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The Adventures of Skylar Grey

Chapter 30: Losing Alexii

Cuddling was a favorite pastime for Blue, Alexii, and Skylar.

We say goodbye for the last time
Take our bows again
Time is closing in it’s where our journey ends
The path that we chose is fading
Our stories rewritten
I must let you go to find your dreams again
— “Say Goodbye” by Kari Kimmel

The night before Jazzy passed away, she was with Steve, Blue, and me in our usual motel room after another treatment at UC Davis, part of a fibrosarcoma research project with the American Cancer Society. When she was diagnosed, the head of the oncology department gave her two months to live. “This is an incredibly aggressive tumor,” he explained. “And we’ve never seen it in a dog so young.” Jazzy was just over 3 years old at the time, and here we sat nearly two years later. And they were two good years. I knew eventually the cancer would take her, and I promised Jazzy that when she was ready, I would let her go. The hardest thing with pets is that they can’t tell you, at least in words, that they’re in pain or too tired to go on fighting. But I knew Jazzy so well.

That night, she lost her appetite. Steve and I had coconut cream pie from the Nugget Market, and that was the only thing Jazzy seemed interested in. I gave her my entire slice. At 4 a.m., I awoke to Jazzy pawing at my arm. I looked up to see her blue eyes staring down at me over the tumor on her nose. I told Steve we needed to take her to emergency. As we left the motel in the cold grey dawn, I said to Steve, “I want to take her by the field.” I had always said I would know Jazzy was ready to go when she no longer wanted to chase squirrels. We let Blue off leash, and she took off after the chirping ground squirrels, then turned and waited for Jazzy. “Go ahead, Jazzy,” I said, unhooking her leash. She walked a few steps, and then returned to lie at my feet. I fought back tears. “It’s time,” I told Steve.

At UC Davis, the emergency doctor confirmed my worst fears. “Jazzy’s in pain,” she said. “We could keep her alive for another week, maybe two …”

“No,” I said. “I promised Jazzy that when she was ready, I would let her go.”

Losing Jazzy was one of the most difficult experiences I’ve ever gone through, particularly because she was so stoic, comforting me and nuzzling my cheek in our last moments together. Steve was there for me and with me. The ride home to San Francisco was nearly silent, but when I looked over at Steve, I could see him wiping tears from his eyes. “Thank you for being there,” I said. He nodded, “Of course. I loved her, too.”

A few months ago, I noticed that Steve’s cat, Alexii, had grown thin, and her fluffy Himalayan fur was separating, which happens when cats stop grooming themselves. I hadn’t seen her in a while, but I told Steve that she had really gone downhill. “I know,” he said. “But she’s still purring, and she’s still eating. She’s 12 years old, so it makes sense she’s slowing down. This corner of the kitchen is the only place she wants to be, so I moved her bed in here.” I crouched down beside Alexii and she began to purr as I gently stroked her frail body. That night I made salmon for dinner, and she eagerly gobbled it from my hand. “See?” Steve said. “She still has an appetite.”

That evening, Skylar and Blue took turns visiting the kitchen, checking on Alexii. Sky gently nudged her face and Alexii tried to kiss Sky’s nose, but she was too weak. Steve put down paper towels in case Alexii couldn’t make it to the litter box. In the morning, I found her on the kitchen floor, stretched out on her side. “Steve, it’s time,” I said. “I know,” he said as he gently scooped Alexii up in a towel. I called Blue Cross Pet Hospital, and they had a 3 p.m. appointment available. Steve was lying on the bed with Alexii still wrapped in the towel. For the next few hours we took turns beside her, comforting her, and telling her how much we loved her. As weak as she was, she purred.

The veterinarian took Alexii to the back to insert the catheter. When he returned, he placed her, still in the towel, on the table where Steve leaned down to kiss her flat little nose. “I love you, Alexii,” he said, caressing her face. She looked up at him with weary blue eyes and mustered one last purr. The doctor placed his stethoscope near her heart. “She’s gone,” he said. “Take all the time you need.” Steve and I both gave Alexii one last kiss.

The ride home was nearly silent, but when I looked over at Steve, I could see him wiping tears from his eyes. “Thank you for being there,” he said. I nodded, “Of course. I loved her, too.”

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