A Farewell to Google...

     I don't even know where to begin…this is the hardest post I have ever had to write. One week ago today I said good-bye to my love, my first kitty, Google (aka: Goo-Goos, Googaloo, Galoogs, Google Gizmo, and Mr. Butts). Those that know me already know how much of a soft spot I have for animals but Google took that spot and melted it to a puddle. He was more like a son to me then just a cat. Some people may not understand how he could be that important to me and that is ok, I was just so proud to be his mama, and I really believe he was happy to be my sweet boy. 

     I adopted Googs about 6 years ago from a high kill shelter in Ohio. It was February and he was one of only three kittens in the shelter. He was so sweet and loving then that I just knew he was the one. He was 6 weeks old when I brought him home. I was so nervous…I had never owned a cat before, my family didn't have cats, we were strictly dog people. It took about an hour before I was hooked and falling for this sweet boy. We joked that we should have named him Houdini instead because it took him all of 5 minutes before he figured out how to get out of a bedroom. But Google it was, he was adventurous and like a little search engine, his name fit him to a T.

     He was the perfect little guy, never scared, lovable, and happy to do his own thing. We had friends over the first day he was at our house and he made his rounds making friends with everyone he met. He was definitely a special kitty. I was told my numerous people (who definitely were not cat people), "I usually don't like cats, but this guy is awesome, so sweet, and what a fun personality".

     About 3 months later, Google became a big brother, and Copper (aka:Bops, Bopsa, Copper Cooper) joined the family. Copper was an adorable ball of orange fluff, 4 weeks old, and scared of EVERYTHING. I learned at the shelter that Bops had been caught in a farmer's rabbit trap so he was terrified of humans, life, dust, his shadow, literally everything. For about the 1st six weeks of his life he hid under everything. I was so worried he wasn't eating and that he wouldn't survive, he was just so little. My worrying didn't last long as Google stepped up to the plate. Google who was about 6 months old at this time went into complete daddy mode. If Copper hid under the couch, Google went under and curled up around him. They became inseparable, wherever they went, they went together. It took a long time for Copper to come out of his shell, and he can still be a bit skittish, but as long as Google was with him I never had to worry.

     Life was great, I had two sweet boys who made coming home from work fun. Then, when Google was 7 months old he kept having eye infections that didn't seem to ever clear up. One night I came home and he wouldn't eat unless I fed him off my fingers. They ran all kinds of tests, thinking the shelter might have missed something, but all the main ones came back negative. I still remember sitting in that exam room crying as the doctor told me I would need to take him to emergency care if I expected him to live. His red blood cells were nearly non-existant and he was dehydrated. It was this moment, I became his mom. I knew that when I adopted him that he had become my baby and I was going to do everything in my power to give him the best life I could. 

     He spent the next 4 nights in emergency care getting IV fluids and having a blood transfusion. I was already a wreck without my little guy at home, having a super sick pet was not something I had ever experienced and honestly it was life-changing. During his stay he was diagnosed with IMHA (Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia), an auto-immune disease that attacks and kills red blood cells. Fortunately, this could be controlled with medication. He had a few relapses from the disease as we figured out his dosage, and that immunizations actually triggered it, but overall it just became something we would have to watch. 

     I was so happy to have my little guy back home. He was happy, he played with Copper, they chased each other around the house. And he was back to his sassy, talkative self. His favorite toys as a kitten were these tiny stuffed hedgehogs. He would carry them around in his mouth, cooing. They were like his cuddle buddies, it was rare to find him asleep without one close. I even woke one morning to find 3 of them in bed with me. He must have thought I needed a cuddle buddy too.

    A few years ago the boys and I loaded up our car, left Ohio, and traveled to Virginia. I was so nervous about Google making the long trip but he did amazing! I did have to buy a medium dog carrier so that both the boys could ride together but once they could snuggle they were happy. 

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     We moved into our tiny one bedroom apartment in Short Pump and I had so much fun decorating and relaxing in my new home with my little furry sons. Things were good, it felt like a new beginning for all of us.

     One Saturday morning as I was getting ready for the day, Google was of course sitting in the bathroom with me, and I noticed he seemed to be breathing heavier than normal. I was still new to the area so I "googled" somewhere that could see him quickly on a weekend and found Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center in Carytown. He was treated by some fantastic doctors; an emergency specialist, an internal medicine specialist, and a cardiologist. After a chest tap to drain fluid off his lungs and lots of diagnostic tests he was diagnosed with HCM (hypercardiomyopathy). This diagnosis was devastating… this disease, like in humans, is treatable but not curable. The only cure in humans is a heart transplant and that is uncharted territory in the feline world. 

     Our life became about managing this disease, learning the medications, learning the schedule, and convincing Google that he had to take pills 3 times a day. He, of course, was sassy in the beginning to me, his new nurse, and continually spit his pills back out on the ground. But he learned quickly that mama would always win the battle and that he actually felt better on his meds. I swear somedays if I had forgotten one he would come over to them and meow to tell me. Once he had taken it he would walk away a lay down. He really was an awesome boy!

     Even though we had a new diagnosis, a new schedule to adhere to, and more pills, Google was the same happy boy that he always was. He never complained about anything, even during all his tests and procedures. He was a talker though, he would tell me about his day, when he wanted food, and if he had knocked a ball under a piece of furniture that he couldn't reach (which he would do multiple times, just for me to get it out, I'm positive). No one would have ever known he was sick. He had such a fun and positive personality! He loved to play with his soccer balls, sleep in boxes, and adventure into uncharted territory.

     Once we moved from Ohio, the boys and I moved 3 more times, all in Virginia but different homes. Two other apartments and even my mom's house. Oh how he loved to be in an actual house! He loved venturing all over that house and finding fun hiding/sleeping spots. The best part about there was my dog, Ryle also lives there so I had all 3 boys together. Now even though Ryle is the oldest, Google made sure everyone knew he was in charge. Ryle and Bops had to tough it out for second in command (I think they are still fighting it out). Googs being the lovable kitty that he was allowed Ryle to lay with him throughout the house and it was like they had grown up together. They even finally figured out how to play, Ryle would wiggle his butt when ready and Google would pop him on the head. They were a hilarious team! Even there Google was the father figure… most of the time Copper and Ryle coexisted just fine but every now and then in their quest for #2 there would be hissing and growling (never any physical contact, as they are gentlemen). No matter where Google was in the house he would hear it, come running and stand right in between the two, each would relent, and all again would be right with the kingdom.

     Google didn't seem to mind apartment life too much either. He loved being able to lay on the balcony with me when the weather was warm, he would watch snow fall from the windowsills, and his favorite activity had to be roaming the indoor hallways of the building. If you didn't want him in the hallway you had to be quick with getting that door closed, most of the time he had hopped out before you could even blink. He never dashed away, he just liked to go for nightly strolls. He would always take a few steps and then look over his shoulder as if to say, let's go, its walk time. If he hadn't gone on his walk yet (and a lot of times even if he had) he would sit and stare at the door and meow (beg) to go back out. I swear he was actually a cat and not a dog.

     Life went on like this for years, since his HCM diagnosis, we had about 4 more years of playing, and laughing, and cuddling and just being a happy human/fur family of 4. Googs was continually defying doctor odds and even though I come from a medical background I had hopes that he would continue to defy them. 

     This past Fall the disease slowly started to catch up with him. He wasn't able to run as much or play with Copper. He still did, he would just have to take breaks more frequently. We took him to see his cardiologist at CVCA and determined he once again had fluid on the lungs. He went through the tap procedure perfectly and he had another good month. Then the fluid started to fill again and he underwent an emergency tap and a few day stay with Dogwood Veterinary & Emergency Speciality Center. The care he received and the compassion we got from all of his doctors and staff rivaled none. I'm so thankful for the team he had and I think because of their help and his strong will he survived as long as he did. His last emergency care really took its toll on him, I honestly wasn't sure he was going to make it those first couple weeks at home. But in true Google fashion, he pulled through. Within a couple weeks he was back to his old self, full of sass and love. I think his final gift to me was to give me one last Christmas with my baby. He actually gave me Christmas, New Year's, and Valentine's Day. We all lived day to day with him, cherishing all the moments we had together no matter what they consisted of. Sunday night, February 15th, he sat on the bathroom counter with me as I brushed my teeth and he drank out of his water cup. I even brushed him with my hair brush (probably for the 5th time that day) as that was one of his favorite things. In usual fashion, I hugged him, kissed him on the head, told him I loved him so, and went to bed. On Monday morning I found him…and my world shattered. 

     You see, Google was my inspiration for starting my photography business. I had always loved taking pictures but I learned how precious those captured moments are because of him. Life can change in an instant and the little things that you may not have even thought about become the huge things when they are gone. Even though I had hope he would live a long life I knew his chances were slim so I began capturing everything I could. His personality, his toys, the way the light shined off his eyes, the way the hair grew in-between his toes. He taught me the importance of the little things, the details that make up a life. And so I started my business to capture those little details and moments for others. Because the little things are the big things. I may be a bit of a puddle now depending on when you catch me because of how much I miss my little boy but he made me a better person. I am who I am today because I adopted a cat named, Google. The ups, the downs, the turmoil, the financial stress, the tears don't matter anymore because I would do them all again to be Google's mama. Cardinal Rose Photography exists because of a little gray and white kitty who taught me to see the rainbow in spite of the storm. 

I love you Googaly-boogs and I always will! I'm so proud to be your mama. Thank you for being a light in the darkness and for being my inspiration to always look for the good in the bad. Your memory and sass will forever live on in my work. XOXO~Heather #googlesmama

"If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever" ~Unknown <3

Heather Navratil

Cardinal Rose Photography, 10305 Wilkes Ridge Place, Henrico, VA, 23233, United States