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Monday, 8 April 2013

The Worst Happened in the Best Possible Way

I just lost the best pet and companion I've ever had. Stimpy, my ferret, who has been with me for five years, died at home in my arms. I'm grateful that I had the chance to say a real goodbye. I'm grateful I wasn't out running errands, and I wasn't asleep when it happened. Shortly before he died he touched his nose to mine a couple of times, more aware of his surroundings than he has been for some time, so he said goodbye to me, too.

This news has been a long time in coming. He's been sick, off and on, for a couple of years. It wasn't until a few months ago that we had any idea what was even wrong with him. It turned out to be cancer, both in his kidneys and in his pancreas. I've been syringe-feeding him for about a week now, and as much as I hoped for a better outcome, I was more or less prepared for the worst.

Stimpy has been with me during the most difficult time of my life. He got me through the end of my marriage. He got me through the loss of one of my cats. He got me through my misery and despair while I have been laid up with disabilities I'm slowly working on getting repaired. He got me through extremely difficult financial times when my savings were depleted because I could no longer run a business. These last five years have been terrible, but he managed many times a day, every single day, to make me smile. He's always made me laugh and smile even when I thought nothing could possibly go right in my life.

I have so many wonderful memories of Stimpy. There was a time when I didn't think I would be able to survive his loss, but I've had time to adjust to some extent, and I know that I will eventually be okay. It hurts me that nothing could be done for him, but I know that everything that could be was actually done. We got the tests he needed done, and had him on medication that made the last four weeks of his life far better than they could have been without it. About a week ago he actually had playtime where he got a little feisty and made a couple of dooking sounds (a noise ferrets make when they play). He was even playing with toys and bouncing around the room a bit.

Just today I have the memory of giving him a quick bath (he's been very weak so he had a bit of a messy accident). The bath revived him to the point where he was very aware, and he was snuggled inside his towel in my arms for quite a while, looking right into my eyes. Even then he was trying to eat, if only to please me, trying to fight what we both knew was coming. He could only take a little bit at a time, and then would have to turn his head away as it was making him nauseous.

I have the tactile memory of the feel of his soft fur, his wet nose touching the tip of mine, and his whiskers going up my nose when he used to stand on my chest to wake me up. I remember him pointing to his 'stuff' up on top of the dresser (his 'stuff' being either the laxative or his vitamin paste - they both come in a tube and he loved them like crazy) with his nose, and then him looking at me and then back at the top of the dresser, demanding in his silent way that I give him his treat. I was planning on getting his footprints to have a tattoo done on my knee where he used to put his front paws while he was making his demands, but I didn't get a chance. I couldn't bring myself to do it while he was so sick, and now that he's gone I know I won't do it. I just can't. I will have to think of something else now, but I'll decide on that when I'm ready.

There is a part of me that is relieved, because I didn't have to make the decision to have him put to sleep. I don't believe he was in pain until the very end, and once I saw that he was I made the decision that it was time, but he made the decision for me. I am also relieved that he will no longer feel the nausea and weakness he's been feeling.

The fact that it happened at home meant that we were able to bring Pepper, our other ferret, over to his body so that he would hopefully understand what has happened. The first thing Pepper has been doing for upon waking, for years now, has been to go looking for Stimpy. He would run all over the apartment to look for him. I can only hope he understands that Stimpy is truly gone, because it will break my heart if I have to watch Pepper search for him and not find him.

Today I lost my baby boy. It had to happen, and was going to happen, so it was best that it happened the way it did, but my heart isn't any less broken. As much as it hurts me right now, I can only wonder how it will feel later once it sinks in. Grief comes in stages, I know, and this is probably only the beginning for me. From the day I brought him home I feared this day. Now I'm facing that fear and loss, but I really don't think it has hit me yet.

We'll be taking Stimpy to the vet's office to have him cremated. This will be the first time I've chosen to keep the ashes of a pet, and maybe others will think that it's silly, but I just can't bear to have him completely gone from my home and my life. I know a body means nothing, and ashes even less so, but I still need to keep him with me. I've had a lot of pets in my life, but have never been so attached to one as I have to Stimpy. By the end, though, I was telling him it was okay to go if he needed to go. I would not have him suffer, and I don't think he did.

So, I say goodbye to Stimpy. I fervently hope that we will one day be together again. He was a joy to me, and everyone around him, from the day I brought him home. He had a short life, even for a ferret, only living about five and a half years, but in that time he did far more good than he will ever know.

Stimpy - August 2007 to April 8th, 2013