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Saturday, July 26, 2008

This post is about hockey, kittens, babies, heaven, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You've been warned.

On June 16th, 1998 the Detroit Red Wings swept the Washington Capitols to win their second straight Stanley Cup. The "16" was important, since it takes 16 wins in the playoffs to win the Cup. "16" was also the number of Vladimir Konstantinov, the Red Wing defenseman who was critically injured during a car crash shortly after their 1997 Cup Win. All year long the Wings wore a patch on their uniforms that said "Believe". For Vlad-y.

I am a Red Wings fan, but the 16th is important to me for a different reason. That afternoon we brought a little calico kitten home, just before Game 4 was to start. We named her Madison and she punched the older cats in the face and she licked beer from my chin as the Wings clinched the Cup.

Madison was our first daughter, in a way, and even though pet owners might shake their heads at this, she was clearly the favourite in the house. Hector and Puck, a year older and brothers to boot, just never did out-cute Madison. She was Emily's favourite living thing in the world, and I don't know that I'm kidding about that. Maybe a little, but it's a close call.

Maddy grew very ill just after Valentine's Day 2006. Her vet said that her kidneys had failed and that we ought to go home, say goodbye, and bring her in the next day to put her to sleep.

Emily and I were both complete and total wrecks. And in the middle of the night, in the middle of our grief, Emily said "No."

"No, I don't accept this."

The vet had told us that the UC Davis veterinary hospital actually had a feline kidney transplant program, but that Maddy was just too far gone for that to help. But in the middle of the night that sliver of hope was enough for Emily, and for me.

We brought her up to Davis the next day and then spent a week with her in the veterinary hospital, having her examined, stabilized, and hoping that a donor would come in. None ever did.

But it was during this process, the daily visits, the constant worrying about Madison's health and future quality of life, that Emily turned to me and said "Let's have a baby."

Even though no donor ever came in Maddy was stabilized enough to come home after a couple of weeks and then we began our long wait. Twice daily we would give her subcutaneous fluids and medication so that she would feel well enough to eat and put weight back on.

In early August 2006 Erin was conceived, and Maddy was still with us, six months after the vet had said we ought to put her to sleep; six months after Emily said "no."

In late April 2007 Erin was born, and Maddy was still with us. She met the little girl that love for her inspired us to have.

Maddy stayed with us until September 2007, 19 months after she would have died if Emily hadn't said "no." Once Erin was born the cats received a lot less attention, and so there was always a lingering feeling of either guilt, or that Maddy had just stayed long enough to say hello and goodbye to Erin.

Emily came to me in the kitchen a few days ago: "I had a dream about Maddy last night."

"I dreamt that she came to tell us that she was happy in kitty heaven and not to worry about her."

I almost couldn't look Emily in the face after she said this. It was quite possibly the most adorable thing she's ever said in my presence. I felt my heart grow like the Grinch's, bursting its walls and giving me superhuman strength and inspiration out of love for this divine woman.

And then, proving forever and to the entire world that I am married to the most perfect woman, she said: "It kind of reminded me of that part in Buffy when she comes back from the dead and she doesn't want to tell her friends that heaven was great because she doesn't want them to feel bad about bringing her back. Except I don't think Maddy would lie about it like that."

The only thing I could think to say to her after all of that crushing loveliness was: "You are writing my blog for me, you know."

38 comments:

Katie said...

I have a cat and I know that I'd do the same thing you and Emily did. In a heartbeat, and some people won't ever understand that.

Just like how I cannot understand the popularity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Much to my husband's dismay, I should add, because he can sing every single word to the musical episode (which is on his iPod) and has seen every episode ever.

That's how I know we're meant to be together. I finally found someone who's a bigger dork than me.

Whit said...

We had to have a kitten put down. It's a long story filled with tears and expensive vet bills. My point is that I get where you're coming from- and I don't even like cats. I'm a dog guy.

heather said...

I totally watched that episode of Buffy last night! Oh man, that show was so great.

Mary Beth said...

It's amazing what power these little balls of fur have over us. Our newest one we found when he was 10 days old so we were doing the every 4 hour feeding. And I know the pets I've lost will be waiting for me.

KT said...

This is simply an awesome post.

kittenpie said...

Hmmm. I wonder. I dont' usually remember dreams, if i even have them, but now I wonder if Ginger will come to me some day. Meanwhile, she's the wallpaper on the computer, so I still get to see her every day, even if it is a really grouchy-looking picture.

Headless Mom said...

Ha! Love it!

Amelia Sprout said...

I nearly cried... but I love that your wife is a geek too. Erin is so lucky, she was bred from good geek stock. Geeks rule.

Anissa@Hope4Peyton said...

That musical episode of Buffy was FLAT-OUT the best. And I've developed a little crush on your wife from her coolness in being able to parlay anything from that in your day to day life. That was precious.

Mommy Melee said...

Oh now I have that painfulpainful bit from Once More With Feeling absolutely stuck in my head.

I always had a hard time relating to (or even liking) Buffy Summers. But once in a while she'd really grab me by my imaginary balls.

Also, I believe in kitty heaven. And you and Emily are both awesome parents and awesome pet-parents. I am full of squee.

Nancy said...

I'm from the Big D ...so you know I concur about the fanfrckintastic Wings ... but I SO get the love for our four legged babies.

My Bichon is 11. Last year I paid over 2K for an operation on his leg. Most though I was nuts. Everyday he's curled up next to me, I know it was the right choice.

Busy Momma said...

awe, seriously. that is the sweetest thing.

catnip said...

Your title there? Some of my very favorite things. My cat follows me around all day, room to room to room. I don't know what I'd do without him.

Don Mills Diva said...

I have a cat named Horace who inspires me in the same way.

I don't know how you do it but I think your writing is getting better with every posy - this was fastastic.

for a different kind of girl said...

I've never seen an episode of Buffy. I have a friend at work who's supposed to lend me her box sets, but so far, no show. This doesn't make me happy, but how many times can you keep asking, I ask.

(I'm not sure if that last sentence should end with a period or a question mark. I'll just leave it with a period. I may go back up and put ellipses there instead. Trying to hold strong...)

I've never had a cat, either, but I had a dog once that nearly died within days of our acquiring him. I did the whole sit up with him, bundled in blankets, feeding with a tube thing. I don't get Buffy (though I probably would if that girl would just bring me her damn sets!), but I get the sentiment of this. Absolutely. You, and Emily, totally work,

Backpacking Dad said...

katie: Um, well, Sarah Michelle Gellar is completely hot and Joss Whedon is awesome. Go watch Dr. Horrible and then give Buffy another chance :}

whit: yeah, I grew up a dog guy too. Sometimes you just do whatever it is you have to do.

heather: yeah it was. I was watching the final season on DVD in the hospital after Erin was born. It's all linked up with some really raw emotions for me now.

mary beth: we did some bottle feeding with the two brothers.

kt: thank you

kittenpie: Maddy was pretty grouchy herself :}

headless mom: :}

amelia sprout: to clarify, I had no idea my wife was paying attention all those times I was watching Buffy :} It wasn't her thing, but, as with hockey and Star Wars she's done enough to keep up :}

anissa@hope4peyton: I will let her know that someone has a crush on her :}

mommy melee: I'm not sure I believe in kitty heaven, but it's pretty damn cute that my wife dreams about it.

nancy: Go Wings!

busy momma: aw, thanks.

catnip: I used to play hide and seek with Maddy. She always found me.

don mills diva: thank you. I think I'm done now, though. Seven posts in a week is a lot of writing and I'm pretty sure I've run out of anything interesting to say :}

Backpacking Dad said...

FADKOG: You will get Buffy. I promise.

Mel, A Dramatic Mommy said...

Hmm. You sound suspiciously like my husband (except for Buffy). Redwings, Star Wars, cats... You don't, by chance, happen to love football too?

MadWoman said...

Awwww.

I would do the same thing for my Tiggy boy.

Anthony said...

That is a good story. I had a kitten that had problems and was anorexic, but she had to be put to sleep ;( It was hard.

Badass Geek said...

You sap.

Flmomi said...

Woot GO WINGS... I was hugely preggers in 97, crying like a baby after the win I'd been waiting for all my life, in 98 a tired mom of an almost 1 year old, crying like a baby again...both times with my own first baby kitten Norman curled against me. We lost him last year after kidney crap, then heart failure at 13. My kids miss him as much as me.

Buffy is awesome, Once More With Feeling, BEST SHOW EVER! Dr. Horrible is genius, I heart the Wheldon bros

Anita the Ovolina said...

Pets, so so much love for them...
great post!
Anita
www.ovolina.com

Redneck Mommy said...

You totally wrecked a perfect post by mentioning the Wings.

Damn it.

But I bow down to Emily. Any woman who can use a Buffy analogy in a conversation is a woman after my own heart. Heh.

SciFi Dad said...

Cute post, blah blah blah.

I clicked over here after seeing you twit about troll swatting. Where are the trolls?!?

sam said...

Okay, I'm not a Buffy fan and I kinda dislike my cat.

You made me laugh with the Buffy reference and even made me like my cat again. Kinda.

Carolyn...Online said...

I loved that after Buffy was dead for a minute the next slayer was called up and we got to have two of them for awhile. Then of course there was the end of the end and Buffy did the swan dive and all we women were slayers.

Leanne said...

You'll probably hate me for this but I'm a dog person. Although I completely get your point. Your wife must have known that yoour cat just wasn't ready to go yet.

I actually made my way over here from a comment you left for Sarcasticmom and I just thought...Now this guy, I like.

Mrs. Chicky said...

Apart from the movie version I don't know much about Buffy but I do know that if I could I would give my dog a kidney.

Foz Meadows said...

Ah, Buffy - is there a real-life situation where I *can't* quote some bizarre anecdote from your world and make things better? My husband loves the show too, but he still rolls his eyes a bit whenever I say, 'Hey, this is just like that episode of Buffy where -'

Funny about cat dreams, though. The other night I dreamed about my childhood cat, Lulu, who I'd always privately suspected was the offspring of a rogue ocelot, escaped from the zoo. In the dream, she looked bigger than in life, like one of those serval hybrids. It was like, how I suspcted she'd always thought of herself. And she was happy to see me. She hunted some stuff through the long grass, we ran around, and then (as always happens in my dreams) some fantastic meance drove in a new storyline. But I woke up the next day, and my first hazy thought was, 'It's nice she's doing well.'

bejewell said...

Your wife just might be my new Jake Ryan.

Assertagirl said...

I have dreams about my dead kitty Phoebe all the time. They're comforting.

Spouses provide awesome blog fodder.

caramama said...

This was an awesome post! Your wife totally rocks. That was the perfect analogy, too, and I especially like the part that the cat wouldn't lie. Awesome.

Bonus points from caramama for referencing Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Our cat has a heart condition which rarely can be corrected and likely was to end in his early death. Daily medicine and many cat cardiology appointments later, he will be 9 years old in a couple weeks and is going strong. :-)

mek said...

I don't think there's a post titled better designed to catch my interest. Sweet.

Backpacking Dad said...

mel, a dramatic mommy: no, you know I've never been able to really get in to football. I don't know why.

madwoman: I tried to name a cat Tigger once but we ended up with Tiger instead.

anthony: wow. I believe that.

badass geek: Hi, I'm backpacking dad. I'm a sappy bastard.

flmomi: will you adopt me?

anita: thanks anita :}

redneck mommy: your oilers can eat it.

scifi dad: you have to go eat some red meat and pee on things for saying "cute" on a dude's blog. Let me know when you're finished.

sam: score!

carolyn online: actually, only all the potential slayers became full-on slayers. Not every woman is a potential slayer. :}

leanne: I'm a dog person too, born and raised :}

mrs. chicky: the movie was an abomination that deserves to be stabbed through the heart with a stake

foz meadows: sometimes my wife will say things to me like "I think you overestimate my interest in "The Karate Kid" " when I start geeking out too much.

bejewell: heh :}

assertagirl: yeah they do.

caramama: that's awesome

mek: dude.

Ange said...

I gotta tell you, your positivity, your love for your wive and family and your articulation of those feelings are a magnificent read...I love how you focus on the things that make you happy when you're speaking of your family. I've become a big fan of your blog...tps

Backpacking Dad said...

ange: aw, thank you.

The Flirty Girl said...

Awwww as a devoted animal lover this post really spoke to me. Loved the Grinch analogy. I could feel it.

So glad you had more time with Madison. Every moment is so precious.

:o)