It was a very sad day for us a week ago when we decided it was time for our dear sweet Hazel Rose to depart from this world. This is her story.
In August of 2003, my father and mother were living in northern Minnesota where I and my two siblings were raised. It is a rural area. Along our dirt road, where our house stands, there is one more family living there about 3/4 mile further along the mile and a 1/4 stretch of the road before it ends at a dead end.
One day my mother was coming home from town. As she approached the house to walk into the porch, a kitten ran up her leg, meowing frantically. Now this would be considered unusual considering the rural dynamics of the situation! So mother brought her into the house, and opened a can of tuna, put out some milk, and named her “Tippy”, because of the coloring of the tip of her tail, which at that time, was a lot darker than the rest of her.
Mum didn’t know where she would have come from. There were only a few possibilities:
- Someone from in town or elsewhere in the community dropped the unwanted little dear off where they figured knowing Miss Ginny (my mother’s full name is Virginia) would take her in; living in a rural area, people know a lot about you; we grow up together, and it can be like a large family; my mum has a reputation of having a very big heart!
- She got lost from the neighbor’s house and managed to find her way the 3/4 mile up the road or through the fields and/or forest area between us and them; the neighbor’s did have a few cats at the time.
- She got stuck up under the hood or under the vehicle itself when one of the neighbor’s drove to town and stopped by to visit.
- Or, she was a stray kitten that made her way to our house as there are a few feral cats that live around the area.
Whatever the scenario, mum wasn’t sure what to do with her. She thought of taking her to Bemidji to the humane society. She didn’t think about the kitten possibly being the neighbor’s, as at the time, she did not know they had any kittens. (Note: we were to find out some time later that she indeed did belong to the neighbor who had adopted two kittens; one unfortunately had been seen becoming a bird of prey’s dinner; and the other one had disappeared….. Well, I told my mother at that time, “they are not getting her back!”)
As fate would have it though, Mum and dad were coming to the city that following weekend, and despite having two other cats (Sophie and Toto), I caved, and said “Oh, bring her on down here, we’ll figure out what to do with her when you get here.”
They arrived, kitten in tow! And of course, one look, one little “meow”, and she had me! I had originally thought I’d find her a home…but… she had other plans!
Upon seeing Tippy, I decided then her name was going to become “Hazel.” Hazel Rose, to be exact! She fit in nicely with the rest of the family. I was living here alone at that time. I hadn’t met my husband yet; I met him in 2007.
At one point during her initial arrival, when I had realized she would be living with me, I picked her up, placed her in my father’s lap, and he said, “Oh little kitty, you hit the jack pot!” But, as most pet parents know, it is I who hit the jack pot.
They steal their way into our hearts. They leave little paw prints everywhere in our lives. They enrich our lives, bring us joy; at times, like any “child”, they can challenge us, too. But the love they bring and shower upon us in entrusting their lives in our hands, is like nothing else in the world.
Hazel’s first visit to the vet, before introducing her into the household, was not typical. She purred through the whole exam, strutted around like she owned the place, purred through the usual dreaded temperature probe event! And, it’s too bad that did not last, for not too many visits later, she became like most adult cats; and boy, could she fight going into the cat carrier! I thought at one point, I needed those big thick gloves that folks wear when they are holding birds of prey!
Hazel saw a couple of roommates come and go. It wasn’t long after Hazel’s arrival, that poor dear old Toto, at the age of 18 and 1/2 was ready to leave this world. He joined Princess, his previous and first roommate, who had left us in her ripe old age two years prior, and a year before Hazel arrived. Sophie Marie had joined us, a rescue from the humane society, about a year prior to Hazel’s arrival when Miss Princess succumbed to her old age.
Sonny arrived in 2004 after my uncle passed away. I took him in; otherwise, he would have been homeless and bound for a shelter or euthanized.
In 2008, late fall, Elisha Payne Stewart (Eli) arrived. I was adamant for years that two cats were enough. But once Hazel came, she broke the mold; once having three cats, it was now a lot easier to take in one more! Eli was a rescue as well. I was at this point yet “just friends” with my now husband. My parents had since moved into the city area, leaving the rural countryside where they had lived for so long; health reasons were the primary factor. My father was living at an assisted living facility. I went out to visit; it was Thanksgiving Day. Upon leaving, preparing to go to the car, a family was getting into their van, and a child was picking up a kitten that I thought had gotten out of the van. But the boy’s father told him to “put the kitten back.” They got in the van, and drove off. Little Eli was looking rather forlorn. Then he saw mum, dad, and I across the parking lot. His little face lit up and he came running, jumping up into my arms! He was dirty, and obviously very hungry; he purred so loudly I thought he might be heard across the street!
Well, how does one turn away from that?! Mum and I toured the neighborhood asking anyone who was available if they had lost a kitten. No one claimed him. We didn’t do a whole lot to find where he may have belonged; it seemed it was largely likely that he was from a trailer court nearby, where, after having a look around, we figured he may have come from a litter there, the mother perhaps allowed to roam; no one probably would be looking for him. So, home he came to join Sophie, Sonny, Hazel, and me.
Eli was quite a terror. He was difficult to train into being a civil house cat. He liked especially to attack poor Hazel. Hazel use to like to crawl up onto the sofa with me and curl up behind the crock in my legs when I would be lying there, watching the tele. She loved to lie sprawled out in the kitchen. She had this strange habit her whole life of standing over the water dish and “spinning” it before drinking; or, she would cross one leg and paw over the other one, in this awkward looking position, before drinking. She also, when giving her special attention, especially with the brush (she loved being brushed!), would stretch her hind legs out behind her one at a time, then plop over and stretch both front legs and paws forward while at the same time stretching both hind legs and paws backward, exposing her tummy for a nice scratch. And, she purred like a freight train!
After Eli arrived, because he wouldn’t leave her alone much, Hazel started darting into my bedroom whenever she could. I began to lose my couch companion, and she did not frequent the kitchen like she use to, and seemed uncomfortable in the main living area, always tense because Eli was like just around the corner after her. The bedrooms were off limits, up until then, to cats. But Eli was so terrible to her, that I took to letting her hang out in there. This became her new pad, and eventually, I moved in a litter box; she largely lived in there. She would eat out with the rest of the cats (each had their own spot and would camp next to their place mat at meal times waiting for their food). Eli was put in the bathroom, door shut, because he wouldn’t leave everyone else’s food alone after he inhaled his! Hazel would hang out with us after meals, until Eli started chasing her around, and then home she would want to go. Sometimes Hazel wanted “to go home” to eat; my husband took to saying, “Hazel wants room service!”
In 2013/14, during that horrifically cold winter we had here in Minnesota, we brought Roosevelt Charles Barkley home to live with us. I rescued him from the terrible cold. He had been living for over a year outside the nursing home attached to my mother’s apartment building in Chaska, and the nursing home staff had been feeding and caring for him. It became obvious he was not a feral over time as I got to know him. The girls were doing a good job of caring for him, but that winter, they were not allowed to bring in the hay bales and make him a winter home. The home that was there was not adequate.
Sonny was preparing to leave us at this time (his eulogy is here). He was around 20; aging was taking over his body, so he was beginning to suffer. We had to make the awful decision to once again, end the suffering. My boyfriend at the time Eli was brought home with me, at this time is now my husband, and living with us. With some sweet talk, I convinced him to allow Rosie (Roosevelt) to come live with us since there would be an opening with Sonny’s passing.
It seems like ages ago that we made that awful decision with Sonny, yet it was just a year and a half ago, and here we are, now having had to make that same decision again. Hazel began to show signs of illness. She has always been a healthy cat, not prone to hairball issues, or any other disorders that can happen in cats. She had only been ill once, and that was with a bladder infection which was cleared up and she has been fine since.
She started not eating well about 3 ½ months ago, perhaps longer, but it was at this time it became quite noticeable and she went into a steep decline. I noticed a large lump on her leg. The vet began treating her for pancreatitis, which after doing several tests, they thought was likely; she was in a weakened state from not eating well long enough that removing the lump was not recommended until she was stronger; no definitive answer could be given about the lump until a biopsy was done. I opted not to biopsy, but give her some time to get stronger to remove the tumor.
But we were not able to get her stronger. The treatments for pancreatitis did not make a measurable difference for long enough periods of time to get to the point of doing more research into what the lump was and removing it.
We took her to a specialist when the second round of treatments with our vet, and the treatments we had been trying from a holistic vet as well, were not working. The specialist thought that the lump was what was causing all the distress, not certain that pancreatitis was the main culprit. He thought removing the lump would relieve her of the symptoms, and that over time, she would start to recover.
Taking her in the day of surgery to consult with the surgeon, told us enough of the likely story, and a lot about all the possibilities, so that we were able to make our final decisions. The diagnosis was likely cancer. As sad as it was, all the options before us sounded like further suffering for poor little Hazel, without a prognosis on the other end in any of the scenarios that was positive enough to put her through any more. Too many of the options once the surgery started, depending upon what they found, we would not opt to do anyway (such as a feeding tube, amputate her leg, chemo, radiation). She was too weak to go through surgery, even if removing the lump with no further complications were found during surgery, which would have been the unlikely scenario. Even for a healthy animal, surgery is hard on them; not eating for a few more days through surgery and a few more afterward may have tipped her over the edge, if she ever started to eat on her own again. She could not afford to eat less (or not at all) for much longer. It would not have been fair to her to put her through any of it.
So here I sit, writing this eulogy. Missing my baby girl Hazel Rose….. I miss that cute little meow she had, so gentle and soft spoken; the way she would stretch out her back legs when I brushed her; the way she would race across the bed on weekends to wake me up for breakfast; I miss her beautiful big green eyes… It is especially hard for me right now to go to bed at night, since she was my companion at bedtime; I miss her coming under the blankets with me for a snuggle, hearing her marvelous freight train purr, before I would drift off to sleep….
Hazel Rose, I will always love you, I will always miss you, and I am so glad you are no longer suffering – that you are in the Creators arms, safe and sound. I long to be there with you, my little one….
You left footprints all over my life and heart that will never be erased. I thank God for the gift that was you that he gave me. Rest in Peace, my sweet little Hazel.
“…in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18