Goodbye, Artemis

Artemis breathed her last breath at 12.37pm AEDT today. It was a peaceful moment. I held her while she moved from this world into the next. I cried. I am crying now.

Artemis led a gloriously adventurous life, if perhaps short at a little over seven years. She hunted everything from moths and grasshoppers to rats and noisy miner birds, eating most of them. She even brought us the striped marsh frog from the garden pond — three times before she learned, the hard way, that it’s poisonous. She never did catch a currawong, and I’m glad of that.

Artemis used up one of her nine lives when her tail was crushed and eventually amputated.

Today I chose to take her ninth.

Dr Emily Payne from Pet Vets had shown me the ultrasound images and we’d discussed the questions I had this morning. Further imagery would be unlikely to give us any further information.

Artemis’ remaining kidney function was at most 50%. The left kidney was clearly not working at all, otherwise it would have been doing something useful while the right kidney was blocked by that kidney stone.

There’s no way to measure the function of the remaining kidney. There’s no magic test. One could perhaps conduct a biopsy and deduce the functioning, but the biopsy itself would cause damage. And if you’re going in for a biopsy, you might as well go in and tackle that kidney stone.

But even if surgery successfully removed the kidney stone — and obviously surgery brings it own risks, including damage or even destruction of that remaining kidney — what kidney function would remain? Most problems affecting one kidney also affect the other, either now or later. And as I mentioned yesterday, that the right kidney was a decent size was probably just because it was inflated by a back-up of urine. The urethra, for example, was bloated from a normal 0.4mm diameter to somewhere between 2 and 3mm!

All this had already been discussed with people at the University of Sydney. Everyone had agreed that the prognosis was “poor”. That’s one step above “grave”, when it’s three wishes and magic unicorn time, but only one small step.

I chose to end the story here because of that prognosis.

While I am moved by the outpourings of generosity, and I understand that some people want to “never give up” and “try every option”, I would prefer that such efforts were directed where they have more likelihood of producing a result. In Artemis’ case even the very best possible outcome, with that right kidney still somehow magically perfect, she’d still be only 20 percentage points of kidney function above serious long-term problems.

I don’t imagine for a moment that that kidney was somehow perfect. In all likelihood, it was the opposite.

At the risk of severe repetition, thank you again — thank you so much! — for all of your support. I could not have handled the last week without it.

The costs have been $109.10 for Pet Vets’ initial work, $558.85 for the emergency hospital visit, and $1453.15 more at Pet Vets, a total of $2121.10. There was also an $11 cab fare. Your donations have covered this and more, thank you. They totalled, as I’ve mentioned before, somewhere around $3500. I will update this post tomorrow with the exact figures. Total donations were $3,714.48, and I have published the full accounting.

Some friends and even strangers have insisted that their donation was to me as much as to Artemis, given my need to move house at a difficult time, and for that I say another thank you.

Once I have deducted those personal gifts from the total, the remainder will be donated to the Cat Protection Society of NSW. It was they who gave Artemis her life, and I’d like to support their continuing work.

If for whatever reason you would prefer this not to happen, please just let me know and I will refund your donation immediately. If you paid via PayPal, please make sure you email using the same address you use for PayPal so I can find your donation quickly. If you paid by bank transfer, please send me the account details so I can transfer the funds back. You do not have to explain why. I understand this story did not end as we wished. I understand if you do not agree with my choices.

My sincere thanks also to Drs Emily Payne, Glen Kolenc and Meredith Gibbs and your team at Pet Vets. Your honesty and humanity has made an enormous difference this week.

Thanks also to Dr Helsa Teh and Dr Dharshinee Rajkumar and your colleagues at Sydney After-hours Veterinary Emergency Service for giving Artemis this unexpected extra week of life. I’m sorry I can’t thank everyone by name, but I forgot to gather them all.

I believe you will understand if I take the rest of the day off, although I will be reading your comments.

[Photo: Artemis photographed on 19 January 2009 by Trinn ('Pong) Suwannapha. There are more images from this day.]

[Update 15 January 2011: Post edited to include final totals of both costs and donations, and link to the accounting.]

63 Replies to “Goodbye, Artemis”

  1. My sincere condolences to you, ‘Pong and Apollo. I’m sure Artemis would have thanked you for her wonderful life.

    Tearing up as a I write this,

  2. My sympathy to you and Apollo. I’m teary at work and i know i will go home and get snot all over a Siamese later on. You made the right decision for her because you loved her. Thanks for letting us know.

  3. Thank you for sharing this via the interwebs it is a very graphic moving story and so sorry to hear the end but sometimes as with my weimararner it is better than continued suffering.
    best wishes about all the other issues as well

  4. Love always seems to bite back, you can give all your love to an animal, then they go and break your heart. I have been through this process quite enough, but know that I may have to return to it in future, should I survive to that time, I think we forget our own mortality, we’re just animals too.

    I’m sorry you’ve lost your cat, and understand how you feel, it’s never “just a pet”, it’s someone who is sad when you’re out, and so happy to see you when you get home. and someone who sleeps next to, or on your bed at night.

    Some of the best ones want to spend every moment right beside you.

    When they’re not there anymore, it’s amazing how large that gap feels.

    All the best to you.

  5. Bummer. Wishing you long life, as they say in the old country. And how apt that you chose the Cat Protection Society. Artemis’s legacy will be that many more cats have a chance at the good life she enjoyed.

  6. Oh my master, do not take me for a slave, for I have in me a taste for liberty
    Do not seek to divine my secrets, for I have in me a taste for mystery
    Do not constrain me with caresses, for I have in me a taste for modesty
    Do not humiliate me, for I have in me a taste for pride
    Do not abandon me, for I have in me a taste for fidelity
    Love me and I will love thee, for I have in me a taste for friendship.

  7. I really don’t know what more to say than condolences, and that you’re in my thoughts.

  8. Farewell young Artemis. I only knew you virtually but seemed to be a worthy member of the feline breed.

    Why are the best decisions in life sometimes the hardest to make? I know all too well what it is like at that moment when the decision has to be made to let them go and take their life from them. It is so hard and so final but it is part of the way we are with our animal friends. They give us so much unconditional love and then they rely us to keep them safe and well and end their suffering with dignity and compassion. Such a special friendship that asks so much of us but gives us so much more that cannot be described.

    George Hrab’s Small Comfort ( helped me cry the river of tears I need to shed after I had to put my little buddy Fidel Catstro down in September. It might strike a chord with you.

    Hang in there Stil. The roller coaster ride of grief eventually ends.

  9. You’ve done the right thing, in detail, in the right way . . . I commend you and yes, with only 25% kidney function it’s QOL.

    And then, you gave the rest to the CPS. That’s character. When you want to move house, I will happily help carry boxes.


  10. I’m so sorry you’ve lost such a lovely friend. I still miss our last cat – a Tonkinese, also called Artemis, as it happens. Warmest regards.

  11. Oh dear 🙁
    Sorry to hear…pets are both a blessing & a curse, sent to teach us the value of life, joy & living in the moment, but also that death is a part of life too…
    I donated because of your entire situation. Vet costs always seem to come at the worst time possible. I insist you have a few drinks, then get on with finding a new place to live.
    Thoughts are with you…
    Tara xx

  12. Ultimately, if you care for a pet, the best you can do for them is keep their suffering or prolonged discomfort to a minimum. You did the right thing and I hope you draw at least a small degree of comfort from this. Hold on to the good memories.

  13. I’m sad for you, but believe you ultimately made the right choice. I still miss my last cat, who looked very similar to Artemis, and who had similar problems. However part of loving your pet has to be knowing the right time to say goodbye. I didn’t get that chance, but I’m glad that you did. Hold on to your memories of her, and cherish the time you had. All the best.

  14. You know what, people? You’re amazing. But I’m OK. I’m exhausted. 47 pints help. As does all the support. As does a sense of closure. I simply need sleep now. And then I’ll deal with the backlog of email in the morning. Late in the morning. Or later.

    What was amazing earlier was watching Channel Nine news at the pub. Pubs are the only place I watch Nine, where it seems to be the compulsory channel. I’d given up on those arsehats. But someone there does seem to have remembered how to make live TV. Their rolling coverage of the Queensland floods was outstanding this afternoon.

    Also in the pub was a family. A man who I was at first thinking was an annoying control freak until I realised he was ex-Army. It goes with the territory. His mother, who only eight weeks ago had moved here to Sydney from Brisbane. And his daughter, maybe 8 or 10 years old. Like I know children.

    As this kid’s father and grandmother watched the footage from boat level, as she started to realise the impact of what’s going on up there, and as we all discussed the ramifications, she moved around the table to sit on her father’s lap and feel his arms around her. It was a touching moment.

    Some people are having real problems tonight.

  15. Sorry to hear of your loss.
    Grief is the price of love. Treasure the good times.

    Take care.


  16. So sorry, Stil. Take comfort in the wonderful memories you have of your time shared with Artemis. You’ll always have those. Here’s wishing you a remaining 2011 full of happy moments.

  17. Took your lead and went to the pub. Channel 9 or course. Not 47 pints but a few and XXXX of course. Good to see the beer is flowing again in QLD couryesy Anna Bligh, leader, who who have guessed. Cheers and here is to tomorrow and lower river levels.

  18. Stil, I’m so sorry to hear that Artemis has gone. Thinking of you (and Apollo and the ‘Pong).


  19. Stil, just picking up on this via Twitter. Sorry to hear of your loss of Artemis (who I believe I met a couple of times, certainly once over dinner?)

    Thoughts are with you – perhaps a beer to reminisce over at the Nippon Club very soon. How’s your schedule, say, next week?


  20. If you live alone a pet means that you do not.

    The days ahead will be horribly empty, the nights long. Our desire to love is often transferred to a pet. I certainly have no advice and only empathy.

    After a time, another pet seems reasonable but, as you know, is not a replacement. I hope that time comes soon. Cheers (and this time I mean Cheers)

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