This is one of those posts I wish I never had to write, but I knew eventually I would. Ellis was the very first cat we ever adopted, and my once-in-a-lifetime kitty. We had the kind of bond that only the most special of companions do, and I loved him so much. Last Friday, I had to say goodbye to him.
We adopted Ellis on August 25, 2006. It was the day before we got married. We adopted him and a female kitty, Fluff. He picked my husband, rubbing up on him in the free roaming room, and I knew he would be my “Ellis”. Mark Ellis was my favorite baseball player, and I knew whatever cat I adopted would be named after him. It helped that Ellis had 4 white paws. Mark played for the Oakland Athletics, the only team in baseball that wears white shoes. It was perfect and meant to be. Though Ellis may have picked Scott that day, it was me and only me from then on. He was only 3 years old. We really didn’t know anything about his past, except that he came from a shelter in Craig, CO, which is in north central Colorado. He was declawed, so we assume he lived with a family.
For a few months it was just Ellis and Fluff, and then about 5 months later we took in Vinny, an older cat who had been at the shelter for 4 years. The 3 of them got along as best as any 3 cats who weren’t born and raised together could get along. They played together, slept together, and loved us together.
Then came Violet, my human daughter. Ellis was never happy about that. He did not have a mean bone in his body, but he would do his very best to keep himself between me and her. When we’d snuggle on the sofa, he’d come up behind us and stick his head in between us. When she would sleep in our bed, he would be there in an instant and perch himself on top of my head so he was the closest to me. I was his person. He was my baby.
He saw other cats come and go. Vinny died almost 6 years ago. Fluff died almost 5 years ago. Both too young. Vinny from cancer, and Fluff from kidney failure at age 7. Tulo came to us almost 6 years ago, and he and Ellis coexisted fairly well. Up to the end, Tulo was the only one who paid him much attention. Dharma came to us 4 years ago and Steve just 3 months ago. Ellis never cared, because he knew I loved him more than I could ever love any other kitty, no matter what.
Ellis was born with a condition called Cerebellar Hypoplasia. It’s a virus passed along during birth from the mother which causes imbalance and coordination issues. Ellis’s was fairly mild compared to some cats I’ve seen, but he couldn’t run quickly or jump very high. He would fall over sometimes when he sneezed or shook his head. But he had no clue he was different than the other cats.
About 3 years ago, Ellis started having bowel accidents in the house, and a lot of diarrhea. Finally he was diagnosed with IBD – irritable bowel disease. Humans get it, too. We tried various treatment methods, and finally he was on long term steroids to keep his poop solid and keep him hydrated and at a healthy weight. Early last year, he was doing pretty well, but then started to lose weight. Eventually he was down from his normal 10.5lbs to 7.5 lbs. At this point, he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Cats often develop lymphoma with long term steroid use. On the plus side, his IBD symptoms were few and far between, and he did eat like a little piggy. We started him on chemo in June of last year. He took 2 pills a week. He quickly gained 2 lbs, but almost as soon as he gained it, he lost it again. In November, we switched forms of chemo and just 2 weeks ago he took his second dose. but, two days later he started having balance and walking issues. Much more so than normal. I took him back to the vet who tested his ears just in case it was vestibular disease or an inner ear infection, but it wasn’t. The cancer had spread to his little brain.
We knew our time would be short. I always knew his time with us was short, but I didn’t expect it to be this soon. He deteriorated over the next week, but kept eating and drinking voraciously. Finally, Friday afternoon when I got home from work, he chowed down on food but couldn’t make it back to his resting spot. I knew it was time. I made that awful call to a vet who makes home visits. We had to wait three hours, and in that 3 hours alone he deteriorated quickly to the point that he was uncomfortable.
The vet was kind and gentle and helped make his transition as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately neither she nor anyone will ever be able to patch the huge hole in my heart that remains. I have never been loved by another living being like he loved me, and I doubt I ever will again. He loved me so much. He knew my deepest, darkest secrets. But above all, he knew he was loved so much.
I spent the last 3 years caring for him, cleaning up after him, giving him pills and shots, taking him to the vet. He loved the car, as crazy as that was. He was such a little boy – he loved looking out at big trucks! We arranged our house to meet his needs. We’ll need new carpet, as his accidents have ruined much of ours. We kept doors closed so he wouldn’t go in certain rooms. They’re open now. I dedicated those 3 years to keeping him comfortable and keeping him with me. Now, my heart hurts. I am so thankful to have been loved by him, and to have been his mom. I’m so thankfu for the 9 years, 4 months and 3 weeks that he loved me. I hope everyone has the chance to be loved that much at some point in their life.