Ginger’s Blog: Chili’s Journey Home

Written by on January 23, 2020

On  January 11, 2020 at approximately 9:25AM, I said my earthly goodbyes to one of my greatest friends, my cat Chili. Here is her story…
I brought Chili home on April 18th, 2010. It was exactly one week after I adopted Truman from the Australian Cattle Dog Rescue of Illinois. If I was going to be a pet mom, I was going to dive right into finding my pets. I knew I wanted a Cattle Dog so on April 11, 2010 I brought Truman home with me. That amazing story is for another time. This is Chili’s story and this is how it happened.   
I found Chili on the DCHS website “re-homing” page. Her description was intriguing and she did not come with a photo. All I knew was that Chili was a Tortie. My friend had a Tortie that was absolutely beautiful so I thought I would like a Tortie as well. Chili lived with a young family with tiny littles. As a young couple before kids they got Chili as a kitten from a family member who lived on a farm. Chili was absolutely beautiful with perfectly placed patches of cinnamon, butterscotch and coffee colored hair. Her name fit her like a pea coat on a sailor so I kept it. This young family felt like Chili might be happier with someone who could devote more time to her “princess attitude”. Those are my words, not theirs, but I understood their “jive.” I was up for the challenge simply because from the moment I met Chili it seemed as if we had known each other for years and years. We had an instant connection. I only went to “meet” Chili that day, but I ended up taking her home. I explained that I had just adopted a Cattle Dog a week earlier and didn’t know if he would be cat friendly. Chili’s first mom explained that Chili had been raised with a Cattle Dog. What were the odds? And that if they didn’t work out, I could always bring her back. She taught me Chili’s special “whistle.” It was E-C, E-C. If you play piano, just hit those notes like a doorbell ring and that was Chili’s special call. She would come running whenever I whistled those notes from wherever she was. Oh… and, Chili liked to go on walks around the block with the dogs and always came back. She would just follow the family around the block, unleashed, while walking the dogs and pushing their babies in strollers. Sold. That, I thought, is one cool cat. She will love living with me.           
I packed Chili, her scratching post, her food and her personality into my car that day and headed home.  She didn’t make any noise in the car on the way. When I brought her in the house, Truman was in a crate and I let them see each other from that confinement. It was amazing. Truman looked at Chili and Chili looked at Truman and it was if they both said, “Hey… how’ve you been? I’ve missed you! It’s so great to see you again.” I about fell on the floor, I couldn’t believe it. I let Truman out of his crate to greet her and the rest of the story made up my happy little home for the past decade.
Early December 2019, I came home from work and noticed Chili hadn’t touched her food all day. This pattern went on for about a week and a half before I ended up calling the vet to have her checked out. She had a full panel of blood work done and everything came back perfectly normal. We thought maybe she had some teeth that were hurting her and preventing her from eating so we scheduled a dental. During the procedure my vet noticed a little bulge in her tummy so he took some X-rays. It turns out that little bulge was a rather big bulge of cancer. It was most likely Lymphoma. It’s the most common form of cancer in cats. With treatment maybe she had six months? Without treatment maybe she had six weeks? Chili was already 14 years old and I caught it too late. Chemo wouldn’t have helped her at the stage she was in, and she lived only three weeks after her diagnosis.  
I knew it was time to let her go when she wouldn’t even eat her cat treats and barely drank 1 oz. of water a day. I also knew I owed it to her to have Journeys Home come in to have a peaceful goodbye and release into her new life… wherever that may be.  
I cannot say enough wonderful things about doing pet euthanasia in your home when the time comes. I had soft music playing in the background. The kind of music Chili was used to listening to every weekend while I was cleaning the house or just relaxing. She was lying on her favorite couch. She was comfortable in her home. She was also so, so tired, and in pain and told me she was ready to say goodbye. Dr. Laura Purdy came to my home on that Saturday morning after our ice storm. She brought in her bags and was such an amazing presence in my home. She was calm, quiet, respectful and yet personable, compassionate, thoughtful and connected to all the energies in the room. Truman was there, of course. I wanted him to be a natural, not forced, part of the experience of saying goodbye to a friend. Remarkably, Dr. Purdy also grew up with a Cattle Dog. What are the odds, once again?  
She explained to me what would happen. How Chili would be given something to numb all her pain and when she was completely relaxed she would administer something that would stop her heart. I was so nervous and anxious the days and hours before Dr. Purdy came, but once she was there I felt peace and a readiness to say goodbye. The whole procedure took about 20 minutes. I thought it would take a lot less time. I held Chili’s paw in my hand and stroked her head. Truman was quietly chewing a bone on the floor beside us. It wasn’t until seconds before her heart stopped beating that Truman got up on his own, walked over to the couch to look straight at Chili with ears forward and eyes focused right on her as if to say, “Are you okay?  Chili, are you okay?” That amazing animal experience broke me into tears. It was so unsolicited, so pure and so true.  
I decided to take Chili to my vet to have her become a part of a mass cremation. I personally had already set her spirit free and didn’t feel the need to have her ashes come back to me. There are so many choices you can make with final plans for your pet. This was mine. It was the right choice. Before I took her to my vet, Dr. Purdy wrapped her up in a blanket I had, just like a baby. I held her for a little while and let Truman come and smell her to know that she had passed. He smelled her for a long time and when he was done, he pulled away with a look, and he went into a room he never enters to mourn the loss of his true friend and pack member. No one will even convince me that animals do not grieve. His face said it all.     
Chili was one of a kind. When I broke my ankle she slept by my side every single second. She would stand up on her hind legs and growl whenever she heard someone come through the back door to bring me groceries or help me with anything. She was more of a watchdog for me than Truman ever has been.  She would have been one of those cats who mutilated an intruder just to protect me and her household. She took walks around the block as a family unit with Truman and me. She would stand her ground and scream at me if I just so happened to disturb her “personal space radius.” She slept on me, next to me, by me every single night of our lives together. She had her own “princess pillow” that I would pat and she would lay on each night before falling asleep. If ever a cat had a personality larger than life, it was Chili. She would make me absolutely crazy sometimes with her demands and diva personality. My vet called it Trotitude. It’s a thing. It’s real. And I highly recommend getting a Tortoiseshell cat if you are up for one of the greatest feline experiences of your life. Buckle up.
I also highly recommend doing an at home euthanasia with Journeys Home if you feel that is where your heart leads you. The experience is memorable and amazing.  Here are just a few photos from life to love to afterlife. I will forever remember Chili as the best cat I have ever had.  And I know that your pet will always be the best pet to you and what made you a family. Never forget.   

Hear Ginger Martin weekdays from 9-noon. Read more of her blogs here.

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