Kirby was originally Hubby's cat. Hubby and his kids adopted Kirby from a Humane Society when Kirby was just a baby kitten. The runt of the litter, in fact.
The adoption came during a tough time for Hubby. He was in the middle of a nasty custody fight which he was fighting tooth and nail. The kids were still little; Kirby helped fill Hubby's house with love and activity when the kids weren't there. Kirby would also provide a lot of comfort on the really bad days, when there was a court hearing, or some ridiculous demand from his ex would arrive in the form of a letter via US Mail. And, of course, Kirby would just be gentle, loving Kirby every other hour of every other day, bringing a lot of smiles, purrs and happiness in to Hubby's life.
We were just dating when Hubby adopted Kirby. I had my own cats and lived in a different house. When Hubby and I decided to move in together, we knew we were blending families: human and fur.
My cat Callie fell in love with Kirby pretty quickly. The two became fast friends. They would hang out together a lot and just sort of "be".
My other cat, Gorby, was definitely the alpha male in the house. He and Kirby did not get along so well for a long time. They finally got to a point where Gorby tolerated Kirby and then gradually got to appreciate each other.
In fact, it was Kirby that would keep Gorby company when Gorby was sick with the cancer that finally took him 16-months ago.
When Gorby died, my heart was fully broken. I didn't think I could ever reach that level of grief again.
I was wrong.
Kirby got sick very suddenly. He developed a strange hacking cough that got progressively worse over Christmas weekend. Finally, late on Sunday night, his breathing was very labored and we rushed him to the University of Minnesota Small Animal Hospital.
At first, the doctor thought it might be heart failure or cancer. They put Kirby in to an oxygen cage, which helped his breathing while the doctors ran tests through the night.
Monday morning, results were inconclusive, although both heart failure and cancer were ruled out.
Kirby was doing okay in the oxygen cage, but would begin gasping for air within about a minute when taken out.
The only thing that came up as a possibility was something called "lipoid pneumonia". It is extremely rare. So rare that no one at the U had seen it in a live cat, only in one's passed away. Still, they were not positive that this was the problem.
We had a chance to visit Kirby on Monday night. We could put our hands in to the oxygen cage to pet him via a couple of port holes.
The doctor suggested trying a heavy dose of steroids to try to reduce the inflammation around his lungs. If the steroids were going to work, we'd see an improvement in about 24-hours. Hubby thought it was worth the effort, Kirby got the shot and we went home to wait.
The next morning, very early, we got a call from the doctor. The news came that the steroids had not helped and, in fact, Kirby was doing much worse. His carbon dioxide level had increased significantly. His lungs were just not strong enough to expel the air out, which created a build up.
The vet did not think that Kirby could keep up the effort of breathing for much longer.
With very heavy hearts, Hubby and I drove to the U and got to spend our last few minutes with Kirby. Then, Warren made one of the hardest decisions he's ever had to make in his life.
As peaceful as Kirby's passing was, it does not erase the fact that our house and our souls are just a bit more empty this New Year's Eve. That horrible ache I felt when Gorby died is back and it feels just as bad now as it did then.
Callie seems to be missing her friend too. She is sleeping upstairs on the couch that the two of them frequently shared.
I'm just hoping that Kirby has found Gorby at the Rainbow Bridge and that the two of them are sharing a little snooze and maybe some catnip and a really good tin of canned cat food.
Rest in peace, Kirby. We love you and miss you a lot.