"...it's like Will Rogers, Jean Shepherd and some grumpy Jewish man all rolled into one."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Vodka Catatonic

Our cat Chloe has, like that parrot in the fabled Monty Python sketch, "ceased to be." With a bit of an assist from her loving owners...

As you may recall from this post, our cat Chloe had been experiencing... intestinal issues. We tried a conservative approach to treatment, first with antibiotics and then, when those had no discernible effect, a course of steroids. The steroids didn't help with the diarrhea either, but Chloe's slugging percentage rose nearly 100 points in a week.

The other morning I came downstairs and showered and after I completed my toilette I exited the bathroom and noticed a... distinct odor. I was fairly certain I wasn't the source since I'd just scrubbed up, so I strode over to the cat boxes to inspect. I found, outside of the receptacles, several pools of... Nah, I'm not even going to try to describe it, delicately or otherwise. It was clear that: A) the medication wasn't helping and B) it was only a matter of time before the cat bypassed the designated area altogether and decided to go wherever she wanted in the house, much like my great-aunt sometimes did.

Carol came downstairs as I was finishing clean-up. I apprised her of the situation and it didn't take us long to agree that Chloe's time was coming to an end. We called the vet to review and she was very understanding, offering only a mild suggestion that we perhaps would consider another round of antibiotics (to which we said "Nuh-uh"), and recognizing that the next most likely causes were really serious stuff like lymphoma or a cat with a "Jewish stomach" (as some of you may know: a miserable, incurable condition). We felt since Chloe was a cat who shied from human contact that our ability to administer any medications or manage her care would be almost impossible. Under those conditions, we felt making a quick move to prevent Chloe's further suffering was the best course of action. The vet agreed and then transferred us to the front desk to set up Chloe's "end of life" appointment for later that morning; "end of life" being a euphemism for "costly veterinary visit".

We managed to get Chloe into her carrier without too much difficulty. She wasn't happy about being confined and fortunately the vet's office was a short drive away. As soon as we walked in a staff member named Renee came out, knowing why we were there, and ushered us into an examination room so we could review the protocol.

Renee asked us to sign a form that Chloe hadn't bitten anyone in the past fifteen days. I discounted any injuries obtained from putting her in the carrier twice in the last two weeks and signed the form -- if she was rabid, she took that secret to her grave. Now the hard decision came -- credit or debit? Well, before that we needed to indicate whether we wanted to be present when the vet administered the lethal injection. I asked, "Do you mean present like in the room, or in the general vicinity?" She confirmed she meant the room, and after a bit of tearful consideration we decided not to observe. This cat derived no comfort from our proximity in all her years living under our roof, so why should we be visible in her final moments to further agitate her? We then had to decide among three options:
  1. Bring her home intact to bury her.
  2. Have her cremated and have the cremains returned to us.
  3. Have her cremated with nothing given back.
Carol and I actually had talked about this before heading over. We've had cats for years and this wasn't the first "end of life" pet situation in which we'd found ourselves. When we had Felix whacked... I mean our first cat who peacefully slipped the surly bonds of Earth came home in a "cadaver bag" which we then put in a shoe box to bury in the backyard. Josh and I picked a quiet spot underneath a corner pine tree and dug a hole. We plunged the shovel into the ground three or four times and then Carol called to us from inside the house: "Hey, what happened to the TV?" (We all grieve in our own way.) We'd managed to chop the coaxial cable in two. The repair visit from Comcast cost almost as much as the vet's fees for the euthanasia. The next time we were faced with that decision, with Felix's brother Oscar (who'd reached age 20), we told the vet, "Nah - you can keep him."

So, we went with Option 3. Renee took Chloe away in the carrier and was gone only a few minutes before returning it to us, with Chloe in the hands of the vet tech who would prepare her for the injection. We left, distressed and upset, and drove back to the house making little conversation. As we entered we were met by Sophie, the cat who had showed up along with Chloe on our doorstep all those years ago, poor little kitties abandoned by their previous owner. Sophie gave us a look that said, "I know what you did." At least, that's how we interpreted it. Then she went over to the food dish and chomped on some kibble but kept one wary eye on us the entire time she ate.

That evening we sipped a couple of stiff drinks and looked through our collection of cat photos, reminiscing about our dear Chloe and coming to grips with our decision to end her life. I know there are some folks reading this who would advocate for trying all available treatments, and maybe if it had been one of our other cats who are, how should I say, not mental, we might have considered a more valiant course of action. But we're at peace with our decision and feel we intervened before Chloe really started to suffer from whatever had caused our formerly chubby tabby to lose so much weight and struggle with her normally conscientious sanitary routine. I feel if Chloe were able to communicate with us from wherever she is now, she'd look at us with those big saucer eyes and say, "WHAT HAVE YOU SONS OF BITCHES DONE TO ME? FIRST YOU HAD ME KILLED AND THEN YOU HAD MET SET ON FIRE! YOU BASTARDS... I HOPE YOU ROT IN HELL!! I'M ON FIRE! OH MY GOD... I'M ON FIRE..."

Upon reflection, perhaps I can glean some of the rationale behind her mistrust of people. Rest in peace, our Little Fat Girl...

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