Thursday, May 24, 2012


We took George the Cat to the vet for the first time in five years just before Mother's Day.  We were pretty certain his kidneys were failing, as he has managed for sixteen years with only one fully-functioning kidney.  

George had never been a good cat at the vet.  He had in fact bitten people there, and we suspect he has some sort of BAD BITEY KITTY stamp in his file.  

He had to be sedated just so they could finish his physical exam below the neck, and take a blood sample.  We took home a zillion cans of prescription cat food, and an antibiotic that I've had no luck getting into him.  Dubbadad has been giving him subcutaneous fluids, and George has been surprisingly cooperative.  We have been optimistic.

But he stopped eating five days ago.  Completely stopped.  Tuna right of the can, tuna juice, cucumber peelings -- none of his favorites have even tempted him.

It was pretty obvious where this was all headed.  I have been very frank with Ander and Aliza.

I spent last night in the living room, with my arm hanging off the sofa and into his basket. Whenever either of us stirred, he would purr.

The children both spent time with him this morning, cuddling him, saying their goodbyes.  Dubbadad read Aliza The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, and Alexander read it to himself while he sat by George and petted him.  They understood what was going to happen today, and that George wouldn't be there when they came home.

While waiting for her carpool to pick her up, Aliza drew with bright blue chalk on the sidewalk, and chatted about how she thinks we should put George's ashes in a small box with a note listing all of his best traits and bury it in the garden so the fairies could look over him.

(She apparently explained cremation to her carpool -- oy.)

After they both left for school, George kept a tiny amount of a high-calorie liquid cat food down, and I got hopeful, but then his hind legs stopped working properly.

He slept all day after that, not even stirring when i opened the back door, inviting him out into the sun.  I let him sleep.

And then I made the horrible horrible appointment at the vet, because what was coming around the corner after leg weakness was all bad and mostly painful.

I petted him awake and took some last pictures and wrapped him in his favorite blanket and let him lie on my chest -- him purring, stretching out one paw to knead my neck as per always -- me talking to him about the hummingbirds and bees in the lavender, and thanking him for finding us 16 years ago, and for meowing whenever babies woke in the night -- until Dubbadad came home to drive us to the vet.

I held George on the way, wrapped in his blanket and in the ankh-emblazoned drop-cloth we made for ander's party. He had never been out of a carrier in a car before.  The sky going past the window seemed to amaze him.

I waited in the parking lot while Dubbadad got us checked in.  We stood in the bright sun, and George closed his eyes, and i hoped he was soaking it up, remembering every sun puddle and warm brick he had ever laid in or on.

When we went inside, they showed us into a lovely blue-painted room, with low lights. George was mellow and purring and even let the vet pet him.

But when they tried to unwrap him to put in the catheter, he tapped into some long-gone store of snarliness -- and they they had to take him away to sedate him.

But we were with him after that.  And it was very fast because he is very small these days. It was awful, but it was good.

I had to pick up the children too soon afterwards.

Alexander got into the car, and immediately and animatedly started telling me about his day.  When there was a lull, I took a deep breath and told him that we had indeed taken George to the vet.  I told him the whole story of George's last day, and he cried silently -- tears pouring down his face -- until I was able to pull over at Barnsdall and stop the car, and get in back with him, and hug him while we cried together.

We talked about how strange it is that we cry, that George had had a long, happy life, that he was not in pain, that we had loved him.  

I told him how happy I was that he had know this George, the sweet, mellow cat who waited on the patio for Ander to come out of the garage at the end of the school day, who flopped over and awaited snuggling when he heard the garage door go up.  (This was a far cry from the feisty, bite-y, 'Jorge, el Gato Loco' he had been before children entered the picture.)

We drove the rest of the way to get Aliza with him reading his book.

There was a big after-school arts celebration at Aliza's school, so i didn't break the news to her until we were back in the car and leaving campus.  

We all decided to go to a favorite restaurant in Eagle Rock.  Aliza moved from sitting next to her brother (her preferred seating arrangement) to sitting next to me, and proceeded to cry on and off through her meal.  I told her she would feel better with time...and some pho...and maybe a few sweet potato fries...and she smiled a little and brought up (not for the first time this week) the possibility of getting a kitten.  I told her it was important to miss George for a while, that he wasn't a broken toy that just got replaced.  And she nodded and said, "mmmhmmm... But a kitten IS the first thing you think of..."

We read Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and I Am the Cat and The Big Pets at bedtime, and now they are both asleep in my bed.

I keep hearing George's tags jingling against a food bowl that hasn't been there in two days.  I keep closing doors that don't need to be hurried shut.  And I was certain I heard him snoring when I came in here to check e-mail, and it was only when I noticed his basket was empty that I remembered.


  1. Replies
    1. thanks so much, sweet greebly...
      he was my first-ever cat, found the week before my wedding ("when I was saying YES to everything," or so the story goes). I was leaving for my last day of work before wedding-and-honeymoon, and heard a strange, strange noise across the street from our apartment. he was under a Dumpster. i didn't even know how to pick up a kitten. i smashed him against my chest (so many sharp edges on a seemingly fluffy animal!) and ran back home, where i shoved him at my husband-to-be, yelling "figure out if it's a boy or a girl!" as I dashed out the door. By the time I came home from work, edward and the cat were best friends...

  2. Ohhh, what a sweet story! It is amazing how many sharp things the little fluffy ones have. How are the kiddos doing? I dread the day when we lose our first cat (we have five, three of which I bottle fed, we only meant to have two but once you bottle feed them it's pretty hard to give them up.)

    1. the kids are doing okay, though aliza walked into the backyard today after school and called him, and then got very glassy-eyed. we got his ashes back last week (awful: walking up to the counter at the vet's and asking for your pet's um...remains. i kind of lost it, ugh), and are thinking about a little ceremony this weekend. i cried when i peeled cucumbers the other night because i started to call him to come eat the peelings. it's all so strange. but i want them to feel it, and to remember him, so on we plod, cat-free, storing our cast-off shoes where the litter box used to be...

  3. You write so beautifully - this made me smile - and cry - and I'm not even a huge cat fan.

    1. Awww shucks -- thanks, Ruth...
      Funnily, I was a dyed-in-the-wool 'dog person' my whole life, telling (eep) dead cat jokes as a teen and all that... George saved himself early on by being somewhat 'doglike,' and then slunk his way into my heart.

  4. [tears rolling down my face]
    George was a lucky cat to have such a wonderful family.