Home Personal Stories Losing Alee, Our Camping Kitty

Losing Alee, Our Camping Kitty

by Grant
Alee, Our Camping Kitty

I’m sorry for the somber tale in this post but writing it is cathartic for me. Plus, I know several folks who have followed along with our travels and know how much Alee meant to us would want to know what happened. I hope this helps anyone faced with losing a beloved pet.

Our cat is dying.

Damn, that’s hard to say, even harder to write.

Alee has been with me for about 15 years, nearly a third of my life. That’s reasonably old for a cat. She had recently started showing her age, but I would never be ready for her to die.

Alee as a kitten.
Alee as a kitten.

I got Alee as a kitten with my first wife shortly after buying a house together. Our marriage was rocky but one thing we both agreed upon was Alee was really my cat. As a kitten, she would come up to my recliner and ask to be picked up. I would pick her up and she would sleep on my chest, right on top of my heart.

I am sure the beat of my heart comforted her.

After the divorce, the cat was with me through some of the roughest, loneliest times of my life. When my grandmother died, Alee was there for me. When I went years without finding love, Alee was there for me. When I found love for the first time after getting divorced… then lost it, Alee was there for me.

Indeed, Alee would come running to the door every time I came home. And every time, I would pick her up and snuggle her. She was not the most affectionate cat but that was our thing.

Bonnie and Alee in the camper.
Bonnie and Alee in the camper.

When Bonnie came into my life, I, honestly, wanted to see if she and Alee would get along. It took a while but Alee warmed up to Bonnie and Bonnie warmed up to Alee.

Now, when we come home, Alee would greet us. If I picked her up, she always craned her head to look for Bonnie. She wanted to be petted by both of us.

Alee was good staying at home when we traveled but, after a while, we started to notice she had more and more difficulty with us being gone. So, we made a point to get a camper so she could come with us on our long trips.

Sometimes, Alee get curious about what's going on outside the truck... Other times, she hides under her blanket.
Sometimes, Alee gets curious about what’s going on outside the truck… Other times, she hides under her blanket.

She was a great traveling companion, our Camping Kitty. She loved to lie on top of the center console with her tail swishing back and forth where our drinks were. She loved the new truck with the additional space she could hide in. She often sat in the center of the backseat with her paws hanging off the edge.

She loved the top of the couch in the camper. The couch sits in the slide-out area which has windows on three sides giving her a large window on the world. Sometimes, she would come outside and hangout with us, sometimes not. She loved when I grilled and she could smell the meat cooking. She would sit by the screen door and just sniff the air.

Coming Home from the Cruise

Then we came home from the Bahamas. There was a pause in her greeting us as we came in. Her meow when she came out sounded different. She looked different, haggard.

My buddy, Dave, who had been caring for the cat, let me know she didn’t seem to be pooping. He had been by the day before and she hadn’t really used the litter box. When we got in, we were hoping that she would have. A little… not much, not enough.

I picked her up and she just stayed in my arms. Normally, when she has had enough snuggling, she will wiggle to be let down. She didn’t wiggle. I kept her in my arms as we came to the realization that she wasn’t doing well.

Alee would occasionally get in Grant's lap while driving.
Alee occasionally gets in Grant’s lap while driving.

At first, we thought she was freaked out from us being gone but we quickly realized it was more than that… It would require a visit to the vet, the Cat Clinic of Woodstock.

Alee hates the vet. Back in 2013, we had to board her there for about a month. Our condo had flooded and we were going to Italy. It nearly broke my heart to leave her there. I wished so badly I could tell her we were coming back. I was so afraid she would think we had abandoned her.

Since then, she does nothing but growl and snap at folks as soon as she goes to the vet. She had to be sedated to put in a microchip back when we started taking her with us on the road. The folks at the Cat Clinic of Woodstock are great… it’s just that Alee doesn’t like being there.

This time was no different but it lasted so much longer. The folks at the vet sedated her, drew blood and performed a sonogram. All the while, Alee was upset and growling.

Alee's ready to get this truck on the road!
Alee’s ready to get this truck on the road!

Then the call. She had cancer.

They found a tumor in her abdomen lodged between organs. There was no way, without exploratory surgery, to know what kind of tumor it was. If it was a lymphoma, we could treat it with chemotherapy. If it was sarcoma, they could try to remove it but she could die from the surgery.

Even in the best case, it might buy her a year or so of life. At what cost? She hates the vet so going back repeatedly for chemotherapy would not be a good experience for her.

So, we tried some medication to see if that would help her eat and drink and use the litter box.

At the very least, she was at home, with us… where she knew she was loved. I am so thankful Alee didn’t die while we were gone. I am glad we were with her.

Making Her Comfortable

The night after the vet’s visit was hard for us. Alee struggled to shake off the sedation and the medication made her drowsy. She couldn’t walk all that well. She seemed exhausted from the stress of going to the vet.

I picked her up and put her on my chest. She laid there like she did when she was a kitten as I snuggled with her. Bonnie took a picture.

Snuggling Alee after the visit to the vet.
Snuggling Alee after the visit to the vet.

Bonnie has been great. She knows how much Alee means to me and we are both torn at losing our kitty. She and I spent quite a while just holding Alee and weeping.

The next morning, she was doing a little better, eating some wet food. The hardest part was leaving her to go to work. I hoped I would have at least a couple days left with her, to say good bye, to make sure she knows I love her.

This is so hard.

I came home and she didn’t come to the door when I got home. She was hiding under the dresser, enjoying the dark and quiet. The visit to the vet seemed to sap the energy out of her.

Alee loved the smell of Grant grilling out and would hang out by the screen door whenever he grilled.
Alee loves the smell of Grant grilling out and hangs out by the screen door whenever he grills.

She was still eating but had only used the litter box a couple of times and still had not pooped. I don’t think she had pooped much in more than week. We called the vet and he recommended putting a little laxative powder in her food, so we did.

Nothing by morning.

In the mornings, when I make a sandwich, she would always come to ask for some turkey. She couldn’t make it to the kitchen this morning so I brought the turkey to her. She meowed and wolfed it down.

We make a point before we leave for work to pet her and make sure she knows she is loved.

She purrs.

Alee wanting to chase chipmunks.
Alee wanting to chase chipmunks at a campground in Upstate New York.

Being at work is pure suffering. I have to teach, I have to supervise students. I have to keep my emotions in check. I want so badly to be home with Alee. I hate that I don’t how she is doing. Bonnie suggested I come home at lunch to check on her. The problem is I have lunch duty this week and teachers, at least at our school, can’t just leave campus to take care of personal matters.

Besides, if she wasn’t ok, I don’t think I could go back to work. I would be a wreck.

I don’t know where I would be without Bonnie. She keeps me sane.

Going home and not knowing what we will find is terrifying. We arrive at home and find her curled under the dresser. We bring her some more food which she does her best to eat.

A little bit later she came out. I picked her up and took her to the couch. She loved it, loved being with us. We sat together, Bonnie, Alee and I, on the couch watching TV for hours. I made sure one of us was touching her, gently stroking her the entire time. She purred the whole time.

It was everything I knew we all needed. I could tell she felt loved. It was glorious.

Alee with us on the couch at the end.
Alee with us on the couch at the end.

She is struggling to walk still. She will walk a little ways then stop and rest. She is peeing but still no poop. It has been more than 10 days since there was anything solid in her litter box. The laxative didn’t work.

Making the Hard Decision

Today is the day. I can’t let this go on any longer. She is struggling so much.

This morning, she came out to ask for turkey when I made my sandwich but did not truly have the strength to eat it. I laid beside her and fed it to her by hand. We gave her some more cat broth and some appetite enhancer.

She enjoys eating and we want her to be as happy as she can be.

The vet is coming to the house at 4:30. At this point, I am counting the minutes so I can go home and be with my kitty. I know in my heart this is the right thing but it is killing me.

Alee hanging out at one of the first campgrounds we ever visited.
Alee hanging out at one of the first campgrounds we ever visited.

On the way home, we were terrified of the cat being dead when we arrived. It’s not that I wanted her to be alive just so I could say goodbye but rather I wanted to make sure she didn’t suffer as best I could.

As we were driving, we got stuck behind someone turning left at Main Street. You can’t turn left at Main Street. There are signs all over the place. We honked our horn but we were too far back and they didn’t move. They sat waiting to turn for the whole light. I nearly lost it. I put the truck in park and was about to go to tell the drive to move. I was angry. How dare this asshole take moments from my time with Alee!

Grant and Alee hanging out at the campground in Montrose, CO.
Grant and Alee hanging out at the campground in Montrose, CO.

Bonnie stopped me. I am glad she did. I would have completely lost my temper and that would have been bad. Eventually, the driver moved so I could get home.

Alee couldn’t meet us again. We got her and snuggled with her until the vet arrived. I was so relieved just to have those minutes with her to say one final goodbye.

The End

The vet and vet tech arrive and we get set up. The vet explained that the sedative will make it to where Alee is asleep but she will still feel we are there. Once she is asleep, the vet will inject a drug into a vein in her leg that will make her muscles relax and stop her heart.

Alee liked to sleep under her favorite blanket when we drove.
Alee loves to sleep under her favorite blanket when we drive.

Alee knows something is up because there are strangers in our home but is too weak to be too bothered. We get down on the floor and wrap her in her favorite blanket. I am lying on the floor right in front of her, looking in her eyes and petting both sides of her head as the vet injects the sedative.

Alee cries out a little in pain. The vet warned us that the sedative can briefly hurt for some kitties. Alee bites my hand out of anger and fear.

The sedative starts working and I can tell Alee is scared. She quickly moves up under my chest for comfort and security and I hold her and pet her.

“I know you are scared but I’m here and I love you. I won’t let anything hurt you, kitty. You are such a good kitty.”

Eventually, I can feel her purr.

She started to calm down a bit but it took a while for the sedative to truly kick in. The vet commented that she is fighting it. That’s exactly who Alee is. She is a fighter. I am reminded of the poem by Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-Dylan Thomas

Once she has completely calmed, the vet asks if we need a few minutes.

“No, do what you need to do.”

They set up the injection but I don’t see anything. I am petting Alee and talking to her the whole time. I thank her for being such an important part of our lives. I want to make sure that she feels I am with her.

Bonnie is right there with me the entire time, stroking the cat and caring for me.

“Can I check her heart?” the vet asked.

“Yes.”

“She’s gone.”

I curl into a ball and weep uncontrollably.

Bonnie, God bless her, shows the vet and tech out and takes care of the little things. If there is a hero in this story, it’s Bonnie.

They take Alee with them. We live in a condo so there is nowhere to bury her. Instead, they are making clay molds of her paws for us… one for the house, one for the camper… her two homes.

When Bonnie comes back, we hold each other and weep.

Alee in the camper, her second home.
Alee in the camper, her second home.

Letting Go

Afterwards is hard. After eating some dinner and trying to relax, I have to do something. There is so much that reminds me of Alee around. I can’t bear it so I start to pick up her toys, etc. and throw them away or put them away to be given to friends.

Later that night, I walked out to take my meds and I look at Alee’s spot on the love seat and it hits me I will never see her hanging out as I walk into the living room.

Already my home feels that much emptier.

Bonnie and I hold each other that night.

The next morning is so hard. Knowing Alee will never again follow Bonnie into the bathroom first thing in the morning. Alee will never again ask to sniff my mustache after I brush my teeth (she liked the smell of toothpaste). Alee will never again ask for a piece of turkey from my sandwich or treats before we leave.

Alee joined us at Big South Fork NRR.
Alee joined us at Big South Fork NRR. This was her final camping trip.

I know I will get through this. I know Alee would want me to. I know Bonnie will be there for me and I will be there for her.

I know we did the right thing. I know Alee was loved and cared for right up until the last moment of her life. I know the last thing she ever felt was me.

If you are ever in the position of having to put an animal to sleep, make sure you are there. I know Alee was scared. I know Alee was comforted by us being there with her. I will never forget holding her as the sedative kicked in, feeling her purr.

She knew she was loved. She knew we were with her. She knew we never abandoned her, not for a moment.

I would not trade being there with her for those last moments for anything in the world, save having Alee still with me, healthy and cancer-free.

Still, it hurts.

The folks at the Cat Clinic of Woodstock have been wonderful. Alee may not have liked going there but they cared for her and made her passing as painless as possible. We are so thankful.

A very personal story of losing our cat, Alee, to cancer. She was Grant's cat for nearly 15 years and losing her has been emotionally tough.
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12 comments

Avatar
Salette Andrews March 5, 2019 - 10:15 am

I’m so sorry for your loss.

Reply
Grant
Grant March 5, 2019 - 5:44 pm

Thank you so much.

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Avatar
L March 5, 2019 - 8:01 pm

Peace and prayers for you both. I have multiple fur babies (the oldest is 16) and know how painful it is to have to let them go. I am happy that you were able to be with her to say goodbye despite how hard it is. May her spirit continue to travel with you on your journies.

Reply
Grant
Grant March 10, 2019 - 10:56 am

Thank you so much!

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Avatar
Donna McNeely March 6, 2019 - 9:56 am

So sorry for your loss. I lost my camping buddy and it took me awhile but now I have a new one and we are making new memories. You never forget the love of a pet or I should say family member.

Reply
Grant
Grant March 10, 2019 - 10:56 am

Thank you so much, Donna! We hope you have many years of love with your new camping buddy!

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Avatar
Mom March 8, 2019 - 4:47 pm

I truly feel your pain and loss. Dixie, Annie, Oscar, Shadow, Joe Cool and soon, Sallie. Animals are so much more than pets and pets are so much more than animals. Best buddies, encouragers, confidants, comforters, comedians, toilet pals (most of my pets appreciated a captive audience in the bathroom!) Alee loved. loved, loved you. I am glad you had each other for so many years and sorry the years stopped.

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Grant
Grant March 10, 2019 - 10:55 am

Thanks Mom!

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Avatar
Tyler Smith March 10, 2019 - 12:21 pm

This has me in tears. I’m so happy that you two were able to make each other’s lives so much better. Your love for each other will last forever. She lived a great long life with someone who loves her and that’s best thing that any being can ask for.

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Grant
Grant March 10, 2019 - 1:17 pm

Thank you, Tyler!

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Avatar
Laissa Soares September 12, 2019 - 4:58 pm

I’m crying a lot. I have a kitten and I try to avoid thinking about her pass. Still a girl, 2 years old. Lost a four-legged son (dog) and it was very bad too. The pain will pass, the memories will be lighter.
Hugs to you and Bonnie.
(Brazil)

Reply
Grant
Grant September 13, 2019 - 8:51 am

Thanks so much for your comment. We still miss her all the time. It is hard to come home when she is not there waiting for me. Still, I would not trade that time for anything. We hope you have many years with your kitty!

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