Goodnight, Sweet Vixen

vixenatshelter80

I wasn’t supposed to like her.

I had gone to Central Dakota Humane Society looking for a calico, and there were a few. It was great fun meeting them all.

And then I was told there was one more in quarantine along with a sister and two brothers. They had been abandoned during the night at the shelter.

The calico was Patchie — You know her as Cricket these days. There was a black and white boy with an impressive overbite named Sylvester. There was a tumbly orange fella named Nipper. And lastly, there was an adorable doof with orange and white fur and a single canine tooth named Sophia.

I wasn’t supposed to like her.

As I sat on a chair inside the quarantine, Sophia came right up to me, stood up and put her front feet on my leg to check me out, purred, hopped into my lap and then hopped on my shoulder like a parrot.

And then she hopped into my heart.

On the day after Christmas in 2012, I went home with both Patchie/Cricket and Sophia, who later became Vixen for her fox-like colors. There were five years old or so, but December 26 became their new birthday.

If I had to describe Vixen in one word, I’d say she was the most enthusiastic cat I’ve ever met. Always full of life, always full of purrs, and with eyes always filled with a playful and mischievous sparkle. She ran like a cheetah, leaped like a leopard, and played like a hopped-up kitten.

And she loved. Oh man, did she love.

When I’d come home from work and open the door from the garage, she’d be waiting on the first carpeted step heading upstairs. She’d pace and mewp as I’d approach, then stand up against the wall and wouldn’t be satisfied until I brought my head down to hers for a boopy eskimo kiss.

Her favorite spot was my leg. When I’d sit on the couch, it wouldn’t be long until she was on her human ledge. I was her Pride Rock. She’d jump up on it from the floor. She’d carefully convey herself across from the coffee table. But mostly, she’d sneak in from behind, pushing her head through between my arm and body like a fuzzy battering ram until I lifted the gate for her. And then she’d perch. And purr. And look back at me every minute or so. And then purr even more.

Cricket and Vixen were perfect together. They played with each other. They chased each other, alternating chaser/chasee roles throughout the day. They groomed each other. They occasionally had disagreements with each other but they always quickly made up and ended up snoozing together in one of many feline cuddle-pretzel formations.

Earlier this year, Vixen lost some of her spirit and became listless. During a vet visit, they discovered an abscess on her neck as they were getting her ready for an x-ray. They figured that must be the problem so they lanced it, gave me some meds (for her, not me) and Vixen and I headed home.

She really didn’t improve, so we went back to the vet at the end of the week and they got the x-rays taken that time. The doc called me back to show the x-rays to me and showed me where there was some inflammation in the lungs. Told me it was probably an infection, but could be cancer. He recommended keeping Vixen at the clinic for the weekend so they could medicate her intravenously and hopefully wipe out whatever was affecting her, so that’s what we did. They let me visit her after hours on Saturday and when they were closed on Sunday so I still got some quality Vixen time in.

vixenpatient62580

When I brought her home on Monday, things quickly got back to normal, except for the punk-poodle haircut on her neck and shaved front foot. Vixen, Cricket and I made up for lost time and had lots of fun.

It was a great few weeks, and eventually, Vixen’s fur had almost completely grown back in.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Vixen started slowing down again. Early last week, I noticed she was a bit squinty in one eye, so I looked closer and saw her face was a bit swollen on one side. Right around the area of her one remaining tooth.

So back to the vet on June 1. The doc checked her out and along with treating the abscess, she said she was going to check out the tooth. We decided if it was infected, they’d extract it. It was infected. They extracted it. When I picked her up, they had also given her a couple of injections and sent us home with some Zydaclin (once again, for her, not me).

Vixen now had a Cookie Monster mouth, a fauxhawk on the side of her face, and was a totally mellow kitty for the rest of Wednesday. She did manage to get me to give her two servings of wet food that night — After she wolfed down the first, she sat like a sphinx in the kitchen with the bowl between her front legs until I gave her another course. That was the first time she had ever done that.

Thursday was a perfect day. Cricket had helped Vixen clean up during the night, and Vixen woke up full of life (more than usual, actually). Ate her dry food well except when she’d look back at me and the food would fall out of the side of her mouth, but this was normal for her. A couple fun hours before work, and a boisterous evening of playing, petting and purring.

Vixen appears to be loving life again. Full clip. (Sound on for maximum purr payoff.)

A video posted by Clayton Hove (@adtothebone) on


Last Thursday was our last perfect day.

Friday evening, everything changed. No more playing. A little purring but not much. She kept pretty much to the heated kitty bed I got them earlier that year in a scheme to keep them off my computer (didn’t work). She seemed a bit uncomfortable, but I attributed that to what she had gone through.

Saturday morning was the last time she went downstairs to use the litter box. You could start to hear her trying to breathe. Stopped eating. Stopped drinking. Stayed in or hung around the kitty bed. No playing. No purring.

By Sunday morning, her breathing was getting worse. I wanted her to have some food in her, so that morning, I went to the grocery store and got her some meat/meath broth baby food. Using a method I learned a while back when Cricket got sick, I mixed the baby food with water and fed her with a large syringe I was normally using to chase her meds with some water. She swallowed the food without much fuss but didn’t particularly enjoy it. Little to no movement except for shifting position once in a while. Her breathing got more labored. And me, more worried. I started putting a dish with some baby food by the bed along with a little dish of water, just in case she wanted to try eating or drinking on her own.

Didn’t get much sleep Sunday night. I kept waking up and going downstairs to check on her. She had a very rough night and morning.

The clinic got Vixen back in Monday morning. The vet ran some blood tests but those came back looking pretty normal. I agreed to x-rays and they showed her lungs riddled with inflammation. Said it might be infection, but Vixen’s white blood cell count wasn’t elevated, which was strange. Said it might be cancer. Like last week, it was a very kind doctor, and she spend a good deal of time talking with me. She prescribed Vixen some Prednisolone pills to help her fight the inflammation (and hopefully make her want to eat and drink again) and a tech showed me how to pill-dose Vixen (the Zydaclin was liquid). Also told me to pick up a can of some nutrient-dense wet food at the reception desk but I forgot with all that was going on.

I took Vixen home, pet her a bit and went back to work. Grabbed the food on my way home. Vixen wasn’t doing well. I successfully got the pill in her (chased with water) and got a little bit of food in her a couple times that evening. Cricket kept wanting to get into the bed and cuddle with Vixen. Vixen wasn’t into it that night so she’d crawl out and either flop down right by the bed or go behind the sofa or love seat. Things didn’t seem to improve with the added Prednisolone but I figure she only had two doses so maybe she’d be better in the morning.

Again, I kept waking up and going down to check on her throughout the night.

Tuesday morning had me scared. She was even worse and it took her a considerable effort to breathe. I went back home at noon to check on her and feed her. Kneeled down in front of her right into some pee. Ugh. Did a quick cleanup of the carpet. Fed her some and pet her some, and then on a whim, looked up Zydlaclin online. The first listed side effect was allergic reaction – labored breathing. Maybe? Maybe not? But maybe? This little nugget of info gave me newfound hope.

I changed pants, went back to work and called the clinic. I was told the doc was at lunch but I left a message about what I read and if I should stop giving it to and/or try something else. When I didn’t get a call, I called back toward the end of the work day and found out the doc was at their other clinic. Called there but the doc was busy. The message hadn’t been forwarded. So, I left another message to please call and why.

After work, I ran to PetCo for one of those pet mess finder lights (Not counting the puddle I found the hard way, I knew of one other place she had peed and knew there were probably others.) and a fresh syringe. They were out of syringes, so I went to Target, but couldn’t find any there. Ran to CVB and they gave me a couple of free ones. (Thank you, CVB.) No call back and the clinic was now closed.

Made it home around six. Poor Vixen. Breathing was hard for her but about the same as that morning. But she looked worse. Pet her. Fed her. Pet her some more. Tried to keep Cricket off her. Gave her the Prednisolone but decided to skip the Zydaclin, just in case. Wasn’t sure how long the antibiotic would stay in her system but couldn’t bring myself to give her another dose in case is was making things worse. Washed some pants. Stayed with her until around eleven last night, then went to bed. Kept waking up every hour and going down to check on her. After the first check, she had moved behind the couch and was breathing very hard. Each time, I reached back and pet her as best as I could.

After checking on her at around 4am, I went back to my bedroom and an idea popped in my head that maybe in the morning, I could check her into the clinic and they could medicate her better through an IV like they did earlier that year. Yeah. That’s what I’ll do. And then she’ll get better and things will be back to normal again!

I was still awake at a little after 4:30am when I heard a strange and rather loud meowing from downstairs. Cricket was usually the only one who meowed but that wasn’t her. It was not a good meow. I ran downstairs and Vixen emerged from the side of the couch farthest from the kitty bed. Walking. Walking! She hadn’t walked since Sunday! Why is she meowing? Is she thirsty? She’s meowing because she’s thirsty! She must be better! I rushed to the kitchen and grabbed the syringe and some water but when I got back into the living room, she had disappeared. She was still making those unsettling, heart-piercing meows which after a moment told me she was behind the love seat. I couldn’t reach her so I pulled the love seat away from the wall. She had collapsed behind it. I picked her up and brought her to the kitty bed, petting her and talking to her. I tried to give her a little water but that wasn’t it.

I can’t bring myself to write about what she went through over the next few minutes.

I was petting her and trying to sooth her when she took her final breath at around a quarter to five.

I sobbed for an hour.

I went for a towel and set it down by Vixen.

I picked up Vixen.

No purrs.

No nuzzling.

No looking at me with her sparkling eyes.

Oh God. Her little tongue.

I wrapped Vixen in the towel and carried her to the car.

After cleanup up the living room carpet a bit, I went to the kitchen to wash my hands.

While I was washing, Cricket came up to me, twitched her tail and told me it was time to pet her.

I lost it again.

Cricket and I hung out for a while, then I went to go shower.

While I was getting ready after the shower, Cricket wandered around the house meowing with that special meow cats do with a question mark at the end.

I lost it again.

Cricket’s going to need a new buddy, but I can’t think about that today.

I calmed myself down and called the vet clinic before they opened. Lost it again while trying to leave the message, then hit the star key instead of the pound key when I was done so the message probably didn’t get saved or sent.

I hung out with Cricket for a bit more, then left to drive Vixen to the clinic. Their doors were open, so I went inside, told them what happened and then lost it again while asking about the options. They were very kind and patient and helped me make my choice. I will have her ashes in two or three weeks, which will give me time to figure out what to do with them. Right now I’m thinking my back yard or some other place with a lot of trees, so she can watch the birds like she so loved to do.

Vixen was one of the most wonderful and amazing cats I ever had the privilege of knowing. I will cherish every happy moment I had with her, but will always wish I had many, many more.

I wasn’t supposed to like her.

So I loved her instead.

vixencloseup62580

25 thoughts on “Goodnight, Sweet Vixen

  1. Steven Hill

    I am so sorry for your loss. This has struck me very close to home. I had one cat, Maxx, that died from diabetes when he was 8, and another Blackstrap that passed away in my arms after being hit by a careless/callous driver. They say that they are only cats, and I can truly say that they are full of shit. If they were only cats, they wouldn’t touch our hearts so much.

  2. Terri

    Oh Clay, I am so sorry. She had a wonderful life with you. Sending healing thoughts your way.

  3. mathcat345

    Rainbow Bridge

    Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers.

    Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

  4. Melanee Dark (@YoBigMel)

    I’m so sorry 🙁 My sweet orange and white kitty Flanagan passed in almost this exact way and I was with him in those early morning hours and it seared my heart wide open with pain to watch him deal with the end and finally pass. So please know that I know your pain too well and am so, so very sorry for it. It’s been 7 years and I still cry over that sweet soul. Godspeed to your Vixen and hugs to you. You gave her love and that’s everything. xoxo

  5. Scott Henke

    No love of human as pure, true, constant, unconditional. Beautifully and rightfully expressed Clayton. I have been dig vs car my entire life, solidified by allergies until 2 years ago. Murray (cuz she is amazing in Stripes) found us and slowly went from coldesac to home, to heart, so I truly raise a glass to Vixen tonight, and to you.

  6. Anne Scherbina

    I’m so sorry, Clay. When you’re ready, I recommend you check out Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die by Jon Katz. It was a great source of comfort to me when Bosco passed and I hope it will be for you.

  7. MsDarkstar

    I lost my mancat Willow a little over a week ago, so this was a very relateable post. I’m so very sorry that you and Cricket have lost your beautiful friend, Vixen. Wishing you all the best in the coming days.

  8. Troy Woodcox

    I didn’t get a chance to read this when you initially posted so I bookmarked it and just finished reading it. This is a heart warming and wonderful retelling of the friendship between two cats and the person they chose to call dad. My heart goes out to you and while now isn’t the time to think about this, whichever cat yourself and Cricket choose to bring into your family will clearly have won the lottery.
    Thank you again for taking the time to share this story and I’m so sorry for your loss.

  9. @aronsolomon

    I’m so sorry, man. I love all the pics you post of them and know that this is an immensely hard loss for you both. She clearly had a truly amazing life with you.

  10. Just Megan (@AptlyMegan)

    Nothing like the unconditional love of our kitty friends. So sorry for your & Cricket’s loss. Really enjoyed seeing all their pictures. Reading this brought me to tears, remembering saying goodbye to my Baby Cleo in December after 16 years.

Leave a Reply