This entry won't be skeptical, political, or funny in any way. It's just a personal story that I need to tell for my own sake. This is my catharsis. If you don't read this, I won't take it personally.
My cat died today. Her name was "Flick" and this is her story.
When I was 16, I got a gray tabby named "Shadow". She was bad, had peed everywhere, and was aggressive and anti-social. But on the night before I moved away to college for the first time, Shadow came into my room and lovingly cuddled up onto my chest and slept with me. Every time I came home she ran to the door to greet me, and when I was done college and moved back home, she was always my cat. In the early spring of 2003 she suffered liver failure and had to be put down. I was in the room with her, holding her little paw as the lethal cocktail was injected into her sickened body.
Then in the late summer a neighbour angrily appeared at our door holding a little kitten by the scruff of the neck demanding to know, "Is this yours?!" (We had a bit of a reputation in the neighbourhood as being the house with the animals). My dad said no, but he would look into it. By "look into it", he meant "Get one of the kids to deal with it". An hour later I went to the woman's house and picked up this little waif of a kitten (who looked like she hadn't eaten in days and whose long fur was beginning to mat) that she had cornered in her backyard shed, and I carried her home as she struggled with fear at every passing car and noise. Once home, I put her in a little room that I used for gaming and gave her some milk and wet food, which she devoured. I gave her seconds, and she ate them at the same speed. Then she slept. And slept. And slept.
I went to work, returning to learn that she had not woken up once. I was beginning to think she was sick, but after a 32 hour nap, it was clear that she was just tuckered out, and for the first time in her life, she felt safe. So soon after losing Shadow, I wasn't looking for a new cat, but this little ball of fur and tree sap was just to much for me to resist. A few dead-end calls to the animal shelters asking if anyone had reported a lost tortoise shell kitten later, I took her in, and named her Flick.
After a few days we introduced her to the "general population" of cats and a big doofy dog. She held her own against the matriarch, Marble (who accepted her), and played with the lovable one, Space. The dog wanted to meet the new family member, and flick greeted her with a swipe on the nose and 5 years of playful torment, ambush and chasing.
As Flick got older, she grew into one of those really interesting cats. You know the kind: the ones with weird personality quirks. She was the only cat would would dare (and was allowed) to sleep on the kitchen table, whereupon she would stand up on her haunches and bat her front paws up in the air like she was boxing.
She was one of those "princess" cats who would, after playing/sleeping outside, would whine and cry to get you to let her come back inside. Once you opened the door, she would lay down, sprawl on her back and get you to pick her up and carry her inside.
Many times, I saw her sleeping on the roof under the stars. I envied her for that.
She would eat at our house, and demand to be let out. Then she would go to the neighbours houses and get food there too. She would sometimes sleep on their couch.
She she didn't feel like venturing to the neighbours, she would scamper upstairs and spend the day with my grandmother.
Marble and Chance died in 2008. Marble at age 21, Chance at age 16. Both respectable ages, and I know that they both lived long, happy lives. Space, my beloved orange tabby, died earlier this year at the age of 19.
Space was a particularly affectionate cat, and his death shook me kind of hard too.
My girlfriend and I went back to my parents house for thanksgiving this year (A note to my American friends, Canadian Thanksgiving falls on the first Monday of October) and Flick occasionally popped in to say hello, and "get pets" from the hoomans. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, because Flick was young, and in her prime. She still had many a mice to torture yet.
Fast forward two weeks and I get a call after work from my mom telling me that Flick has been drooling steadily and not eating as much. They took her into the vet and it was discovered that she had a very fast-growing lump under her tongue. The vet took a sample and sent it off to the labratory for testing. My family (and later, I) was told that nothing was conclusive at the moment, but it didn't look good, and we should prepare to put her down. After confirming that it was the most aggressive form of cancer that a feline can get, my sister made arrangements to do what had to be done.
One week later I drove home to visit Flick. I knew that it was less a "How are you doing, Flick?" and more of a "Goodbye, Flick" kind of trip. It was harder to deal with then I expected.
When I saw her, she was sleeping on my parents bed, nestled snugly in a sunbeam. Her fur was heavily matted and her paws and tail was wet from her drool. She couldn't close her mouth all the way, but she was very happy to see me, and started purring gently. I wanted to make sure she got her rest, so I walked off to the kitchen. She got up and followed me. She kept looking up at me, no doubt expecting to be let out or fed.
I made her a bowl of some high-quality soft wet food, and a bowl of warm water. After placing it on the kitchen table (her "spot"), she happily jumped up and started drinking. This was what partly was so bothersome: she was still happy. My family picked up a kitten early in the year and Flick growled at her she she came near. Flick still had her fire. She looked up at me and gave me her customary meek little meow and then I saw the growth in her mouth. Her tongue was curled up to one side and looked like it had been inflated to 5 times its normal size. But she was still hungry, and wanted to eat. So she very slowly and carefully took in tiny bites of the food, tilting her head to the side of her mouth where the tongue hasn't bulged. What would have taken her 1 minute to eat just a month prior, took her 30 minutes this time.
Because her tongue was incapacitated, she couldn't lap up her drool. I tried to wipe it away with a tissue, but she growled at me when I got close to her food....something she has always done with everybody, human or animal.
Her personality hadn't changed at all. She was purring, growling, playing, trotting, and even meowing. She stared longingly out the window for many hours. In her mind, such as it exists in housecats, she was perfectly fine. With the other cats, their minds and bodies started to deteriorate slowly, and together. When they passed away, we all knew it was the right time. But Flick was fine just three weeks earlier when I saw her last. It wasn't fair, and it's not her time.
I, like I'm sure many of you, get very attached to my pets. When they die unexpectedly, it's especially hard to deal with. A happy, purring, playing cat should not have to struggle to eat a few grams of soft food. And as with Shadow, I can't help but feeling I failed her.
I was one of Flick's guardians, one of her caretakers. Yet right when she was in her prime, she was struck down by a heartless, thoughtless disease incapable of distinguishing a young and happy cat from an old and senile one.
I feel as I let Flick down, and I want to apologize to her, but I can't.
Flick, thank you for being my cat. I'm sorry I let you down, and I'm sorry I don't get to see you grow old. It's not fair to you, and I'm sorry.
I love you, Flick.
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