Aspiration Failure

I am in it.

Saturday, December 3rd at 12:33 PM, my beloved cat Berkeley passed away.

He was diagnosed with kidney failure in the fall of 2009 (while I was pregnant with Andy) and we were told he could have as many as three years to live. He lasted a little over two.

Berkeley came to me as a newborn kitten on August 3rd 2000. He had been born on August 1st. My husband, Sean, was in the Navy at the time and was going to be graduating from Power School on the 4th. My mama, my sister, and my brother-in-law came down to Goose Creek, SC the day before and were going to stay at a hotel. We were checking them in when I noticed that one of the girls who worked at the hotel was holding something very small in her hand and was petting it. I went over to her and she showed me the smallest, most precious black and white snuggly thing I had ever seen. She said he had been born three days earlier to a feral cat, and that he was the runt. The girl had tried to mess with the kittens but the mama didn’t like that, so she started moving them. She didn’t come back for the black and white one. The girl was hoping to keep the kitten, but she wasn’t sure if her mom would let her. I was already desperate for a cat, but undecided about whether I should get one in SC or wait until we were in CT (where Sean was to be stationed next). All I knew was that I wanted a cat that needed me. I prayed on this for weeks, but still wasn’t sure when or where to get a cat.

At that moment, God answered my prayer. I asked Sean could I have the kitten and he said yes. The little black and white baby was mine!

We immediately left the hotel to buy supplies for our new addition. On the way I noticed that he seemed sluggish. The kitten was dying and needed to eat! We needed to hurry! I was loving on the kitten and my mind was racing as to what his name would be. I looked up and saw the sign on the road. “Berkeley County”, it said. I had noticed the name before on the electric bill. I knew immediately that this cat’s name was Berkeley. Simon Berkeley Hicks.

Berkeley in one of his “beds” with his “Baby Kitty”

We bought Berkeley a bottle and some formula at the PetSmart. When we got home I tried so hard to get the kitten to eat. He wouldn’t eat for me. Sean took over and then Berkeley ate! I remember that evening, my brother-in-law crying because he was afraid Berkeley would die.

Berkeley was my ever-loving, ever-constant companion from that moment forward. I don’t know how many of you have ever had to tend to a mother-less animal before, but it is no different from having a “real” baby (which to me, Berkeley will ALWAYS be “my real baby”). They need a safe place to sleep and have to be kept warm, they need bottles, they need baths, they need to be helped with peeing and pooping. They wake up in the middle of the night. They get hiccups. But, most of all, they need love. Berkeley got lots of it.

Bath time!

Berkeley and Sean

Berkeley’s 1st Birthday

And while that bond with Berkeley was one I would never trade for anything, it also comes with a price. Berkeley was known at every vet hospital he ever went to for being incredibly mean. I remember when he was not even a couple of months old and I took him to the vet for a flea dip. I dropped him off and they called me a short time later. “Please come get Berkeley,” the woman said. “We can’t do anything with him.” This small kitten was attacking them and they were afraid of him! We’re talking about a kitten that couldn’t have weighed any more that two or three pounds, so imagine what damage he did when he was fully grown! Yes, Berkeley was a legend. We were even given free sedatives to give him BEFORE the vet visit, in hopes that he would be more calm. Later years would see Berkeley being sedated at every visit, just to get his vitals.  We got countless funny looks when we would coo at him, and many times we were asked, “Is he like this at home?!?” and I could tell what all of them over the years were thinking, “How can you love something so mean?” But I’m telling you, Berkeley was an absolute doll baby for me and Sean. All his life he continued to nurse my hands when we had our snuggles. He gave me kisses. He knew when I was sad or in pain. He let me clip his nails, better than any of the other cats OR Andy. He even let me bathe him Friday night. That was MY Berkles.

I’ve always loved this one of him!

“Darth Berkeley”

In a playful mood…


He was such a soft kitty. I loved burying my face in that white fur on his chest.

He was “the boss”!

But he was still my baby!

He was Sean’s baby too, of course. 🙂

You could never drink a glass of water without having to share it!

Snuggles. 🙂

Halloween 2011; Note Berkeley in the background, ever present as always.

I think this was our last hand nursing, on October 9th of this year.

Berkeley and I had a lot of good times over the years. The highlights include, but are not limited to: taking him to the park on a leash and getting lots of weird looks from the dog walkers, taking him through the drive-thru at the Burger King in Groton (there were times when we couldn’t leave the house without him – the drive-thru folks came to expect him to be in the truck with us after a while), that first night after we got him and he woke me up crying for a bottle and I had to sneak to the bathroom naked (didn’t own any pajamas) to fix him one hoping not to get walked in on by our roommate, Berkeley “seeing the lakes” on a trip from SC to NC, Berkeley letting my friend Mary pick him up when she didn’t know any better, Berkeley attacking salesmen, Berkeley attacking repairmen, Berkeley attacking mailmen, Berkeley attacking neighbors, that one time he went prancing through my mama’s den with a milk ring in his mouth and his head held up high, my mother-in-law fixing Berkeley a glass of water in an expensive water goblet, how he always had to snuggle with me and Sean if we were together, Berkeley ALWAYS peeing on my sister when she held him when he was still small, Berkeley getting in my Grandma’s lap and me warning her not to move, and most of all, how good he was with Andy. I was afraid he wouldn’t take to Andy, but boy… he loved that baby. When we brought Andy home from the hospital he was asleep. All the cats came to check him out and sniff him. Then, he woke up. Jakob, Bruce, Claudia, and Henry scattered to the wind! Berkeley wrung around our feet while we changed Andy’s diaper, and just ~had~ to be next to me while I fed him. Before Andy slept through the night Sean and I took turns staying up with him in case he cried. Berkeley kept watch over Andy with me while Sean would sleep. Then, my turn to sleep would come and when Andy cried Berkeley would jump on the bed and try to wake me up as if to say, “Get up Mama! The baby’s crying! He needs something!” He didn’t nag Sean about it, just me. My sleep breaks were never as restful as Sean’s. But Berkeley had a job to do (so he thought) and I can’t begrudge him that.

Berkeley Babysits

And again…

Andy, me, and The Berk

Berkeley wanted Andy’s lap. Andy didn’t even have a lap yet! LOL

Close encounters of the kitty kind! Yes, Andy is pulling Berk’s fur. Berk just let him!

Berkeley always tried to “help” me bathe Andy. It didn’t matter if it was when Andy was very small and was bathed in the sink, or like this more recent picture, in the tub.

November 14th 2011: Berkeley is finally able to get in Andy’s lap. Andy, as you can see, is quite pleased.

But there were bad times too.

When I had my first miscarriage in 2006 I suffered from a deep depression afterwards. I attempted suicide (a bottle of sleeping pills downed with a bottle of wine would kill most people, I just slept for three days straight). The only thing that stopped me from trying again was that I was afraid of what would happen to Berkeley if I died. I laid in bed for nearly a month crying and Berkeley was there with me the WHOLE TIME. I’m not even kidding about that. I know he must have gotten up to eat, drink, and used the litterbox, but he must have done it when I was asleep because I do not remember him leaving my side. That last year before I got pregnant with Andy I think I cried myself to sleep every night, wanting a baby so very bad. Berkeley was always there. And then this year, when I lost another baby… Berkeley was there. I think Berkeley worried about me, that I wouldn’t “be okay” and that’s why he couldn’t give in to his illness. He had seen me at my very worst and was afraid of what would happen to me if he left. In the end, I had to tell him that it was okay to go. Of course, I was lying and I’m not okay, and while I think he knew I was lying I think he still needed to hear it.

Berkeley had two UTI’s this year, and has been severely dehydrated for months. We gave him a subcutaneous drip when he would permit it, but it wasn’t as often as it should have been. These last couple of weeks his fur was falling out, and with it, bits of dried flesh. I noticed in mid November that his appetite was severely decreased. On Nov 16th I only recall him eating one time. On Nov 17th he ate nothing nor drank any water that whole day. I brought him his cup of water (a red plastic cup that was his cup for him to drink out of when he was on the kitchen counter) and he drank, then vomited the water up spectacularly. My sister-in-law came over to watch Andy for us while Sean and I took Berkeley to the emergency vet. I almost thought that was going to be it, but the doctor was hopeful that Berkeley had a chance to “get over this hump” and may have six months to live. We transferred Berk to our regular vet the next morning and he stayed there all weekend. Andy and I brought him home that Monday, and he came out for a brief visit with Sean and Andy, then got in my lap and fell asleep. It pained me to run him out of my lap, but my bladder was full and unlike Andy, Mama don’t wear diapers. He went in his carrier that night and didn’t come out again (that I saw) until Thanksgiving evening. He got in my dad’s lap (and he hated Daddy for some reason so this was a BIG DEAL), then got in my mama’s lap, and then mine. That night he went back into his carrier and only came out if you went into the dining room to visit him. He wouldn’t leave that room though. I took a litterbox in there and had to put him in it so he would remember to use it. He had countless pee accidents on the carpet, and peed and pooped in his carrier once. Berkeley was always VERY clean, and VERY particular about using the litterbox, so for him to be doing this was unreal. I was sad that he was losing his dignity in this way. Friday evening I went into the dining room to pet him and he meowed at me when I tried to leave. I picked him up and put him in my lap in the chair in front of the tv. Andy begged to get up there with us, so for a while the three of us sat watching tv. Then I noticed how bad Berkeley smelled. We are talking FOUL. Like, seriously, death. I had to put him down and change both my and Andy’s clothes. That evening Sean bathed Andy and I bathed Berkeley. It was Berkeley’s first bath (given by me) since he was small. It took me back and he was very, very good. I dried him off and he started to explore the house a little, visiting the kitchen and Andy’s room. Then he went back to the carrier. I went to say goodnight to him later, and he got in my lap for what ended up being the final time.

Sean and Andy welcome Berkeley home from his stay at the vet, Monday before Thanksgiving.

Friday night. Our last cuddle. ❤

Uncle Markus (my sister-in-law’s husband) gives Berkeley his very last “spoilage” by feeding him in his lap. This was Saturday morning.

Saturday morning my sister-in-law and her husband arrived to watch Andy so we could take Berk to the vet for at the very least, a checkup. Sean and I had talked about whether or not to put Berkeley to sleep, but we wanted to see how his blood-work looked before we made any decisions. I had been making my peace with it all week, and was as mentally prepared as I could be at that time. Berkeley always liked my brother-in-law and got in his lap for a little love. The other cats seemed to know what we didn’t and gave us some space. I put Berkeley in his carrier and took him to the vet for his final visit.

The vet was crowded but we didn’t mind the wait. It gave us more time with Berkles. Then, after we were called back, he was good for a very long time until he realized where we were. They took him back to draw some blood and when he was returned to us I asked him if he had been good or bad, and the attendant said, “He was Berkeley”. Priceless.

Then the doctor came in. Berkeley’s numbers were horrible. Berkeley was in a better mood by then and was loving on me and Sean and even let the doctor pet him! The man was AMAZED. He said so. And, even if he hadn’t said anything, I could see it in his face. BERKELEY, the cat that gets a “Watch! Bites!” warning when he had to stay overnight was being FRIENDLY. The doctor said that any other cat with Berkeley’s numbers would be unresponsive, and for Berkeley to even be moving was something “unheard of” and that he “had never seen the likes of before”. Then he said, “I guess Berkeley’s just too bad-ass to let it get him down!” Sean and I looked at each other and I knew it was time. Berkeley was in tremendous pain and hiding it. The hair/skin loss was a staph infection, and it was possible that Berkeley also had an infection in his kidneys. Lack of appetite and thirst, severe dehydration, possible ulcers in his abdomen… not to mention the dementia, lack of response to lights, loss of coordination and bladder control… I couldn’t put Berkeley through this any more. He had taken care of me so well when I needed him the most. I owed him more than the hell he was silently suffering through. I told the vet that it was time and he said, “I didn’t become a vet to put animals to sleep. But I can honestly say, I am 100 percent sure that you are doing the right thing.”

He gave me a little love and then tried to attack me, as he’d been doing so often lately (like he would all of a sudden forget who I was). The doctor took him back and had Berkeley sedated, as there was no chance of giving him a shot while he was wide awake (and no one could bear the thought of Berkeley struggling against a euthanasia shot… like he was fighting for his life). A few minutes later the doctor came back and said that Berkeley was ready. He was laying on a table and there was a mask on his face to administer the sedative. Berkeley was sleeping and the girl holding the mask was petting him. I cried over him and gave him love, and told him how thankful I was to have had him in my life. I told him what a good boy he was, and how he needed to go take care of my babies for me. I told him how I wouldn’t trust them with anyone but him. The doctor asked if we were ready, and I said yes. I petted Berkeley and told him it was okay for him to go. And then he went. I held his body and it felt so odd not to have him nuzzle me or give me kitty kisses. We stayed with him for about half an hour after he was gone, petting him and regaling the attendants with tales of Berkeley.

Last night was my first night without him, and today was my first full day. His presence in this house is so missed, and you can feel it in every corner of every room that he’s gone. He was the love of my life. I know I did the right thing, but it still hurts terribly. He was my baby… my best friend… my Berkeley. He taught me the meaning of unconditional love. I’ve loved cats before, but not like this. And he was the first one I could tell actually loved me back.

Please… when you go to sleep tonight, think of me. And think of Berkeley. If I know Berkeley, he misses me just as much as I miss him.

Rest in peace, my baby kitten.


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Sim Goddess

Welcome to my blog! My name is Robin and I have been playing The Sims 2 since it was first released (September 13 2004 - technically it came out on the 14, but I had preordered it from EB Games so I got it a day early). Before that, I had been playing original Sims game since... 2000? 2001? I'm not quite sure, but I do remember having to wait for Hot Date to be released. So yeah, I've been playing Sims for years.

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