Who Saved Who?

On Thursday, July 19th at 11am, I found out that my cat Kittums has cancer.  An aggressive lymphoma that had already reduced her to nearly half her body weight in only three weeks time.  The Veteranarian warned that she would almost certainly not survive until I finish my journey.  Kittums and I have been joined at the hip for 13 years and she may very well be the closest thing I will ever have to a child of my own.  It is baffling how illnesses such as cancer can just storm in and steal away something so happy and healthy that unbearably fast…  I do not understand.  All I know is that it was out of the question that she endure this process without me.

I immediately found a round trip plane ticket and arrived home in Nashville just in time.  My return flight to Nevada is on Tuesday, August 7th, and I will resume and complete A Vicious Cycle with only 385 short miles left to go.  I am preparing to say goodbye to Kittums while home, as she has such a very short time left to live.  I will be honest with you all: I am devastated to lose her.  This post is to honor her life, her love, and her memory.

Kittums has been by my side since coming home from my 14 month tour to Iraq, 2003 – 2005.  The sad truth is that a lot of my life before and shortly after my deployment is a vague, distorted blur.  I don’t know what it’s like to live without her because as far as my memory allows, I’ve really never had to.  I was a different person after returning from war and she has loved me without question or measure.  She has been my greatest joy, my safe place, my therapy, my light.  That little ball of fluff has been my rock behind the scenes.

Pets are family, and service animals deliver an unspoken understanding and level of healing that humans simply cannot.  They gauge your demeanor like mindreaders and will take in your happiness and pain as if it were their own.  You are their sole priority, their only focus, their entire universe.  Kittums has helped me power through more dark nights than I care to disclose.  Her light was always brighter than my darkness.  She is my confidant.  My constant.

The days begin and end with Kittums delivering smiles to my face and unwavering love, especially during my long stretches of isolation and seclusion.  She has been my daily go-to for peace, warmth, and refuge.  I don’t know how I can ever thank her enough, aside from pouring my love and gratitude into all of her remaining moments.

On the nights I am able to get tired, she positions herself centered on my chest until I fall asleep.  Her body warmed my heart and her rhythmic purring calmed my mind.  Before closing my eyes, for as long as I can remember, I would ask her: “Hey Kittum?  What did I ever do before you?  What will I EVER do without you…”

As I wept over her, she mustered up the strength to reach out and wrap her paw tight around my finger.  She pulled my hand into her chest, and looked directly into my eyes.  Suddenly, her message for me entered my mind as clear as day… She said, “Live Like My Love Made a Difference.”  So we made some keepsakes…  <3

On Tuesday July 31st, cancer took Kittums – she passed away in my arms shortly after I took our photo.  She stayed strong and fought to live until I got home to her, and remained so loving and beautiful, even though her very last breath.  It’s sobering, holding a small wooden box in my hands that used to be my best friend.  Less than an hour after she passed, I recieved this Facebook memories notification from 4 years ago, on this exact day.  Unreal…

Some of her ashes will accompany me on the remainder of my journey. Upon reaching the Pacific, I will scatter them along the shore and watch the waves sweep them away.  Last night, I created a tiny 1.5″ tall glass vile, which will help ensure her safe transport to my finish line: The Beautiful Golden Gate Bridge.

She was so very much a source of strength and love throughout my adult life.  I highly recommend a service pet for anyone who lives with daily social, mental, or physical ailments.  It is almost supernatural, the way they ease your soul and fill the voids in your mind, heart, and life.  Kittums showed up as a stray, but I’ve questioned every day: “Who Saved Who?”

I already miss you every minute.
…thank you forever, Sweetheart.

A Vicious Cycle post coming soon!