Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Year Ago Today Kitty Oliver Died: Three Ghosts of a Christmas Past (In Reverse Order)

I Need to Bury the Cat

I'm not going to put it off any longer. The earth is soft, and the sky is blue.

I read this poem a long time ago. I looked and I found it. Dickey does not write of domestic animals, but I am still glad I found it, not believing in heaven for anyone but glad to play at believing.

The Heaven of Animals

Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains it is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these, it could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done,
But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain

At the cycle's center,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.

-- James Dickey

Posted by ....J.Michael Robertson at 4:21 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Labels: death, James Dickey, Oliver, poetry
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."
Posted by ....J.Michael Robertson at 9:36 AM 3 comments Links to this post
Labels: cats, death, Oliver
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Saving Tinkerbelle

I mean please on my behalf believe or feign belief that little Oliver can get his fuzzy butt in gear again. For today he simply quit moving.

He crawls a little, the best he can, not good enough. It's been coming these six months. In June we pulled him back from the vet's last needle when no one thought we could, but he's an old cat, 16 years, eight months, 19 days we figure.

I am not sure that the strength is there in his little body. I don't know if it's there for him to find. He cries out, and the vet said it may not be pain -- the vet does not think he is in pain -- he cries out in frustration because his nerve-damaged rear legs cannot push him, though he tries, and his front legs at last lack the strength to pull him forward.

The vet is "shot-gunning" his condition -- $409 worth of shotgunning. A vitamin B Complex shot. A powerful steroid. An enema for god's sake because his little bowel is packed and potentially toxic.

I feed him chicken soup and baby food by syringe. And another syringe with a softener for his feces and another syringe with the paste they call CalLax and another syringe with half a teaspoon of potassium.

And a steroid pill and one-quarter of a blood pressure pill. Oh, I have to squeeze his bladder empty twice a day, laying him on his side, pressing him down with my left hand, squeezing with my right as if he were a baby's toy, handling him rough, too rough, because gentle will not work because I'm on my own, and I've never done this on my own before.

He's not strong enough to struggle. And I think: Give him the strength to make me stop, at least to exact a price. Then he will be well again.

If only.

Actually, I don't want much, no miracle, no drastic recalibration of the laws of causation. I just want to keep him going for a month until E. comes home from her mother's. She left him in my care. It matters because it matters because it matters. Take my word.
Posted by ....J.Michael Robertson at 10:55 PM 1 comments Links to this post
Labels: cat, E., Oliver

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