Bernard came to us as a stray. He hung out around our house for several years (as we fed the neighborhood strays). At first he was a very shy kitty and wouldn’t come anywhere near us but as time went on he started to warm up to me. Over a couple years he started to have some medical issues that I caught him and took him to the vet for. The first was an abscess on his head, I suspect from a cat fight. The second was when his eye became inflamed and red, which was removed by the vet. At the time we didn’t know what else to do for him than make sure he was healthy enough to continue his life outdoors. We tried to keep him in while the eye healed but my roommate opened the window for him so he could watch the birds (as our other cats do) and he ripped through the screen. I caught him a week later to get the stitches taken out but never figured that he would eventually become my cat.
At some point, Bernard started losing weight. We had become good friends at the time (I think this is really the right way to describe it – we hung out on my porch together, I never “owned” him and he came to trust me implicitly (enough to fall asleep next to me and let me pick him up, more than he trusted any other human (which he would run away as soon as they moved))). I tried giving him all sorts of food to try to get him to gain weight and nothing worked so eventually I took him to the vet once again.
He was diagnosed with Hyperthyroid and prescribed methimazole. Because of the bond we had formed prior I made the choice to bring him inside. This time he was in my room. He was obviously a little anxious about the change of scenery but with me there he was considerably more calm and was more than happy to spend time with me. After a couple weeks I knew that we wouldn’t have a repeat of him tearing through the screen. He didn’t even show any interest in the windows – he just wanted to snuggle.
After we had his thyroid levels stabilized he was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease. At the time everything that was going on with him felt overwhelming – it felt like as soon as we took care of something, something new popped up. I had become so attached to Bernard that I was not willing to give up on him, but the reality of his health issues hit hard when I brought him home from the vet with a bad of fluids for subcutaneous injection. I honestly didn’t even know how I was going to do it but I knew that he still had quite a bit of life left in him and that we could give him his best chance. I had been afraid of needles my whole life and here I was with a cat that I needed to inject several times a week. Of course, though it was difficult (for both of us), we eventually got the hang of it and with him it became much easier (even Bernard got to the point where he would just lay down and relax during and fluid days, which eventually became every other day, became simply routine).
We had a lot of hick-ups along the way. His nausea was the hardest thing to control and he eventually ended up on a full dose of famotidine as well as slippery elm bark syrup (the SEB helped immensely and allowed us to get his weight (which was about 6lbs when we brought him in) to about 11lbs at one point)).
For awhile it was pretty smooth sailing. He ended up diagnosed with Hyperthyroid, CKD, Pancreatitis, and Arthritis. We did everything we could to make him comfortable and for a couple years he was very happy. I wouldn’t go back and change it. He really added so much to my life. He was so empathetic and loving, very well-mannered and even-tempered. He was unlike any cat I’ve ever had and no doubt unlike any cat I will ever have. The bond we shared was really incredible to me and it was wonderful to see a cat go from being shy and scared to confident and cuddly. I truly like to believe that we enriched each other’s lives and I really miss him.
He died December 4th 2016. The months before we had started to speak with his vet about euthanasia. He had been showing signs of pain and was becoming reclusive. The month previous his appetite had also started to decline (though surprisingly he wasn’t losing weight which I think had to do with the fact that we had boosted his calorie intake with higher calorie food the months before), so we thought he might pull through and bounce back like he had always done in the past. That Sunday he started to have labored breathing. I noticed it when we gave him his prednisone in the morning. I still have a video of it because at the time I thought that it would be something we’d just have to show to the vet (that it would pass). After maybe 10 minutes and no change I became concerned and it occurred to me that he was having a hard time breathing. I checked his gums and they had gone a pale grey, so I called the emergency vet and we rushed him in. They said that fluid had developed in his chest and he was doing to die if we took no action. Knowing how his health had been over the previous months I felt the right thing to do was make sure he passed peacefully, so that day we said are goodbyes and they put him to sleep with me holding his head.
If I could go back and do it again, I’d do it all over again. People thought I was crazy for all the money I spent on his care but honestly, it was completely worth it. We had a friendship that I think is once in a lifetime.
I love the little guy and I take solace knowing that at least now he’s not in any pain. If there’s an afterlife I hope that I will be able to see him again someday.
A donation was made in Bernard's memory and the memorial was created on February 1, 2017.