Monday, June 18, 2012

A Death in the Family

One of our cats is unexpectedly and prematurely dying. I know there are many people who do not like cats and could care less, and I also know there are many who do not want to hear about our pets. But this is a traumatic event for us and I cannot help but discuss it, if only for whatever relief there might be in facing reality. We shall have to take her to the Vet first thing in the morning and have her “put down” as is the phrase used for cats and dogs when the end is imminent. After all, it would not be quite appropriate, I guess, to say as we do in the case of people, “she is passing away,” or “going to meet her maker,” or whatever euphemism is fashionable at the moment. I notice that virtually no human being dies anymore, they all just “pass away.” Anyway, our poor Claire is dying. She has cancer that has already reached her liver. There is no doubt about the outcome. She has no quality of life. She just lays there quietly waiting to die, no whining, complaining, or apparent bitterness. It is an unexpected event as she is only about six years of age. We have come to love her dearly.

As we have five cats I suppose the cynical might say it will be a small loss. But all of our cats have distinct personalities that we have come to understand and learned to live with over the years. First, there is Cece, now the oldest by quite a few years, a Calico that was found abandoned at a local gas station when she was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. In her dotage she has become rather cranky and does not allow any of the others to approach her. For a long time she slept on our bed but in recent years has been displaced by others, especially Claire. Claire is the sister of Kati, two all gray kittens my wife rescued from the vet against both her and my better judgment. Strangely, Claire has always been virtually twice the size of Kati. She has been something like the Oliver Hardy of cats, overweight, but graceful as any other cat, and the best hunter of all by far. Somewhere she developed some kind of cat ailment that caused her to have something like asthma but she never let it stop her from hunting.

Kati, much smaller than Claire, and smaller also than any of the other three, is the most dominant, even over the two (fixed) males, Midnight and Spencer. Kati is a mischief, always into everything, always underfoot, always curious, and a gourmet. She is the only one of the five that not only eats people food but demands it. She loves salmon, lamb, and beef, but resists any form of cat food. When I work outside in the garden she is so demanding of affection I have to pay her the attention she wants. In the house she has nothing to do with me. Strange, these cats.

Then there is Midnight. He was named by our neighbor who first came across him, “Almost Midnight,” as he has a single white spot on his chest and is otherwise completely black. But we just call him Midnight and ask him when he deigns to come in for food, “How are things in the Garden of Good and Evil?” Actually, he is a bully and tries to intimidate all the others, except Kati of course, who brooks no nonsense from him. Our neighbor did not encourage him and he just showed up one day at our door and has been with us ever since. He did tear a hole in the screen door of another neighbor before they, too, rejected him. He fights often with other cats in the neighborhood and comes home with torn ears, bloody cuts, and so forth with some frequency but seems to successfully defend our turf.

Finally there is Spencer. I recall writing about Spencer previously, “the Trouble with Spencer.” The trouble being that he was a cat, and we did not need nor want another cat. Spencer is all white with blue eyes. He doesn’t see too well but well enough to wander at will, standing out like a sore thumb wherever he is. I worry the coyotes will get him but so far he has survived. This is quite remarkable as he also has the unnerving habit of lying down in the driveway. Spencer is a gentleman. I sometimes think of him as the John Barrymore of cats. He is handsome, keeps himself well groomed, and tries always to mind his own business. He does not like to fight but will, when necessary, defend himself from Midnight and Kati who try to pick on him. He and Midnight seem to have a kind of love/hate relationship in that although Midnight bullies him at times, at other times they spend time together in the “Men’s house” (the downstairs garage) and sometimes even sleep on the same bed. Like Midnight, he just showed up at our door several nights running and, of course, eventually became part of the family.

It is, as you might surmise, a group of characters. But now our eyes are on Claire. We worry she might not even make it through the night. We dread the morning when we will have her mercifully put down. I regret sometimes referring to her as “Arbuckle” and I won’t miss the mice, birds, lizards, snakes, and bats with which she has regularly supplied us. I have also referred to her as “Bunkie” as for years she has slept near me nearly every night. I will truly miss her as we will give her a suitable burial tomorrow. She will join “grey” and “Boo,” our previous feline friends who, like Claire, so enriched our lives, but, alas, like all of us, were not immortal. Tomorrow is going to be a very sad day at Sandhill.

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