Sunday, March 25, 2007

Yesterday I said goodbye for now to my sweet Raj, who would have turned 20 in July. It's so hard to lose such a dear friend who's been with me for so long--he was barely 6 weeks old when I got him.

Raj was such a character--a true terror as a kitten who grew up to be the most laid-back, outgoing and empathetic cat I've ever known. He was great on a leash, and even went hiking in the snow with me when we lived in Mount Shasta, Calif. (I only made him do that once, though!)

He lost one eye to glaucoma two years ago, and shortly after lost the sight in the other eye due to a cataract. It was so hard to see him learn to cope with blindness, but he did it with his characteristic grace and courage. In the past year or so, he developed a form of dementia known as cognitive dysfunction in cats. He would frequently become disoriented and yowl pitifully until he heard my voice, when he would settle down. He also wandered a lot, especially at night, which is common with this disease.

Raj had been diagnosed years before with a heart murmur, and a few years before with an enlarged aorta. He also was in the early stages of kidney failure, but it was not progressing very quickly. He took one pill for his heart, and that was his only medication.

Then last month, his belly began swelling. At first I thought I was giving him too much of his favorite treat--cheese--but within a couple of weeks he looked as if he'd swallowed a watermelon, and I knew something more serious was going on. The vet aspirated some fluid from his belly for analysis, and the diagnosis was heart failure. He put Raj on Lasix, and showed me how to measure his belly to chart his progress daily as the swelling went down.

Until this point, Raj had been acting completely normal, enjoying his food and sleeping a lot. But after about a week on the Lasix, one evening he wouldn't eat his canned food. I knew that was the beginning of the end.

I have to stop here. I'll try to pick this up later, but it's really hard right now.