I’ve been able to duck this most of my life–having to deal with the passage of a pet.
With the exception of gerbils when I was young (and Mom and Dad handled most of that) I’ve either not been around when it’s been time for an aging pet to go (my childhood dog–I was at school when my parents decided it was time to put him down) or have given my pets away many years prior to their passing. But now, it’s time to face up to the responsibility.
My cat Indigo, whom I have called an incarnation of the Buddha for her almost impossibly sweet nature and (until recently) very large size, is in full kidney failure.
We knew this was coming. I’d been having to wrestle “minty flavored” milk-of-magnesia into her for her phosphates, shove a quarter of a pill of potassium down her throat, and with the help of my partner Kirby give her a subcutaneous drip every day for over a year now. We had a few bumps, but as recently as a couple of weeks ago, her numbers were doing pretty good. But yesterday, she was really “off,” and today at the vets, we heard the worst.
My ex-husband (and still good friend I hasten to add) Michael and I first met Indigo almost nineteen years ago. We had, foolishly, stopped into a pet store to look at the cute kittens. We had three cats at the time in a small space, so adding a new member to the family was the last thing on our minds.
It was, apparently, the first thing on Indigo’s.
When we went over to the cage to peer at the pile of kittens there, one small furry black ball detached herself from the others, scampered to the edge of the cage, pressed herself against the bars and reached out with one tiny paw. We were lost.
We went outside to discuss the absurdity we were about to commit. We didn’t need another cat. But–as I pointed out–“We have the cat infrastructure in place. One more wouldn’t be that hard.”
We went back in to discover–a big ball of black kittens. Which was the one we had wanted? How would we know–
A tiny black ball detached itself from the mass, pressed itself against the bars, and waved a little paw at us.
For the next eighteen years, we had joy with this little fuzzyface. Her penchant for “holding hands” never went away. Even toward the end of her life, she would reach out with a paw to catch your hand and bring it to her face for petting.
She is very thin now, and has stopped eating, but once, she was pudgy. Obese in fact. We had two cats, her and D’artagnan, and D’artagnan was a sleek little thing. It’s hard to put one cat on a diet when they’re both used to eating together. So we rigged up a box that had a hole cut into it that only D’Artagnan could get through, and put the higher-calorie food in there.
Can you say “Winnie the Pooh and the Jar of Honey?” Yep–shortly afterwards we heard plaintive meows and found Indigo stuck halfway inside. I’m afraid we laughed. Hard.
Her incredible gentleness and seeming love of all creation (well, except for our dog Luna, but they eventually did start sleeping close together) was challenged only once. Right before we knew she had kidney problems, I came downstairs one morning to find blood spatters. Poor D’Artagnan had gotten his face pretty badly bitten. Now–it must be said that for YEARS D’Artagnan picked mercilessly on Indigo. Our theory is that she was feeling pretty awful and, like the Bill Cosby mom in his standup routines, Indigo finally said “I. Have. Had. Enough. Of. This.”” To the best of our knowledge, he stopped picking on her after that.
Last night, she had eaten nothing all day. I had put some treats down beside her, which had gone ignored for hours, and spent a lot of time just petting her while she purred. I told her how much we loved her, and how we hoped she’d hang on for a while. She looked up at me for a moment, then got unsteadily to her feet and ate two treats. I am certain she was just trying to make me feel better.
Michael is out of town right now and unreachable. We’re going to try to keep her around until he gets back, but we’re not sure. She may have other plans, or it may simply become too uncomfortable for her for us to wait. Kirby is right here with me as the hours tick past.
Hard as it is to say goodbye, the pure sweetness of this little love was worth it. We were blessed with her for eighteen years. I’m hoping she has another few lives left in her, and we’ll see her again in one of them. But she was so good, she might just go right on to Nirvana, or Heaven, or wherever the really good souls go.
I hope she puts in a good word for those who loved her. I’m sure it would count for a lot.