Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Wednesday: 30 July 2014

Now There are Five  -  @ 09:09:25
On Monday afternoon, I came downstairs after a shower, on my way out to work, and it was clear that Violet had lost the use of her back legs. We'd been expecting something like this, for a long time. According to our long time vet's records, we had her for 22 years since Glenn rescued her and her brother as very young kittens from where they had been dumped by some souless person at the fire station. She was with us for more than half my adult life, and she was very, very old for a cat.

That was taken back in July 2011, when we took a very ill Violet in to the vet, thinking that they'd recommend euthanasia. Instead, they diagnosed kidney failure, gave her an IV, recommended a course of hydration therapy, and she was just fine.

Despite the usually terminal kidney failure diagnosis, she was without any further illness for three years, although she grew more and more feeble, and a few months ago her space of activity shrank to the distance between the warm refrigerator outflow and the food and water dishes.

But she seemed happy and free of pain all that time, although she did have night terrors on occasion, which required a little soothing to convince her that she still existed. On warm days late last fall, she'd totter over to the greenhouse door and demand in a strident voice to be let out. She'd go through the cat door and onto the back deck to lie in the sun for a few hours, and then she'd come back in, through the cat door, and demand to be let back into the house. During the winter she made her cat carrier her home, we got her a space heater that we kept trained in that direction, and she was content. This spring she stopped venturing forth. When the days grew hotter than I was comfortable with, she took to the refrigerator outlet for extra warmth.

Right up to the end she ate like a pig and drank copious amounts of water, though you'd never notice it from her very tiny body. She was quite a tyrant about the water - if the bowl was empty, or the water did not meet up to expectations, she'd holler while standing over the dish until the water was replaced. I don't know what the other cats are going to do now, without her to keep us on a close leash.

Even after whatever event Monday robbed her of her hindquarters control, I'd go to the refrigerator where she'd camp out and she'd wake up and try to get up to greet me, something she always did. She craved recognition, and was soothed by a simple stroking. She was never in pain but Monday afternoon I could see it coming, along with the humiliation of soiling herself because she couldn't make it to the litter box.

So yesterday morning Glenn took her in to have her put down, and brought her home that afternoon. I got home from work towards dusk, while there was still some sun left. I'd already dug the grave that morning. Last night we engaged once again, as we've done many times, in our burial ritual down to the Kat Sematary. We carried her out the tenth mile through the fairy ring. We put her box in the grave. We had the recommended two beers and chatter, I shoveled the dirt in and Glenn pushed it down around the little box in the prescribed way, and in the dark we made our way out of the woods and back home.

There's certainly some relief, but it's not quite evident yet. She was without illness and complaint, but she was slowly dying for three years, and it weighed on us in a small but pervasive way all that time. Last night I caught myself rounding the corner into the kitchen several times, absently expecting to see her.

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