Until November we had five pets -- a bearded dragon named Sandy, Betta fish named Phineas, and three cats named Ariel, Charlie, and Lucy. It was quite a menagerie.
Then in November Phineas died. He was a year and a half. Not that long for a Betta fish, but c'est la vie (or c'est la mort, in this case).
Four is still a lot of pets, so we chose not to find a replacement fish. Besides, it took Ashley days to even notice he was gone.
Back in July we realized Sandy was very sick. He is also very old. Bearded dragons live about 8 to 10 years. We figure he is about 11 (he was 8 when we adopted him 2 1/2 years ago). We've learned a lot about reptiles, but we still make mistakes with diet, tank conditions, etc. We do give him a lot of love. He is having kidney problems and was very dehydrated. The result is I inject medicine under his scales, and also squirt some in his mouth. Unlike other animals, bearded dragons cannot spit it back out, so what goes in stays in. I am hand feeding him veggies. Don is hand feeding him live crickets (yes, ick). He is old, but he is hanging in there.
Then there are the three cats. At 11 to 12 years of age, Charlie is the oldest one. He has been known to sing duets with the local fox. Best we can tell, the fox is singing a mating song. I don't think he (?) gets that Charlie is a neutered male cat, but so far it is just singing late at night.
There is also Kitty Lucy (the black and white one), at 2 she is our youngest pet. She was born to my friend Kim's cat, Trouble, on September 9, 2012. She is settling down nicely and not knocking over trees any more. She is a chow hound, though. She is also very snuggly. She likes to hide under blankets. Lucy also tends to get into trouble and comes home with unexplained scratches.
Then there was Ariel. We adopted Ariel nearly 10 years ago when Ashley was 2, after we came home from Disney World to a mouse infestation. Our former cat, Pumpkin, kept the mice away with his aura only. Ariel actually kept the mice away by killing a few here and there and leaving them as presents. Once was on my birthday (how did she know?). As she got older, we suspect Lucy took over as resident mouser.
Ariel was very skittish. We suspect she was feral a little too long. Over the past 3 years Don has made huge progress with her. She got to the point where she was willing to be around us, and even snuggle with us. She would not go upstairs very often, and if she did it was only to hang out at the top of the stairs and spy on the other cats. Still, up until her last few days if you walked in the room while she was eating she would have to leave until we stopped moving. She would then sneak back in and finish eating. She had a very nervous personality.
On the other hand, she was very cautious and seemed very healthy. We would have voted her the pet most likely to live (or least likely to die, depending on where you put the emphasis).
We were shocked when we came home after being out for 11 hours to find her dead.
The night before she snuggled with Don as he slept. Her snuggles were always on her terms -- she would decide if she wanted to snuggle with you, it was never the other way around. If she chose you, it was your job to stay as still as possible, or else she would get up and leave only to return when you stopped moving (if you were lucky).
Monday morning she ate breakfast. She even asked for seconds.
Monday morning Ashley scratched her and she purred.
Her fur was soft. No signs of discomfort or pain. Nothing different.
Monday night we came home at 9:30 PM. Don put out the food dishes. Only one cat (Lucy) came. Hmm..that's odd. I looked at the back door and immediately found Charlie. Hmm...where is Ariel? I glanced down the basement steps (one of her hiding place) and saw a shadow. I turned on the light and saw the shadow was a cat. I saw the shadow was not moving. I said something to Don, then told Ashley.
She was gone. Died mid-yawn. We are guessing she had a heart attack since her eyes were open (as opposed to dying in her sleep).
If there are any silver linings during situations like this they are:
1) when she asked to go out for the day I said no (she liked to go outside, make sure the world was still there and come back in, we were about to leave and didn't have time for the 'come back inside' part)
2) we were home this weekend. In the past we have gone away during MLK weekend and leave the cats with a cat sitter. I'm so glad they did not find her dead. In either situation we would have had a ton more questions than the half a ton we already have.
The hardest part about owning a pet is knowing they will someday die, most likely before us. However, the same can be said about making friends and falling in love. Without putting our hearts on the line we won't really live.
UPDATE: A memorial service was held between snowstorms for Ariel in the back yard. Don, Ashley, and Kitty Lucy were in attendance. No photos were taken.