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Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Just a few days before Christmas I noticed that my cat, Pilar, was breathing heavily. With no other symptoms of illness and a history of occasional snuffles during allergy season, I figured it was maybe a bit of asthma. I called the vet to make an appointment for her after Christmas. After hearing about the problem, the vet tech told us to come in ASAP.

Pilar was diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF), a condition very rare for a such a young cat. We spent the next few weeks trying to balance her medications: too little and her heart would fail and her lungs fill with fluid, too much and her kidneys would fail. For a week she steadily improved and seemed fine. Then she began to go rapidly downhill. 
On January 14th, the event I had been dreading happened. Her condition, referred to as “smoke" on the heart because of the effect seen on x-rays, meant that her blood was thickening faster than we could thin it. She suddenly suffered a blood clot and lost the use the use of her back legs. She was in a great deal of pain and we rushed her to the hospital, where we had to have her put to sleep. 
Pilar, 7 weeks old
I had adopted Pilar in Knoxville, TN when she was about 6 weeks old. After I brought her home I saw that her estimated date of birth was June 20th, 2008. My father died on June 20th, 2005. It felt like a good omen at the time (now I’m toying with the idea that the day is cursed). 

First day together!
For the 3 1/2 years we had together, we were inseparable. I have been a cat person my whole life, but I never knew a cat and their human could be as closely bonded as Pilar and I were. She was like my child, my other half. 
I deal with personal tragedy in the incredibly healthy way of becoming a temporary alcoholic (yet another dirty martini? why yes please) and receding into what my mother calls “Eliza Land.” I have recently returned, for the most part, to the real world and am now faced with the task of finding some sort of jar in which to put Pilar’s ashes. 
My mother and I went on three “urn” ventures. There were several lovely options at places like Pottery Barn and Nell Hills. However, the idea of putting my little girl in a mass produced resting place, even a beautiful one, seems wrong for some reason. 

1 1/2 years old
I have turned to a local artist, Deborah Wald, who makes ceramic pieces. My parents bought several of her bowls years ago and I really like her work. She has a few jars coming out of the kiln in the next week or so and I’m hoping to find one that speaks to me in some way and seems Pilar-ish. 

Eventually I will put some of Pilar’s ashes with my father’s in the beautiful rose garden in the park near my Mom’s house. I also have close friends in Knoxville who had three cats and used to cat-sit Pilar. They lost their eldest cat, Undine, last year and buried her under the persimmon tree in their back yard. I will put some of Pilar’s ashes with Undine, as it seems right for part of her to be back in her home town with people/cats she loved. 

Showing off her black smoke fur
For now, though, I’m not ready to let go of her ashes. I look forward to seeing Debbie’s work and picking the perfect piece for my beautiful girl. 

We love every pet dearly, but, if we are lucky, there will be a particularly special one to us. Pilar was mine and I miss her more than I can say.

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