My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sometimes Knowing Doesn't Help

It's been a rough week 'round these parts (and I'm only talking about the "public" items in this post).

The entire week was marked by some of the most brutally hot weather we can remember. Monday afternoon vanished into a meeting with a lawyer. Tuesday evening, AJ came out of work to find someone had sideswiped her van in the parking lot[1]. Wednesday was spent at a local hospital while Mom had a scary procedure done[2]. Thursday brought some crazy-bad afternoon storms.

And then Saturday morning I helped AJ & Miri take their little cat Dulce to the vet for the very last time.

We're one of those crazy families that gets nearly as attached to our pets as to our fellow humans, and Dulce was with us a for over 16 years. She was, in fact, the last of AJ's cats from her life before being Mommy (we lost her adopted sister Midnight just a couple of days before flying to China). She had the kind of disposition that immediately lent itself to the name "Dulce" and even adjusted to the sudden appearance of a two-footed small whirling dervish in her home.

Dulce's health began failing a little over a year ago, and my crazy sister went above & beyond the call of duty with trying to keep her happy & healthy. Dulce got special food. Dulce got special medicine. Dulce was hand-dialysed with Ringer's at home every 3-4 days. (Dude, you did mention this family is crazy.) Dulce got cuddled & coddled and even Miri treated her a little differently. All this was accompanied with slowly-increasing frequency by conversations about cost, and time, and cost, and effort, and cost... but the truth was that AJ was just not ready to let go (or to give her daughter a first-hand experience with that type of loss).

The thing is, we all knew that Dulce was an old lady. We all knew that she lived the kind of life that a cat can only dream of. We all knew the clock was ticking more & more loudly. We knew what it meant when she began having trouble getting around, began losing her vision, stopped being able to use the litter box. And we knew what it meant when AJ oh-so-casually mentioned that she had a 7:30pm appointment with the vet for Dulce on Thursday (rescheduled for Saturday due to the weather).

AJ was going to go alone but none of us were going to let her do that... and since Yours Truly was the big softie who the little kitten butted up against & then went to sleep on when we first met her at the cat rescue lady's house, I needed to say goodbye just as much as AJ and Miri.

The Pipsqueak learned what it was all about on Saturday morning, and AJ's text included the phrase, "immediately started crying." As expected, she said it wouldn't be fair to leave her at home -- and then burst into tears again when AJ said she could come but would have to leave the room with me when the vet was ready to give Dulce the "special medicine" (AJ did not want to say "the shot" because the Pipsqueak still has a few of her own due this year). Then came the questions about what are ashes, and if she could have something to remember Dulce by, and what was Mommy going to do?

After a few more explanations, the Pipsqueak calmed down and proceeded to worry that Xuan (Dulce's feline sister) would be lonely, and that when they get a dog in three years[3] it might scare her if she was the only cat. Then, even more to her credit, she gave Mommy two big hugs to help her feel better.

The drive to the animal hospital wasn't as tough as I thought it would be -- lots to talk about, lots to see, and Miri kept up a running play-by-play on what Dulce was doing in the carrier on the seat beside her. The staff at the hospital know AJ well and were solicitous and caring, and got us all into an examination room within moments of walking in.  Miri asked if she could hold Dulce -- a somewhat unusual request -- and was rewarded with an ongoing quiet purr.

The tech handling the paperwork was in & out a couple of times, but we were given time to say our goodbyes. Another tech came in at one point, explaining that she'd met AJ many times & sold her some of the meds but had never actually met Dulce and wanted to see her while she still could. (She was obviously choosing her words carefully in front of a 7-year-old.) Eventually, AJ took Dulce and held her while signing the last of the papers, and a few minutes later the vet himself came in with a small hypodermic. We all had to explain to a very curious Pipsqueak that it was NOT a good idea to pick it up to examine it more closely... and then I had to tell Miri that she needed to say goodbye for the last time.

Miri knew what that meant and immediately began to cry, but collected herself enough to do what she needed to. I took a moment for my own goodbye and then led the Pipsqueak from the room. She collected herself and stopped crying fairly quickly, and we had an emotional discussion about how Mommy knew it was the right time to do this and how we knew that it was the best thing for Dulce. Eventually the distractions of several kittens, a puppy, and a couple of hyperactive small dogs cleared the clouds and Miri was just about to ask me when it would all be done for the second time when the exam room opened and AJ came out with the empty carrier.

Miri wanted to go back in to see Dulce again but AJ explained that since we had all said our goodbyes already, the vet had taken her into the back after she had gone to sleep. The Pipsqueak was obviously disappointed but accepted the explanation and offered to help carry things out to the car. We made a stop at a nearby ice cream stand (and had to eat in the car because another really nasty storm came rolling through), then headed to our folks' house. Mom had gotten matching inexpensive cat necklaces for both AJ & Miri, and after spending some family time we went out for an early dinner to celebrate making it through what had been a tough & scary week for us all.

We know life ending is as much a part of how the universe works as life beginning. We know AJ took advantage of all the health options available for a very sick little kitty. We know Dulce lived a long, pampered, happy, love-filled life, and we also know that it really was her time to go. We know the Pipsqueak needs to learn all this, be guided through all this, be ready for more of this. We also know that the Pipsqueak often shows a wisdom far beyond her age, and can see her processing the loss of one of "her" cats and all the associated issues.

But somehow all that knowing doesn't make it any easier.

1 - Amazingly, the guy left a note with his name & phone number... and it turned out to be one of the new Rehab therapists at the center.

2 - The result was literally the best prognosis we could've hoped for, and some very scary maybes were ruled out along the way. Thankfully, it's all good.

3 - A few months back, AJ mentioned that she thought it would be a good idea to get a dog when Miri was 10 so she wouldn't be alone in the house some afternoons. Little Miss Radar Ears heard and (as usual) remembered, so now the family plan is she gets a dog when she's 10 -- no ifs, ands, or buts.

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