On Friday Night she hobbled over from her side of our pillow, where she usually sleeps with her face nuzzled into my hair, and settled into the gap between Johnny and I. On Saturday she stayed in bed all day and we unpacked our boxes around her (pausing/procrastinating frequently to give our littlest girl a cuddle).
That night I sat working on my computer, when I realised I hadn't yet felt that familiar tug on my knee. I can never sit very long on my desk chair before she's there, demanding to be picked up and folded into my lap. I looked around and there she was, curled up in a tight little ball by my feet. Too tired to jump up. Frowning, I scooped her into a cuddle and zipped her up inside my onesie, where I could feel her snores warm against my belly. We're never apart for very long. My little shadow.
She hadn't eaten all day, highly unusual for my Moo. The day before, I suspected that she'd eaten little more than the gravy off the top of her renal food. Concerned, I decided it was time to wake her up and try for dinner.
She took ages to come out of her sleep.
My heart pounded.
She didn't eat.
When she leapt off the table, she stumbled and wobbled on her three feet. My strong, crazy, demanding, funny girl was different today. Suddenly quiet and weak. I sunk to the kitchen floor beside her.
Jane, her wonderful vet, had told us that she would eventually lose her appetite. By now it was midnight on Saturday - much too late to call Jane and the clinic was closed on Sundays. I knew that other patients of Jane's - who also had Kidney Disease - had held off the inevitable with IV fluids. We wondered if there was anything we could do now, at home.
Johnny called the Advanced Vetcare, our nearest emergency centre. They told us there was nothing we could do at home, but we were welcome to bring her in.
My biggest fear was leaving her at the hospital and her never coming home. She's a girl of creature comforts - spoilt to the max. With a veritable wardrobe of knitted jumpers to keep her skinny body warm and a sling so I can carry her around the house (which she dismisses, preferring above all else to be carried inside my pink PH hoodie). The lady who prefers bottled water out of a glass, but will settle for filtered water. Who likes nothing more than to know 110% of attention is on her, ideally proved by myself with one arm supporting her body and the other hand scratching her nose and stroking her eyelids. I never said she wasn't a weirdo.
I had scheduled into my calendar a few hours on Monday to take Misty's portraits. For a pet photographer, I'm terribly lax about photographing my own family. Although I have hundreds and hundreds of snapshots on my phone, I've been meaning to take more "proper" photos of her for months. I knew that the IV drip could take up to 48 hours - Monday might not work.
So, I set up lights and we spend the next couple of hours cuddled up with our girl. Breathing her in and worshipping her the only way I know - by photographing every detail, desperately grasping at pixels that might capture my soul. Her soul. Maybe in the back of my head I was worried that this would be my last chance, but I pushed those thoughts aside.
By 2:30am we are cuddled up on the couch, Misty fast asleep between us and Lyra by my side.
"Should we take her in?"
We can't stand the idea that we might regret not taking her in. I pull on my pink hoodie and she settles herself inside. She fits me perfectly; head nuzzled on my chest, body curled on my stomach and one little paw stretch up to my collar bone. My arm loops around to cradle her, the familiar weight of my other half. We drive in silence.
"You have two options," the vet announces, and my heart soars. There might be an alternative to the IV drip. Maybe something better, something where she won't have to be in the hospital for 2 days. She's the skinniest she's ever been, and the vet softly explains that her loss of appetite and the two times she vomited last night were both due to nausea. She's wobbly on her feet, because her brain is confused. She is irritable and in pain. Her kidneys have finally given up. If there is a second option that will fix her without her having to be miserable and alone for two days, I was ready to take it. The news that my baby girl was hurting was devastating. I would climb to the tallest mountain, walk to the end of the world, if it meant something could fix that.
"....your second option, I really think the kinder option, is euthanasia."
And just like that, my world comes tumbling, crashing around me. It feels like when you're in the ocean, and you get pulled under by a violent wave and that moment when you can't hear anything but your heartbeat in your ears, your eyelids squeeze tight into blackness and you don't know which way is up or down and the salty water up your nose is burning your throat and maybe you won't ever reach the surface again. Just like that.
I'm not ready, but one real, long, objective look at my girl tells me that she is.
In one year, one month and 13 days Misty has taught me more about patience, love and peace that I could ever hope to learn myself in a lifetime. When she came hobbling into our world, I was on a destructive, downwards spiral of work, work and more work. I didn't know how to stop, I couldn't see that I needed to. My relationship was disintegrating and my health was not far behind. Then there was my Moo, demanding with that funny, loud MAH! of hers that I pay her attention. That I turn away from the computer and take five minutes to appreciate the better things in life. She taught me that there are more important goals that an empty inbox and photoshopping leashes. Every day with her, encouraged me to sit longer in the sunshine, sleep in on the weekend, read beside the fire. She saved me. And she is ready.
We say our final goodbyes and thank-yous with my girl curled tightly in my arms. My last headbutt. I kiss her a million times and then she is gone.
It's been 42 hours since she left. Her side of our pillow is empty and I keep thinking that I feel her paw on my knee. Then I remember. My right arm wants to cradle, but there's no one there. I don't know how to be without her. I can only cling to the idea that time will make the sharpness in my chest and the throbbing behind my eyes a little duller.
I knew deep down that this time was coming, but I honestly thought I had longer. I didn't imagine it would hurt like this. I'm not sure that I am ready, but I have to trust that, as usual, she knew more than I.
Thank you to my family for loving my girl like your own and thank you to me friends - online and in life - for laughing with us and putting up with my thousands of Moo-pics. Especially thank you to Jane from Newtown Vet Clinic, Rachel and James from The Mark's Ark and Johnny, my beautiful fiance. Without you four, I would not and could not have spent the best damn one year, one month and 13 days ever, with my girl. A lifetime of happy, more than I could ever deserve.
And thank you forever to my Misty Moo. I love you.