I hadn’t written anything in a couple days, yet I found myself in an odd ongoing mood of wanting to write without having a focus to write about. And then, of course, last Saturday happened. I don’t want what follows to be taken as any kind of pity party or a rant or anything of that nature. Truth be told, I’m not certain I know exactly what it is, myself. I guess I’ll just start typing and we’ll see where this mess goes.
A handful of weeks ago, I learned that my wife’s daughter was moving into an apartment where she could not keep her cats, and could we take them in? I was not horribly enthusiastic about the proposition, being that we already have three cats as it is. The addition of two more would add unwanted expense to my wallet, never mind feline drama which we already see too often. On a trip to her new digs, I met her two kitties: nearly identical butterscotch males named Garfield and Odie. They were young, probably no more than 2½ months or so, good-natured and playful … and ultimately, I guess I just figured the usual, “what the heck.” After getting fully scoped out by our veterinarian, Garfield joined the gang something over two weeks ago and Odie a week after that.
The reaction of our long-time residents to the new arrivals was fairly predictable, knowing them. Boo was mostly indifferent, hissing initially but mostly ignoring the newcomers. Sadie took them as a personal affront, making her vocal displeasure well known and having nothing whatever to do with them. Morris started out not much different from Boo, but evolved over a march of three or four days into a combination of either benign neglect or semi-curious willingness to go nose-to-nose with Garfield or Odie, with a look toward eventually, possibly being a playmate. Meantime, the new two took to their new locale like a fish takes to water, exploring all over, attempting to make friends with the oldsters, and playing and wrestling with each other much as they had at the old place. It also seemed as though each of our now-five cats had found their own pied-a-terre to call their own, so cat confrontations were thankfully infrequent.
Garfield was perhaps the more reserved of the two, exploring but not too aggressively, while Odie was clearly the more extroverted of the pair. Not quite a week ago, I watched Odie follow Morris, our big Maine Coon, up onto the office windowsill, a fairly decent jump from my desk. He was also seen chasing Morris around here and there, despite being roughly a third of the larger cat’s size and weight. Odie was also the less “buzzy” of the newcomers. Pick up Garfield and an instant purr was very nearly guaranteed. Do the same with Odie and maybe he would buzz and maybe he wouldn’t. Ultimately his body language would say, “Hey, I got places to go, people to see, things to do, ya know?”, whereupon I would set him down and he would go about his business. So far so good, or so I thought.
This past Saturday afternoon, I was watching football in the family room when, to my considerable surprise, I was joined by Odie. This wasn’t his usual behavior, though I was flattered that he would deign to spend some time with me. I remember noting that his mouth fur was wet and remembered that I had caught him vomiting earlier that day. What he had expelled was nothing more than white fluid, no solid matter, and I had figured he was dealing with a worming pill he had been given the day before. Odie perched on my shoulder for a while, then sat in my lap, still not buzzing much (if at all) as I petted him and gave him chin-chucks. Eventually, he went on his way as he always did, though something in his manner told me that he was OFF somehow.
It was much later that evening when the whole matter hit the fan. I was in the kitchen when my stepdaughter came in with Odie in her hands. He was almost a rag doll, next to no movement, no purr, barely breathing. My wife and I exchanged some discussion about whether to try to do something about the little guy, and being that we were a 10-minute drive from a 24-hour pet emergency room, I offered to take Odie there and see what they could do. Odie was wrapped in a towel, and off we went, our small patient cradled in my wife’s arms.
I’ll say this much for the Vet Emergency Room: they didn’t screw around when they saw they had an emergent case on their hands. Odie went straight back to their treatment area almost immediately upon presentation. Perhaps half an hour later, the news was confusing. First Odie hadn’t been responding, and did we want to proceed with euthanasia? Not much later, we were told he had responded, and the doctors wanted to know if we wished to proceed with a considerable (and expensive!) regimen of care.
We were invited back to see our little guy. It wasn’t horrid, but it wasn’t pretty, either. Odie was on a low table, under a blanket with a warming bottle next to his belly. He was intubated through his mouth. Both front legs were partially shaved, an I/V feeding him an aqueous solution of some description, and alligator clips, one on each leg, were feeding a signal to a heart monitor. One of the attending vets told us he had stopped breathing at some point, thus the intubation, and that his temperature was low at 92°, Fahrenheit. There was some discussion about how we wanted to proceed from this point. I was hardly sanguine about a course of treatment which would strain an already complaining bank account … but at the same time, I wanted Odie to live, darn it ... and for Garfield NOT to lose his playmate. I told the docs to extubate Odie, figuring that if he could breathe on his own, maybe it was worth the effort and expense. Son of a gun, they removed the tube and Odie continued breathing, even occasionally moving his head around and blinking on his own. His temp was coming up, too – 93 degrees, then 94 and still rising. I swallowed hard and signed on the dotted line to continue his care overnight, and my wife and I returned home around midnight. It was something short of 2 AM as I half-slept through an episode of House that the call came in: Odie had arrested again and was estimated to be in multiple organ failure and did we want to call it? I blearily sighed and said yes and attempted somewhat successfully to go back to sleep.
So why am I telling you all of this? Good question, one which I could stand an answer to, myself. Maybe it’s to let you know what can happen with a beloved pet when you least expect it, or to let you know that something little can blow up into something not so little. It could also be to inform you that emergency pet care is seriously pricey, and in places more than a little manipulative of furry friend owners.
And maybe it’s just for me to talk out the sadness I feel at the loss of Odie. The hell of it is, I seem to be the only one feeling it that much around here at the moment. I know my wife shed a few tears, but she’s pretty much over it. My stepdaughter, Odie and Garfield’s original owner, hasn’t yet said boo about the entire incident. Even Garfield has shown no signs of missing his brother and still does his best impression of a V-12 at idle when picked up. Doubtless, I’m attaching too much emotion to an all too common circumstance. Keep in mind, this is coming from the same person who gets occasionally misty-eyed listening to Steely Dan’s Dr. Wu, for reasons he himself isn’t sure of.
For the moment, all I know is I wanted Odie to live … and I’m going to miss him.
He sought comfort with you, and that can hurt very deep, even if you were hardly friends. Because you know there's very little we can give them.
So sorry for your loss! I know how hard it is to lose a kitten -- I lost a kitten from FIP years ago, and I still miss him, and the life he never got to live. Our companion animals are "people" and members of our family, and yes, we miss them when they go, just like we miss the people we've lost. The facile phrase is "Such is life", but we're human, and we DO have emotions and we're hard-wired to grieve. So I support you in your grieving, and no homilies about him going to a better place -- just an acknowledgement that you loved him, and he's gone, and you're sad. And I'm glad you wrote about what happened and expressed your grief. That gives the rest of us a chance to offer our support and love.
Thanks to both of you, Chris and Natalie. Your empathy is very much appreciated.
Oh, that hurts SO much! Been there, done that so many times, and it always hurts. I always feel guilty, no matter what the medical situation, and when someone says something like, "But it's only a cat..." I want to slap them. Or worse.
I'm hurting with you.
I often feel a soaring elation, a transcendent euphoria when my old cat leaps into my lap in the evening and begs for my attention . . . how he flops his little body onto my chest, twists his head upside down, looks up into my eyes and waits for me to stroke his neck. I have no idea what this all means to him, but I do know what it means to me. It means that I have within myself the capacity to build a relationship with an entirely different species, based upon comfort and pleasure giving, trust, elimination of anxiety, a giving moment without expectation of anything from him in return . . . . except to be blessed with a somewhat selfish gratification of my own goodness . . . that I am not a bad person, that I can experience these exalted emotions toward an entirely alien species that I know has no capacity of contemplating the thoughts that stream through my consciousness at that moment.
I like to think that this is a kind of love, That this is a small peek into what it is to be a human, or simply to be human.
So what did Odie “expect” when he came to you . . . when, in your words he “joined” you on the couch? . . a good choice of a word. . . “join”. What was within Odie neither you nor I will ever know. It is what is within you, however, that caused you to swallow hard, or as I, in the evening, to have that catch in my breath as I surrender to the mystery of my own emotions.
I like to think that I get a glimpse of my capacity to love and of my own humanity.
Before there was Odie or Garfield ... or Morris, Sadie and Boo, there was Munchkin. Munchkin was a cat my daughter adopted as a kitten even smaller than Odie or Garfield, some 17 years ago. Over the years we lived together, he and I built a wonderful bond which even my current buddy, Morris, doesn't quite match up to.
One thing Munchkin used to do would happen when I would pick him up for a snuggle. We could go nose-to-nose and, occasionally, he would "munch" my nose. Not bite, not lick, but just munch gently, a gesture which floored me every time he did it. It told me that, much as Munch was my cat, I was his person. That to me is a pretty big deal.
Munchkin is still around, though not with me. When I separated from my ex, Munch went with her, for some convoluted reasons. Doesn't change the fact that I'm still Munchkin's person, though ... and I am very glad of that.
And lest I forget, thanks a lot for your input, Asa. Very much appreciated.
I don't have a cat, but I can empathize to some extent with you Loren, as well as the rest of you. I became quite teary reading these posts.
You ain't the only one, Spud. Grazie.
I have been through the loss of many Feline family members and they all hurt, and always will. It appears the real connection between you and Odie was his seeking your attention. I have had this occur many times, and I recognize the connection that results in a fundamental change in the relationship you have. I have also had Feline family members chose to spend their last moments on Earth with me. Ahem, pause. I do not recognize cats that have chosen to be my friends and family as pets. I find the term insulting. The connection I have with them is really no different than that I have with my own children. So loss is difficult. I felt your words and have to say you did what you could, and that you and Odie were lucky to have known each other. Remember him when you look at Garfield, no one wants to be forgotten.
Interesting thing: Garfield is getting a touch more exploratory and feisty, maybe. It's a bit early to tell, true, but we'll see. As for remembering Odie when I look at Garfield, the two looked so alike, it'd be pretty hard NOT to think of the one when seeing the other.
Thank you for your comment and your sentiments, Robert.
As I am sorry for yours, Don. That must have been painful as hell. Thank you, my friend.