Our Journey Raising Two Children with Special Needs

This blog chronicles our life raising two children, Nicholas 14, diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome and Weston 17, diagnosed with Autism/Asperger's/ADHD. It's the ups, the downs, the joys, the sorrows and most importantly, the beauty of living a life less perfect, a life more meaningful.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Sad Farewell to our Faithful Friend

I have written many times over the years about our quirky cat, Bandit, an important member of our family.

Like a silent guardian, he has a regal presence that quietly reigns over us.....his beloved subjects.

Much like the spiritual energy of an angel, he can be difficult to see and yet he is always there....silently watching and supporting the family with his healing energy.

He is ever tolerant of Weston's high octane energy, keeping a safe distance from the flailing arms and legs of a fast-moving boy.

At times, he behaves more like a watch dog, fending off miniature intruders like this mouse who took up residence in one of my Halloween decorations.

He waits patiently by the front door until we return home safely from our day's events

At times he behaves more like a clown

hiding under carpets

or blankets
ready to pounce
And you may remember his unusual addiction to brownies
waiting by the oven in "stealth mode" ready to confiscate a taste of the chocolaty treats

But he has also made many noble contributions to our family's well-being.
His most significant......helping Nicholas learn to walk.

I don't think Bandit ever fully recovered from the sound of those metal wheels scrapping the floor and Nicholas following behind him in close pursuit.
But as Nicholas grew, Bandit was drawn to his calm energy and the two became inseparable friends.
And so great sadness overwhelmed me on Friday morning when I discovered something was wrong with Bandit. 
He rubbed up against my legs and seemed to linger just a little longer than usual. I reached down to stroke his silky fur. Usually, he moves forward, meowing delightedly and circling around for a few more massages. But this time, he did not move.  He looked up at me and held my gaze. He seemed as though he wanted to speak. For a brief second, I could swear I heard him say good-bye. I dismissed the idea immediately.
The next morning Pete had to work, but before leaving he woke me from a sound sleep to tell me,
"Lis, I think something's wrong with Buzz."
Buzz is Pete's nickname for the cat. Why does he call him this? I have no idea.
"He's acting kinda funny."
"I know," I replied, "I need to take him in to see the vet today."
I didn't want to think about it but lately there were some unusual symptoms. He was drinking alot of water and seemed to have trouble eating his dry food. I thought he may be diabetic since he was getting on in years. I thought perhaps he had a bad tooth. I knew I needed to bring him in to see the vet but I delayed the visit preferring instead to keep myself in a perpetual state of denial.
But today, Bandit was lethargic and stopped eating altogether.
I immediately called the vet and made an appointment for later in the day. I did not want the boys to accompany me. Somehow I knew, this was not going to be an easy visit.
At 4:30 pm Pete was home from work, I went to find Bandit.
I found a large beach towel and picked him up. I swaddled him firmly like a baby so that just his head was showing.
For those of you with difficult cats, this technique works. Swaddling immobilizes cats. They love it. This simple procedure will allow you to take them anywhere without a fight. It transforms their energy from fright/flight to one of calm submission.
So, I placed the swaddled Bandit in a large open box and put him on the front seat of our car.
I drove alone to the 24-hour pet clinic with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on Bandit's head. He was nervous and began to meow. Thick saliva ran from his mouth, it had a foul odor.
Folks in the clinic smiled as I arrived with my swaddled feline tucked like a papoose under my arm.
I was lead immediately into an examining room.
A bright, calm young woman entered the room and introduced herself to me.
"Hi I'm Dr. Taylor, what brings Bandit here today?" She bent down to pet the tightly wrapped cat.
"He's purring!" she exclaimed with surprise.
I ran down the list of Bandit's ailments.
"Well," she replied, "it could be several things. It may be diabetes or the onset of kidney disease."
"OK," I said "What do we do?"
"First let me examine him and take a look at that bad tooth."
She opened his mouth and stopped short.
"There is one more reason for a cat to drink excessively....a tumor. It appears that he has mouth cancer. He has a large tumor on his tongue, cheek and gums."
She opened his mouth and showed me the large, dark abysses.
"How we proceed is up to you," she said and I knew his outlook wasn't good.
"We can hospitalize him for a few days to calm the infection but his prognosis is not a good one. I can give you IV fluids to give him at home until you can visit with your own vet or we can put him to sleep now. The choice is yours."
I called Pete immediately.
"Cancer?" he asked and there was a long pause before he spoke again.
We tried to visualize Bandit in the hospital or tied to an IV bag at home and neither option felt right for this faithful cat who provided such steadfast support to our family.
I knew what I had to do.
As the vet prepared the shots, Bandit and I spent a quiet moment together. He was comfortable and purring and I was thankful that this would be the loving moment I would remember forever.
I held Bandit in my arms as the vet administered the first shot. It seemed to immediately ease Bandit's pain. He placed his head into my chest and nudged me several times. She injected the last shot and he passed away quietly with his head on my heart.
The vet and I cried quietly together in silence.
It was one of the most painful and most beautiful moments I have experienced in my life.
I brought Bandit's body home in a small white box that the clinic provided so we could bury him at home. I thought this would be a good way to introduce the boys to the concept of death. Even after his passing, our beloved pet would help my children understand an important life lesson.
As we buried our companion, Nicholas placed a small blanket over Bandit's box. Weston made a wooden cross to place over the grave as a headstone.
As we all stood over his grave I thought to myself...if I were a cat, who could not speak, how would I say good-bye to someone I loved?
I imagined that I would nudge that someone and place my head upon their heart.
Good-bye dear Bandit. You were a faithful and loving companion, who we will miss terribly.
April 2000 - September 2013
For more stories about our beloved companion, click on the links below: