16 years, 362 days

When I arrive at the vet’s, a woman in her 50′s is sitting on the bench outside of the foyer. Short styled hair, cruisewear, bright pink toenails, dark sunglasses. I have dark sunglasses too.

“The door is still locked. I think they will open in a minute. …Is your cat sick?”

“Yes. He has diabetes.” And a heart condition, and he won’t eat, and he can’t poop. And I’m afraid he might die today.

“Poor thing. My Roger has a feeding tube right now. …I’ve only had him for a year.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” I wish he would meow at least. The quiet is even worse. And it’s too hot out here.

“The thing about Roger is that I had two cats before and when they died, it broke my heart. I said never again, but then here I am. He was my friend’s.”

“That’s very respectful to your friend for you to take him and care for him.”

“He was at the nursing home, and they were supposed to take care of him, but I think they overfed him. He’s overweight, and now he might die. I’ve had two strokes. … But he’s a wonderful cat. A wonderful cat. There’s more shade on the bench here – put your cat here.”

She sits and I stand and neither one of us is willing to remove our sunglasses, and it’s hard to really talk at all.

Then the vet comes and opens the door. “Here are two people who love their cats,” she says.

She takes care of the lady first – making sure Roger is ready for a visit, then she ushers Jean Luc and me into my favourite room – it’s library panelled, and it has an original Victorian door with deeply inset panels and years of wear.

I hear her taking the lady back to Roger, joking about how he’s managed to tangle up his IV lines, and that it’s a good sign if he’s feisty. I open the door to Jean Luc’s carrier so I can stroke his head while we wait.

She comes back and starts the exam: heart is remarkably good, considering he’s been on meds for it for a while now. She says if we are talking about a checklist, then that’s a definite checkmark in our favour. Weight is down, but that’s no surprise since he hasn’t eaten hardly anything except tuna juice and yogurt in a few days (neither of which is exactly cat food, but certainly the cat breakfast of champions). His blood sugar is way low, dangerously low.

If it’s blood sugar only, then maybe that’s something that can be worked on. However, it’s a good idea to do an x-ray just to make sure we see nothing else. She’s hopeful that things are looking better than feared.

She takes him from my arms and off to the back room. At this point, I’ve swung from surely thinking it was time, to wondering if he had yet another life he hadn’t used up yet, and back again. Hoping that I would know what the right thing to do is.

She comes back and we chat about nothing in particular while we wait for the film to dry. About what he might like to eat. About how great his fur looks. About Bogie, the less-than-smart cat at the clinic.

Then we look at the x-ray.

“The dark area is gas, and you can see the heart and lungs are really clear right here – that’s really good news. And here is the colon, which is fine to this point. …To this point.” She turns, tears in her eyes, “but here, what you see, is a tumour. I’m sorry.”

“And it wasn’t there a few weeks ago.”

“No. It wasn’t. They grow fast. If he were a candidate for surgery, which he’s not, then it might be removable, but once it’s in the lymph system, it’s hard to stop. And chemo..”

“No chemo.”

“No chemo.”

“So, then…”

“So, then I think we know the decision.” I said I needed to know what the right thing to do is, and now I know. I can see it there on the picture. In some way, this is a comfort.

“We always want to have a clear sign, even though we really don’t want that sign. But this is pretty clear. I’ll leave you alone with him for as long as you like. I’ll go prepare the medication.”

So then it’s just me and Jean Luc in a room. His head on my shoulder and my tears in his fur for a while. I tell him that he did well and kept his promise to make it to his 17th birthday, and too bad he couldn’t make it to my birthday in just a few days–what would have been 17 years since I met him–a little black thing sitting in the middle of my kitchen table with a bow, for my birthday–but that I understand.

Then I go and get her.


2 Responses to “16 years, 362 days”

  1. DJL says:

    My condolences for your loss.

  2. scotchneat says:

    Thank you, D.