Saturday, March 11, 2006

Cat Tales Part Deux

When I got home close to midnight there were no lights on.  And no cat to greet me at the door. I turned on the kitchen light and started calling for him. I checked the bedrooms and then the living room. I caught the glint of an eye picked up by the light from the kitchen. There he was lying on his side on the sofa. 

I thought he was dead, until I went over to him and he tried to lift his head. I gently started to run my hands down the length of his old, tired body. Sure enough his bladder was dangerously swollen. The vet had already told me his kidneys were giving out and he was throwing clots, which would continue to block his urethra so he couldn't pee. I'd just rushed hiim to the hospital two days before and here he was again in worse condition.

There was no happy solution for this problem. Eventually his bladder would burst and kill him or I could put him to sleep. So I prepared his carrier with a soft, clean towel, and laid him inside it. He knew where he was going, a place he hated, and managed to me-yowl in protest.

The emergency vets were for the visits after regular vet hours.  The nighttime facility was down the road from the daytime place. Everything about it was extremely institutional, all cinder block and business. No cute pictures of pets hanging on the walls in the waiting room. No friendly assistants to chat with you and make you feel better about your sick animal.  Anybody bringing in a pet late at night had a real problem. And a huge bill.

The dour woman at the front desk made me sign papers assuring them that no matter what it cost -- and it doubles at night -- I would be responsible for the payment. Here take everything, what do you want?

I was put into an examining room. A young, redhaired, unsmiling vet came in to examine my cat and get a history. He looked harmless enough until he spoke. Allo, I am DOKTOR Death. Not his real name, but close enough. I said I had come to put my cat to sleep, but before we did thatI wanted them to release the pressure on his bladder so he could be comfortable at least. 

Ve cannot do zat came the reply. What do you mean you can't do that -- his regular vet just did it the other day. No, zat requires surgery and ve cannot do zat. Could you ask around to see if anyone else might know what I'm talking about. PLEASE.

He left, taking Hardy with him. He was gone for fifteen minutes. I took that as a good sign.

I waited and DOKTOR Death returned carrying Hardy. He almost looked like his old self, albeit it with a prep for an IV taped to his leg.  He me-yowled a greeting when he saw me, clearly relieved that he didn't have to pee anymore. I assumed that was a cat version of thank you.

He had several different me-yowls: Hi, good-bye, get up, feed me, is there an animal outside, where have you been, I can't find you, sit down so I can climb on your lap, what are you doing -- the list was long.

Any time I had to leave him overnight at his regular vet's they always remarked about his constant talking. Okay, complaining. When I would come pick him up from an overnight stay, I could hear him making a racket in the back, clearly not happy being handled by people who smelled of medicine and things that hurt.  But as soon as he heard my voice calling his name, the screeching would stop dead. And he would change his voice, me-owling much more softly, as if to say, Thank God you're here, these people were tryiing to kill me!!!

Now, in the examining room with the expressionless German-accented creep who had brought Hardy back to me, I said, dripping with sarcasm, "So, you found someone who could do the procedure, I notice." Careful Mrs. L, this guy has all the warmth and charm of a mad scientist, you may not want to go there.

I almost decided to take Hardy home because he seemed normal, but I knew his bladder was going to fill up again and we'd be right back. Instead, I asked the vet to leave me alone with my cat so I could say goodbye. He lay down on the examining table which had been covered with a towel. I petted him for awhile and told him what a great cat he'd been and how sorry I was that I had to let him go. Mostly I just stood and stroked him while he purred.

Cats come with all kinds of bells and whistles. Some meow but don't purr. Others purr, but don't meow. Hardy got the whole package. A meow that could break glass and his motor was always humming. He used to start purring in anticipation of getting some nice pats. Now that his bladder was empty and he was feeling better, he was relaxed and almost seemed to be enjoying himself.  

The vet stuck his head in the door. Iz it time for Ki-Tee? Which was code for I'm ready to terminate your cat, what are we  waiting for?

Not yet.

The next time he came back I said okay, it's time. DOKTOR Death quickly administered the poison that killed my pet. One second I was stroking a purring, breathiing, living being and literally, in a heartbeat, everything stopped. Like a switch had been thrown.  Death was so instantaneous. In his stillness I realized how animated he was in life.  

You vant me to take ki-TEE now?  

I could have said, No I want you go to away and never come back.   

But I told the vet that I wanted to be alone with my cat again now that he was dead. I kept petting him expecting him to start purring once more. That's what struck me most. The stillness.  

Two minutes later what's his face returned.

Time to take ki-TEE?  

No, I need more time. Maybe I'll stay all night I thought, just to annoy YOU.

Two minutes later he was back again. I just shook my head and said, Two more minutes please. It wasn't easy to have those last moments with this bizarre person interrupting my meditation.

Deciding not to wait for the death vet to return one more time, I left my cat on the table after holding his face for a kiss and went home.  

A few weeks later I got a call that I could come pick up his ashes. There inside a small cardboard box was a tiny little metal urn that had a colorful etched lid -- covering all that was left of the last pet I had.

I took him home with me again. This time for good.



ally123130585918 said...

Mrs L ~ I could personally go punch the nose in of Zat Doktor ~ what an uncaring person he was ~ so sad about your cat ~ but it was the kinest thing you could do for him ~ that was very brave and unselfish of you ~ Ally

elleme2 said...

The saga of Laura and Hardy was a page turner--and a three-hanky affair.  I love the fact that there are so many different sides to Mrs. L.  Sometimes she is bright, acerbic, wonderfully witty--sometimes the urbane woman of the world who has hob-nobbed with the famous and the near-famous and who jets off to London without a second thought--and sometimes, she is just warm and terribly human.  

thisismary said...

I am so sorry Mrs. L.

I take comfort in the idea that if the big guy designed a heaven for people types, he made room for animals too. Wild Dog will watch over Hardy.

emmapeeldallas said...

Sheesh, I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes and a lump in my VERY SORE with tonsillitus throat...but it's worth it.  This is what having a pet is all about...the relationship.

Good one, Mrs. L, really, really good.


mosie1944 said...

But at least you had the privilege of holding your pet and telling him goodbye.  I'd give anything if I'd had such an opportunity with Mandy, young as she was.

gailmb said...

Being the fairly new (3 months) servant of 2 female black cats (sisters) after 17 years of swearing I would never have another cat because the death of my dear Kittle almost did me in, I can sincerely say I feel your pain.
Thank you for sharing Hardy's story with us.
Pass the tissues....

mombzbe said...

That took a long time to read.   I had to keep getting up for Kleenex.  
I have held the paws of my friends as they receive the send off.  It's awful.  There is nothing like the emptiness in your car on the way home after you have to do that.  
Thanks for the tale...

sunnyside46 said...

when you love a pet you open up your heart to breaking...but it is so worth it. 14 year old Emily kitty seconds my opinion. She is mad because my tears are dropping on her fur.

robbush6 said...

Aw geez! My deepest sympathies for your loss, sis. My mom kept talking to her cat Fritz long after he died. His companionship kept her from falling into depression for many years.  I'm sorry.

onemoretina said...

    What a bittersweet ending to this story.  I'm glad your cat got to spend some 'comfortable' time with you ... and you with him ...  before he passed on.  It's just too bad that the time was punctuated with interruptions by a vet with a less than compassionate manner.  Makes you wonder why he became a vet in the first place.  Tina