RIP; Ava Brauer, 1994 – 2012
My mother visited me in Vermont in 1995 and picked Ava out of an Animal Shelter for me. I’m ashamed to say I walked right past Ava, but my mom was always a sucker for kitties with white “boots”… And I swear, Ava knew it – – from the start, Ava was bonded to my mom like glue thru the rest of my mother’s visit. We traveled back to my home state of Wisconsin in 1996 to provide hospice care for my mother the last year of her life. Ava never left my mother’s lap that entire year… It was so touching to see all the comfort Ava provided my cat-loving mom as she lay dying from cancer..
After mom died, we returned to Vermont in 1997 and Ava was the best companion I could have asked for, seeing me thru other family losses, professional challenges, and an eventual move from my beloved Vermont out to Colorado. No one else moved with me; all my friends stayed behind…. it was Ava and I together against the world… The dynamic duo… Colorado’s been a good move – I have a wide assortment of friends and family, am terribly social and love to host visitors and throw parties… And when everyone went home, Ava was always there. I’d scoop her up and hold her like a baby while scratching her favorite spots and she’d purr like a little engine… She was exquisite.
Ava did not like the vet nor did she like other animals; I used to say “She channeled her inner bobcat” while at the vet and would kick up an enormous fuss…. Luckily, she was an incredibly healthy kitty her entire life and we didn’t have to go very often… At her 18 year old check in this past December, my vet pronounced her a superstar; she still had every one of her teeth, her gums, heart & lungs were all healthy; even her kidneys were still just on the “high side of normal” – – she had a bit of arthritis in her hips and lower back, and an elevated thyroid… But my vet she “showed like an 8 year old instead of an 18 year old.”
But beginning in April, Ava’s appetite slacked off – she was still her lovey, sweet, playful self, but the food just wasn’t getting eaten… It grew to an alarming level by May and I was trying everything to get her to eat. We went through several doctor visits, taking blood, ruling out this or that – there was no dramatic diagnosis; no cancer or other life-threatening condition – we were trying a round of antibiotics which we hoped would clear up a snuffly nose and make food more appetizing to her… It didn’t – she stopped eating altogether, and was spending virtually all her time sleeping…
The next options were appetite stimulants or steriods; It was at this time I stopped and really tried to think of not myself, but about Ava… Would she want to continue down that path? Did she feel she wanted more time? And if so, would she be willing to pay the price for obtaining more time? The answer I always came back to was ‘No’. It couldn’t be about me this time — It really needed to be about HER… I knew my girl and I truly believe in my heart that if Ava were on my childhood farm, now would have been the time that she’d wander off never to be seen again. Like an old elephant, she would have strayed from the herd and gone off to die alone. She was JUST THAT AWESOME OF A CAT.
But Ava was an ‘indoor-only’ cat, and couldn’t wander off… And so I made the decision to help her out – and this is where Home to Heaven entered the picture. instead of bringing Ava to the one place she hated the most in this world, Dr Andrew Boal came to our home late in the afternoon of June 1st. He was respectful and empathetic and warm and just the loveliest and most compassionate person I could have hoped for to help Ava and I through her final moments. My girl had a most serene and peaceful exit cradled lovingly in my arms, in her favorite room at home, with a gentle summer breeze blowing amidst big, white puffy clouds and birdsong; It was all I could have hoped for her. I held her in my arms and loved on her some more and she just purred and purred while she was first sedated, and then the final injection was made. It was dignified, and peaceful and filled with love; it was all I could have hoped for for her… And quite frankly, it was all I could have asked for my own departure. (Hello, kharma?)
I’ve been going through the photos of Ava – – She was 18 1/2… I really DID have this kitty a very long time and it’s natural to be greedy and want more of a good thing, but to everything there is a season. I started looking thru my photo albums and there are so many that made me smile – – She brought such comfort and joy to my mom during mom’s last year of life. She saw me thru a lot of tough times and there were soooo many funny or charming or loving moments we shared. She was a GREAT companion, and together we had a good run. My mom did a tremendous job picking out a fantastic cat out of that Burlington Animal Shelter back in 1995. It has been a true privilege to share her life. It is the end of a truly magnificent era for me.
I know there are are tough days ahead of me, but I have such good memories and am comforted at the way she left this earth, I know I’ll be fine. There are ‘pockets of peace’ out there for me; I know they’ll be along in the coming days. I know I’ll go & rescue somebody else at a shelter some day, but not right away… I need to put a little distance between this loss and my next chapter – Ava deserves to be mourned and respected. Eventually the need to pet a kitty and have a kitty in my life again will send me to the shelters in search of a new companion. In the meantime, I will be comforted by the notion of Ava somewhere out there, reunited with my mom, and happily draped over her lap.
As I told Dr. Boals before he left my home “If 20 years from now, if you are going thru an existential crisis of some sort and doubting if what your doing really matters, please remember this conversation: You are delivering a most important and appreciated service providing a dignified, humane, compassionate option… making death a beautiful part of life… There is no more important work than that. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for sharing your gift.”
Sincere thanks to the angels at Home to Heaven – ,