This is a post that I shared on our “hobby” (if you want to call it that!) website (Meowtain Climbers) and at first, I wasn’t going to share it here but decided that I would so that our readers know what has been going on. I also wanted to sort of “memorialize” Rambo since he has made quite a few appearances and was loved by so many of you.
We are so sad to say that he died unexpectedly (and while we were out of town) on September 21 and our hearts are still so broken. Rambo was the 5th family member I’ve lost recently with the 6th (my uncle) being just five short days after Rambo died.
Before I get into losing Rambo, I know 2020 and 2021 have been very hard years for everyone (2021 being worse personally). If you are struggling please reach out to someone for help: a family member, a friend, a counselor, etc. You matter. Yes, there will always be someone who has it “worse” and always someone to has it “better” than you but your feelings are still valid.
Below is what I shared about Rambo. It may sound jumbled or out of order but it was so hard to write.
I still cannot believe I am writing this post. When I logged into this website, I immediately started crying again because of the picture of Rambo on the last post. I never, ever thought that looking at a picture of my perfect, fluffy tuxedo cat would make me start bawling, but here we are.
Rambo died on September 21, 2021. It feels like it was yesterday and years ago all at the same time. I still cannot believe he is gone.
I feel like I need to type it all out, everything in order, for me to truly explain what happened and how we feel. We do not have kids so Rambo and Lucky are our kids and we had Rambo for all 15 years of his life (Scott found him crying as a tiny kitten and rescued him from a dog). I have NEVER met a cat like Rambo and I know when someone says they don’t like cats that they haven’t met the right one. Rambo would wait at the door for Scott to get home from work, he would follow me around the house as I did chores, he would stand there while we brushed our teeth, he would wait outside the shower, he would go into our “gym” while we worked out, he would sprint so fast up and down the hall that he would sometimes run into the front door because he was going so fast he couldn’t stop. And yes, he did all of this at 15 years old. He was so healthy, so full of life. Even at 15, we NEVER imagined that this would happen so suddenly.
UPDATE: Here is a video that Scott compiled of some of the different videos of Rambo that we had. This was so hard to do, I think I went through an entire box of Kleenex.
Both Rambo and Lucky (our black three-legged declawed (before we got him!) kitty) had a full senior check-up on August 10th and Rambo died 42 days later. We knew that he had a heart murmur (and hernia) and it wasn’t a problem… until it was…
We had a two-week hiking trip planned for the PNW (we were going to Washington and Oregon). We canceled the trip because of the weather – wildfires, smoke, and then a ton of rain was expected. We decided we would just go somewhere local where we could drive. We booked six days in the Keys (staying in Key Colony Beach, Florida), it’s a place we’ve wanted to go but never really make time to go to the ocean. We were actually very excited about doing something different and relaxing a bit instead of hiking 100 miles.
We scheduled for the cat sitter (who lives directly across the street) to come over twice a day (and to think we used to leave them for days without a sitter at all!). We left early Sunday morning. Rambo was acting like his normal precious self, he was running around the house and even gave us his puss and boots eyes that he wanted more Churu. We told them both we loved them, petted their heads, and left.
Everything was going well until Tuesday night we received a phone call while we were sitting on the patio at a restaurant. The cat sitter said she needed to take Rambo to the vet. Rambo?! We thought for sure she meant Lucky. Rambo never had any problems. EVER. But no, she meant Rambo. Rambo was wheezing, peed on the floor in front of her (NEVER happens), and then hid. I had one of my friends who used to be a vet tech as our “emergency contact”, she knew we were out of town and that the cat sitter was there. I got in touch with her and she said she could go over later that night to access what was going on. Perfect – we thought. She will see if he is still acting weird and get him into a carrier and take him to the vet if needed. Rambo is pretty psycho about other people and the carrier so we were worried he would scratch the cat sitter but knew that our friend knew how to handle him since she was his vet tech.
Even though we weren’t overly alarmed since we thought maybe he just had a hairball we immediately left the restaurant to go back to the condo. On the short drive to the condo, we get another phone call that she was able to get him wrapped in a towel and into the carrier (the fact that she was able to do this was alarming enough). What she said next sent us both into something I’ve never experienced before. She said, “Scott, I think he’s dead”. Scott is driving, we are about half a mile from the condo. We both look at each other like WHAT IS GOING ON. Scott pulls into the condo parking lot. I jump out of the car because I feel like I am going to throw up. I call the vet to give them a heads up that she is bringing Rambo in.
I finally get Scott to get out of the car. We leave everything in there from the beach earlier in the day and go up to our condo. As soon as we get in it starts pouring. We sit on the bed literally just waiting for a phone call. I was texting my family group message (mom, dad, and sister). I kept saying since we haven’t received a phone call yet that means they are working on him, right? If he were dead they would have called us by now.
I get in the shower, give the phone to Scott. Still no call. Okay, that’s good news. We are still in a state of shock but really believe that Rambo is still with us. Then the phone rings. The vet says “Whitney, He’s gone.”. He’s gone?! She said he had already passed before he arrived at the vet’s office. She looked in his mouth and did a quick X-ray but nothing. But he had a heart murmur, which we’ve known about. There was fluid around his lunges and she thinks his heart gave out. She said he looks so healthy and his coat is so shiny. No one would know something was wrong with him.
From what we’ve read about cardiomyopathy it is not preventable or curable. And the first symptom is sudden death. We try not to read too much about it because it’s too hard to think about what he went through when we weren’t home.
It’s hard to talk about that night because it was horrible and I replay it in my head almost every night. I didn’t fall asleep until 4 AM and didn’t sleep very long. I specifically remember Googling if a person ever actually runs out of tears. Scott was obsessively watching the cat cam videos, including the one of her carrying Rambo out in the towel. I still can’t watch it but he said that Rambo looked up and looked around. This is hard to even type. It was like he was looking around at his perfect house and the perfect life he had one more time. Or he was looking for us since we are supposed to be there for him when he needs us, but yet at the most important time we weren’t.
The next morning, it’s still raining. We go back and forth, should we go back early? Is Lucky okay? Scott calls the cat sitter because at this point I still cannot even talk to anyone. She said that Lucky is okay, he is eating and using the litter box. We had a ton of food since we stopped by Costco and planned on being there for four more days. Everyone we talk to says stay, what can we do at this point?! So we stay. The cat sitter goes over three times per day to check on Lucky.
It literally rained for 24 hours. As I mentioned, it rained as soon as we got back to the condo, and then it quit raining exactly 24 hours later. During the day we went to the Turtle Hospital and that evening when it quit raining we sat out on the beach at the condo. Every star reminded us of Rambo.
We made our way back home on Friday. It was a 12-hour drive and I’m pretty sure I cried 11 of the 12 hours. I was so dreading going home. I wanted to be there with Lucky but the feeling of walking through those doors without Rambo there was soul-crushing.
We still can’t believe our baby is gone and we weren’t there to say a final goodbye. We weren’t there so that he saw us last. The what-ifs are so hard.
- What if we had taken them with us somehow?
- What if we had been home? (Why was Scott’s break that week?! It is NEVER that week!)
- What if we had boarded them at a vet’s office?
- What if he had an echo done?
- What if he had a recent x-ray?
- What if my vet were closer? (Why didn’t I think to just send her to the closest vet?)
Something else I’ve realized over the last few weeks:
- There are no resources for those who lose their pets while they are gone.
- There are no resources for those who didn’t get to tell their pets goodbye.
- There are no resources for those who had their pet see someone else’s face as the last face they saw.
- There are no resources for those who lose a healthy animal. None of this, “oh he isn’t suffering anymore”. He was not suffering!
Everything you read online or hear from other people is for when you have to euthanize an animal because it is hurting or because they die of old age. I have not been able to find anything helpful regarding a situation like ours.
Once I am emotionally able I am going to work on a few posts that I have in mind that might help others in similar situations but right now by heart is still breaking all over again, all day long. We are also going to work on putting together a video of Rambo and the funny things we were able to capture. But right now we are not strong enough to do that.
If you have any resources that maybe I missed please let me know.
Within a short period of time, I’ve lost a cousin (October 2020), my dad’s 5-year old dog (June 2021), an uncle (August 2021), my dad’s best friend since middle school (August 2021), Rambo (September 2021), and another uncle (5 days after Rambo – September 2021).
Below is what I shared on my personal Facebook page:
I feel like I need to share more about Rambo just so you know how cool of a cat he was. Maybe even some of you who don’t like cats will be convinced to adopt one like Rambo.
The house is so quiet, so empty. I miss his little paws on the floor. I miss his crazy meowing when Scott didn’t come home from work on time (every day he would walk with Scott to the garage door when he was leaving and be waiting there in the evening). I miss him sprinting up and down the hall like a kitten. I miss him carrying his favorite toy, a zip tie, around in his mouth at all hours of the night meowing. I even miss cleaning up the cat litter that he scattered because he would run out of his litter box at 100 MPH. I miss him taking over the yoga mat one second after I laid it down and making me use another one to actually work out.
This fall season and Christmas is going to be especially difficult because he LOVED sitting in the windows when they were open and loved the Christmas tree (That one time he knocked over my fully decorated real 8 ft tree when he was little…!).
For FIFTEEN years he was everywhere and now he is nowhere. We have literally had him since he was a tiny fluffy kitten. What are the chances that Scott finds the tiniest, cutest, fluffiest, best kitten as a senior in college? Scott didn’t have any cat food so he fed him Boar’s Head deli meat as a kitten (ha!). He loved it and as an adult cat, he would recognize the sound of the plastic liner that deli meat is in. We didn’t often eat deli meat over the last 8 years or so but we would sometimes get him a few slices. I wish I would have been able to get him some, one last time. We both also just learned about Churu and he LOVED it. I’m glad I was able to give him some the morning before we went out of town.
I knew losing him would be hard but I never imagined it would be this hard. If you know us you know we love all animals, especially cats. We always joked around about what we would do when Rambo dies?! And we said we would lose our minds… well, here we are! We don’t have kids so he was our kid (along with Lucky).
Everything in our house reminds us of him. He would sit in my office while I worked (often laying his head on my hand so I couldn’t even move it), he would go into our “gym room” while we worked out, he would sleep in our bedroom, he would paw us in the face to wake up, he would try to bite the earrings out of my ear, he would get on the bathroom counter while we brushed our teeth, he would follow me to the laundry room and rub his head on the dryer when I was doing laundry (he would also turn over the hamper to sleep in it), he would stand on or next to the dishwasher as I loaded it, he would sit at the table while we recorded podcasts (Pam!), he would lay across all of the paperwork I needed when doing taxes and writing workout plans, he would lay in that one ray of sunshine coming through the window… depending on the time of day we knew exactly where we could find him (if he wasn’t with us already). He loved it when my sister would make up songs and sing to him.
He was scared of the oven, cutting boards, metal mixing bowls, the exercise ball (but not the big Peloton bike or the huge weights!), and didn’t like to walk on bathroom mats. He would army crawl away if we did any of the above. I quit using metal mixing bowls and we used the oven as little as possible so we didn’t scare him. Imagine having a (mostly) recipe website and trying to not scare your cat with mixing bowls and turning on the oven! His quirks made him even cuter.
He was 15 years old but never had any health problems, other than the heart murmur and a hernia. When he was young we were told it wasn’t a problem and as he got older it wasn’t a problem… until it was. He just had a full check-up on August 10. They think his little heart gave out and he didn’t survive even though he was rushed to the vet by our fast-acting cat sitter.
It was absolutely heartbreaking to be out of town when all of this happened. Our hearts were shattered in The Keys (and I’ll always associate that location with Rambo dying… it randomly rained for 24 hours straight after we learned he had passed) and then again when we walked into the house and he wasn’t waiting on us. No matter what he was always waiting at the door when we got back! It’s weird though because, at the last minute, we canceled a two-week hiking trip to Washington/Oregon. Luckily we were only a 12-hour drive away instead of a flight across the country but that still didn’t matter this time.
Why didn’t he let us know something was wrong?! He was literally acting completely normal and like a kitten running up and down the hall before we left at 6 AM. He would run so fast down the hall sometimes he would go headfirst into the front door.
The “what-ifs” (What if we would have been home? What if we had an echo done? What if we had a recent x-ray on his lungs (the last one was 2019)? What if we would have taken them with us somehow? What if my vet was closer or I had thought to send her to a closer vet?) haunted me (and still do sometimes) but as one of my awesome friends said, he made the decision, and we didn’t have to make that hard decision. Either way (whether you are home or not, euthanasia or natural) it isn’t easy. How could it be?!
Rambo, we miss your cute personality, even though the vet literally had notes on your chart of “act quickly he gets mad”, “fractious”, “growling but handleable”, and our favorite: “started charging and got off the table but I was able to get him in the carrier”. He might not have liked going to the vet but he loved us!
I’ll share this just in case it helps someone else: For over a week, I couldn’t even eat (we all know I love to eat… and typically eat six times a day – ha!). I felt like I was going to throw up and also couldn’t breathe. I didn’t have any energy, barely enough to do low-impact rides (struggling to even meet the cues) or slow walks around the neighborhood. I couldn’t even look at pictures (and definitely not videos of him) until just a few days ago.
All of this sounds dramatic just writing it out but it is what I experienced and what my friends have experienced after losing a pet (either unexpectedly or having to make that decision). So while you might sound “crazy” or someone tells you it’s just a cat/dog/etc know that you are not crazy and it’s okay to feel completely devasted when you lose a pet. I’m sure losing so many family members (and dad’s dog) recently also adds to it but Rambo was that life-changing pet and I knew it would be so hard to lose him – I just wasn’t ready for it to happen when and the way it did. But that is life.
Although we would pay *any* sum of money it would take to get him back, we know we cannot do that, unfortunately.
Rest easy Rambo, we love you. We know you knew we loved you because we told you at least 100 times per day and you had everything you ever wanted or needed. I will help even more homeless cats to honor you.
Not all angels have wings, some have whiskers.1