That was December 17. The photo is a snapshot on my phone while at the vet posted on FB with 19 words. And, except for one tearful late afternoon of downloading every photograph of this exquisite cat from FB to put in a GoogleDrive folder, I have not written about that day. It has remained encapsulated.
I have had short “conversations” out in my backyard, mostly letting the way I say “Mickey boy…” and “Hey, Mr. Miaow…” the sound of my voice, slide out into the air.
But I am stalling.
The emergency vet was kind and busy for a Sunday morning. The short drive to the animal hospital usually had a soundtrack of wailing protest and kitty singing the blues, but the only sound from the carrier on the front seat in front of me was a heave and that awful retching I’d heard for what seemed countless mornings and evenings.
Poor guy. It is humiliating to be taken to the vet, but to come out of your carrier with the slime and saliva of your own barf was low. The vet tech gently cleaned Mickey up and he barely protested. When the vet came in, after what seemed like a week long wait, Mickey had started resting on my pea coat, a jacket I’d had recently had cleaned, but which was now fuzzy with white fur.
The exam was brief: My cat had lost a tremendous amount of weight, and had become weak and spiritless. He had nothing at all in his intestinal tract. The option to do barium x-rays weighed with the odds that, should surgery be needed, Mickey might not make it through a procedure…all these things were calmly explained by the tall, quiet vet.
“Your cat is starving to death. Which is a terrible way to go.”
“You’re putting words on things I came in here kind of knowing,” I began, and was already fighting back tears. “I wanted to know if there was a blockage…”
In a short exchange, I had to decide what to do, and yet I already knew, so I said, “I don’t want him to suffer any more.”
The vet and technician left us alone for awhile. I figured Mickey knew things were not going so great. I sniffled and held him, and let him huddle on my coat. I had asked the vet not to leave us in there too long, so he apologized on return. “I’m the only one on duty this a.m. and we have a couple emergencies. The vet tech took Mickey out and gut a catheter in his paw.
Like the big cat, I crouched over Mickey on the exam table. I leaned my face down into the fur on his back. He was still and trusting. I loved him and when his body started to back up as the injection sent in, I held him still, gently, with quiet words.
In a few seconds he laid over on his side. The vet wrapped the towel around him.
“Now there’s only one suffering,” said the vet gently.
I pointed at Mickey’s open eyes. The vet asked if I wanted them glued shut, and I shook my head no, as Mickey was returned in curled up sleeping position to his cat carrier.
At home I put him in the shade on the back table, while I got out a garden shovel and thought about the spot. A place he loved to sleep, among many, is under the smoke bush in the back corner, partly because the sun is on that spot late into the afternoon/evening.
The ground was hard. Hardpan is clay that is like pottery. I dug and wept and chipped away at another layer of dirt howling. I sweated and moaned and pulled the broken dirt out and took a measure. Not wide enough to put him in comfortably. Not deep enough to keep varmits from digging him up. Dig, cry, dig, cry.
I put water in the hole to soften the ground and made myself stop and breathe. My sides ached, my eyes were puffed up. Finally I went over and brought the carrier to the grave.
Mickey, such a good cat, as always, had closed his eyes. I was so grateful to him. I didn’t want to lay him in the ground staring up with a shocked look. I sobbed more because I thought of times I had marveled at what a good cat he was. I gathered bunches of catnip from the garden and laid them in as a cushion. Then the blue towel and my magnificent black and white kitty were lowered gently into the dirt.
I didn’t want to put dirt on this lovely peaceful scene, but I had to carry on, so shovelful on shovelful went in. I laid two brick pavers on top when the ground was level. And I stepped back and wiped my grimy mess of a face.
I know I made some words to make it a rightful funeral, but I cannot remember them. My garden supervisor, chief ratter, gourmand kitty, walking friend, and companion. Gone.
And then, dumbstruck, I went in the house to begin life without a cat. Except that, with so many memories of my feline friend, he was still with me. Pulling out my yoga mat in the morning I felt the tug of his weight sitting on the rug, enjoying me sliding it out on the kitchen floor. A hiccough from the refrigerator made me think I was hearing that awful barfing.
When I drove home from work, I was watching for the blinking love eyes, down the end of the driveway. It felt strange not to be greeted.
The worst was no friendly plop when Monsieur Mickey jumped up on my bed to make biscuits before curling up to sleep next to me.
It still feels strange to be catless. Some day, I’ll be able to open that GoogleDrive folder full of photos and write into some of the hilarious and more charming memories.
But for now, I’ve unpacked 19 words with 1,012.