Sunday, February 22, 2015


My cat, Diablo, passed away February 10th at the age of 17 (which would be about 85 in human years). He was my old man, my buddy, my cat, and I was his human. I've been trying to write this since then, but it's a sad reminder that he isn't here - it's been hard to focus on, as you can imagine. It's turned into a sort of rambling story of his life and is more for me than anyone else. He was my baby before I had a baby so he holds a special place in my heart.

I sort of knew his passing was coming, but was still heartbroken that it happened, of course. He'd been sick for some time, but stable so we were constantly hopeful that we would continue to have him around. But I've lived with him for 16 long years so I could sense the time was coming - I just didn't know it would be this day.

When Diablo 11, it was Jesse who insisted we take Diablo into the doctor after he noticed that he was vomiting more than usual. It was then that we discovered that he was in renal failure. They told us that Diablo could have two months or two years to live - that it was hard to tell. We were besides ourselves. Even Jesse cried harder than I've ever seen him cry when we got the news. We did the best we could to care for him by changing his diet to a low protein one and making sure he stayed hydrated... and then hoped for the best. We realized that at 11 we should be lucky to have him for another couple years. Little did we know that he would bless us with his presence until he was 17.

When he first came home from the hospital all drugged up.

We had a scare a few years ago when his tests came back high in calcium. This can signal a number of things, but it's often a sign of cancer. We did a whole bunch of tests and they all came back with nothing. It was always a struggle knowing how far to go with the tests, but after multiple tests that came back clear we decided to wait it out and see what happened. The doctor's determined that the cause was idiopathic and that we would just continue to test him every 6 months as we had been.

We last visited the vet around September and all the tests came back like before. Essentially, he was stable. But I started to get this feeling that this would be the year that Diablo would leave us. There were subtle signs like how he didn't sleep in bed with me every night anymore. Even with arthritis he made it up and down stairs multiple times a day (I know this because his favorite water dish was upstairs and he would suck that dry every day) so I knew it wasn't that. Sometimes I'd bring him up with me, but sometimes I just let him do his thing. I do think he was losing his eyesight (he had cataracts for sure and his eyes were a little glazed over) so maybe he was less likely to make that trip when it was dark.

Whatever he was going through it was hard for me to let go of our nightly cuddle. Jesse learned early on that Diablo would do his best to squeeze in between us even if it meant crawling on top of us until we moved. Sometimes he would be fine with spooning on the outside, especially if he was allowed under the covers (he loved to be under the covers sooo much), but I think he enjoyed being surrounded by both of us. He was just a snuggler.

In the last couple months it also seemed that he was less interested in his food, but he was still eating. This has happened in the past and we'd have to change up his food to a different flavor or brand (and we did about a month ago and he seemed to like it), but then a few days before he died he pretty much stopped eating. I wasn't totally sure, but I started to watch him more closely and confirmed he would only eat a bite or two and walk away... and many times he would just look at the food and then walk over to his catnip toy.

I decided on Monday (Riley's birthday) that I would bring him in the next morning. Something was wrong. I prepared myself that they might tell me it was time. I'd been thinking about this for so long and never wanted to be in the spot to make a decision about his life, but I knew I might have to. I knew something was really wrong when I woke at 4 am on Monday to Diablo trying to 'clean up' where he peed in the bed. He'd never ever done that before. (My only comfort here was that I felt him cuddling with me shortly before this happened. It would be our last cuddle.)

I was able to get him into the vet where they decided to run a full panel. They hydrated him and gave him some vitamin B12. The vet mentioned that sometimes cats will get dehydrated and stop eating because of that, but once hydrated it will kick things into gear so they eat again. He had lost over a pound since September and I suspect much of that had been in the last month or so. They also showed me a sample of his urine which was super dark.

I headed home after the vet said Diablo did a great job getting his blood drawn. I was supposed to start work at 11:00 that day and remember thinking I was only going to be a few minutes late, but then Diablo started crying out in pain... and then panting hard. He was sprawled out on the floor, obviously in distress. We were all there... Jesse, Riley, Lucy (our other cat) and myself. It was horrible. I scooped him up and went right back to the vet. They tried to give him oxygen and an IV, but he passed away before they could do so.

The vet clearly felt bad and wasn't sure what sent Diablo into distress. He suspected it could have been a blood clot since he thought he looked anemic (his gums were pale as opposed to a brighter pink), but he couldn't say for sure. I declined to have an autopsy, but the vet said he might run some of the tests anyway as he wanted to know (but wouldn't charge me). I really do like my veterinarian hospital and feel like all he doctors there have been invested in Diablo's health over the years. Even though Diablo might not have died that day if I hadn't brought him in I knew he would have died soon.

Jesse and Riley came to the vet separately, not knowing that Diablo had died. I had called Jesse during the few moments the vet staff was working on Diablo and asked him to come as I was afraid I would need to make a tough decision. When they arrived Diablo and I were in a special room they moved us to after he passed away. I didn't think I'd have Riley see him laid out on the table (eyes and mouth still open), but once she was in the room it seemed ok to do. She walked over to him and gave him some loving pats to the head and didn't seem scared at all. Probably because she doesn't fully get the concept of death yet, but she did seem to understand that he would not be coming home with us. Jesse and Riley headed home while I made final arrangements for his cremation (we will scatter him in the yard and plant something in memory of him. Jesse wants to plant the Diablo Ninebark) and for a clay paw print to be made.

Throughout the day Riley mentioned how much she missed Diablo and wished he could be with us. She kept saying that he loved us and we loved him so much. Riley and Diablo weren't really all that close (as a senior cat he sort of avoided the rambunctious child), but there were plenty of times that Riley would pet and kiss Diablo and it was always so sweet.

When I think back on all the years that Diablo was with us I have so many memories and realize that some of his 'things' he's favored through the years have changed. Jesse and I have been having many moments of "remember when Diablo did this..." and so I want to make sure to capture them all here.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dear Diablo,

Who knew 16 years ago of the life we'd have together. I remember going to the Animal Human Society and spending a good two hours there. I found you, but went home without you. You were younger than I was looking for and weren't declawed (I didn't want to make that difficult decision myself, but would eventually declaw you as you drew blood every time we held you). I was looking for a cat that had left that kitten phase and thought two years old was the magic number, but you were only a year old... although later my vet would say he thought you were actually a year and a half.  I returned, though, and brought you home ready to make you a part of the family. I just couldn't resist you.

In those early days you were still so playful and would one moment be peacefully sleeping on my roommates love seat and the next you would be whipping around the house like the kitten you sort of still were. It's amazing to think of how things have changed over the years and while you didn't have as much energy in the end you were still playful, whether it was with Lucy or just playing with your toys. Knowing this has brought me some comfort about your quality of life in your later years.

I had been told that that you had been abandoned in an apartment building which is just crazy to me because you were so awesome (everyone who met you thought so too), but it became clear that you must have been left without food for sometime. In those early years you stressed out whenever you could see the bottom of your food bowl. You might have had plenty of food, but it didn't matter if the bowl wasn't full. Over time you came to trust that we would feed you. I don't know exactly when this happened, but I knew it was after I adopted Lucy and honestly, she's such a food hog that you should have probably been even more worried that she would eat your food too.

You were the quietest and loudest cat I knew. You liked to silently meow - I can't even tell you when I first heard you actually meow, but I remember thinking I adopted a cat without a voice every time you'd open your mouth and 'meow', but nothing would come out. Although, if you really wanted something you would let out a loud squeaky meow. Not to be sexist or anything, but I teased that it was your girly meow. You also purred louder than I've ever heard before and when you'd snuggle up in the nook of my neck at night I thought I would never get to sleep since you were so loud. Eventually, I came to love that purr and have to say it's one of the things I notice the absence of most. And your snoring of course. Since you've been gone the house seems so incredibly quiet. I guess I didn't notice how much these little noises were such a big part of my every day.

At the time that I adopted you, I had another awesome cat, Digger. My roommates and I were often gone so I thought it would be good for Digger to have a companion. You were so great about trying to befriend him and I'd often find you cuddled together, but I also know that your youthful energy was too much for him. I didn't know it at the time, but he had a heart condition and, at 7 years old, had a heart attack in my arms 3 short months after I brought you home. I have to admit I was devastated and never thought you could live up to what Digger was to me.

How wrong I was.

Digger. Apparently I have a thing for black and white cats.

It might have been because you were in my life for so much longer, but we were meant to be together. I know - you're a cat and I'm a human, but you were just such a good fit in my life. Both you and Digger were with me during some difficult times and were great about just being there - as cats do. I love how unconditional animals are, but you two were really the best at it.

Time went on and we moved to a couple different places before returning to this house (including living with the ex-boyfriend's cat, Percy). When we lived in NE Minneapolis I rigged up the deck with screening and a specialty made door so you and Lucy could go outside without fear of escaping (although Lucy still did). You loved that deck, probably more so when I'd have friends over for a BBQ. You'd yell at me from inside the house until I let you out and then you'd sit on my lap like you were one of the gang. You've always had a little bit of human quality to you.

You loved being a part of my activities. When I'd cook you'd bug me and bug me, but initially I couldn't figure out what you wanted. I finally pulled out one of the bar stools for you and you'd jump up and sit there and watch me. My favorite cooking memory was when Jesse and I were making a big batch of salsa with you sitting behind us on that bar stool. Suddenly, you let out a squeal of a meow and when we turned around your kitty eyes where overflowing with tears. Haha, guess those onions were burning your eyes and you had no idea what was happening. Silly cat.

It occurred to me today that this was a tradition that didn't carry over into this house. Also, you used to love sleeping under my shirts. You'd come up to me and bat at me until I lifted my sweater, then you'd crawl in and fall asleep. I was so sad when you stopped doing that, but I guess you had to move on to other things. Oh, and remember when you used to sleep in the sink all the time. That seemed to stop a long time ago too, but it was always fun to come home to find you there.

Speaking of sinks, you loved drinking out of faucets. LOVED it. We bought you one of those special water fountains, which made you happy, but I don't think anything beat the sink. As like most cats, you were also happy to snuggle up and sleep anywhere it was warm - whether it was in the sun shining through a window, next to a heating vent, or next to Lucy... and of course under a blanket. You must have run cold, just like me.

You loved sitting on the back of my chair which wasn't all that fun for me. We eventually made a deal that you would sit on my lap and we lived peacefully ever after. We spent a lot of time in my home office in the later years and when I'm in there now I feel your absence big time. I think my favorite thing you did was nibble at my forehead. I kissed you on the forehead all the time so I like to think that you were trying to kiss me back. You were always so gentle about it.

When Jesse and I started dating he admitted that he was allergic to cats, but you and Lucy never caused him any issues. Truth be told he wasn't really a cat person (beside allergies, he had some less than stellar cat experiences), but he fell in love with you. It was really hard for people not too.

When we moved back to this house after being away for 8 years you immediately ran upstairs straight to the deck door. It was clear you remembered one of your favorite spots in this house and I was glad to have brought you back to this home. The morning you died I took you to look out the door to the deck. We were in the midst of remodeling it and I had the thought that you might not ever get to enjoy it. But even before the remodel you were content to run out there and lay on the teak coffee table to get a good brushing. I only wish it had been warm enough that morning to do it one last time.

You were my cat, but I was absolutely your person. You used to stare down the ex-boyfriend - not in a way that was threatening, but more to say "she's mine, I'm not sure what you are needed for". Obviously, there were some changes and Jesse came into the fold, but you quickly determined that you would accept him into the family. But, I would always be your person. You asked me for everything and it was my lap you sat in all the time. It was me who you wanted to spoon with. Jesse might do if I wasn't around, but you and me... we had that bond.

Speaking of Jesse, when were talking about you and all the things that were just SO you he contributed ' and just how frickin' handsome he was. He probably knew it too. "I'm a goooooood lookin' cat..." '. Lol. You were a handsome guy in your tuxedo suit and that special 'moon' on your face.

While you had the name Diablo we also called you Big D, Little D, D, old man, Buddy and Buster Boo - that last one was really Jesse's contribution. We probably should have also referred to you as 'the hugger' because you loved to wrap your arms around my neck, plant your head against mine, and give me a good hug. You were sweet like that.

This past year it seemed that you were in some ways trying to distance yourself, almost as if you were trying to make it easier on us when you left. But I knew what you were up to and made sure to get in some extra snuggles and I am so grateful I did.


Your Person

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Obviously, his presence was missed right away, but seeing his favorite toys and not having him sit on my lap the moment I sat down in the home office were glaringly obvious to me (he especially loved when I would put the down throw on my lap and would sometimes glare at me, waiting until I did so). I've been on some asthma medication (a symptom that came on with the virus that never wanted to leave) and I forgot to take it the night before he died. I immediately noticed that breathing for me was difficult that morning, but even after I resumed the medication I have been having issues with this - mostly when I think of him or see his empty food dish.I had a stool next to my bed to make it a little easier for him to get into bed and after a night or two I realized it could be removed. Again, shortness of breath at the realization. Plus, every day I no longer have to avoid bumping into the stool is a reminder that he's gone.

I have been feeling his passing very physically, which is pretty typical for me, but feels very significant this time. Lots of headaches - in fact there were times that I had to force myself to stop crying since it hurt my head too much. At any rate, it's getting better as most things do with time.

Less than a week after he passed away I decided to donate his food (he was on a special diet) to the Animal Humane Society. It's where he, Digger and Lucy were adopted from so it felt right to give back (although I know my vet would have refunded me since I recently bought the food). I wasn't sure when or how I wanted to handle this... would it be too hard to go there so soon? Should I wait a couple months? Should I have Jesse drop it off? I could have waited, but I felt the need to go. Perhaps because I knew it was too early to get another cat that I thought it was safer to go and I thought Riley might find some value in understanding what the Humane Society was so I decided to drop off the food a handful of days later.

I think it was good for both Riley and I. I made it clear to Riley (and myself) that we would not be getting another pet (and we didn't), but it opened a conversation between us that I think helped her understand how important it is for us (meaning all humans) to care for animals (whether they chose to own a pet or not) - to treat them with care and compassion, and for her to understand death and what might be on the other side of life (we talked about multiple beliefs on this topic on the way home).

As we left the Human Society, we saw one last cat in a space all by himself. We were struck by his face and the thick fur on his cheeks that gave him a unique look. Then he looked up and gave me those eyes. You know those eyes that say "take me home. I'll be your best friend" and with that we hightailed it out of there before making a decision I shouldn't.

Lucy and Diablo this past summer 

I picked up his ashes last week and the box seemed impossibly small, obviously compared to his body, but mostly compared to his personality which was so big. Jesse and I have noted that while Lucy seems like such a cat, Diablo was more than that.

It feels like we've lost a good friend.

Thank you to the vet staff who made this for us.

RIP Diablo

1998 - 2015


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about Diablo but it sounds like he was a great cat. We lost our older dog last year but are thankful for all of the memories she gave us. *hugs*

    1. So sorry to hear about your dog! Whenever I'd read your blog, the pictures of your dogs at the top always stood out to me.

  2. Beautiful tribute to your sweet Diablo. I feel like Toonses is fading lately so this was extra touching and bittersweet to read. Those boy cats are special. XOXO

    1. I totally had a response to this, but apparently it never left my head and became a comment. Your IG post reminded me that I never responded... my heart goes out to you. So sad to see your pet in distress and know that their lives are so much shorter than ours. And boy cats? Totally agree here. I always wanted a little girl, but when it comes to cats my boys have been the best. If I ever get a cat again (and I'm sure I will) I will absolutely be leaning towards a boy. Anyway, sending positive thoughts Toonses' way.


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