SNIFF NOTES: Finding Strength in Furry Companions


My baby Loki has cancer.

You have no idea how difficult it was for me to type those five words.

Loki is my 7-year-old black cat who came to me when he was a kitten and he was so scared he hid in the basement for the longest time. I worked to get him to trust me and eventually he did.

Well, a few weeks ago I noticed he was limping. I figured he must have done something stupid because of the way he runs around the house like a doofus. However, when I took a look at the leg he wasn’t putting much of his weight on, I found a golf ball sized lump on his knee.

That’s when the worry truly took root in my heart.

I got him to the vet and they x-rayed his leg and aspirated the lump and it was cancer.

I can’t tell you how much I have cried in the last few weeks. I’ve been sick to my stomach and haven’t been sleeping much and it’s been so rough.

The vet said amputation would be what she recommended, but he was apparently a holy terror in the x-ray room and because of that, they were unable to get an x-ray of his chest to see if the cancer had spread anywhere else.

The vet scheduled him to come back two days later for the amputation, when they said they would do the chest x-ray. If the x-ray showed cancer, the vet said euthanasia was really the better option.

You guys, I can’t tell you what that did to me. I was in the shower the day after that and I just ugly cried. I mean really, really ugly.

He had just been running around and climbing chairs and acting like his idiotic self just days before they told me this. How in the world would I be able to euthanize him?

Again, ugly crying. I mean from deep in my gut ugly crying.

It turns out, thank all the deities from every religion, that the x-rays were clear. His bloodwork was good and his heart and lungs also sounded good, so his back, left leg was amputated.

He came home the same day and I’ve been trying to help him through the recovery.

I second guess myself almost every minute of the day. I just don’t want him to be in pain, but I don’t want to overdose him either. He’s a very proud cat – not one to be picked up and coddled. He’s very loving, but it’s got to be on his terms.

I still haven’t slept very well and my appetite is hit or miss.

Loki stays in my bedroom with me at night – I shut out the other cats because I don’t want anything to happen to him – and every move he makes wakes me up and I have to check on him.

It’s been such a roller coaster.

It dawned on me over the last few days that it’s probably a good thing – for a number of reasons – that I never had a human child. I know after this experience I probably would have been in a locked ward before the child was out of diapers.

To the parents out there: I seriously don’t know how you do it.

Overall, when I’m not locked in a constant swirl of worry and fear and grief and I can allow logic out for a second or two, I’m able to admit Loki has done remarkably well. His incision looks great and he gets his stitches out in a few days. He’s trying to jump on things he shouldn’t, but he’s always been a bit of a jerk, so that’s not terribly surprising.

I’ve kind of renamed him Hop-Along because I can hear him coming when he walks around the house.

I still worry, though, because that’s apparently my lifetime default, but I’m starting to feel a little better.

I’m also trying to work through the purpose of all this. Sometimes the bigger picture is a whole lot easier to see when you’re not right in the middle of the tough times, but I’m going to put this in writing now because I think I need to own it. I don’t have a significant other. I don’t have children. There are days in my life when I speak to very few people.

My cats are the creatures who I see and speak to and touch every day in some fashion. Every, single day. They are a literal part of my daily existence and I have always known how much I love them, but I think this experience may have shown me how much I actually need them.

Because the thought of not having Loki in my life nearly stopped me in my tracks.

I’m not a total idiot – despite a whole lot of evidence in my life to the contrary – I know that the cancer could come back. I know that I may not be as lucky the next time around. I know that my cats won’t be with me forever, but for now, Loki’s still here and I plan on appreciating every, single second I have with him.

I do believe life is about gratitude and living in the moment and being happy with what you have.

And each second that I have with my new Hop-Along I will treasure with every beat of his and my heart.


Jennifer Vanderau is the Publications and Promotions Consultant for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter and can be reached at [email protected]. The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at 263-5791 or visit the website CVAS also operates a thrift store in Chambersburg. Help support the animals at the shelter by donating to or shopping at the store.

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