Friday, December 19, 2008

Sometime Between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. This Morning

Our cat Oliver died in bed with me, pressed against my side as I slept fitfully. After all the syringes full of food, medicine, laxative, minerals that I gave him late last night -- after the successful squeezing of his bladder -- I put him in his cat basket, which has a heating pad under the blanket on which he lay.

Around three I heard him cry out. He had crawled out of the basket and was stretched out on the cold slate floor of the bedroom. I put him on an absorbent pad -- think a big Depends sheet -- and then placed my sweatshirt over him.

I got back in bed. I lay there for a minute or two. I got out of bed and put two of the absorbent sheets across the sheet next to me and picked Oliver up and laid him there and lay down next to him and began to cuddle him.

He was making soft cries of protest, against pain I suppose, though perhaps only against the touch of death, the tightening of its grip. He was limp as a rag doll. When I had gone to bed around midnight, I had imagined that sometime during the night he would come struggling up his ramp, having improved enough from the treatment he had just undergone at the vet to manage that modest incline.

That he was worse rather than better suggested failed treatment, a hopeful diagnosis gone wrong. I can squeeze his bladder, I thought, and squeeze baby food and chicken broth into him, but for how long? At what point does one accept the inevitable? It was a hard question. I saw no easy answer.

About five, I got out of bed and put him next to his water bowl, but he would not drink. I took him to the bathroom and used a clean syringe -- we have a dozen or so; we stocked up; we encouraged ourselves by behaving as it we were in for the long haul -- and fed him water, which he seemed to relish.

Then, I took him back to bed. I couldn't sleep and thought I might get up in the dark and have coffee and wait for the first of the four newspapers we get every morning. But then I did sleep, and I dreamed. There were several different dreams, and at the periphery of each was Oliver, not well again but improved, limping about, interested in food, trying to jump up with that awkward gallant determination he showed as he slowly lost control of his back legs.

I awoke around seven and looked at him, still pressed against my side, and saw almost at once that he was dead. Which I did not expect.

I took him upstairs and sat on the sofa where he loved to sit and cradled him in my arms for a good long time. Then I called my wife in Florida. She was picking up barbecue for her mother's lunch. I asked her how long before she would be home and would have waited telling her the news until then, but then she asked how Oliver had passed the night. And I told her he was dead and how and when.

And then we wept -- wept as I told the tale, filling it with gasps and gaps -- and I felt all the better for it. In the barbecue restaurant in Florida, several people asked my wife why she was crying, and every time I heard her reply, "My cat died."


david silver said...

oh michael, i'm so sorry to hear this. sweet old oliver kept going and going but alas he had to stop going. and i'm sorry eydie is in florida.

Mary Beth said...

My dear brother and sister-in-love. I have cried copious tears reading your blog re: Oliver. I know how much love can be given our pets (who are not pets but tiny animal beings possessing what we all should possess but do not)......anyway crying is good so I am in better shape than before reading of his demise. I love you both! MB

Susana Kaiser said...

it's so sad when our kitties must leave... but let's celebrate Oliver's life. He must be now in kitty heaven, catching up with all the coolest cats in the world that have already moved there. susana