August 7, 2018 | Happy Tails

We wanted to thank you for our beloved cat Walter, who passed away at age 20 over the weekend, and who we adopted from you 18 years ago. We wanted to share his obituary:
At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 28, 2018, Walter – the most dangerously charming rascal we’ve ever loved – traded in his failing 20 year-old body for a fully restored form in heaven. He took flight surrounded by those he loved most on this earth – Derek, me, Dorothy, Patty, Janice, and Dr. Sheryl Johnson, who worked for years to help Walt beat the odds, and was there to the end to help him over the finish line.

Our peach-haired elder statesman had been battling small cell lymphoma, and other age-related maladies. He soldiered through doctors appointments, clad in his handsome neckties, during each of his last 15 days of life. His medical team scrambled to try to keep the increasingly complicated house of cards from toppling. Dr. Johnson and Dr. Michael Lucroy, Walt’s oncologist, helped turn a terminal diagnosis into many “bonus days” that we treasured. But even the most lovely fairytales have an end on earth, no matter how desperately we want them to go on forever.

And early yesterday morning, the enchanting life we lived with Walt for nearly two decades came to an abrupt end. Walt went into sudden distress at home just before dawn, and was immediately hospitalized, after slipping into unconsciousness during the 5 minute drive to the Emergency Room. During an agonizing day in the ICU, it became clear he wouldn’t recover, and could no longer survive outside of a hospital environment. And so, instead of spending his remaining days in an ICU unit, hooked to an infusion to counteract life-threatening drops in his glucose related to complications from his lymphoma, we decided to get our boy home to Heaven in time for a Saturday evening dinner with his beloved pack. We knew Jay Gatsby and the crew had a chair at the head of the table waiting for him. The decision was excruciating, but clear.

Our anguish at losing Walt, and the wailing and sobbing that went on inside the room after he left us, must surely be outweighed by Jules’ joy the moment Walt left our arms and arrived back at Jules’ side. Walt and Jules had a stronger bond than any of our animals – the original “Power Couple.” It was fitting that Walt spent his final moments being cradled by me and Patty, looking at a framed photo of him with Jules in front of our Christmas tree 18 years ago, when they were young and healthy. I whispered in Walt’s ear to give Jay Gatsby, Jules, and the rest of our family kisses, and to be good boys until Derek, Dorothy and I arrive. I feel 100% certain Walt is, at this very moment, disregarding everything I asked him to do. He never believed rules applied to someone as dashing as him. Just two months ago, at age 20, he caused our friend Janice to wind up in the hospital emergency room (long story that, out of respect for Walt’s legacy, is best left untold), and found himself on the radar of the Hamilton County, Indiana law enforcement community after the resulting “bite report.”

Walt’s path to becoming a Van Ostrand-Fakehany was rocky, which may have produced his resilient spirit. He was twice dumped at the Humane Society of Indianapolis. While working at the shelter, I took him onto a local television morning news show, and he was adopted by a family that returned him a month later, admitting their kids had been “beating and kicking him for fun.” With Derek’s blessing, I pulled Walt from his place in the euthanasia line, and brought him home. Yesterday, in Walt’s final moments, I showed him the video of us together on TV all those years ago. It was one of the few times he was able to struggle to keep his eyes open. I’d like to believe he wanted to take with him one final memory of how our journey together started, and what a reverie it was. As the video played yesterday, I told Walt that loving him has been so beautiful that it’s felt like a dream to me. Today, in a haze of grief and a house that’s sorely lacking Walt’s vitality, I feel like maybe I imagined it all.

To attempt to capture all the things we’ll miss about Walt would cause his eulogy to burgeon into a “War & Peace” length novel that even our most devout friends couldn’t suffer through. The simple truth is that what we’ll miss about Walt is every single thing. His charisma. His heart-on-the-sleeve, intensely emotional personality. His sharp mind, and the curiosity that flowed from that. His total enthusiasm about everything. His unabashed devotion to us. His fierce loyalty to Jules. His Eddie Haskell nature that caused him to sometimes be very polite to ingratiate himself with Derek and me, only to then slyly bully our other animals, like Dorothy. We’ll miss Walt’s bright, expansive eyes, and the animated look on his face as he’d sit perched eagerly on the corner of our bed, looking expectantly at the bedroom door, so that when we’d walk in, his face lit up the room like a crystal chandelier: “OHMYGOSH, Mom and Dad, I’m so excited to see you!” In 44 years of life, I’ve never been greeted with such authentic enthusiasm as I was by Walter when I walked into a room.

Yes. We’ll miss everything about Walt. And we know so many of our loved ones share our grief, having stayed overnight with Walt and Dorothy during the 6 months in which we lived in the hospital for Derek’s bone marrow transplants. Several of our friends even had the displeasure of becoming trapped in the basement of our home while staying with Walt and Dot. Walt belonged to all of you, in so many ways. His heart belonged most abidingly to our friend Patty, who spent more than 100 overnights caring for him, and who still comes to visit him every day. There’s no one he would’ve wanted holding him at the end more, and I’ll be grateful forever that she and Janice were there to help us send him on his final journey.

We would love for people to know that he was from Indy Humane, that he lived 20 happy years, that he bravely fought lymphoma at age 20, that he got me through my husband Derek’s 2.5 year long battle with blood cancer that included two bone marrow transplants and living in a hospital for 6 months, and that when Walt died last week, he was remembered and honored by so many people whose lives he touched. We put 75 hours this week into creating this video of his life, and of his beautiful memorial Saturday, where we had a cello player, a magician, an ice cream cart, and a lovely send-off inside of one of Indiana’s historic funeral parlors for Walt. Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/tWS5oJCYmIo

Thank you for helping us love Walter. And thank you for helping us mark the time between the end of our earthly fairytale with Walt, and the continuation of the fairytale in the Great Hereafter.

Amy, Derek & Dorothy