Chai was born August 2, 2011. On October 28, I flew out to Los Angeles to meet up with a friend, and we drove to Ragnarok Cattery to look at the two cream bicolor ragdoll cats they had available. I’ve adopted pets all my life, and this was the first “breeder” pet I insisted on purchasing; I was a college student and impulsive and I wanted a cat whose colors matched the character on my online writing community I’d been a part of for over a decade. I don’t promote breeders for the most part, but it was what it was.
There were about fifty red flags as soon as we got in. I later researched the place and discovered that they’d had about 8 cats seized, possibly more, due to disease and unsanitary conditions. When we walked in, we were placed in their cluttered living room and were not allowed to see the cattery. They brought two kittens out, both with red eyes, and after choosing the kitten that would eventually become Chai, I asked why her eyes were red and if I could take her to a third-party vet to be checked out. I was told they were only red because they’d just been vaccinated—I later saw the records and they’d been vaccinated more than a week prior—and no, I couldn’t take her to a vet. They proceeded to scream at me for implying their kittens were sick, and unable to deal with their sour attitudes, I said okay just let me take her.
The flight back to Texas was hell. Poor baby Chai was screaming the entire 3 hours, much to the entire plane’s dismay, but we made it.
When I took Chai to my vet, she was diagnosed with giarda, calicivirus, a bacterial infection in her ears that later progressed into a yeast infection, and mycoplasma. It cost $700+ in vet bills, three months of medication and quarantine, and a whole lot of protesting on her end. But eventually, she made it through.
I’ve had pets all my life. Besides freshman year of college and that dorm life, I don’t think I’ve ever not had a cat around. But there was something unique about Chai. Despite all the cats I’ve loved in my lifetime, I’ve never experienced a bond like the one I had with Chai. She wasn’t your average ragdoll. Due to a likely horrendous upbringing in the weeks she lived at Ragnarok, as well as the three months of medications and quarantine, she was standoffish. She still had that ragdoll flop and her personality was quirky and far more doglike than cat, but she wasn’t extraordinarily outgoing like most ragdolls are known for.
I have struggled with depression for my entire adult life, and despite her standoffish exterior, she could sense when I was at my lowest. She wasn’t cuddly by nature, but she made her way into my arms on nights where I felt like dying. The number of times she saved my life are immeasurable. If I ever were to call a living creature, human or otherwise, my soulmate, Chai was it.
In March 2017, Chai stopped eating. Over the course of a week, I was at the vet having scans done, blood work, X-rays, and about everything else in between. Eventually, they discovered a foreign object in her stomach, and we opted to have an exploratory surgery done to remove it.
After a week of stressing out about cancer and a million other things that could’ve been horrible, I got the call that the surgery had gone well. They’d removed a piece of plastic she’d gotten a hold of, but it hadn’t caused any damage to her intestines. She was going to be fine. I felt like I could breathe for the first time that week.
The plan was to pick her up from the vet clinic and take her to the emergency overnight facility just so they could monitor her and keep her on fluids for a bit longer. So I drove to the vet on a practical high.
I arrived, paid for the surgery, and they sent me into the private room with my carrier to pick her up. I legitimately thought I was picking her up, sitting in the room with my carrier. But when the vet walked in, I could tell by the look on her face that something was wrong.
She told me in a somber tone that around the time I’d walked in, they’d found Chai unresponsive. They were performing CPR on her, but she informed me that the amount of time that’d passed likely meant she wouldn’t come out from it. Eventually, she came back in and asked if I wanted to stop the procedure, I asked what she recommended, and I went in to see her one last time, tubes down her throat and all.
I’ve never sobbed so hard in all my life. The immediate shock of it all absolutely crushed me. They asked if I wanted to cremate her, and I said yes, so they kept her body and I went home where my mom picked me up to stay with them for a few days.
The aftermath of it all nearly destroyed me. I’d lost my princess, my baby, my soulmate, my best friend at only 5 years and 7 months old without warning or expectation.
The next day, I remembered that there was a facility just north of where I lived that cloned pets. So I called them up and they told me that the chances of cultivating viable cells from a pet who’d been frozen at the vet was low. Still, I called my vet, we got the skin cultures, and they were off. They ended up cultivating over 6 million cells, which wasn’t bad for their 10 million average, considering.
I knew going into this that there’d be controversy. Coming from an animal welfare background, I understand the concerns. I have them, myself, even still. But this process helped redirect grief I wouldn’t have otherwise known how to deal with. I understand people lose pets all the time, but my depression made it all seem terribly impossible to move forward. This was, ultimately, the right decision for me, and I was fortunate enough to have the means to carry forward in the process.
Check out my page on cloning for more details.
I’ve set up a little shrine for Chai in my room that has her ashes in an urn, her collar, a paw print, and little trinkets scattered about. I realized that her previous collar had been cherry blossoms and her general color scheme sort of floated around that. How fitting, as cherry blossoms are regarded as beautiful but fleeting, short-lived only to return again the next spring to bring that beauty back. It is sort of indicative of her life, short but beautiful, and I think her shrine suits her life well.
Thank you to everyone who sent us well wishes, who gave me items to add to her shrine, and just everyone who supported me during my grief. It meant a lot even if I couldn’t find it in me to return the gratitude.
I also purchased a crystal necklace that was made using some of her ashes. I wear it around my neck to keep a piece of her close to me at all times, and I never take it off. She will forever be my best friend.
The necklace is beautiful, but I must advise, if you ever plan on doing the same, do not use Cremation Solutions. In my grief, they treated me terribly. Chai’s ashes sat in the post office for two weeks. They ignored my daily phone calls and only after blasting them out on social media did I immediately get a phone call back. They posted my public home address online, called me a liar on my Facebook Fan Page, and while the necklace was finished in July, only after calling them in September did they ship it out.
You can check out my review on Yelp for more details. The necklace itself is gorgeous, contracted out through another vendor. But I can’t even imagine the strife if this had been my mom’s ashes or some other family member. To be treated so poorly was absolutely horrendous.