I wrote this on August 15, 2008.
As today is the anniversary, it seemed appropriate to share it with you.
The day I came home to find that the lock on my door had been smashed open, the first thing I did was look for the sisters.
Princess was hiding out beneath my TV set, behind the closed doors of its cabinet. But where was Muffin?
Stepping over the flotsam of my belongings, the strewn clothing and clothes hangers and paper, I made my way to the bathroom. And there she was. She wasn’t trembling or anything – she was a little too much of a cool customer to ever admit to fear – she stared back at me with bright eyes, ears all forward and paying attention. “Mrowr?” she asked.
I smiled. “You’re ok then?”
They say that 55% of any communication is done through body language. With her it was more like 90% – and right now she was communicating at me HARD.
“Pick me up. Pet me. Are the bad men gone? They were scary. But I’m tough.”
All I heard was “pet me”. So I did. She didn’t purr though – it was much too soon for that.
Funny thing about that bathtub: it’s where she goes now whenever there’s a thunderstorm. I think she thinks she gets to keep her dignity. I haven’t given her reason to think otherwise.
You could say that we got along well.
We had a routine too. Muffin would perform a daily function as my furry alarm clock, promptly waking me in time to get up for work each day. And she came into the bathroom only after she heard the shower shut off, and she would meow, letting me know that I wasn’t paying quite enough attention to her yet.
For my part, I made sure to take the time to scoop her up in my arms (only after drying off of course; we’re not allowed to get her fur wet. Ever.) and hold her and pet her for a while. When she had enough I was supposed to put her down so that she could go back out and get some food.
Funny thing. She hardly ever let me know she needed food. Maybe because I made sure the bowl was full all of the time. When she meowed, it was generally because she wanted up in my lap for a while. Oh yes – that’s another thing: we generally watched TV together, with her comfortably ensconced on my lap. I’d absently pet her until she put her head down and went to sleep. Often, she’d snuggle her head into my stomach (maybe because it was warmer there, or because she could hear the low grumble when I was hungry, the jury hasn’t decided what it was).
When I pet her, sometimes she would reach out with both paws and grab my hand so she could rub her face up against it properly. I liked to think she was showing me how to pet her right.
There was never such a thing as an overdose of love when it came to petting her. We never did find that high water mark, her and I.
Over the past few months I noticed that she had become a little obsessive about her water bowl. She’d stand next to it and look up at me, meowing. Though I was a little obtuse with cat communication I eventually got the message: the water must not be stagnant; it must be fresh. So I got to keeping a jug of water in the fridge where it could remain cold. She seemed happy about that, and cheerfully lapped it up when I refreshed her drink.
About three days ago, I saw her walk toward me, and she staggered a bit. I frowned, a little worried. Then, when she tried to jump up on my lap, she didn’t quite make it and she slid to the ground. She recovered nicely, looking like she intended to do that. I thought to myself “well, she is fifteen years old. It was bound to happen.” And so after that I made sure to pick her up so she wouldn’t have to jump – I didn’t want her to hurt herself.
Two days ago she made her way to my chair. I didn’t see her until she tried to jump up on my lap. This time when she fell she didn’t recover. She laid on the floor, splayed out and looking at me.
She loves wet cat food. Generally I only feed her dry food so when she hears the can opening, she goes nuts for it. A couple of days ago I opened up a can, and got her attention fast. She came over to the bowl and looked at it. Then walked away.
That was it. I made an appointment with the vet.
She was dehydrated. Her kidneys had failed. He wanted to keep her for a few days and try giving her fluids through an I.V. and to run some blood and urine tests.
I agreed, and asked him “so what do you think, doc?” Unspoken was the real question. He heard it anyway though. “Well, if she can perk up with the fluids we’re giving her, we might be able to have you manage her diet at home. It’ll mean a different food, and perhaps you’ll have to inject water under skin for a while.” He scratched his head. “But if she doesn’t do well with the intravenous then it’ll make your decision a little easier.”
We both knew what he meant.
So I waited until they got her hooked up to the I.V. and then pet her a little bit and spoke to her. “It’s Ok baby. You just rest, OK?” She was awake, barely, but was too tired to look at me. I think she understood though.
Before leaving, the doctor said “well, I’ll call you in the morning to give you an update on her progress. And you can come visit her if you like.”
I smiled. “Yes, I’d like to do that. Talk to you tomorrow, doctor.”
This morning I had just finished breakfast when the phone rang.
“Hi. Is this Doug?”
I looked at the display. It was the vet. “Hi doc. Yes, it’s me.” It was his early morning progress report.
“Well, I’m sorry to tell you this but Muffin passed away at 2:00 a.m. ”
I stared at the living room drapes. My throat closed.
The doctor continued. “I checked on her at 1:00 a.m. and noticed that even with all of the fluids, she just wasn’t responding well. And her blood tests showed that she was anaemic as well.”
“I see.” It was supposed to rain today but I could tell through the window that it was sunny out. I wondered what that was all about.
“But we had to try. It was worth it to see if she could get better.”
She was kind of my side-kick. The one who had been there when all of the verbal end-of-marriage sparring was going on. The one who was the first to come up to my lap when I had a migraine or was otherwise sick. She seemed to know. Maybe it’ll rain later on today.
I looked at my watch. I should make sure and return the rental car.
The doctor had said something. I responded. “Thanks for letting me know, doc. I’ll come by later this morning to settle up and get the cat carrier.”
“At least she went peacefully” he repeated.
“Yes, and I’m glad we tried. No regrets doctor.” My voice chose that time to falter, just a bit.
He heard it. “Yes, I know. It really sucks.”
The phone had become too much of a burden. I needed to put it down.
“Well thanks again, doc. I’ll see you later this morning.”
“Ok. Talk to you later.”
I know that the pain will diminish. It will. Right now it just doesn’t feel like it will. I know that many of you have lost your dearest friends in a variation of this story. I know you’ll want to respond so that I can know I’m not alone, and because it’s good to remember our friends. For that reason, I’ve left the comments turned on. You’ll understand though that my responses, this one time, will be few.
Rest in peace, little sweetheart.