Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Part 1: The end of a life


I am not even sure how to begin to talk about Roy. I will say that losing him has been impossible. Roy was euthanized a little over a week ago. It was the single most difficult decision in my life. He was not the classic case of not eating, immobile, or hiding. The day it happened he asked to go outside and enjoyed the sun, tried to spray on some bushes, and thought about sneaking in an open window. He had moments where he would purr madly on my shoulder or forcefully meow asking for something. 

Unfortunately most of his time he was in discomfort, constantly moving about trying to find a position he could find comfort in. He was on pain meds, first once a day, then all the time. He would sometimes stare off in the distance, dead in his eyes, but awake. I need to say these things to remind myself of their truth, because once you follow through on that decision, every part of you just wants them back in your arms. So you question your decision and forget the reality of the situation. 

Almost a year ago, I noticed Roy was losing a lot of weight and spent a considerable amount of time in a bookshelf cubbyhole near a heating vent. A vet eventually diagnosed him with an abdominal mass. Surgery was not an option, so I started Roy on steroids. Luckily the steroids seemed to keep the growth at bay and he gained his weight and strength. He was doing great for a really long time! Obviously the growth was not an aggressive type. 

About 6 months later, Roy started to have completely different symptoms related to his throat. His high pitched and loud meows went really quite and weak, he had some weird swallowing and things I now can’t remember. The vet thought he may have voice box cancer, but a definite diagnosis would require a surgery that could potentially kill him, so obviously not worth it. I just monitored him and tried my best to keep him comfortable. 

Eventually I noticed that Roy was fighting with me about taking his medications. He had never done that before. In the morning he knew I would medicate him before I left and he started to run away from me. It was heart breaking. He was also acting in discomfort often and started to frequent the cubbyhole in the bookshelf again. I made the tough decision to stop his oral medications, since I realized they were probably causing him considerable pain when he swallowed. 

At first the lack of medications made him come alive! He was playing again and being frisky and causing trouble, just like the good old days. He was always very affectionate, but he wanted to be held even more and cuddled up more than ever. It was great, until I noticed the shaking in his front arms while standing. Then, losing balance of his back legs on occasion. Not falling or anything, but he was off. With time, he was becoming increasingly uncomfortable just sitting around. He shifted his weight often. It was obvious he had trouble finding comfort.

It is hard because you always wonder what you could have done differently to keep your baby alive. Or to make sure they had the best life possible. Or be in the least amount of pain. There are no right or wrong answers, but there are always those lingering questions.  I know I made the best decisions I could have given the information I had in front on me.  I know that I loved Roy more than imaginable, and the last thing I wanted was for him to be gone, just as he is now. But the only thing I know for sure is I miss him tremendously. 

The day it happened, I had a vet come to the house. Roy hated to travel and the vet office, so I didn’t want to put him through that. It was more expensive but definitely worth it. He was able to die on his favorite chair with the comforts of his life around him. My cat Loki was able to come into the room and see the body afterwards, to allow his own processing of what happened. Roy and Loki were not really friends. In fact, Roy kind of bullied him. A part of me expected Loki to be excited, since he could finally get a lot of attention. But I think Loki is depressed. The loss of Roy has affected him more than I expected.

I chose a private cremation and I still have no idea what to do with the ashes. It is amazing how such a big personality could fit into such a small container. I created a memorial where he died of sympathy cards, his collar, flowers and the ashes. Most of me still can’t accept what happened, but it will hit me in waves. This usually happens unexpectedly and at inconvenient times. Even while watching the new movie “Lincoln”, a wave of sadness hit me. President Lincoln laid down next to his son and this made me tear up thinking of all the times I laid next to Roy with such affection. Just watching Juncos feed on the sidewalk, I was reminded of life and death and started to cry for Roy. Being able to leave water glasses out, or the toilet seat up or clothes on the floor without the worry of Roy tipping it over, or drinking from it, or peeing on it- has all made me cry.  

Roy was an awesome cat. He had such a demanding presence and got into trouble a lot. But no matter how much he pissed me off, I loved him unconditionally. I would often tell him the most mushy crap imaginable while holding him over my left should listening to his purrs placed perfectly over my ear. I will miss him forever, but my life has also gained instrumentally from having him in my life. No matter how difficult the euthanasia decision was, or how hard this grieving has and will be; I will never regret the love I shared with him. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Traditional Thanksgiving Recipes- Veganized

This holiday season I am finding myself unable to find creativity in the kitchen.  Mostly this is due to my cat being very sick and towards the end of his life.  It has been a very tough month.  So instead of sharing new recipes, I want to once again share my classic recipes that are sure to please.  I plan to make most of these recipes myself for my family this year.  Be thankful of your friends and family (especially the furry and fluffy ones) and enjoy the recipes!

Traditional Stuffing

3 1/2 cups Bread Crumbs
1 cup Vegetable Broth
1/4 cup Earth Balance
6 Celery Stalks, chopped
1 small Onion, chopped
2 tsp Sage, rubbed
1 tsp Marjoram
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper

Melt the margarine over medium high heat in a skillet and add the onion and celery. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. In a medium sized pan, heat the vegetable broth until boiling. In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs, herbs, salt and cooked celery and onion. Stir all of this to combine thoroughly. Slowly add the vegetable broth, stirring occasionally to cover all the bread crumbs. Place stuffing in a greased 9-inch square pan bake at 375°F for about 30 minutes.
*To make your own bread crumbs, cut a loaf of bread in cubes. Place on a large cookie sheet and bake at 300°F for about 20-30 minutes, using a spatula about every 5 minutes to move around the bread so it will dry out evenly.

Miso-Maple Tofu

1 1/2 blocks Tofu*
1 cup Walnuts
2 Tb Miso
1 Tb Maple Syrup
1 Tb Sesame Oil
2 Tb Tamari

Cut the tofu into 1/4 inch slabs. Combine the sesame oil and tamari. Coat the tofu in the oil/tamari combination and place on baking sheet. If any oil/tamari is left, pour over top of tofu. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, flip tofu and bake an addition 10 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the walnuts, miso and maple syrup until it is a paste-like consistency. Spread the paste evenly over the baked tofu. Bake an addition 15 minutes.

"Buttermilk" Biscuits

4 cups Unbleached White Flour
1 Tb. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 Tb. Sugar
1 cup Soy Margarine
2 cups Soymilk + 1 Tb. Lemon Juice

Combine the soymilk and lemon juice and let stand a few minutes. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Using a pastry cutter, cut the soy margarine into the flour mixture until pea sizes or smaller. Pour the soymilk mixture and blend until combined. Place dough on a floured work surface and knead a couple times. Spread the dough out to about 3/4 inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 375°F for 15-18 minutes. Makes about 20 biscuits.

Pumpkin Pie

1 - 15 oz can of Pumpkin Puree
1 - 12.3 oz package of Mori-Nu Silken Tofu (Firm)
3/4 cup Organic Cane Sugar
1/4 cup Cornstarch
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground Ginger
1/4 tsp ground Cloves
1 prepared Pie Shell or Flaky Pie Crust (below)

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until creamy.  Spread into a pie shell.  Bake at 350°F for 1 hour.  Allow to sit a couple hours before serving.

Flaky Pie Crust

1 ½ cups Unbleached White Flour
½ cup Soy Margarine (Cold)
½ tsp Sea Salt
4-6 Tb Ice Water

Place flour and salt in medium-size bowl. Break up margarine and cut into flour with a pastry cutter until there are pea-sized pieces of dough. Slowly add ice water and blend with fork. Do not overwork; blend until just mixed and dough holds together. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to be slightly larger than your pie pan. Place in pie pan and form dough as desired. Add pie filling to the crust and bake according to pie instructions. Makes one 9-inch pie crust. 
Other Thanksgiving Recipes