I will start at the beginning. This is Gus' story.
In the summer of 1999, I was living in Bridgewater, New Jersey. I worked at the newspaper there and I hated it. I hated everything about being there, except my house. I LOVED the place where I lived. I had moved from Colorado and brought my childhood cat, Bobo, with me. I know it was sad for my parents to let her come with me, but she was all I had. I didn't make any friends while I lived there, I did everything alone. Usually on the weekends, I would sit on the couch and watch TV with Bobo.
One day, out of the blue, Bobo started throwing up blood. By the end of the day, I had to make the decision to let her go. That was the most difficult moment of my life. Being there with her during his last moments of life. It just about killed me. I was so overwhelmed with grief. After two days, I couldn't stand the silence in the house, so I went to find a new friend.
I went to the Somerset County Humane Society and there I met a skinny little orange cat named "Raleigh". He sat patiently at the door to his cage while all the others went nuts. They told me that he had been there for many months and he was running out of time. I held him and he rubbed his face against my nose. I loved him right then. I took him into their office to have a little more time with him. He curled up in my lap and fell asleep. "I'll take this one". And I named him Gus, after Dennis Leary's character in the movie "The Ref".
I brought Gus home and our life together began. He was the first real adult responsibility I had - the first pet I got completely on my own. I told him that I couldn't stand another heartbreak and so he had to live for at least 15 years! I said he needed to be there for my 40th birthday.
That November, I got a job in Portland Oregon. Gus and I made the cross country trip together. He was the best passenger. Every morning, he would climb into the front seat next to me and watch out the window. He would sleep under the bed in the hotel every night. Finally, we arrived in Portland and we settled into our temporary hotel. A month later, we moved into our studio apartment and life was good.
Every night, I would lay in bed and read a book. Gus would snuggle up against me and put his big fluffy tail across my chest. He was my best friend. 6 months later, I met Trevor. Trevor worked out of town every other week. I would stay at his house the weeks that he was in town. Gus would go with me. I would put him in the car and we would drive up to Trevor's house, spend the week, then drive home. Gus has always liked to ride in the car, so he never minded at all.
Six months, Trevor and I moved into a new house together and Gus realized this was for keeps. He started to sleep on Trevor's head at night!
By this time, Gus was about 2 years old. One night, Gus was acting strange, I couldn't put my finger on it, but something was not right. Trevor was working out of town and when I said "Gus is hiding under the desk", Trevor said "Take him to the emergency room". It was 9 pm and I did just that. I found out that Gus had a blood disease called hemobartenela. He was really sick, he had lost almost 4 pounds and his red blood cell count was dangerously low.
Gus stayed in at the emergency vet for a few days, came home and then went right back. We finally brought him home and I had to feed him with a syringe. If he didn't start eating, we would have to decide what to do next. After about a week of feeding him baby food with a syringe, I was in bed one night and I heard Gus eating. I cried. He was on the road to recovery.
Over the next 8 years, Gus had many, many illnesses. None of them were easy fixes. We battled a bloody nose, a severely bloody nose, that would not go away. We went to an ear/nose/throat vet and finally pulled some teeth. That seemed to help. Next, he had a growth on his lip. Come to find out he had an allergy problem and fungus would grow on his lip/nose/mouth. So he had a dematologist that we saw every six months and medicine that he took every week. On a routine visit to the vet, they found a heart murmur that was severe enough they referred us to a cardiologist. Gus had EKGs and ultrasounds on his heart every six months for several years. He was on a daily heart medicine.
Gus was always in good spirits. He never minded any of the visits to the vet. He loved the car ride. He would tolerate just about anything. He jumped up on the bathroom counter every morning and every night to take his pills. He slept on our pillows every single night.
4 years ago, we found a lump on Gus' tail. I knew it was not good. The vet said that it was cancer and the only way to remove the lump was to remove Gus' tail. I always told Gus that his tail was my favorite part of him. It was so big and fluffy. So amazingly beautiful. They removed his tail and left just two vertebrae. The type of tumor he had is very invasive and usually returns within 3 years. I took two days off work and stayed home with Gus. I layed down on the floor and he layed next to me or on my lap.
Gus made a full recovery and never seemed to mind that he didn't have his tail anymore. One less thing to worry about!
The next few years passed so quickly. Our Wookie got sick in January of this year and passed away in March. At this time, Gus was still sleeping on my head. I had started wearing my hair curly a year ago and Gus LOVED to curl up in my messy head of hair. He would put his little nose in my ear and sigh a huge sigh of contentment before he went to sleep.
One night, right around the time Wookie died, Gus was up on the counter and I noticed that he had a big sore on what was left of his tail. My heart sunk because I knew his tumor was back. We took him to the vet and they said it was just a sore, I believed them because I couldn't handle the thought of losing another pet. They gave us medicine and two weeks later, he wasn't better. We headed down to Gus' oncologist. They ran a battery of tests and told us that Gus' tumor had returned and the options weren't good.
After many tears, we decided to do what we have always done - give Gus the chance to fight. We started a chemo treatment and figured we would see how he responded. The oncologist said that best case scenario was 6-9 months. After that, no treatment would be effective, the tumor would grow, overwhelm Gus' body and we would have to decide to let him go.
Gus made it through the first chemo with flying colors and seemed to be doing better. Here he is later that day:
He was set for another treatment a month later. Two days before that next treatment, he was acting strange. I took him down to the vet. He had a fever and was very dehydrated. They kept him over night. The next day, they called to tell me that the tumor was infected. They rehydrated him, but couldn't do anything more for him. We had reached the point where we were going to need to decide. The vet said we probably had a week. I brought Gus home and loved him every second of the day, just like always.
That was 6 months ago. Gus has gotten better, then worse, then better many times since then. I had made an appointment to end it, then called and cancelled because he came back to life! For a while, he slept in the front closet. Then he moved to Trevor's closet. He hasn't slept with us for probably 5 months.
The tumor continued to grow. It is now full of pus, scabbing and smells horrible. This is what the vet said would happen. And there is nothing we can do to make it better. It bothers him sometimes, but for the most part, he seems to have some enjoyment in his life. He loves to lay in the sun. He will go lay in a spot before the sun gets there, knowing the sun will be there eventually. He is still eating and drinking, using the litter box. And he still gets up and comes to me when he sees me.
Two weeks ago, I again thought it was time. Then, out of nowhere, he started acting normal. He slept on the bed with us the last week, he gets up on the counter and wants water from the sink and he even comes into the workout room with me when I do my weight workouts.
The last few days, he has seemed very weak. He wants to get up on the counter, but when he lifts his front paws, he loses his balance. He stopped sleeping with us again. Last night I put him on the bed. He wanted to lay where Daisy (one of our other cats) was laying. Daisy smacked him, lightly, and Gus lost his balance and fell over.
This morning, I noticed that his back right leg didn't seem to be working very well. The tumor is just taking over. He is wasting away. I know we will need to let him go, but it is so hard. Especially since he always bounces back.
I have had many talks with him about how he can go if he needs to go. I tell him to let me know when he is ready and I will help him. I tell him Wookie is waiting for him. Joyce, our petsitter of 8 years, passed away unexpected a few weeks ago. She had a special bond with Gus. I keep telling Gus that Joyce will be waiting for him too. He just looks at me and purrs when we have these talks.
This afternoon, he was laying in the sun. I went and laid with him. He put his face next to mine and sighed. These are the most precious moments. Gus is my dearest friend and I love him more than anything else in my life. He was all I had, years ago. He was the only joy I had in a time when I was totally unhappy. He loves Trevor like I love Trevor - completely and without hesitation. He was the first.
When the time comes, I will make the decision and it will break my heart. I will let him go, but part of me will go with him. I have loved him every minute since I first saw him and I will love him forever.