Wednesday, November 29, 2017

2759. Farewell to My Beloved Sunny

By Kamran Nayeri, November 29, 2017

I am tempted to find ways
to say that “I love you”
but Nature has already 
said them all.

Let us then surrender,
all together,
to the bright beaches
and the rugged mountain tops.

Let us lay in leaf beds
and meadows of tender
new grasses courting
delicately budding flowers.

From “Simply Divine,” Jaime K. Reaser, Scared Reciprocity: Courting Beloved in Everyday Life, 2012. 

I lost my beloved Sunny on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2017.  Sunny suffered from chronic kidney disease (CKD) and lung cancer.  The night before her death she had trouble breathing probably due to the spread of her lung cancer.  She was euthanized at about 9:30 in the morning while resting on my lap.

Sunny’s troubles surfaced on the day before Christmas 2016 when she stopped eating.  Her veterinarian tried everything in the book to find out why and couldn’t. Finally, a barium x-ray showed a possible obstruction in her stomach.  Sunny was referred to the best surgeon in the area who suggested “exploratory survey.”  As I found out later, that meant opening up Sunny’s underside with a long incision to examine the inside of her GI tract and take biopsies for pathological examination.  The only thing they found was “moderate irritable bowel disease” (IBD), a form of allergy to food protein in various meats the cat eats. Of course, one does not need such an invasive surgery to diagnose IBD.  The IBD diagnosis seemed to explain Sunny’s refusal to eat her old favorites and her lack of appetite.  To recover from the surgery, Sunny was fitted with a feeding tube which I used to give her liquid food, water, and medication for a month.  Sunny was now on a life-long daily dose of Prednisolone to control her IBD.  

In June, Sunny was found to suffer from moderate chronic kidney disease (CKD), the number one cause of feline mortality.  The prognosis for Sunny changed from a chronic but manageable IBD to terminal CKD.  Typically, a cat with CKD is placed on special “kidney friendly”diet and supplements to help flush out toxins from her body. But Sunny was a finicky eater and would not eat a “kidney friendly” diet. And, the supplements I had to shove down her throat twice daily gave her a bad case of diarrhea.  So, we settled for any food she would eat and stopped giving her the supplements.   Thus, her prognosis became more dire. Still, finding food that Sunny liked and getting her to eat “just a bit more” became a constant concern of mine. And, she gradually ate less and less even of things she liked, except for rodents and birds. 

In September, an x-ray taken for another purpose showed a dark spot in her lungs.  The radiologist confirmed a rare lung cancer that afflicts mostly female cats.  Sunny was now cornered by two terminal diseases.  In late October, her veterinarian found a mass in Sunny’s mammary glands.  Whether this was new cancer or metastasis of her lung cancer we did not know and had no practical value for her care. It was merely another sign the Sunny’s life is about to end. 

Sunny was receiving subcutaneous (SQ) fluids four times a week, something like dialysis for cats, for which we made trips to her veterinarian hospital.  Meanwhile, Sunny had lost more than 3.5 lb. since June. With about 6.5 lb. of weight, she was skin and bones.  Still, Sunny ventured outside, enjoyed the garden, and hunted. A week before her demise, I found her munching on a field mouse under the rosemary bushes. 

Sunny’s excellent veterinarian had warned me that if she began having a problem breathing, it would the time to let her go. The night before Thanksgiving at about 9 p.m., Sunny who laying on my lap choked.  In reaction, she jumped off the bed and returned to the closet where she had camped the past few days and nights.  Her eyes looked terrified and she seemed sick and in pain.  I tried to calm her down giving her a dose of pain medication.  She slept in the closet the rest of the night.  

Thanksgiving Day morning, I took Sunny to the VCA Animal Center about 8 miles away that is open for emergency care all year round. Very caring and sensitive staff attended to Sunny and me.  The technician and the veterinarian who examined and treated Sunny had tears in their eyes when they were caring for Sunny. Their examination room looked more like a cozy living room with a love-seat.  I sat on the sofa and placed Sunny on my lap on a soft blanket.  She seemed comfortable and resigned.  After examining Sunny, the veterinarian concurred that it is time to let Sunny go.  Sunny was given a pain medication and within 10 minutes she was relaxed and sleepy. Then her right forearm was fitted with a catheter.  After once again asking for my agreement, the veterinarian gave Sunny another dose of strong pain medication through the catheter that relaxed her completely. The veterinarian again with my permission injected Sunny through the catheter with the medication that stopped her heart.  Sunny gave a slight sigh and I was left all alone to pick up the pieces of my broken heart.
*     *     *
I first met Sunny on Christmas morning of 2011. Returning home from serving breakfast to Lulu and Calico (see, “The Feral Cat Colony on Darby Road,” Part 1, and, Part 2), I stopped by the mailboxes to pick up my copy of the New York Times. I noticed a tiny orange cat disappearing behind the blackberry bushes.  The next day, I called her and she stopped under the first row of the bushes. I opened a can of food and served it in a bowl to her.  She quickly came and ate what I had served.  She was not satisfied until she had eaten three 5.5 oz cans of cat food.  Within days, she was comfortable enough with me to eat her food inside a cat carrier. The next day, I closed the cat carrier door and took her to the veterinarian hospital.  She was examined, tested for infections (negative), given a rabies shot, and we went home where Mooshi and Sayda, both female cats, both very domineering, also lived.  Sayda, a badly mistreated feral cat from Darby Road, lived upstairs away from the rest of us and Mooshi lived downstairs.  Sunny spent her first night in the master bathroom. On the second night, I left the bathroom door open and sat on the sofa near it watching a rented Netflix movie.  Sunny stepped out and soon enough jumped into my lap.  We became movie buddies for the rest of her life.  Every night, Sunny patiently waited for me to finish my dinner, clean up, wash the dishes, and take a little fruit to have while watching part of a movie and Sunny would jump on my lap to watch it together.  Six years later, I cannot really enjoy watching a movie nearly as much without her on my lap. 

Sunny now was free to explore inside of the house but she preferred spending most of her time hiding behind the books on the bookshelves (she preferred the philosophy section). She was tiny enough to fit there and was out of Mooshi’s way who was not entirely happy that I bought in another female cat. 

Sunny’s demeanor helped explain why she was so tiny. The more aggressive feral cats ate whatever was available to them first and Sunny went on deprived. But that also helped her avoid getting bitten by other cats who often carry infections (most feral cats are feline immunodeficiency virus—FIV—positive). Soon, I let Sunny venture outside.  She promptly went to the blackberry bushes on the opposite side of Darby Road, where a gate close off the road and there is no car traffic and few people go by.  At the end each day, I had to “recapture” Sunny and carry her in my arms home for the night.  Sometimes, Oliver, the neighbor’s dog, barked at us from behind the fence causing Sunny to sink her sharp claws into my body.  After about three months of doing this Sunny went out and came back home on her own.

She also put on a fair amount of weight having a regular supply of food. She even developing a bit of love-handles.  Mooshi also accepted Sunny’s presence.  Both of them eventually slept on my bed, each in her own cat bed.  But it was Mooshi who would come to lay across my legs at night. Unbeknown to me, Sunny also wanted to do that but not as long as Mooshi was around.  When Mooshi was incapacitated enough not to want to come to my bed, Sunny began laying on my legs facing the opposite direction until my legs were tired.  This became our nightly routine.  

For her entire life, Sunny remained shy of other people.  When someone visited me Sunny disappeared into the garden. And when the visitor left, she would magically reappear.  This limited my ability to invite people for dinner or when the weather was too harsh for Sunny to be outside.  A few of my friends understood the circumstances but most did not. Some friends even felt insulted that I would inconvenience them “for a cat.”  While I fully understand the reasons for their feelings, that our culture gives priority to humans over all other beings, I simply explained why I felt Sunny’s feelings were as important to me as their feelings. I have found few who really understand my reasoning. The notion of human superiority is deeply ingrained in our culture.

*      *     *

Like all relationships, those with cats can evolve and become richer.  A difference with human relations is that those with nonhuman animals never fall apart, not at least because of their failings.  Thus, all my relationships with cats continually enriched throughout their lives. That is one reason it is hard for me to see them die even when they have lived a long and happy life.  I miss our relationship that we built together for as long as I have known them.  I have little doubt that Sunny loved me perhaps more than I loved her as she always sought to be with me whenever she thought I was available. For some reasons, from our initial meeting she decided that I was worthy of her trust.  Over time, Sunny’s trust in me increased even when she became increasingly ill and I had to force her to take medications which she did not like, take her the hospital where she was handled by various people even though she was very shy of other people, or when she was subject to harsh intervention from frequent administration of SQ fluids which required the insertion of a large needle in her back to major abdominal surgery and having to live with a feeding tube in her neck for a month. We humans justify such harsh interventions as treatment for our illnesses.  There is no evidence that cats and other nonhuman animals understand that such treatments are “for their own good.”  But they put up with it.  And Sunny never lost her trust in me despite all the hardship I put her through.

Like all other beings that I have known, Sunny had her routines which she enjoyed.  Each morning after I had my breakfast, Sunny expected me to sit on the sofa so she can jump on my lap and have her fur brushed.  She really enjoyed this even though in the last year of her life it meant also being forced to take medications she did not like.  Sunny also liked laying on my legs facing the other way as I stretch on the sofa or on the bed to rest or when I was sleeping.  She had her favorite spots in the garden where she could “hide” from danger which included under the rosemary bushes, deer grasses, and Mexican grasses, and under the low-hanging branches of the redwood tree by the road where there is often a warm afternoon sun.  She also liked to have her meals served in the garden or on top of one of the chairs around the dining table.  When I arrived home after being away for a few hours, Sunny greeted me under the pineapple agave bush that if I had a better sense of smell would still have her scent as she rubbed her chin against it hundreds of time as a way to greet me. Sunny had graceful movements that began with making an arch in her back by extending her forearms way in front of her while raising her tail into the sky above. She was a patient hunter spending a lot of time focused on a rodents’ hole.  Once she was hunting where I spread seeds for wild turkeys and other birds.When the turkeys arrived Sunny would not budge. Interestingly, the turkeys ate seeds around her but did not mind her being next to them.  

Sunny yielded to other cats.  Mooshi who was the dominant cat in the house soon accepted Sunny even though they were both females.  She felt no threat from Sunny and decided to let her live in the house and share my care and affection.  Panther who is a younger, much stronger, tomcat and likes to bully more submissive cats chased Sunny many times despite my protest.  But gradually two things happened. Sunny began to stand her own ground somewhat. And Panther began to heed me to stop harassing Sunny.  Sunny actually liked Panther and given the chance she liked smelling his face.  Earlier, that was followed by Panther chasing Sunny to beat her up.  One day about a year ago a deflection point was reached. When Sunny went to smell Panther’s face, Panther reached out to her by licking Sunny’s forehead.  Panther’s aggression towards Sunny subsided.

Sunny was a gentle, feminine soul who often felt at ease sitting in the garden in a warm spot or “watching” a movie with me at night or being in my company anytime. Perhaps because of this strong bond of friendship between us, I miss her very much.  Since her death, there is a constant gap in my daily life. I miss her gentle soul, her devotion, and the warmth of her body close to mine.  There is a world of difference between watching a movie or watching a movie with Sunny on my lap.

My beloved Sunny, you will be in my heart and mind for as long as I live. 


I am grateful to a host of people who cared for Sunny at Analy Veterinary Hospital in Sebastopol, California, especially to Dr. Jessica Baldwin, her regular veterinarian, and Dr. Patricia Alexander, who was there for us when we needed help. 

The following video is 3 minutes and 39 seconds long with 72 photos of Sunny. Frank Sinatra's "This Love of Mine" is the soundtrack. 

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