Thursday, January 17, 2013

rest in peace, my sweet buttons :: photo tribute

I had to help Buttons cross over the rainbow bridge yesterday morning after a very long illness. I will always love my elfin little girl and carry her in my heart. I take comfort in the fact that she is now safe from suffering and everything unpleasant. She was the most tenacious little cat I have ever known.

A plumper Buttons during healthier times
Buttons was with me just over four years, after enduring a hellish life and countless blizzards in a filthy city gutter. I'm so happy she spent her "retirement" with me, Bossa Nova and Pablo, surrounded with love, food and comfy blankets instead of trash and scraps.

Me in 2007, making a shelter for Buttons and lining it with hay for warmth.
I first discovered Buttons living in a gutter in the alley behind my loft in 2007. The ex-husband would not let me bring her in, so I fed her everyday. I built her a cold-weather shelter and set out extra protective cardboard during snowstorms. Pablo, then a kitten, was also living in the same gutter with Buttons. [At first I though she was his mamma, but I later learned she was already neutered and much older than I thought.]

Buttons' original city-gutter home. She slept down under the grate and crawled out when I brought food.  As soon as I got too close though, she would run,
Eventually, I decided I had to trap Buttons. In deference to the ex, I promised to just foster her until I found her a home. [Ironically, he ended up being the foster.] If you click on the picture, you can see Buttons eating near the trap. It took about 5 tries until she finally walked into it and a better life.

Buttons spent her first weeks cowering behind the toilet.
The transition from alley cat to loft cat was rough for Buttons. Because I live in an open-floor loft. I had no choice but to keep her in the bathoom, where she hid behind the toilet and then the water heater for 3 weeks.

A dog crate helped Buttons adjust
Eventually I moved her to a dog crate that my friend Karen lent me. This was a tremendous help in socializing her. Pablo immediately recognized her from the gutter and as soon as I opened the crate, he dove in and started cleaning her.

"Okay, I think I like it here."
I handled Buttons often to socialize her. It took about 3 months for her to earn her LCE [Lap Cat Extraordinaire] degree.


After that, Buttons settled into loft kitty life: sleeping, eating, playing, cuddling, an occasional cat fight, and more of the same happy routine for the next four years.

Even though Bossa Nova hated Buttons at first, she grew to love her and gave her massive daily head butts.
About a year ago, Buttons started suffering from garden-variety geriatric illnesses and lost 2/3 her body weight [went from 9.5 to 3.8 pounds]. Over her last few months then weeks, she became frailer; instead of hopping on my lap, she meowed for me to pick her up and put her on my lap. One day, she stopped getting up to greet me at the bathroom door as had been her routine for the past 4 years. I knew she was saying goodbye and I tried to be aware of and cherish the beautiful, precious moments. In spite of this, she seemed content, in her present, and I could tell that she truly wanted to stick around

One of the last photos I took of Buttons, resting before we went to the vet yesterday,
...Until about a week ago. At that point, she could not even jump on the couch to nap. She walked by dragging her legs, but she still wanted to eat. Yesterday, she was too weak to stand, eat or make it to the litter box. It was time to let her go. She passed very peacefully, even though I was a mess. I have no idea how old she was at the time of her death – Dr. Eigner guessed late teens.

I've been through this before a few times, but experience does not help one navigate these losses. I know time heals, so I will try to endure until my heart aches less. But time also has a way of washing memories away. These are the things I don't want to forget about Buttons:
  • Buttons meowed. A lot. Since she was profoundly deaf, she had no idea what a big voice she had. Her voice weighed more than her body.
  • She knew some sign language. Because Buttons was deaf, "here, Kitty-Kitty" was wasted on her. So, I would gently wiggle my fingers, and she learned that this meant "Here, kitty." She always responded to it.
  • Even though she couldn't hear me, I called her by a bunch of silly nicknames which I will keep between Buttons and me.
  • She was a classic lap cat, despite her agoraphobic beginnings. She loved to cuddle in the nook of my armpit while I read or watched TV. She loved to sit on F-stop's lap and "listen" to him talk to her. She loved to bury her head in my hand, as if hiding. About a month ago, she was laying on my chest purring like a motor and I recorded this video [audio, really] of her.
video
  • She made the most adorable, friendly trill sound whenever I initiated petting her as if to say "Hi!"
  • She loved to be doted on. In the end, I had to coax her to eat, but I really think she liked the ritual. She had an adorable way of hobbling into the kitchen, looking up at me and meowing, waiting for me to tempt her with more food. She even tried a few nibbles of pumpkin the day before she passed. 
  • She was tiny. She had the shortest legs and was never able to jump as high as the bed, even in the early days. Buttons was the equivalent of a Dachshund cat.
Buttons on my chalkboard, watching over us.
I made this drawing on my kitchen chalkboard yesterday, a few hours after Buttons left this life and its pain. It felt almost like she was posing for me from the other side. Having this big drawing in my loft makes me feel like Buttons is still here in a small way, watching over us.

All the moments we spend with those souls we love are precious. Hold your loved ones, furry and human, a little bit tighter, please.

I want to thank the wonderful staff at The Cat Doctor for caring for Buttons for all these years, especially Dr. Milner and Miriam. And I want to thank Dr. Eigner, Miriam, and Lori, and for making her transition so loving and for taking care of me, too.

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35 comments:

Theresa said...

Oh Dynise, what a moving post about your gorgeous Buttons. I'm so sorry that you only got to spend four years with her, but so happy that her last four years were so pampered.

Tina. said...

I am so, so sorry for your loss. We recently had to say goodbye to our dog, and I have some idea of how you are feeling right now. And, you are right, it never gets easier--but time does make it a tiny bit better. I remember your posts about finding, feeding, and eventually bringing Buttons in. You gave her four wonderful years, and I'm sure she was so very grateful for that. And that's a beautiful portrait of her on your chalkboard!

nomstoppable.com said...

You truly, truly cared about her; every sentence I read conveyed your grieving and sadness, but also hope that she's no longer suffering. I think what you did for Buttons is beyond amazing - & I am so sorry for your loss, she sounded like an incredible friend.

Andrea said...

You know, I remember when you rescued Buttons and Pablo. So sorry for your loss and pain. It's so terrible when our beloved furry ones die, and the only comfort is knowing they were well-loved and suffer no more.

Erin said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Buttons - I loved all of your stories about her.

tahinitoo said...

Awww... What a lovely tribute for Buttons. You definitely gave her a wonderful home, lots of love, and a fulfilling last chapter in her life. She was very lucky! I am sad for your loss but know that your admirable act of kindness will never be forgotten. Also, your art is gorgeous!!

Jennifer said...

I am so sorry for your loss. What a lucky cat Buttons was to have stumbled into your alley...not everyone would have been as determined as you to catch her and give her such a great life. Your stories about her were great; I liked the description of her short legs!;

racheyalex said...

I was reading your blog back when you first rescued Buttons, and this was such a surprise... it's easy to forget how short of lifespans our little ones have. I am glad that you have Pablo and Bossa Nova (and F-stop ;) ) to get you through this difficult time. This was a great tribute. I got a little teary eyed, to be honest. I still remember every kitty I've loved in my life, and even though you only had 4 years together, I'm sure Buttons will stay in your heart forever.

dawn kuhns said...

I have tears in my eyes reading about your sweet Buttons. I am so very sorry for your loss. It never does get easier, but life without them would be unthinkable!

Amey said...

sweet little Buttons. this is such a deeply moving post, Dynise. what a special little creature she was... and how special your relationship was. I'm so glad you listened to your heart and got her out of the gutter. Isn't it just amazing how much these animals have the courage to (gradually) overcome their fears? I find it very moving. I love the audio of her purring. <3! Sending you so much love and support.

Kittee Bee Berns said...

I am so sorry I didn't see your posts on FB, or I would have commented over there immediately. What a good good good cat momma you are, and how lucky this krewe is to have you. Sounds like you are lucky to have had them too.

I hope you take good care of yourself. Your little fur bean will surely be missed forever and ever. R.I.P. Buttons. So sorry to hear of this big los, Dynise.

xo
kittee

rubber cowgirl said...

My heart goes out to you! My cat went missing, and even though I believe he is off on some grand feline quest, I still cry every day.

Anonymous said...

sorry for your loss, it is clear the cat was a better deal than the husband and likely loved you more than he ever could have! you are a wonderful human for helping the little ones that needed you, your girl will be waiting for you at the bridge, your heart will be mended that day.

Naomi said...

I am so, so sorry for your loss. I know how painful it is to lose a friend... I am sending hugs your way!!

Vada said...

I just found your blog last month and really enjoyed reading about Buttons. And now today I had to fight back the tears on hearing she has moved on. I admire you so much for what you do for these kitties. My cat, Bubba, was a street kitty too and yet he has given back to us so much more than we have given him. My heart aches for you and your other kitties.

gareth said...

this is a beautiful tribute....

urban vegan said...

Oh honey, don't give up. If you have a post on Facebook, let me know and I'l share on my Urban Vegan timeline and will tweet it for you. Don't give up hope!

Jerilyn said...

So sorry for your loss. My family recently said goodbye to our cat of 20 years. Even though we knew she didn't have much time left, it still didn't make it easy when she crossed the bridge. Pets are like part of the family; when they leave, so does that piece of your heart. Find comfort in the memories you had with Buttons; you were lucky to find each other. *hugs*

Johanna said...

Let light perpetual shine on him.

Joyce B. said...

You are an awesome artist and writer. Buttons was indeed lucky to have such a wonderful, appreciative and loving mom. And yes, I do believe that she posed for that fabulous drawing and is looking down on you all. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us.

Dawn said...

Beautiful post, beautiful cat, beautiful picture. I, too, have a rescued Philly alley cat with incredibly short legs. Wonder if they are long lost cousins? :-)

XOXO

Anonymous said...

Sorry about your kitty, I have a dog and a cat and I know how much we can love are pets.

Dreena said...

Such a sweet and loving post. You cared for her so much, and not many people would have gone through those lengths to rescue and then acclimate her to a new home. What a big heart you have, and I love your chalkboard drawing. Sending hugs to you. xx's too.

Mattheworbit said...

This absolutely made me cry. You are so courageous, and a tremendous person to do what you did, knowing the risks, the odds, and the difficulties. She was a very lucky cat with what seems like a wonderfully interesting personality. And clearly, since your life has changed/improved so much in the few years (just like hers), you grew, and changed, together. Big hugs.

Heather said...

What a wonderful and caring post. I'm so very sorry for your loss.

Denise Workman said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, I do remember reading your blog back when you were still trying to catch her. I was so happy when you finally did, I'm sure she appreciated everything you did for her and she was so lucky to have spent the rest of her days with you!!Rest in Peace Buttons <3

Denise Workman said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, I do remember reading your blog back when you were still trying to catch her. I was so happy when you finally did, I'm sure she appreciated everything you did for her and she was so lucky to have spent the rest of her days with you!!Rest in Peace Buttons <3

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I was reading in tears as I lost my 16 year old dog in August and the pain still seems fresh. Love and hugs and happy memories of Buttons to you. You are an angel for rescuing that dear kitty. -- Karen

Lindsay said...

My most sincere condolences. As a recently-former Philly resident, my heart swelled every time you took in a cat -- I had always wished I had the space to do the same. Buttons was a beauty and a sweetheart, may she rest and run and frolic in cat heaven. They are the most marvelous animals, really. For your loss, a cat poem: http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/061.html

doemora said...

My heart goes out to you, filled with kitty kisses from my fluffbutts and hugs from me

Dianne Wenz said...

She was a lucky kitty and this is such a nice tribute to her. Sending love your way!

Cindy said...

Oh, Buttons sounds like quite a sweetie! I'm sorry for your loss.

Denise said...

Thank you for sharing your beautiful tribute to your precious girl, Buttons. Through your words and pictures, it's clear to see/feel the love you both have for one another.

I know that making the decision to have our beloved furchildren put to sleep is very difficult, but, we don't want them to suffer. And, I know that they trust us completely, to do what is always in their best interest.
You put your beautiful girl first by taking on her pain so that she could be in peace, and I know that she loves you for it. She will always live on in your heart, and the memories that you shared can never be taken away.

There is a wonderful website called Lightning-Strike, a pet loss support forum - http://lightning-strike.com/forum/
It's also for people who would like support when their furkids are sick, or lost - you can also post tributes & more.

Wishing you much peace,
Denise

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post - had me in tears. I'm so sorry about Buttons. She was a very special cat and will be missed by all who read about her exploits on your blog. How great that Buttons got to live out her final years with your love and pampering in the manner that she deserved. Rest in peace Buttons.

urban vegan said...

Thank you, everyone, for your comments and condolences. Your support has truly helped me more than you know--a few kind words mean so much and have helped to soothe the empty spot in my heart.

I still miss my little girl achingly, but I know she's in a better place. And I still feel her presence and love, and I hope she feels mine. xoxo2.17.13