Life With Carly
Note from Bryan: Tashia wrote this post on June 16th of this year, but I'm just now posting it.
The day that I hoped would never come hit us like a freight train on Sunday morning. We had to take our beloved cat to the vet because she had stopped eating, was having trouble breathing, and wasn’t acting herself. While Bryan went to church, I took her to the vet. What transpired over the next three hours ripped my heart out. Not only could I not go into the vet with Carly (who hates the vet, vehemently), but the doctor didn’t even get to examine her for an hour. (Bryan: Due to covid precautions, only 1 person was allowed in the exam room, and since Tashia had Lucy with her, they both had to stay in the car while Carly waited inside). After that, they had to sedate her to even look at her (remember how I said she hates the vet? Yeah, she goes feral). Following a chest x-ray, I got the most devastating news: Carly had cancer. An advanced stage cancer that filled her chest and body with nodules. Our two options were to take her to a vet oncologist to maybe get 6 months to a year with her, or to put her down. After the vet told me she was in a lot of pain, I knew what the answer was.
So, when Bryan got home from church, we made the trek back to the vet to spend our final moments with our girl. She was sedated, but wide-eyed when they brought her in. The moment we started petting her, though, she relaxed and her eyes fell to half-mast. We get her a zillion pets and scratches behind the ear just like she liked. I can only hope that she felt comfort in the last moments, that she wasn’t scared and she knew that we loved her.
To be honest, I’ve been blaming myself for the past couple days. We found her downstairs that morning, which was weird because she normally sleeps with us and never in the basement. Bryan noticed she hadn’t eaten in a full day, which worried me. We already had an appointment for the 23rd, but if she stopped eating, she wouldn’t make it that long. So, I called the vet and made the decision to take her in immediately. She didn’t wake up that morning expecting to die. And I didn’t take her to the vet expecting not to bring her home. She rode up front with me and watched me the whole time with those trusting kitty eyes. I told her it would be OK and we’d get everything figured out. Then I left her with the vet for an hour where she freaked out enough that they needed to sedate her. Then I left her at the vet for another hour after they told us so that I could go home, find a sitter for Lucy, and pick up Bryan. So, it has been a full weight of guilt for a few days.
I’m slowly getting out of that through many hours of crying (yep, crying right now while I write this) and lots of talking it out with Bryan. If we hadn’t taken her to the vet, she would have been in pain for longer. I think she was ready, in a way, even if she couldn’t come out and say it. She had been spending a lot of time at the “TV” (what we call the front door that I leave open for her to sit and watch the outside world), she had been cuddling with us extra when Lucy went to bed, and she had been spending the nights away from us more and more so that we would get used to sleeping without her in our beds. She was preparing us and getting her last moments in. This cat was amazing and she deserved so much more. Let me tell you a bit of her story, because she deserves to be remembered.
I’ll start by saying that I am normally a dog person. I like cats, I do, but I prefer dogs… at least I did before Carly. However, when you marry a cat person (Bryan: an only-a-cat-person!), you tend to get a cat instead of a dog. So, when we were looking for our first house, Bryan happened to find a post on Nextdoor about a cat that was up for adoption. He eagerly told me the story behind the cat:
Carly was born from a litter with her brother. A young couple adopted them both and, assuming they were both boys, named them Carson and Marvin (after Carson Palmer and Marvin Lewis). After a trip to the vet, though, they realized that Carson was actually a Carly and her name was changed. Carly was the most affectionate cat and she was always searching out people. When the young couple had kids, Marvin couldn’t deal, so they had to get rid of him. But Carly stuck it out. And she continued to stick it out as the children grew and their parents let them kick her and pull her tail, and basically abuse her daily. She was neglected by the couple who were now focused on their kids and she had an all-around rough life for 11 years. From here, the man’s aunt decided to help out and took Carly from their home. The only problem is, she is allergic to cats, so she had two hairless cats… with claws. Since Carly was declawed, she had only her teeth to defend herself and no way to communicate with these hairless cats as (from what I’ve been told) cats communicate through movement of their fur. So the aunt was searching for someone to take this cat and give her a good home. That is where Bryan found the post on Nextdoor and we agreed to take her if she could hold onto her for another couple weeks so that we could get into our house.
Fast-forward another week where we moved into our new home! We got everything moved in and were getting settled. Our goal was to get things put away enough to bring her in and go get her the following weekend. But Bryan was so excited that I couldn’t wait to surprise him. (Bryan: That's not how I remember it. I think she's projecting...). I took a morning off and drove out to Milford to pick Carly up and bring her home without him knowing! This cat fought tooth and nail not to be put in the carrier, but we got her in and I drove her home. When I took her inside and let her out, she hissed and growled continuously as she scoped out the house. But through it all, she never left my side. She looked through each room as I walked her around, almost like I was giving her a tour. When she realized that she was the only cat in the house, she settled down a bit. She continued to prowl all day while I got my work done.
When Bryan got home, he walked right by her. I remember telling him I got him a surprise and asking if he saw it on his way in. He said, “no,” just as she walked into the office, so I told him to look down. His face said it all! He was so excited and immediately changed and spent the evening getting to know her. She was still cautious and would only lay near us on the couch, not within touching distance.
It took less than a month for her to sit on Bryan’s lap (it took 3 months for her to sit on mine), and less than a year to let him pick her up (another couple months for me). (Bryan: The first picture below is actually from a few days after we brought her home). She absolutely LOVED him. A daddy’s girl through and through, she loved being held like a baby and had the loudest purr I’ve ever heard on a cat. Even our friends noticed when they’d come over!
She snored and slept with her head curled upside down. She loved to sit on Bryan’s lap and to headbutt us when she wanted petted. She had the loudest, cutest meow and would follow you around constantly. There was nothing more important than petting her. Oh, you need to read this book for school? Nah, you should pet me. Oh, you need to finish dinner? Nah, you should pet me.
No door was allowed to be closed to her. You need to get work done? Well, I need to be in the office with you. You need to use the restroom? Well, I should be in there with you.
She would wait on the toilet until you were done with your shower just so she knew where you were. She demanded treats after anything that seemed like an effort for her (cleaning her ears, rubbing allergy lotion on her forehead, going outside on her leash, etc.).
When she came to us, I swear she’d never seen a toy before in her life. This 11-year-old cat now acted like a 6-month-old kitten. She jumped and twirled and ran after her toys. So, of course, I spoiled her and bought more! Her favorites were the sparkly puff balls…though she was constantly losing them under the couch or into the closet (Bryan: or leaving them as offerings in my slippers). Bryan would clean up every few weeks and find all of them, which sent her on another play spree to lose them all again. (Bryan: She would usually lose them all by the end of the day).
We had a routine, she and I. Since Bryan went to an office to work and I worked from home, we got into a rhythm. Bryan would leave for work and she would watch “TV” for a couple hours. Then she would go upstairs and find a toy to chase back and forth across the rooms, thundering over my head. When that got boring, she would come down to visit me. She demanded I pick her up, so I would and she would sit on my chest, purring, and wiggling around as I pet her for a good 20 minutes. Then she was done and would jump down to go lay on her blue chair or Bryan’s office chair for the rest of the day, occasionally going to look outside or lay on the couch. But then 3pm would hit and she’d be back in my office demanding I pet her some more, to which I obliged. Of course, the minute Bryan got home from work, she was all over him and I was forgotten, but before that, we were office buddies for the day.
When I got pregnant, my first thought was to make sure that Carly never felt neglected or feared for abuse ever again. I didn’t want her to see this new baby and think it was all happening all over again. So, we cuddled her extra any time we could get. She liked to sit on my stomach and I told her that she could sit on Lucy all she wanted because Lucy would one day grow up to sit on her. Carly used to lay in between Bryan and I when I was pregnant. She’d curl up close to my stomach and purr, so I knew she was OK with Lucy. (Bryan: As you can see from the pictures below, she made sure to inspect every piece of baby furniture before Lucy used it).
Then Lucy got her and Carly was a bit thrown off. After she got a few sniffs in and made sure to seem aloof, she started to cave a bit. I caught her headbutting Lucy more than once as if to demand pets. I think they would have been buddies if given the chance.
There is so much I could say about how amazing Carly was. In the end, the source of our grief is that our time with her was too short. She had a rough start to her life and she deserved 20 years of joy and happiness to balance out the 11 bad years. I just hope we were able to fit 20 years’ worth of cuddles, joy, and happiness into those three years. I will forever play that Sunday morning in my head. I wish I had known because I would have cuddled her more before putting her in the crate. I would have given her treats and held her and taken her outside and scratched her in all the right places. I would have done a million things to make her final moments better than spending an hour at the vet freaking out and then an hour sedated.
She made me into a Cat Mom. She was my baby before I had a baby. And now it hurts every minute of every day. Walking by the open door, seeing her food bowl, finding her sparkly blue toy. The other day, I thought she’d brushed against my leg. There is a humongous hole in our hearts that doesn’t seem possible for such a small animal. For now, I will try to remember the good times and not the final day, though that seems an impossible task at this stage.
I hope she is running with the squirrels in kitty heaven and that someone is there giving her the scratches behind her ears that she loved so much. I hope she knew how much we loved her and that she can never be replaced. We love you, Carlygirl.