A Tribute to Emma
Our beautiful and serene cat Emma passed yesterday after a rapid decline from a stroke and renal failure. We adopted Emma from the Heart and Soul Sanctuary in Glorieta, New Mexico, after a neighbor I met while hiking in the Sangre de Cristo mountains near Santa Fe handed me the business card of the sanctuary’s founder. Intending to adopt a dog to accompany me on my mountain hikes, my husband, Roger, and I drove to the Sanctuary, after stopping at the local cat and dog hospital to pick up a puppy at the request of Heart and Soul’s founder. They were short-staffed that day, and we had agreed to pick up Peter.
When we reached the front gate and entered on foot, Roger and I were surrounded by at least thirty dogs, all of whom wanted to greet Peter by sniffing him, notwithstanding the fact that I was carrying this little puppy, who was howling. I was jostled down the path, which since I had never owned or interacted with a dog, was more than a bit unnerving to me. By the time we reached the puppy house, I was ready to give up the idea of a dog and asked Roger, who was a cat lover, if he’d like to visit the cat compound instead. The moment we entered the cat compound, the energies around us softened from the raucous play of the dogs to the serenity that cats, especially older cats, seem to embody. We walked into the first house, and I looked around at the blankets, towels, slides, and feeding bowls that were arranged for the comfort of the cats. A lithe grey cat walked past us and caught Roger’s eye, but something drew me to look up to a high shelf on top of which was perched a chocolate and white tabby with big white paws, the biggest paws I had ever seen on a domestic cat. She was a polydactyl, and I thought she was the most beautiful cat I had ever seen. The serenity in the cat’s face was mesmerizing, and I was immediately smitten. I called Roger’s attention to the cat, and we both agreed that she was intended for us.
After signing the adoption papers, we started back to Santa Fe. I was driving, and Roger sat in the back with Emma. Emma purred all the way home. We set up her litter box in our sun room and placed her feeding dishes near the kitchen dining area. For the first week Emma kept to herself in the sun room, coming out when she needed attention and affection. Receiving both, she soon learned to trust us. Within two weeks she had become our lap cat and could usually be found on Roger’s lap or mine. She quickly established herself as the queen of all she surveyed. And she had two doting parents.
Emma’s daily routines included quiet time away from us. She would head through the cat door we had installed to the sun room and find a peaceful place to take a nap. Sometimes, she would head instead to the knitted throw we had placed for her on top of our front window book case. She had a panoramic view of the world from that spot, since it looked out over the Turquoise and Jemez Mountains, as well as Sandia Peak and the far-distant Mount Taylor, one of the sacred boundaries of Navajo country. Her routines never varied except when Roger had a serious car accident and recuperated at home for two months. Then she joined me in nursing him. She rarely left his side, perching on the bed and snuggling under the bedcovers. I knew Roger had turned a corner when Emma went back to her routines.
When we were called to Baltimore in June 2012 on a family emergency, we left Emma in the care of a caring and compassionate pet/house sitter, Emilie Clayton. While in Baltimore, we decided the time had come for us to return to the East Coast. Emilie cared for Emma until it was time for her to make the cross-country trip with our wonderful contractor, Jesus Diaz, contractor extraordinaire (renovations, repairs, and property management). We wondered if Emma would remember us, and how she would take to Babe, the cat we had adopted when his mother entered a nursing home.
We were shocked at Emma’s aggressive, territorial behavior. She made sure to show Babe that she was the boss,
and he could eat when she decided he could eat and he could sleep where she designated. I had to become Babe’s protector so he could eat and sleep unmolested. That was when Emma became Roger’s lap cat, and Babe sat next to me for comfort. Emma’s behavior toward me became very attention-seeking, leaving me little fecal and urinary presents all over our new condominium. At the moment I thought I could no longer be patient, I began corresponding with my mentors at A Healing Place. Their counsel made me think from my heart instead of exasperation. A thought crossed my mind that she was only acting as a threatened cat would and really wanted more affection from me. I meditated and looked within to determine if I could change my behavior toward Emma. With more frequent brushing and patient discipline, Emma eventually became motherly toward Babe and started grooming him. They even sometimes shared my favorite chair.
Shortly after we adopted Emma, we learned from our vet in Santa Fe that Emma had kidney disease and we needed to keep monitoring her as she aged. When we took Emma for her annual shots in Baltimore, we had more diagnostic blood work done. The results revealed that she was in stage two of renal failure. We were advised to feed her renal-protective food and to monitor her intake and output of fluids, as we had been advised in Santa Fe. We weren’t happy, though, with Emma’s treatment at that animal hospital so we looked for a different practice. Roger remembered a compassionate vet in Towson, and we took her there. Two months ago Emma suddenly fell to the floor as she was walking. She got back on her feet but had trouble walking. Roger, with his background in cardiovascular disease, immediately suspected a stroke. We took Emma to see our new vet, who after several diagnostic tests had ruled out other causes, suspected that Emma had thrown a clot to her leg.
Her decline was rapid after that. She began eating less and drinking more. A week ago Monday we took her to our vet again because she had stopped eating. We returned a few times last week. We learned that her blood urea nitrogen had skyrocketed to over 200. Normal is below 36 for a cat. Our vet was not hopeful. We took Emma home for the weekend, and by Sunday she was no longer able to walk without staggering. I cried all weekend. At the same time, I worked with Emma’s energies to keep her peaceful. On Monday morning, January 20, we returned to our vet. Roger started crying in the waiting room, and I joined him. When our vet saw Emma, he advised us that the time had come. We both said goodbye and stroked her as she was put to sleep. Our new vet was exceptionally kind, explaining to us before, during, and after what we should expect. We cried, however, throughout the procedure and afterwards. At the end our vet hugged me and shook Roger’s hand, telling us we had done all we could for Emma and she was now at peace.
Emma was a light in our lives, a teacher and a good friend. We will miss her!