I’m sorry to focus on somber subjects two days in a row. But if you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that this is a continuation of something important. After this, I promise that I will lighten the mood tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll write about something clever, like how that phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ is a phrase that is inside the box—that phrase by itself is a paradox. I know I’m the first one to think this.
Last night my mom took Fred, the mighty hunter, to the vet. She hoped he could provide some relief for the little guy. He’d had a UTI, or so we thought. The medication wasn’t helping anymore, bless his little heart, and without extensive tests we couldn’t know what was really wrong with him—diabetes, kidney stones, or cancer. Plus his arthritis had thoroughly permeated his skeleton, not to mention that he was going blind and deaf. 19 years is really long for a cat. What relief is there from old age except death?
So the vet put him to sleep and my mom held onto him. He relaxed, finally, and then slept. My mom said she hadn’t felt him relax and be at ease for months. It was really hard for her, you know. She’s never had to make the ‘put-them-to-sleep’ choice about any of our cats. It’s a struggle. I know many people also struggle with it.
I want to tell you a few things about Fred, in memory of him. I’ve been thinking about him since last night. I’ve cried a lot—for Fred more than for any of my other cats who have died. But then, Fred came along when I was about nine. And now I’m 27. It seems like he walked up the pathway outside the house sometime after my mom’s divorce and before her remarriage. It seems like he’s been around for a long, long time. And now I’m quite bereft. The last thing I did for him was wash his paws in the kitchen sink the night before he died (on Sunday). You might think this is really disgusting, but Fred was so old that he struggled with the whole litter thing. Cat litter. You know. Stoker held him and I cleaned the litter out of his paws. Last night when I was sad and crying, Stoker told me that it was good that Fred had clean paws before he died. That made me cry more.
What Stoker said about Fred’s paws sounded better last night. You had to be there.
Fred had the most beautiful paws. He was a big, orange tabby cat with fluffy paws. He looked like a lion and sometimes we called him lion—that made him feel really good. He dominated the neighborhood because his fluffiness made him look deceptively large. Sometimes we called him fluffy, too—that made him feel silly. Before he became an indoor cat he liked to skulk around outside beneath trees and the vines (with just his tail showing so you knew where he was, besides the mysterious rustling of the thick vines). He was an Aristocat, like from the cartoon movie. His tail stood straight up and sometimes he had a nice, happy walk, kind of a prance like Pepe Le Pu.
One time Fred tried to save some baby bunnies. I’m not kidding. My step-dad Terry debates this point with me and says he killed the bunnies. But that’s not true. While Fred did kill many small animals, I’ve seen enough of the dead ones to know the difference of his intent. If he’d wanted to kill them, he would have brought them to our doorstep mangled and chewed with injuries. These bunnies were carefully preserved. I even saw him carry one up the pathway to the front door. He was carrying it like a mother cat carries her kittens. Of course, the bunnies all died from shock and fear. But they were probably going to die anyway. Fred, being an intelligent cat, must have known the mother was dead and was trying to save them. You might think I’m being dense about this. But I’m not.
I’m a little bereft without Fred. The house seems empty without him. And I know the other two cats are worried about where Fred is. Hopefully he’s in heaven with the other cats and most importantly his friend Smokey who died when I was in junior high, and Alf who looked just like him and could have been his brother (that’s where his name came from, Alf-Fred. We were VERY creative kids).
Here’s a link to a somewhat corny site called the Rainbow Bridge. I swear this poem was better when I read it years ago. Now it seems a little silly. But I still like it because it makes me feel good to think that I’ll see Fred again and to think that he’s not hurting any more. I hope he’s the mighty hunter he was in his prime. When his tail stood straight up, confident and happy.