Sickly Iris

I’m not sure when Iris started doing her pressing spines thing, but it wasn’t when I got her as a kitten, in 2011. Back then, despite her limited vision, she was a little spitfire who just wanted to be outside killing things.

And she really did have limited vision, despite all the jokes that she was faking it because she was such a good hunter. If you moved the coffee table to vacuum, for example, you’d screw up her leap from it to the couch. She’d clearly memorized the distance. Sometimes she’d stand on the table and reach her arm out for the couch before she jumped, just to make sure it was there.

And if you tried to shine a laser pointer at her? Nothing. No response. Which was always funny, because she got around so well it was easy to forget her vision was even an issue. Not to mention the hunting, which I already did. Those first few years I had her, she gleefully murdered just everything. And sometimes she just maimed things and brought them inside. Once a live cicada. That was peaceful. Once a live bird. Also peaceful.

Once I was pulling up to the house and saw her leap easily five feet straight up in the air after something. She was amazing. “She has a fifth sense for hunting,” one of you said once, and it was my favorite thing anyone has ever said about Iris.

Anyway, I know the pressing spines thing was, you know, a thing by the time I moved in with Ned in 2014. He went to bed way later than me, which he would tell you is just part of his circadian rhythms and I would tell you is part of love avoidance, but whatever. Different topic for a different day.

He’d put me to bed every night, and as he did so, Iris would come in and I’d roll to one side and she’d press her spine up next to mine. We’d stay that way till Ned came to bed at 1:00 or 2:00.

When I moved out, after a year of being love-avoided, she kept up the spine-pressing, and she does it to this day. It’s so comfortable. And she’s not fussy: If you move, or roll over, she just adjusts.

I often am tempted to roll over and spoon her and kiss her cat head and tell her how good she is but Iris isn’t a cat like that. She’s friendly but not clingy. So I respect the affection she does give me and don’t ask for more.

For the past several years, she’s gotten sicker.

I think it all started when two loose dogs came into our yard and nearly killed her. They lacerated her liver, broke her pelvis and cause all sorts of damage to her. I think that’s how she got pancreatitis, which is a condition that flares up painfully now and then. She throws up blood when she gets a flare-up and it’s awful.

I’ve noticed when she gets those flare-ups she then inevitably gets a flare-up of her chronic rhinitis, which is this terrible upper respiratory thing where she has to keep her mouth open in order to breathe. She sounds like Darth Vader when she has it.

If those two things weren’t bad enough, she has irritable bowel disorder, and I can tell that’s been making her miserable.

And? Her eyes are worse. The other day, I called her in, and she was on the table in the back yard. She put her leg out to feel for a surface, over and over again. She was scared to jump down, so I got her.

Even worse, I cannot medicate her. I’ve told you about that when she had her thyroid issue in the fall. She will foam at the mouth till her medication has left the building. I’ve had cats all my life. I’ve never NOT had a cat. This cat won’t take medication. So I can’t even make her feel better with this stuff.

And I was trying. I had medicine I was trying to give her for her irritable bowel, which an ultrasound last week revealed was pretty bad. I blame myself for stressing her out, because after a week of wrestling with her and her foaming, this weekend she got really, really sick. She threw up copious amounts, then got her terrible rhinitis, and she didn’t eat or drink from Saturday night till just this morning.

So, yesterday I called the vet. “I think it’s time,” I told him. He listened to my reasons, but when I was done, he suggested we give her liquid antibiotics to get her over this rhinitis, and I felt guilty saying no. I felt like I was murdering her if I said no. So I drove her sick, wheezing self down there, they hooked her up to an IV for fluids, gave her a B12 shot, and brought her out foaming at the mouth.

“We gave her her first antibiotic. Does she always drool like that?”

“This is what I’ve been telling you for months. Yes.”

“She looks pretty rough. She’s well-loved here, please know that. Call us tomorrow and we’ll talk about next steps,” said the technician, petting Iris through her carrier.

So, last night, Iris, who had been on her rocking chair nonstop for days, jumped down from it. It woke me up, as I’ve been sleeping lightly, listening for her condition to worsen.

Seconds later, I felt her jump on the bed. Her steps seemed lighter than usual.

And then? She pressed spines with me. And I couldn’t help it. I rolled over and spooned her and kissed her cat head and told her what a good kitty she is. And how much I admire her spirit.

And you know, she didn’t mind. She purred through her Darth Vader breathing. She let me do it. Eventually I rolled over and we pressed spines all night.

Today she really is a little better and finally, finally ate a little. It looks like a Golden Corral up in the cat food area, so many choices do I have up there for her. Tuna juice? Kitten food? Canned special Iris stomach food? Special Iris kibble? Can I make you some dry toast? JUST EAT.

She opted for her canned special stomach food that costs 9 million dollars a can. I’m glad because at least it won’t set off her IBD.

So even if she pulls through this, I don’t think I should keep Iris going much longer. Her bad days happen more than her good.

I think it’s nearly time for her happy hunting grounds in the sky.

84 thoughts on “Sickly Iris

  1. It has been a rough couple of days. I could hardly get through this post. I didn’t read the comments. I just want you to know there is a lot of love out here for Iris and for you.

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  2. She’s been a real fighter, and if it’s her time to go, you’ll know you did everything you could for her. I know the others will miss her terribly when she goes.

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  3. I’m so sorry. They are pure love (along with some murderous tendencies). You are doing a great job.

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  4. Oh, the part where she pressed spines with you last night made me teary eyed. I’ve always found Murder Iris to be so interesting. I can’t believe she’s lived through all these bad things now that you’ve listed them all out.

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  5. Last week, we built a series of ramps so our cat with the terrible spine issues can get outside without using the stairs. I watch her every day to make sure the expensive cat Advil is working. She’s always been my favorite because her attitude is very Iris-like—affection is on her terms but once in a long whil she’ll do something especially sweet like sticking her face in my hand while she takes a nap. Your post today made me a little weepy.

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  6. Iris is still with you but she’s letting you know her time is limited so just love her and let her tell you when she’s ready. Or she may just slip away on her own. Just enjoy her gift of love as long as you can.

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  7. I have never had the spine press! Forty years of cats! It sounds wonderful. Sweet lovely Iris loves her person and has lived her best murdery life. My heart aches for you. It’s the hardest place to be when we free them and help them gain their wings. Thinking of you.

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  8. June, I’m so sorry. I’ve been in your shoes far too many times and it never gets easier. Kiss Iris on the head for me.

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  9. Nothing to add, but commenting all the same to say I’m sorry, and you are doing a great job in a role that has many benefits but this one glaring really awful part to it.

    BeeBelle

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  10. I am so sorry that you have to go through this. Having a pet gives you the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. As others have said, only you know when it is time, since you know Iris so well. You have done everything you possibly can for her. I am sending support and love your way.
    By the way, you are such a great writer. I could never describe what I went through with my dog, Phoebe the way you have done with your pets. You have such great talent.

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  11. Sweet kitty. Why can’t all the pets just live forever? One of the best things to come from the virus is how much more time we have been spending with our pets. It’s been great for us and them.

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  12. Oh, June, I’m tearing up. I never do that, except with animals. You have been so good with Iris, and I know she can feel that. I’m new to actually owning cats, and when I had to kiss Lucia goodbye two years ago, I understood true grief. I know you’ll do the right thing by Iris, even as you kiss her goodbye for the last time.

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  13. When I started reading this post to my daughter, she suggested Iris was Auntie Maim. When she heard the end, she had to get up and leave the room. We’re so sorry, June. Iris had a good life with you and her siblings, and all the Peanut Gallery here will miss her.

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  14. I am so sorry, my dear. I feel so lucky to have been with you the day Iris came home! What a little peanut she was.

    Enjoy her and cherish these days. I know you do.

    Hugs.

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  15. My makeup is a mess. Poor Iris. We have a blind cat (they had to remove his eyes because of an infection at birth and original owner didn’t get him vet care and instead slathered Vaseline on his eyes). He does the same thing – reaches a paw for the chair in case the ottoman has moved. And then there are times he sprints through the air and land right on his target.

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  16. Sweet murdering Iris. I’ve loved her wonky eyes and murdery habits from afar. I’m so glad she felt like spine pressing last night. Thoughts and prayers with you June.

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  17. It’s so hard. I’ve had to make that decision last year for my dog and it was so so much worse than I expected. Sending lots of good thoughts.

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  18. My heart hurts for you. So much love your way, give it to Iris if you don’t want it but it’s for both of you.

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  19. I’m so glad the meds helped and she’s feeling a bit better today.
    And that you had your snuggles last night.
    Sweet little Iris, we’ve all loved her since the the beginning of her wonderful life with you.
    Every moment with her is even more precious now.
    I know how hard it will be for you when the time comes to say goodbye.

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  20. Hardest decision to make but once made – best decision to have happen – you know your animals and have the ability to provide that choice. Knowing that quality of their life is not going to improve has helped me in the past with this. Take care of yourself in all of this.

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  21. I hope you are getting this, Karen, as I’m still not able to post on the blog itself.

    This is such a touching post about a beautiful girl named Iris and her loving mom. That she ‘let’ you spoon her and kiss her head may be her way of telling you ‘it’s almost time mom, so I’m gonna let you do your spoon-and-kiss-my-head-thing ‘cause I know you love me and have wanted to do that for years. You’re a good girl, too!’

    Peace to you ‘cause it is NEVER easy… Anne

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  22. Spine pressing is the sweetest thing…who wants to be smothered with a cat draped around your head? But spine pressing…I’ll take that any and every day. And that paw wrapped around your leg up there? Oof.

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  23. With all of the critters that I have shared my home (and there have been quite a number over the years) this is the toughest time. You know when it is the best decision you can make. Iris has had a life filled with love, adventure and spine presses. Love and warm memories to you both.

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  24. Oh, this is so hard. One of the great mercies of my life thus far was when our little dog just curled up in her bed and… died. Our vet’s response was “do you know how lucky you are?” And I knew exactly what he meant.

    Holding up the doorway here, June. Thank you for making me laugh through the tears. The visual of Forest hopping up and helping himself to the Iris smorgasbord of treats is priceless.

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  25. Lots of love goes out to Iris. Love and strength for you, too, June. This is a sad time for all of us.

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  26. You always, always make the right decisions for your pets. So trust yourself. No one knows Iris better, or loves her more, than you. But still … so hard.

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  27. Oh, man. I may need to step away from… everything from a while. Bc losing pets.. makes me weep uncontrollably.

    My friend, single, two bad marriages, two bad divorces, got the dog. The (now almost 10 y.o.) dog died Saturday of a blood clot in his lungs, as she stood there paying the vet for what they thought was bronchitis. I don’t even know the words to console her. That dog.. we took care of him. He was the best boi. He had the best dog side-eye (esp if you dared to not wear a mask in his presence). I miss him and he wasn’t even mine,

    Iris and her murdering ways. Iris, handling with Iris-aplomb, the introduction of other cats and dogs into her domain. Iris, with her spine cuddles. She is loved.

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  28. I am SO glad you got the sweet snuggle time last night. What a special memory that will be whenever you make the decision that it is time. My oldest dog has CHF and I can tell his days are numbered, so I’m getting all of the snuggles I can, too!

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  29. Poor Iris. The dogs getting her . . . I thought that only happened in cartoons. How awful.

    Heartbreaking. Glad she is feeling a bit better and that she let you spoon her.

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  30. You gave Iris a great life. She probably would not have been adopted if you had not taken her. It’s so hard when that time comes but I feel like you gave her more life than she would have had. You are a good person and cat mom.

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  31. Poor Iris. Poor Karen. My heart has been hurting since I saw your post last night. I’m just so sorry.

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  32. I’m wiping away tears and can barely see to type. This brings back memories of when I knew it was time to say goodbye to our favorite cat. You are kind and loving to your pets and I love how Iris pressed spines with you last night. She was showing how grateful she is to have you in her life.

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  33. Awww, I’m glad you were able to press spines with her again, what a wonderful experience. We had to put our 18 yo cat down before the pandemic, I still miss our nightly rituals at bedtime.

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  34. Poor sweet Iris. So sorry this is happening. Been almost exactly three years I had to take my Smudge in for his last trip. But it was time. My vet agreed, she was pretty much waiting for me to accept it.

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  35. That’s the thing we can do for them, to give little old ladies a nice ending. It’s dignity and compassion and it sucks so f-ing bad. I can only imagine how you feel. I have no advice and won’t fling a hug on you, but I’ll tell you that you know her better than anyone and the decision is yours to make with Iris. I’m so sorry it’s come to this. You’ve been good to each other.

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  36. Awww, this is so hard, and I’m sorry you have to go through it with Iris. When our old dog was in a similar stage of life, she was mischievous and naughty and funny. We absolutely let her do (and eat) whatever she wanted. I hope Iris takes full advantage and goes out in style. What a sweet cat.

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  37. Crap. It’s not murder, it’s knowing them so well, more than any degree hanging on a wall knows. Just, crap! though! This sucks, I’m sorry.

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  38. I’m so sorry, June. Iris is such a good cat, and you’re such a good cat mom. I feel like I know her from the way you’ve written about her, since the day you first saw her at the shelter. Sending non-hugs to you both.

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  39. I love how you write. I love how you can deliver a story that is funny and sad and poignant. I’m writing through tears. Our pets are family and this is the toughest thing to go through.

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  40. Sobbing. Iris has always been very special. I remember when you got her reasoning no one else would adoot her because of her vision problems. You have given her the best life possible. It’s so hard to let them go, but who knows she could perk up. I’m sure she’ll let you know when it’s time. Oh my goodness, this is so hard. Praying for you.
    Tee
    P.S. My cat does the spine thing as well.

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  41. Sweet Iris. My cat, Elmo, was especially loving in his last day with me. He had had a terrible night and I knew it was time. I made his appointment for the end of the day. He was so sweet to me all day. My sons said it was his way of telling me it was okay and that he was ready to go. So much love for you and for Sweet Iris.

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  42. This post comes after we put our sweet lab down last night at only 7. He was a bit off over the weekend by Monday after going to the vet could barely breathe, cancer…. So my heart breaks with you and everyone hug your pets tight~~

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  43. Oh, Iris, sweet baby. June, you write about your pets the way I wish I could. Such beautiful tribute! My Ellie used to do the spine thing with me and it was so comforting. Love to you and Iris. It’s so hard to let them go.

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  44. Oh, sweet Iris. How can I love a pet so much that I’ve never met? June- my heart hurts for you. Please know whatever decision you make is the right one for Iris and we are all in your doorway supporting you.

    On a side note- my sister is a crazy dog person. She takes her dogs to the emergency after hours vet more in 6 months than I’ve ever taken my human children to the emergency room in their lives combined. She drops serious money on vet bills, allergy meds, special diet foods. Her vet recommends 3 times yearly checkups with blood work and stool analysis. I say all of this to tell you that when it came time for her oldest dog to get married and move away his file at the vet was as thick as an encyclopedia. My sister agonized over the decision and finally made peace with it after literally months of weekly appointments, IV fluids, meds, X-rays, procedures and what not. I drove her and Asher as she wasn’t sure she’d be able to drive home and for moral support. That damned vet, the one who knows this dog like he birthed him himself, walked and said, “I see you’ve made your decision. But have you considered all your options?”
    I’ve never wanted to physically attack a human being more than I did in that moment.

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  45. This made me weepy. I’ve loved Iris from afar since her murdering days. Your situation is the absolute worst part of having pets.

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