Friday, May 2, 2008

The biggest kitty heartache ever (pt 2)

We were tense for weeks. We did everything to try and keep Seamus' coughing to a minimum. But as we tried to save up the $600, Marcie became more and more distraught, and I became less convinced that it would all work out.

"He's getting worse," she said. "Honey, he's punky all day now, and he even coughs when he's try to eat."

I nodded and stroked him as his wheezes cycled in again and his limp, ever thinner body shook with each breath. He was down a lot of weight. But there was life and love in his eyes, and he could manage a purr until the built-up liquid went down the wrong tube.

"I know, honey," I said. "He's fighting, though."

She slid onto the couch next to me and cupped and rubbed my hands on him. A talk was coming. Marcie knew that, whenever she told me anything, she needed only rub and hold my hands to express how hard it was to say. She was rubbing very hard.

It meant she was going to upset me. It also meant she needed me to console her when the shock had passed.

"We can't give him chemo if it's cancer, honey," she said, her voice trembling. She squeezed my hand earnestly. "He hates the doctor, and his poor little body just won't take it. I don't want him to be miserable."

I looked up and felt hot tears as I nodded. She needed to know I was with her, but I couldn't say it. I could express only my pain and grief, so I did.

"He is my little gift from you," I said. "He used to sleep in the palm of one of my hands, or in my shoes when I went to school."

I had more to say, but my voice cracked and I couldn't. Seamus stirred. I pulled him in close to me and began to rock him, and Marcie stroked my back as I bit my lip and gulped. I turned away.

Marcie stroked my arms and back as she slid close. "You have to promise that if it's cancer, we'll take him and put him to sleep, no arguments."

I considered my little buddy's state as he coughed into my chest and mewed pathetically at me, his eyes a little dull at the moment. I could in no way let him suffer even worse, on one lung, just to prolong his time with me.

"Of course we will," I whispered, kissing his head as he complained at the sudden hugging. "The last thing he'll hear will be us, and the last thing he'll feel will be us holding him in his blanket, okay?"

She couldn't handle it and broke down completely, her forehead in one hand, her other hand squeezing mine tightly as she sobbed. "He never did anything wrong," she wailed. "This is so horrible."

I consoled her as best I could as Seamus squirmed free and tried to lead us into the kitchen for food, stopping to wheeze as he did. We went for a long walk at Cabrillo National Monument that evening and just held hands.

As the weeks passed, we endeavored to make him more comfortable and to bring him things to enjoy. He had jerky, catnip of all kinds, his own patch of wheat grass in every room and ate whenever he wanted. He sill lost weight.

I had stopped smoking the year prior. Marcie finally joined me, saying, "If we gave it to him with our cigarettes, I'll just fucking kill myself, I swear to God."

Her light habit and the sad circumstances made the quitting easier for her. She walked more often and I went with her. We became closer still.

Every day, I would get home and see him outside onto the patio, where he would loll and roll between hacking fits. When Marcie was not home, I took him downstairs to walk around in the complex.

When the week came in which we would have enough to get his ultrasound done, I quietly searched and found an in-home euthanasia service. I printed the page, with its comforting but solemn graphic of a sun-drenched room and an empty cat bed.

Marcie hugged me and shook. I stroked her back, something my hands remember doing so often, and massaged her gently as I kissed her neck and tucked her into my chest.

The morning arrived. Seamus had coughed all night the night before. When he quietly walked into and he plopped his body heavily into his cage and on the blanket inside, we looked at each other.

He never wanted to see the doctor. But he was so scared he wanted to, or he wanted to hide.

"I'm ready," she said. "Let's go."

We kissed first and our solemn parade took a long walk to either certainty or relief. We did not expect the latter.