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.
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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.
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.