No paws on the stairs
Yesterday we lost a good friend.
I keep expecting to hear creaking wood and the soft thunking sound of paws on the stairs.
He’s part of the house and he knows it. Fourteen or fifteen years ago he wandered in with some neighbor kids. Not long after that, Burgess, veterinarian, friend and minister for the day of our marriage, told us to chop the balls off the cat as fast as we could. Spencer explained it wasn’t our cat. Apparently that wasn’t the case.
He’ d be on the bed by now, if he chose to. It might be a by the foot morning, or a more interactive start to the day, with some rubbing and purring that turned to a cat’s head resting on the laptop computer in competion with writing or reading.
Cats. Dogs. Pets. We’ve been talking to people about their animals the last couple weeks. Particularly about the decision when to pull the plug.
The cat is just a part of the daily landscape. We have our rituals. We’ve adopted shared habits and accepted each other’s, as much as humans and pets can.
But when you have to pick the day….
Victoria, veterinarian and wife of Burgess, agrees she learns a lot about people and couples when it comes to dealing with their animals.
It comes out; something does in the way we deal with the creatures that live with us.
After all, the pet is a witness, all be it a silent one. He’s been there though ups and downs, the nasty stormy days and sunny mood lifting ones, changes and losses, and rough times with two-legged smartphone carrying humans, 24-7.
The cat represented continuity. Sure it can be hard to find house sitters traveling as much as we do, but he was always there when we returned from Bolivia, New Zealand or the fishing grounds,
Some friends said just do it, end the suffering. Several people quoted Victoria’s use of a bell curve when thinking about when to put a beloved pet down—when the decision makes sense in relationship to the quality of the animal’s life. It is a like a “gift,” she says, making this choice for the pet.
Others talked about how much agony the end of their pet’s lives caused them. One friend admitted in a condolence call, that was also about moving gravel around in our yards, that the end made her not want to get another pet.
I visited some friends with a cat in kidney failure. We sat and talked by a small kennel, while the cat sat inside, thinking or not about what we’ll never know. For two weeks the cat hasn’t eaten, but she comes out, attempts to drink some water, purrs and plays with shadows on the wall. She seems not well, but quite alive.
Pet euthanasia brings out how we relate to loss, death, change, relationships and making decisions.
I think I have deep trouble letting go.
Bukowski, the name we used for him, rejecting Captain Crook, the name, he had on the street and when he lived with the neighbors who lost interest in him (they got a bird), had a nasty tumor. It kept growing, but he kept purring and eating. He continued to sit by me as I clicked away on the computer and he did lap time while Spencer and I watched yet another episode of one series or another on Netflix. Bukowski’s street name, by the way came from the crooked tail he was born with, but also such a part of his life and ours we saw no need to talk about it.
We treated him to morsels of special foods, venison, chicken and local fish. He couldn’t chew his crunchies anymore. He didn’t seem to mind the special treatment or the extra lap time, as we grew hyper aware that our years together were winding down.
Spencer was ready days before I was to give the cat a rest. I clung on longer. When I got the guts to call it, Burgess came over. House call. I reminded and asked him how many people get married by the same person who puts down their cat? He liked that, “the spectrum of life.”