So, the past few days, Mom’s cat, Madeline, had been extremely lethargic. Not only had she stopped eating food for the past four days, but two days before had stopped drinking. And while she was barely inclined to move and would walk awkwardly around the house, she fought strongly when Mom would try to give her fluids.
At some point during the weekend I went out to warm up my car, and Madeline was by the back door, and it was still not too cold out, so I let her outside, in case she wanted to do her thing of eatin’ some grass. But this time she took off down the steps, and left the yard, which she hasn’t done forever, and hid under my car. Mom brought a flashlight and I lay down on the ground and pulled her back, though she didn’t want to come home.
On Monday we took her to the veterinarian. She was a pound lighter than when we took her in the month before. I learned a new word, “uretic” which is that smell you get when your kidneys don’t function well.
With some forced feeding and steroids and she might perk up feel better. We vacillated. Was this, perhaps, her time? The vet didn’t want to take a position, and offered both that cats can be suprisingly resilient, and that many owners have felt regret after the fact that they’d kept treating their animal past a certain point.
It took a long time to decide. Mom and I are both thoughtful people, and we both tried to clear our judgment of whatever prejudices we could find and arrive at the best answer. The veterinarian acknowledged that even if she did start feeling better, that she’d need to have fluids injected, daily at first, and at least a few times a week, going forward.
Madeline had herself quit at some point in the weekend, and the question was if we could get her feeling better maybe she’d feel differently. She’s a cat, and as cats go, she has a pretty strong sense of autonomy. She really disliked getting fluids, and she wasn’t getting any better.
She’s been Mom’s companion for seventeen years.
I finally voiced my conclusion that, I think it was time for her to go, and Mom repeated this position. It was kind of like in the movies when they fire the nuclear missle, you get both of the guys in there to agree and turn their keys at the same time before the terrible thing can happen.
We brought the vet back in. Madeline drifted off to sleep in Mom’s arms, her heart going ever slower. I learned another word, “agonal breath” which I think would better be termed “terminal breath” which for Madeline was two or three loud sighs. Sounded like sneezes or coughs, but with a special quality to them. I can get why people believe in souls, escaping the body at death.
The body, and the towel that we had brought Madeline in, we left with the veterinarian. The former turned to ashes and the latter turned to the business of whatever use animal caretakers can put it to. We grabbed some take-out, and found that Uncle John had stocked the kitchen with a coffee cake and beer.
Grandma sent some e-mail:
She’s so charming, on little cat feet,
She’s so lovely, incredibly sweet.
And it proves you’re a sap
If you don’t make a lap
For Maddy, because she’s so neat!
Sweet Maddy was really a lover
When over your book she would hover
She’d curl up in bed
And tuck in her head
And snuggle up close as a cover.
Time with Maddy was quality time,
She was always so warm and so dear
And it’s hard to make up a good rhyme
When writing while shedding a tear.
Mom had retired for the evening when it arrived, so I read it to her in bed.