I wanted to be there with Jaffa when it happened, to which I immediately said I did. I knew it would be difficult, but I couldn’t let him go through his last moments alone in a scary place with no one he knew. This article was also stuck in my mind, which spoke about putting a pet to sleep from a vet’s perspective, and it reinforced my need to be there with Jaffa.


My Dad was out for a walk with my brothers and nephew, so I had to phone him and ask him to come home. When he asked why, I just seemed to break down and lost the ability to speak. I had to pass the phone to my Mum for her to explain because I just couldn’t bring myself to say the words that Jaffa was going to die. My Mum, Dad, Bekkah and I went down to the vets in silence. We were shown through to a private room, and Jaffa was brought in to spend some time with us. In those last moments it is so difficult to know what to say and what to do. I was in floods of tears, but just held Jaffa close to my chest and told him how special he was to me and how much I loved him. We talked to him about some of our happy memories of him growing up and what a special part of our family he was. 


Jaffa had never been a particularly cuddly cat. Sure, he would come over to you on his own terms for a stroke and a nuzzle, but he was never a lap cat. But as I held him on my knee, he didn’t struggle or try to get away. He cuddled in close to me, purring gently and letting me smother him in kisses. It’s as if he knew that this was the end and that I needed those last cuddles with him.


My Mum and I stayed in the room with him when the vet came in, and all of a sudden it became very real. I placed Jaffa on a blanket on the table and snuggled up to him, wrapping my arms around his little fluffy body. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but the vet was brilliant and talked us through what would happen. He then asked if I was ready for him to give Jaffa the injection through his cannula. That’s got to be the hardest question I’ve ever been asked. I was never going to be ready and I felt so incredibly guilty for basically giving my permission to let my beautiful boy die. But I knew it was something I had to do, so I nodded as a tear ran down my cheek. And within a few moments, Jaffa had simply fallen asleep.


It was incredibly quick and peaceful, although the image of Jaffa’s little head bowing down on to the table will never leave me. I held him, buried my face into his black fur and just cried. I told him how much I would miss him and that I would see him again one day. The vet gave us as much time as we needed to sit with Jaffa, told us we didn’t need to worry about sorting out payment at that point at that we could use the back entrance to leave if we needed a bit more privacy. We also discussed what I wanted to happen to Jaffa’s body, and that was all taken care of for me. I will be eternally grateful for the way the staff there that day dealt with the situation and treated Jaffa and us with such compassion and love. 


Leaving the vets carrying Jaffa’s box, empty, just felt awful. I spent the next few days continuously crying, and every time I managed to stop for a few minutes, something would always set me off again. Jaffa slept on my bed every night – he looked after me when I was ill, when I was sad, when I felt like I couldn’t go on any more. My parents gave me him when I first became ill, and he’s been there for me ever since. My bed feels empty at night now. I keep expecting to see his little face round the corner of the door, or to hear him meowing because he wants some attention. But I don’t have any of those things any more, and my heart feels completely broken.


Some people might say he was just a cat, but I know he was so much more than that. He was my best friend, my baby. My blog is named after him! He meant as much to me as the other members of my family do, and that’s why the grief is so profound – I’ve lost a member of my family. Overall, I’ve been so lucky with the amount of support I’ve received from friends and family, but I have had some people tell me that he was just a cat or suggest that I can get another one. I know they are probably trying to help, but you wouldn’t say those things if someone lost a human, so why do we say these things when someone loses a pet? No new cat will ever replace Jaffa – he was unique and our bond was irreplaceable. I’m not discounting ever having another cat, but it’s important to grieve for the friend I’ve lost first. And give myself permission to really feel that grief without worrying that I’m being judged. 


I decided to get Jaffa cremated, but have chosen not to scatter his ashes like I always thought I would want to. He was a house cat and didn’t like going outside. If he went out, he would always cry to come in again, and I couldn’t bare the thought of putting him somewhere that he was never happy. The pet crematorium was brilliant with all of this though; talking me through the different options they could offer. I chose to have his ashes put in the back of a special photo frame, and a small amount of them will be made into a necklace, so I can keep my baby with me all the time. It may not be for everyone, but it felt right for me. 


I know this post has mainly just gone through the facts of what happened, but I think that’s all I can get my head around at the moment. However, I would like to write an open letter to Jaffa in another post soon, where I can talk about my memories of him and what he did for me by being my cat. Because he really did more for me than anyone will ever know and I’m missing him with all my heart. 

Sleep tight little man – I’ll meet you at the Rainbow Bridge one day.


Jaffa - Forever my crazy little man - 2004 - 2018

I’d really love to hear about your special pets and what they mean/meant to you

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