Monday, August 13, 2007
Farewell to an old friend
Bubbles, 1988-August 9, 2007
The last couple of weeks have been tough. In addition to my dumb-but-painful knee injury (which is now mostly healed--yay), we watched as our beloved cat Bubbles faded away. She has had trouble eating for awhile but seemed to be holding her own fairly well for a 19-year-old feline. But a couple weeks ago, she started eating even less, and by last week she was unable to do more than lick broth off a spoon. She was closest to my mother, who wasn't sure what to do. We didn't want to put her through a bunch of painful tests or treatments just to buy her a few weeks of a lousy existence. So we waited--waited for the inevitable, waited for her to let us know she'd had enough. Thursday morning she woke my mother up at 3 AM, trying (and failing) to climb onto her bed. She was so weak her legs shook when she tried to stand. It was time.
If you've never had to have a pet euthanized (put down, put to sleep... man, I hate euphemisms, but I can't bring myself to say "killed"), allow me to demystify the process for you. They place an IV catheter, then bring the animal to you in an examination room. You have as much time as you want to say goodbye, with or without the vet present. At that point, Mom and I just wanted her suffering to end. So the goodbye was brief. When it's time, the vet injects an overdose of anesthesia into the IV, and it's all over almost before the entire dose has been administered. Bubbles simply laid her head down on her paws and died.
This was the second time I've had to do this, but for some reason it was harder this time. I'd forgotten how much I hate watching something die. It's funny... Most living things are difficult to kill. We creatures cling to our lives, and our bodies fight hard to keep going, even under incredibly difficult circumstances. But on the other hand, life is a tenuous thread. The difference between life and death is immense yet tiny--just an instant in which the flame of life flickers and dies. As my co-worker put it, it's like a candle going out. And what is left is cold, dark, and empty, just the shell that once housed a life, a personality... a companion and friend.
And so I say farewell to Bubbles, who joined our family on Halloween night in 1988. We had a bunch of cats back then (long story), and we let them all in to keep them safe on Halloween. When they all arrived, we discovered that we had an extra black kitten. She just walked in like she owned the place. We looked for "lost cat" signs, but we never saw any, and she had no identification. So we kept her. We moved her from California to Washington to Georgia to Oregon, and she made herself at home in each new place. She got fat--really fat--and her size was accentuated by her long hair. I used to call her a bowling ball with fur and fangs. She was clumsy too. Before we started keeping her in all the time (coyotes and raccoons, ya know), she'd try to hunt birds in the front yard. She never had much luck, though, probably because she was about as stealthy as a kindergartener in a candy store. We'd see her crouch low in the grass, then galumph across the lawn toward the bird. I swear I heard the birds laughing at her at least once. But her best move ever involved our marble-topped coffee table. I had just cleaned it, so it was nice and slick. For no apparent reason, Bubbles ran across the room and jumped on the coffee table. She had lots of momentum but absolutely no traction, so she slid the length of the table on all four paws and toppled unceremoniously off the far end onto the floor. Then, like any self-respecting cat, she gathered what was left of her dignity, licked herself a couple of times, and stalked out of the room. "I meant that," she seemed to say. I think I laughed for a week.
Farewell, old friend. I miss you.