Thursday, December 15, 2005

Driving away from the vet with an empty cage.

My brother and I had the supreme overlord of shitty days yesterday.

He came down stairs to catch the bus and go to school for a final, and the cat was laying in the middle of the floor, wimpering. Charlie picked him up, tried to get him to stand on the table, and his legs just fell right out from under him, and he cried some more. So after a bit of indecision, he skipped the final and asked me to take the cat to the vet.

I took my lunch early, and went to pick him up. I figured, the Vet is about three minutes from my office, if worst came to worst, I could leave him there at the vet, and he could either take the cat in the cat carrier on the bus, or I could take a break and pick him up and take him home. We tossed the blue carrier in the back, and Charlie brought the cat in an old cardboard whiskey crate, late of my grandfather's attic.

I stuck around to see what the prognosis was, and get a gestimate of how long they'd be there. It didn't take long, the vet was out in about five minutes. Aparently she saw it a lot, and it was never good.

The poor little guy had a blood clot that was blocking off circulation to his legs, so he couldn't feel them or use them at all. He was also ten degrees below the normal cat temperature. I asked what would happen if we did nothing, mostly because I was trying to judge whether I had time for someone else to make the decision, or give conformation, or for anyone who wanted to say goodbye. She said he only had a 1% chance of making it through the night, if we did nothing. And he would linger on, in pain and suffering.

I knew we wern't going to let that happen, I just needed to know. My brother and I were both teary-eyed. I said to give us a few minutes to make some calls. I had known the little guy since he was a baby. He was abandoned and not really even weened, I think he was only three or four weeks old when we got him. He had a stomach infection, so he was always cold when we first got him. I'd always find him in the coat sleeves of my letter jacket, or in the pockets. He also liked to climb into backpacks, and almost made it to school with my sisters on a few occations. Even as he got older, his butt seemed to be perpetually cold. He loved to sit on baskets of freshly folded clothes, newspapers and pizza boxes (sometimes with the pizza still in it, the extra warmth, you see). I loved the little guy, but he belonged to my parents, technically. I didn't want to take responsibility and have them mad at me or saying I should have done something else, or done things differently (waited longer, done it sooner, whatever).

I couldn't get hold of my dad, though, and mom can't be reached at work. Making this by ourselves... I guess that made me and my brother grownups, after all. My parents would probably never see it that way. They still treated us like children, we were still never included in any decisions, or given full information about a situation, hell or even told about a situation until it's over and done with. I wondered if they'd somehow manage to be judgmental about this, and twist it around about how we should have made a bigger effort to contact a "responsible adult" before doing something like this. While I wanted someone else to make the decision, I also didn't want the poor guy to suffer any more that he had to. I'd feel bad about that forever, if I let it happen.

Of course, the only person I could get hold of was Jenn. I only called because I was trying to assuage my guilt that we'd be the only ones that got to say goodbye. I can't say it was entirely alturistic. She started crying hystarically on the phone and told Charlie not to do it. I had to get on and explain there was nothing we could do, other than alleviate his suffering. She hadn't heard the way he'd been crying in pain, or just how sad he had been on the way to the vet. I told her I'd pick her up and bring her to the vet so she could say goodbye.

Even with mid-day traffic going out of the city, it only took me about thirty minutes, there and back. I feel bad for a lot of things. I feel bad that he had to suffer that long, even if he did get pain killers, and they had him sitting on hot water bottles to raise his temperature. I also feel bad everyone else didn't get to know about it until it was over and done with.

So she got all weapy, and we pet the cat. He was a little glazed over, but he still rubbed his little jaw on the back of my hand, the way he always does when I come over, even if I pet the dog first. I kind of wondered how long we'd be in that examining room. I didn't have the heart to find the vet and say "ok, we're ready." I'm not sure anyone can do that. Then you'd be regretting the rest of your life that you didn't do it sooner, or you didn't do it later.

Fortunately, she came in a few minutes later and discussed "the procedure," and gave my brothe paperwork to fill out. She reassured us that we were doing the right thing, said she was sorry, and said that she'd be back in a few minutes with a sedative so that he wouldn't feel any pain. Then she asked if we thought about what we wanted to do with him afterword.

Yet another decision I didn't want to have a hand in. Of course, I also didn't want to take a dead cat home in my car, and I didn't want to freak out Melissa, who's been sensitive to death since her own brush with it. So we opted for cremation. Then she wanted to know if we wanted the ashes back. Which my brother didn't know whether he wanted to do. I wanted to just lay it out that cremation with other animals, where we wouldn't get the ashes back was probably cheapest, but I kind of didn't want to get into it. I told him that if you get the ashes back, and you decide that you dont want them, or it's too creepy, you can burry them in the back yard. But if you don't get the ashes back, and decide later that you wanted them, you're SOL.

So we paid the extra... whatever the hell it was for a private cremation for our cat.

She came back and gave him a sedative, and all three of us were red-eyed and crying. I've always told myself they're "just animals," but it's just not like that. They don't have flaws, they have personalities, or tempraments. They can't do things out of spite to you, or leavy harsh words or criticizm or judgment, because they don't have the faculty of reason, which means they can't contrive reasons why you deserve to be treated that way. They don't care about our flaws. As long as we're moderately nice, feed them fairly frequently, and clean up their poop, they're fine. If you actually play with them and keep company with them, they're pleased as punch.

I'm not saying they're better than people, but the relatioship is a hell of a lot less complicated. No baggage, no hard feelings, just unconditional love.

So we pet him as he got sleepy and I rubbed his stubbly chin and neck. Pet his little ears and kissed his nose. My brother and sister apologised profusely. I didn't have anything to say. I just cried, and tried to distract them from their guilt by reminding them about all the things he'd done. He'd sat on a lot of pizza boxes, bit the dog's tail a lot of times, and had eaten a lot of Pounce in his 13 years.

About five minutes later, the vet came in with a technician. They moved the blankets around so that she could get to his paw, and she couldn't hit the vein on his shaved little leg. So she had to shave his left front paw. There was a pile of soft black fur from his right leg, and they dumped the soft white fur from his white leg on top. I wanted to ask for it, but I felt like I'd be being too lame or overly emotional or something. I regretted it when the technician thew it in the trash.

We talked to him and pet him as his breathing slowed, and then the vet put on her stethiscope and confirmed that he was gone. I pet his turkey-like rib cage one more time and kissed his little head, something I never thougth I'd do to a dead animal, then hugged both of my sibilings. I told them I'd take them home before I went back to work.

As she was covering his little cat head with the blue blanket he'd been wrapped in, the vet asked if we wanted the box back.

We told her no, and broke out into sobbing again. I told her we'd brought the cat carrier, thinking we'd get to take him home, but it just hadn't worked out that way. I left the examining room before I could blubber any more.

Rubbing my eyes, I tried to clear them enough that I could drive. As we were walking past the counter, my brother stopped and went back, asking for the bill.

When he was a kitten, my brother would put the cat on his head and sing to it. He'd put the cat in boxes, close the lid, and the cat would jump out. Mom thought he was torturing the cat until one day he was at school, and the cat jumped in the box, waiting for someone to play with him. That was when he was young and skinny. By the time Charlie started high school, Puss was pudgy, and when he sat on his feet, he looked like a turkey with a little cat head stuck on. He'd spend days at a time, hiding out among the old furnature and dirty laundry in my brother's room. If the door was ever even cracked, he'd shoved his head in the door so that he could push it opened and play with Charlie.

His nose was running, and the tears were leaking out of his eyes, but he swiped that debit card, and paid $254 to the people we asked to kill our cat.


Blogger Rob said...

I'm sorry for you, your family, and your cat.

Your cat was loved.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Daily Dog said...

For what is it to die,
But to stand in the sun and melt into the wind?
~Kahlil Gibran, from "The Prophet"

I feel for you.
The love of a pet is a gift from heaven and it hurts like hell when you lose it.

7:55 AM  
Blogger HMC said...

I'm sorry you lost your cat and had to make that hard decision.

3:10 PM  

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