I inherited Sidney the Cat (whom I nicknamed Sidney, Mighty Huntress of the Night for her beautiful black coat and her stealth ways) when she was already middle-aged. Our time together went something like this . . .
Ben calls, in tears, begging me to take on this cat with the words, “Ma, I know you’re not a cat person, but please take her. We don’t have anyone else. If you don’t take her, we’ll have to put her to sleep.”
Who can ignore the tearful pleas of one’s own child calling one to be a rescuing hero in the life of another creature? Certainly not I.
We meet at one of our many half-way points and Ben hands me over this cat in her cage, along with litter box, food, and many, many, instructions, my favorite still being:
“You must let the water run all the time. She only drinks running water.” After a bit of a verbal tussle on this one, I (wisely) simply opted for silence. About a week in to our new life together, Ben calls to check in on Sid. He asks how I am doing (notice the emphasis) with the running water thing. “Not a problem,” I cheerfully reply. A wise and naturally suspicious child (at least when it comes to his mother), Ben digs deeper: “are you running the water?” “Of course not.” “Is she drinking?” “She is now.” “What does that mean?” “It means that I am not leaving the water run 24 hours a day for the cat and that she’s figured that out. It took her a few days, but she’s drinking from the bowl.” Suspicious he: “how many days?” “Oh, about 3.” “You let my cat go without water for 3 days?!?” “No, Ben. I never let your cat go without water. What I did was put it in a bowl. She found it. It took her awhile, but she found it.” I’m not sure if he’s yet forgiven me for that one, but Sid and I had made our arrangement and Ben was largely beside the point.
Ben instructs me at that fateful exchange meeting that at first, I must restrict Sidney to one room in the house so that she can get accustomed to her new space. I decide it will be my office. I get her situated and then I go do some other things. When I come back, I cannot find Sidney. . . anywhere. I thoroughly scout the office – no Sid. I then search the entirety of the house – no small feat – and still, no Sidney. I call for her. I listen for any meows. I hear nothing. I see nothing.
I sit down at my office chair, in admitted defeat, pick up the phone to return Ben’s call. He has left a message that beat us home to see how Sidney is doing. I am going to have to tell him that I have lost his cat within minutes of our arrival at her new home. It won’t be pretty. As the phone is ringing, I sit and ponder, retracing all my own steps since bringing Sidney inside. A thought enters my mind. I dismiss it. And then I act on it, opening the lower drawer where I had thrown my purse. And there she was. Apparently the gal had snuck in to the drawer just ahead of my tossing my purse in and there she crouched, silent, like the night.
Ben answers the phone, I tell him everything is fine and then confess the last hour’s horror of lostness. All is forgiven for all is well. I am so bucked up in my new confidence that I tease him about never having called to check to make sure that I made it home all right. We laugh together.
I’ve written before about my tendency to Pollyanna things, to be the incurable optimist. It has a price.
For some time, I had been thinking that Sidney was failing and that it might be time. You know: time to put her to sleep.* Yet I resisted, thinking that ‘nature’ should simply take its course. It did not seem that she suffered, or if so, not much. She wasn’t complaining.
But I had been thinking on it.
And then came yesterday morning. When I got up, Sidney was already up, unusual these days. She was walking in this odd sort of circle, when I realized that one of her back legs wasn’t working. That leg served as a sort of anchor against which she tried in vain to navigate. She finally broke the circling and managed to walk down the hall by leaning against the wall on the side of her problem leg.
Her prospects were becoming more clear, yet still I hesitated. And called and talked to folk. And read on the internet about geriatric cats. And made the call – or more accurately had a friend who is a relative of the vet make the call.
Another friend had shared how she received confirmation in a comforting way during the dying process.
I too received confirmation. But it wasn’t much comfort. I’ve been there when another pet – a beloved dog, was put down, so I was familiar with the process, a bit different for cats, but not much.
This time, Sidney had lost so much weight that it took several attempts to find a vein for the injection. There just wasn’t any there there anymore, for she was truly skin and bones.
And I had not noticed. I noticed her slowing down. I noticed she was thinner and eating less. But somehow I failed to even notice that she had no fat, no flesh to her at all.
Ah Sidney, I owed you better than that, sure I did.
Perhaps now you reside in the land of perpetual fresh running water. I sure hope so.
*How I do hate that euphemism. And it is not how I think of it. But I will spare you the language of my own internal dialogue on the matter.