Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Saturday, July 2, 2011

In Memory Of Arizona

One of AZ's favorite spots 

Last night, I had to euthanize my 17 1/2 yr old cat, Arizona. He's the oldest and first of the 7 pets (now 6 :(  ) in my household.

The following is from my Facebook page and sums it up pretty well: Today is the first day in almost 17 years that I woke up without Arizona in my life. He and I went through vet school together, heartbreaks of all kinds, moves, marriage, job changes..nearly 1/2 my life on this earth. He was my companion through it all..and I miss him dearly :(

I ask you to bear with me as this might be a longer post than my usual personal pet bios. I have 17 years of memories with him.

There are so many things I want to say about him but first let me tell you how I got him. I started veterinary school at Purdue University in August 1994. I was living in an apartment complex close to the campus that did NOT allow pets. Soon after, however, I realized that most of my neighbors HAD pets - including large dogs! Hm..that did not sit well with me. I wanted a pet too. I was living alone (happy about that trust me) but wanted some animal companionship. 

The veterinary students worked closely with the Tippecanoe County Humane Society. We got to learn on their animals and help them at no to little cost (my first surgery EVER was a cat I spayed for them and they got to adopt out). We also did exams and blood draws, etc. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. I went a few times, and a beautiful long haired calico caught my eye. I went to adopt her and doing their background check, the shelter found out that I lived in a place that did not allow pets. It was a NO GO. 

Anyone that knows me, knows that I don't give up when I want something though. No just means I have to find another way to get what I want. I had met a fellow vet student that I was becoming fast friends with. After telling her this story, she suggested she could adopt the cat for me (her and husband rented a house that allowed pets) and she could GIVE the cat to me.  So she goes there only to find that the cat I wanted was gone. What does she do? Not sure, she goes and picks this 7 month old long haired orange cat. She calls me to tell me that she had to choose for me and if I didn't like him, she'd take him back. Of course, 17 years later, you know how that turned out.

Why did I name him Arizona? Well, I was trying to come up with all sorts of creative names (pet peeve - non creative pet names!!) and I wanted something that described his color, etc. But admittedly I was in a relationship with someone from Arizona too. I named him Arizona Sunset but never used the second half. 

Arizona & Sam (owned by the friend who picked Zona out for me)

He seemed pretty quiet and calm when I first brought him home. However, his true personality was masked by his upper respiratory infection. Once treated and cured, he was a totally different kitten!

They'd tell us in veterinary school, if you had a pet at home, you could find this or that anatomical landmark on them, learn certain exam procedures on them (nothing harmful of course!). Yeah, well, Zona was NOT amenable to that. In fact, when he went in to be neutered, it took several people to hold him down to give him a shot to be sedated. He would find ways to twist and turn to bite. He did NOT like restraint AT ALL.

Back then, he would sleep on the pillow by my head. He liked to be petted but only for short times - then he'd bite and run off. Nothing really hard - just he had his limit. I also discovered, by accident, that he liked tortilla chips (dropped one and he went nuts). From that time on, any time a bag of Tostitos came out, he'd be RIGHT there. 

The vet school had Santa come for pet pictures. This was interesting since he did NOT like to be held unless it was on his terms. He had his front claws back then too. He didn't do too much damage to Santa, thank goodness! We got a quick shot off and he was done!

Zona (as he was often called) loved to be in any open drawer or closet or box. The picture of him in my dresser drawer  reminds me of another penchant of his - chewing the backs off of bras. Yeah. Really.

I had purchased a really nice bra/panty set from Victoria's Secret. After long days at the vet school, I admit, I didn't always put clothes away. One day I came home and found that he had PUKED up the back part of the bra - you know, the part with the hooks/clasps. THANK GOD he didn't get obstructed but wow, was I mad! By this time, VS didn't carry that color/style anymore. Great. I didn't learn though. I figured it was a fluke. I left another bra out one day. He did the same thing. NEVER again did I leave that stuff out again!! 

In writing this another memory has come back to me from vet school - it'll show just what a geek I am. I used to call him Zona Pellucida (this is a membrane that surrounds an egg as it develops in the ovary). I remember as soon as I learned that, I'd call him that all the time. Only vet students (or med students) would probably find that amusing.  

Loving the underwear drawer!

He was always the submissive cat in the house. Even though he was the stronger/bigger one at times. Each time I added a cat (and in one case, a dog), he didn't really mind. In fact, he didn't really seem to even pay them much attention. However, in going through some old photos of him, I did see quite a few where he and Chevy were together.

He also developed some litter box issues. He was never an easy cat to do something to, so medicating him was NOT an option. I did work with a behaviorist at the vet school and none of the things we tried worked. I realized I'd have to either
1. Live with it
2. Get rid of/put him to sleep

2 was NEVER an option. I could never live with myself if I did that to him. AND I certainly could NOT give him up to another home where he might get abused or thrown out on the street.  
Having a pet is a lifetime commitment. Period. I just worked/managed around his issues. I just had to clean more. I certainly tested all sorts of products (cleaners, machines, etc) because of him. Let me tell you, 99% of them suck and do not do as advertised.   I replaced 2 rooms that were carpeted with hardwood floors (which I love!!) because of him. I kept waiting for him to go (not that I WISHED it of course, but each year he got older, I'd be like..well, when he's gone, I'll replace the rugs). I got fed up with it however, because I do love to have a nice home and nice things. AND you can have that with pets. You just have to work harder at it and spend more money to have it. 

I often told him he was lucky to have ME as his owner as others would've chosen to end his life early. I see it all the time in practice. 

Zona in his prime was a very handsome cat. He often was referred to as a "she" in fact because everyone thought he was so beautiful. He always was a good groomer so I didn't really have to brush him (thank God!)  but in the last year of his life, he did not do this so well. I even had to bring in him and shave him down under general anesthesia (yes, even at 16, he was a fighter) because I could not comb the mats out. 

I still have no idea how he got up there!

You can see his penchant for being "in" things!

This was the first animal of MY own that I have ever had to euthanize. I did it in my home, in the presence of my husband and our dear friends, Bree and Scott. I allowed the other cats to acknowledge the loss as I have seen this help other pets grieve and not "wonder" where the family member has gone. 

Arizona - thank you for 17 years of memories. You were a little bastard at times but I loved you all the same. I look forward to seeing you again someday!


  1. I am so sorry for your loss. You two were lucky to have each other.

  2. Christine this is such a healing entry. Zona had a fortunate life.

    I can relate to millions of your entries, the dresser drawers they seem to discover (and you find hair on your clothing stored there on a busy morning really rang true (you found something else...triggered my memory).
    Love you girl friend