Hazel

Today, June 19, 2013, my kitty cat Hazel died.

Hazel (because of her hazel-colored eyes) had been suffering from chylothorax (fluid around the lungs) for about 2 months. It was difficult for her to take normal breaths. We could often see her breathing in little puffs around her abdomen. When we took her to the vet, we found that she also had a hyperthyroid condition and had diabetes as well. The vet drained about 80% of the fluid from around her lungs and she got much better quickly. The prescribed treatment to combat the chylothorax is a low-fat diet and an enzyme called Rutin. Unfortunately, the Rutin had to be pulverized from a pill and put into her food. She refused to eat any food with the Rutin in it and she got steadily worse. There is no liquid form of Rutin and the pills, even cut in half, are quite large and difficult to get her to swallow. We realized that we would have to continue to pay to have the fluid drained every 2-3 weeks.

After much soul searching, my wife and I decided that even if we were able to solve the chylothorax problem, there was still the hyperthyroid and diabetes to contend with. We realized that her quality of life would be quite limited and we didn’t want to wait until it was too late. We just couldn’t see her suffer any longer. Besides, Hazel was 16 years old and had led a pretty good life — for a cat.

We got Hazel and her sister, Corky (real name: Corkscrew) from our friend in the summer of 1997, whose cat had just had a litter. Both parents were semi-feral and we were a bit worried that the kittens would grow up with a wandering eye for fields afar. We needn’t have worried with Hazel. While her sister Corky would be missing for days and even weeks at a time, Hazel was our watch cat. You could always see her on guard duty walking around the top of the fence and protecting our house from birds and snakes and mice. Once, I remember getting up at night to investigate some noise in our garage. When I opened the door, I saw two raccoons going after the cat kibble in a cabinet. (We used to leave the garage door open a bit for the cats.) I tried to get our dog Jasmine (a Black Lab mix) to at least take a few steps into the garage and start barking. No dice. The dog was hiding behind me! Then Hazel stepped lightly into the garage, got up on the hood of our van, puffed up to a slightly impressive size, and stared down the raccoons! I made a noise grabbing a broom and the raccoons left. Hazel, proud of her medal-worthy defense of hearth and home, got down from the van and walked into the house with the quiet assurance of a job well done.

When Hazel was young, she used to play regularly with our dog Jasmine. We would see them playing and Hazel would put her entire head into Jasmine’s mouth! Jasmine never bit down and just held Hazel’s head lightly in her mouth like she would a retrieved bird. Then she’d let go and the two would start playing again. I would often see one of Hazel’s claws caught in the loose skin around Jasmine’s mouth. It never seemed to bother the dog and the head-in-the-mouth game would be played again and again. Neither tired of it and it was a source of amazement for the whole family.

One of the funniest things she would do was when you were going to the bathroom. You would be sitting on the toilet and you would hear this scratching at the door. As you opened the door, there sat Hazel, staring at you, in all of your missing dignity. She would walk towards you and look up at you. There was nothing you could do except to scratch her under her chin. It’s as if she knew she had a captive audience and that you would give her a little bit of loving to forget about your undignified predicament.

Hazel lived with us at 4 houses, through 3 moves, and 16 years of unconditional love. When we got to the house we live in currently, Corky took off to live down the street because there is a wide open field for her to show off her hunting prowess. She lives with a new family now. As for Hazel, she ran the roost. Our next door neighbors had 3 cats and the cats had had full run of our property for over a year before we got there, without interruption. When Hazel showed up, somehow those other cats just knew that Hazel was in charge. She would be lying on the top of the fence (monorailing), with her back to a neighbor’s cat, and she wouldn’t flinch a muscle. The other cat would just turn and go back the way it had come. They would start fights with other neighborhood cats, but not with Hazel. Even as she got older, they gave her that type of respect animals seem to reserve for the elderly. Hazel would spend winter nights inside and summer nights outside. She never wandered away. Not once. As her playmate Jasmine’s condition deteriorated to the point where she couldn’t even climb the stairs (to sleep on her doggie bed at the foot of our bed during the night), Hazel seemed to know something was up. Sometimes, Hazel would spend the night downstairs too.

Then, in November of 2009, after 14 years of love, companionship, smiles, and finally, tears, we had to put Jasmine down. Today, it was Hazel’s time. As I drove her to the vet that final time, I tried to catch all of the traffic lights red; just so she could be with me for a few extra precious moments. But I caught them all green. Every one. It’s as if He was saying, “It’s okay to do this and to do it quickly. You’re doing the right thing.” I held her in my arms as she passed and I cried, not like a baby, but I sobbed aloud like an adult that feels the loss of a loved one.

Goodbye, Hazel-bayzel. It’s time to go play with Jasmine. She is waiting for you there.

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