Ten years ago (on Labor Day weekend), I made the drive to Columbus, GA to adopt my sweet, sweet Runner.
A little less than two months ago, we made the heart breaking decision to put Runner to sleep. It’s taken me this long to process, and to even write about it. I wasn’t going to post about it, but that made me feel as if I was guilty of doing something wrong, and I’m not. [Before anyone gets judgmental, please note that I’ve judged myself and torn myself up about the decision leading up to, during, and after it. Also, I cried my eyes out writing this – so if you’re at work or wearing mascara, giving you an alert that you could cry too…]
When we first moved into our new house in 2012, Runner and Birdie seemed to LOVE having all of the extra space. They ran around, played, and Runner’s personality pre-Birdie seemed to come back. I was ecstatic.
A couple months in, we started finding urine stains in different places around the house. It was strange, we never had issues with this before we moved into our house, but we weren’t sure which one of the boys was doing it.
We later spotted Runner after marking a wall, and promptly took him to our old vet to get him checked out. He had a clean bill of health, but she noted that maybe it was brought on by me being pregnant and him realizing things were different. It was a plausible thought, but this started up before I got pregnant.
We tried pheromone diffusers to help him calm down, they didn’t work. We tried a different cat sand, didn’t work. We tried different medicines, they also didn’t work.
I blamed it on the house, as a former cat hoarder owned the house. The company that purchased the house completely ripped everything up (so they say), so it shouldn’t have been an issue, but it was.
Countless pieces of furniture were ruined, closet doors warped, floor boards warped, carpet stained.
We tried numerous urine cleaners with enzymes, black lights, etc. Nothing. Worked.
More vet visits (to our new vet, and my hometown vet), different drugs tried, and nothing helped. We’d have a few good days, but it’d always would go back to the bad.
I blamed Birdie. Surely he did something to knock Runner off kilter, perhaps attacked him while he was using the sandbox one day. Added more sand boxes to the house, we had four strategically placed ones so he could go in peace. *Sigh* It didn’t work.
Late last year, after trying everything I possibly could, I considered finding him another home.
And it broke. my. heart.
I promised to take care of him for the rest of his life, and here I was considering finding him a new place. I’ve always hurt for animals whose owners gave them away when they had kids or something else came up. By now, B was definitely mobile, and definitely loud. Runner has always hated noise. He used to hide when I pulled pans out to cook.
He couldn’t live with just anyone though, it had to be someone that I could trust to look after him, and not do anything drastic if it didn’t work out.
My parents stepped up to the plate.
Towards the end of 2014, Runner moved in with my parents.
That first weekend he peed on my dad’s pants laid out for church.
And had a few more incidents over the course of the next few weeks. This wasn’t working out. I was hysterical. What on earth was happening???
My parents agreed to keep him until we got back from the Grammy’s in February, and at that point I felt like it was time to make the dreaded decision. I’d set an appointment with the vet, took the day off from work, and spent the night (up all hours) before the appointment researching anything and everything I could to find a different solution or option.
The vet indicated there was one other option we could try, but after that he didn’t have hope that anything else would work. The downside of the option, there was a 50/50 chance Runner could develop cancer. Great.
With the mindset of trying every available option, we moved forward with this hormonal medicine, and restricting him to a smaller area in the house (our guest bed room). I thought it was working at first, he was happy, it was a quiet area, and he didn’t have Birdie or B to bother him. Visits were friendly, lots of love given and received.
But the medicine didn’t work.
In addition to the medicine not working, every time I cleaned up a urine spot, or spent extended time with Runner, Birdie (who hadn’t seen Runner since before Christmas), would attack me. My legs if he noticed the smell before I crawled into bed, or worse, my head if he noticed it while I was sleeping. I lost track of the number of times I awoke to intense pressure from a rather hefty cat lunging at my head. Or the number of times I pulled the comforter over my head because I was scared of an impending attack.
Everyone in our house (with the exception of B) was anxious and stressed in their own way.
And it was my fault.
On July 17th, I took Runner in for another vet appointment. We’d been trying the hormones for five months, with no improvement.
Our vet looked at me with a sad face, and said if this option didn’t work, nothing else was going to.
And I lost it.
I knew what I had to do. Runner’s quality of life, living alone in our guestroom, wasn’t what he deserved, but we couldn’t let him have free reign of the house. Josh and I had some pretty tense moments over the past 3.5 years of dealing with this situation, and it wasn’t fair to him to have to live this way either.
That afternoon, I scheduled the last appointment of the day on July 18th, still in disbelief that this was happening. I spent the night in the guest room with Runner, loved on him, and let him keep me awake all night with his purring and pawing at my face.
I feel like it would have been so much easier to handle this if he would have truly been physically sick. I wouldn’t do anything drastic with a loved one if they had a mental illness, but that’s what I was doing with Runner.
That morning, we all said our good-byes. B fed Runner treats, and was excited that Runner actually let him pet him.
The second guessing continued.
I forced myself out of the house that morning, bawling my eyes out on the way to the vet. I called my Mom, so she could say good-bye to Runner as well. He meowed, and I’m fully convinced that he knew what was going on. And I felt awful.
We were ushered into the exam room that was already setup for the procedure, I couldn’t get any words out of my throat when the vet tech asked me a question. She promptly handed me a box of tissues.
I held on to my sweet boy the remainder of his precious life (and them some). It took me awhile to leave, as I attempted to convince myself that I, in fact, was not a failure. That there was nothing else I could have done. That this wasn’t my fault.
Our sweet vet told me that the number one reason felines are put to sleep is due to improper urination. He quickly followed up that I had literally done EVERYTHING I could have, and that I shouldn’t feel guilty about this decision. He stated the he knew that I would, and I do, but I’d hung in there longer than most anyone else would have.
As the days have passed, I’ve started feeling less guilty, but I still miss my sweet Run-Run, and I’m fairly certain that I always will.
He was my first furbaby. He was my companion during my single days. He’s the one that made me smile when I was sad. He was mine and Josh’s first shared responsibility once we were married. He watched over B as a baby.
And now, he’s watching over us.