Is there any way to write about someone truly special when aching sadness is far too deep and the overwhelming grief too unbearably painful to be poured into words? When all we are capable of thinking about is how wonderful it would be if we could turn back time? When memories of happy days from the past are valued much more than the sad thoughts of the grim present? When our desperate clinging to hopes and dreams and maybes and what-ifs abruptly ends, leaving us with nothing but insufferable emptiness?
Our sweet boy Ian is gone. After almost a month of his undaunted, stout-hearted struggle for life, his frail little body just couldn’t take it anymore. He was so weak over the last few days that he could barely lift his head, but his eyes were still clear and sparkling and his bright yellow gaze was telling a different story – he was refusing to be defeated. Even though he was putting an enormous effort into bearing any weight on his back legs while staggering towards a familiar voice, he was making it clear he wouldn’t give up. He was only a year and a half and just a month ago he seemed to be a cheerful youngster growing into the gorgeous, powerful kitty boy he would’ve become, an amazing, joyous creature without a care in this world, who was making every day count. But we should’ve known by now that life is unfair and way too often, the best die young, like shooting stars, like fleeting glimpses of divine light…
Our striking little guy was around eight months old when he arrived at the shelter in August of 2015. He was most likely born on the street, where he had been living all of his life together with his kitty friends, until all of them were poisoned and he was the only one left standing. Thanks to some incredible luck, he managed to escape the same fate and became the sole survivor. Even the sheer odds of him staying alive in this place for much longer were slim to none. However, he was obviously born under a lucky star (or at least he seemed to be lucky at the time) as we were deeply touched by his sad life story and simply couldn’t resist his sweet, unique little face, so we took him in as quickly as we could.
Adored by many, he had been thriving at the shelter until he suddenly became unwell approximately a month ago; his gate was unsteady and he was oddly limping on both back legs. The thorough vet exam (which included blood work and X-rays) revealed not only that he had a fever of over 40 degrees C, but also had a hairline fracture of the lumbar spine and an air rifle pellet lodged behind his sternum close to his lungs. We put him in the cage, as he mustn’t be allowed to jump until his vertebrae healed completely. He was enduring his imprisonment stoically at first, but a few days later we were forced to let him out of the cage as he became deeply depressed and rapidly started to shut down. He enjoyed sunbathing in the yard and spending his time amongst the other cats, so that’s exactly what he was doing from that point on, although his back legs were still wobbly and he kept tiring easily. We all thought that was it, just an old injury and an unfortunate accident… Regrettably, we couldn’t be more wrong.
As Ian was FIV positive, the vet supposed the recent injury to his spine was the trigger to the weakening of his immune system and over the next couple of weeks his serious health issues kept on piling up one after the other. It turned out he was also infected with the feline herpes virus, his nose was blocked, he stopped eating and the parasitic blood infection (haemobartonellosis) he had ultimately led to hepatic encephalopathy. Things were quickly going from bad to worse – he began showing neurological symptoms, his head was shaking uncontrollably as if he had temporary head tremors, but he was still fighting. He received IV fluids for hours every single day, coming back home completely drained and exhausted and yet he found some inner strength to climb his most-liked wooden platform to catch the last rays of the setting sun. His bravery and fierce determination were literally leaving us choked up and breathless.
Unfortunately, our sweet boy was dealing with too many serious problems at the same time and little by little they were taking their toll – he was rapidly getting weaker. At one point I guess we all knew he was losing his battle, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell the vet to put him down. He was a fearless fighter, one of the most amazing furry creatures I have ever had the honor to meet and it was crystal clear that he should leave only when he was ready, on his own terms. He wasn’t in pain and as long as there was life, there was hope. Swiftly fading, but hope nonetheless.
Sadly, the end had to come. Ian passed away peacefully at the vet’s, but he was barely conscious when he arrived at the ambulance and he probably thought he was still at home surrounded by his friends – in his last moments of being able to see and understand, the place he knew and loved was the last thing he was looking at. After countless pricks of the needle, weeks of aggressive treatment, days of trying the impossible, the force-feeding and waiting for a miracle, his hard fought battle was finally over.
Godspeed and goodbye for now, my valiant little hero. We’ll meet again one day, never to be parted again. Fly free, my precious darling, I know your wings were ready but my heart was not. No one will ever take your place.
Wait for me, sweetie and let your light shine bright while you soar among the stars. Loving you has been a privilege.