Donut Whole: “Good Night Sweet Girl!”

The Great Kitty Spirit Calls My Precious ‘Tabby’ Hither
by Brian R. Wright

This final day transpires like the movie High Noon, with the somber moment of truth impending with every tick of the clock. Tabby’s euthanasia appointment is at 6:30 p.m. with the vet, who’s just a mile away. I think I’m going to be okay. I’ve extended her departure date so I can have some ‘hospice’-quality time, three whole days where I’m home, moving my computer work downstairs, in the living room where she’s been camping out on the foot stool of the other love seat for maybe a week now.

She’s definitely ready, her appetite is close to nil, though she walks to her food area and to the litter box still. I’ve bought every treat and new idea in packaged and unpackaged cat food I can think of, though I have run out of the crock-potted skinless, boneless chicken thighs that were a staple for her… not that she’s been eating that either these last few days. Her breathing is ‘okay,’ I had them do a final fluid drain from the chest cavity two days ago. Thru various gestures, like placing her paw on my hand (a first) she’s as much as told me: “Papa B, it’s time to meet my Maker.”

Every half hour or so I make a point of stopping whatever I’m writing on to go over and give her a few strokes while uttering the sweet nothings. Occasionally, I’ll get more conversational, e.g. “Well, baby, I sure wish there was some other way. But you have the big C and it’s not going away” [or “You know, it sure looks like the Inter-national War Party wants to blow the world to Kingdom Come. Trump ran against these chicken hawks, now he’s sold out to them. What do you think?”]… then go into the procedures she’s had done and what the doctors say, what the Xrays say, what the ultrasound images say, what my friends and family say.

“Yup, I’ve run what to do thru every one I can think of,” I tell her. “And it all adds up to one thing: you’re getting on that stairway up to the Great Kitty Spirit… tonight… in a few hours… no more delays… no reprieve from the Governor. I’m going to miss you more than I can say. But I’ll try to be strong.” Then the eye mist machine kicks in and I have to go back to what I was doing; the idea of extending her departure was also to enable me to deplete the eye mist generator ahead of the Big Moment. Thus being more useful and stoic during the process.

Death is Mother Nature’s way of telling you she always gets the last word

I mean, heck, Tabby’s had a good run with my mom and now me. We got her, like, in 2009, from the same vet (Cat Carousel, Farmington Hills, MI) who will be doing the final let go. [It occurs to me that for the vet and her assistant, such appointments leave them with a heavy heart, as they have to be the ones to humanely pull the plug. Big Picture, sure, the Great Mandela naturally comes to an inevitable stop… for all of us. We living beings all ride off into the Deep Quiet/Infinite Eternal at our appointed times. But usually for us, no one is scheduling the actual act. With us, no one is playing God except ‘God.’]

Now I remember how it was with my mother’s passing, during the sequence of events and afterward with memorials: I would vary like a switch function from a) being overcome with sadness and basically useless to b) being decisive, not so emotional, and in a mode of soft, sure control, feeling the restorative Deep Quiet. I expect that’s how it’s going to go tonight, actually now in about 45 minutes: Deep Loss alternating with Deep Connection. Then later tonight and tomorrow going thru the motions of my daily workaday routine, and in the longer run reaching some peace with nature. I hope.

Tabby’s making a brief pass to the stoop just outside my condo door. It’s a nice view to a tree-lined ‘yard’ that I have basically all to myself. A few months and years ago she’d cross the grass expanse and hide under one of the large bushes. What’s so sad and humbling for me is the thought that in less than an hour, she’ll never be perceiving—seeing, hearing, smelling… or tasting the thin strands of grass on the patio—any of this again. All her tomorrows are going to be gone in the flash of a little gas and an injection.

I REALLY do not want to take these tomorrows away… yet at the same time I REALLY know that as a man I have to do so. Damn, there goes that mist generator again! Mist, hell. Probably good because it means I’ll be extra strong and capable here in a few minutes. Okay, time to leave for the vet’s. Chin up, now. When I return I’ll finish up, give you the inside skinny.

Decision Time

Boom! The world just fell in. I had to wait in the patient room at the vets with my kitty for several minutes, which was fine, because I simply stroked her and soothed her. Then we move to the back where the vet has a plastic container for first administering the Isoflurane anesthetic gas to put her to sleep. AN ESSENTIAL STEP, BY THE WAY, FOR ALL OF YOU WHO WILL BE GOING THROUGH THIS!!![1] It is absolutely crucial that your pet does not spend the last minutes of its life in torture if the vet has trouble finding a vein for the death injection. [I’m handling this part okay… of actually being present during delivery of the substances… and sure enough her vein has become grayed out and methinks the vet would have had some trouble finding it with the needle…]

… But then—in my imagination after 1) witnessing my girl in the container moving about wondering what she’s doing in there, 2) seeing her fall unconscious and be lifted out to the table, 3) watching the vet inject the lethal phenobarbital (which elicited a slight reflex), and 4) about three seconds later finally looking down on my poor kitty’s now lifeless body—I had to bolt. I started sniffling, hid my face, and walked into the empty waiting room on my own. No, not a complete breakdown, I still had to retrieve the carrying case that I used to bring Tabby in and to verify some info with the vet.

It was raining outdoors. I had already made payment for the procedure, so I said goodbye to the vet team and left the shop with the carrying case. I waited a minute under the overhang, turning to face outward toward the parking lot, empty case in my left hand. That is when I lost it. I stood there, maybe five minutes, shoulders shaking, doing a Niagara Falls imitation, no other way to put it; so much for the manly man façade. The finality of it all, plus the imagery of my cat being clueless about what we were doing to her, trying to hang on like any living soul, but unable to buck our hard, certain technology that ends her, was too much for me to bear.

I move to my car, get in behind the wheel, then lose it again. Another three to five minutes just letting go like a baby who’s lost his mother or, more accurately, like a mother who’s lost her baby. What I was saying above: the tears come like step-function upwellings, then they’re over and I can actually speak and do things. When I arrive back to my condo, one more jag as I realize how desolate my life is now without any living being being there for me. So absolutely alone. I had NO IDEA she would mean so MUCH to me! Here’s a blurb advance I send out to a few next day:

Well, I just had to pull the plug on my cat Tabby, and I’m an effin’ basket case now. Nothing else comes close to mattering to me at the moment. She is probably the closest thing to a child I’ll ever have… and I chose to have her put to sleep. Sure, she died painlessly and would otherwise have died in an awful way in a week or two, but it still feels like I’m responsible. Moreover, she was like my child, one of the best and purest things to ever enter my life. A beautiful creature, too. I am beyond grief stricken … and more lonely than I’ve ever felt. I’ll be going thru the motions at work and life for several days.

Then to indicate I’m okay enough not to slit my wrists: “Was all right today, but it’s rough coming back to a warm-body-free place, except for mine… now less so.” I’m grateful to several of my friends and extended family that called with condolences. One lady friend assured me that I did the best thing to euthanize Tabby as I did. This young woman had tried to cling on to her dog beyond the point of mercy, so the dog died, in two to three weeks, but not peacefully and in considerable anguish.

Rainbow Bridge and starting to heal

When I asked my friend if she believed in a pet afterlife, she mentioned Rainbow Bridge, which turns out to be a vision from a founder of a pet loss support community. Anyway, the idea is that all our pets (and loved ones, too, I guess) await us to cross that bridge with them into the Great Hereafter. Not sure I truly believe it, but believe the comfort of it.

On Sunday I travel with some mementos (fur clippings) of Tabby for burial near my mom’s cremains marker in the cemetery of Allegan, Michigan. It is a pleasant spring day and a beautiful, pastoral setting. Tabby—one night I settled into the contemplation of the utter ‘Deep Quiet’ stillness of a moment we shared—was the inspiration for my ‘Spiritual Magic Move,’ in my novel, The Truman Prophecy. Which in turn led to a book I’m writing now, The Joy Spot. I had expected Tabby’s loss to be sad, yet to lead soonly to a deeper spiritual connection… but as yet Grief has continued to abrogate the Deep Quiet. Well, today, here at the cemetery—in the sounds of leaves in the breeze, birdsong, crickets, woodpeckers—I did reach a restorative pure soul silence. Sit there for 20 minutes. [4-minute YouTube audio-video should run by clicking the image or this link ]

Eulogy

I’ll write more one of these days, for one thing I expect Tabby’s inseparable role in sharing forward the Joy Spot for our species warrants a cat book of her own. I also want to note that the death of a dear one has one positive effect: it’s real and you feel something. As such, all the noise of the UNreal—TV, radio, words, concepts, judgments, labels, gadgets, gossip, cravings, and so on—that swarms most of our daily consciousness is mercifully silenced by the finality of LOSS. In that silence we restore our own lives and connection to the infinite eternal… and let memory “nourish the heart, as grief abates.” (Proust)

My eulogy comes from the story of Lonesome Dove. After the cattle drivers’ most lovable and competent scout, Deets, is killed in a freak accident (because he was trying to help a poor Indian infant), the trail boss, Captain Woodrow Call, man of few words and fewer emotions, tearfully carves this eulogy into a piece of wood as a tombstone:

Josh Deets
Served with me 30 years
fought in 21 engagements
with the Comanche and Kiowa
cheerful in all weather,
never shirked a task,
splendid behavior.

Believe it or not, I used these same words for my mom’s interment, it just felt fitting because she, too, had such a hardworking, cheerful, benevolent presence that she wore on her sleeve for all to take part of. Same with Tabby: benevolent presence, someone to rely on for the things that matter. And one of a kind. Good bye sweet girl.

Postscript

This column is being put together a little more than a week after I had Tabby put to sleep, as the euphemism goes. Time may not heal all wounds, but it does roll on to a semblance of normalcy. I start thinking of ways to make Tabby’s loss less killer, little things: A couple of miniature stuffed animals—funloving Floyd and protector Herkimer, courtesy of the ex… from a couple of birthday celebs past—plus, my underused healing stones, courtesy my Free State muse, Robingale. Every little bit helps.

Note to friend:

“Yes, thanks, dearie, holding up okay. Feeling the release now, will be quite fertile on many fronts for a while. Was able to chat with my work colleague who also has a cat, a 20-year-old (cat). And do so without breaking down. She asked if I was going to get another, and I told her yes I thought I would in a few months… a stray or another from the cat vet of suitable personality.

“It’s starting to feel a part of life now, I’ve turned the corner. Thanks for the card. The attentions of several have been extremely nourishing, drawing me away from depression to fulfill a life purpose. Interesting how death often triggers a flowering.”

Other things: I’m picking up on Tabby eternal. There was a t-shirt on this lady (via my health care job today), and she was too out of it to give me the okay to take a pic of the t shirt. So my kindly speech pathologist went out to the Web and grabbed the image. Not a bad likeness of Tabby. Another indication of how special my girl is. I guess the photo is a takeoff on a gangsta pic ‘Thug Life.’ Who knew?  I’ve kept notes for the book to come. My dear ex reminds me that across the planet, my love and devotion to sentient domesticated creatures is still far too rare:

Keep sharing your kitty-pix with sympathetic souls.

(It’s a good thing we don’t work anywhere near all the zoos in distant lands where truly magnificent AND robustly healthy creatures of all kinds —endangered Bengal tigers, elephants, lions, apes… —are either slaughtered outright or left trapped in their cages to starve or burn to death. I’ve recently read far too much about their decimation in war-torn countries.  There’s such a vile willingness of savages to gleefully destroy all that civilization holds dear … from its centuries-old monuments, buildings, relics down to its innocent hostage creatures. And even the fate of domestic animals everywhere rests entirely on the fickle finger of fate…  are they going to good loving nurturing homes or careless, neglectful abusive ones) 

What a sad state of affairs. Good people shall remedy this, too. At least I spared my dear one from such ravages. With all the rush to Nuke War, I may have saved her (and me) from my having to tough out an ad hoc mercy killing. Day by day. In the best of worlds, pets bring such truth and creative joy that God itself becomes a pale afterthought. Several positive images of Jesus with children and animals apply.

Be well, my friends, with loving and cared-for sentient beings. Our path to the future.

[Coffee Coaster Column link]

[1] This happened to a dear friend of mine, her dearest cat of nearly 20 years is shrieking in pain and thrashing about for unconscionable minutes as she’s being poked by the injection needle. The vet didn’t know (or didn’t care to know) to first use the muscle relaxant or gas to anesthetize the animal. So, if you are the one in this position of having to euthanize a pet, INSIST ON THE TWO-STEP PROCESS: YOUR PET NEEDS TO BE FULLY ANESTHETIZED BEFORE ADMINISTERING THE KILL SHOT!!!

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14 thoughts on “Donut Whole: “Good Night Sweet Girl!”

  1. Brian,

    I had a female Cat for 10.5 years that I raised from the time she was 4 weeks old. She was a Beautiful Cat. I used to take her to work. She was great in the truck as long as she could see where we were going. She was an indoor/outdoor Cat and moved with me 5 times. She even went on two trips to Washington State with me, where she died in 2000 after being out there for about two years.

    When she stopped eating I took her to the vet who told me that she had Kidney failure, and that once a Cat’s system shuts down it will soon die. So much for the vet. I took her home and kept trying to get her to drink water. She didn’t seem to be in pain and got up from her death bed to use the little box a number times. I left the exterior door open for fresh air and she went out when I was in the other room. I found her under the deck where she would have died had I not brought her back inside. To her last breath she was trying to please me, or not be a burden. She died as I was petting her in my living room. She was content, but the tears fell like rain on her dead body. Indeed, I miss her to this day.

    I found a suitable size cardboard box and dug a four foot deep hole in the yard (I didn’t want any dogs or Coyotes digging her up) The next day, my sister and her two kids helped me give her a proper burial. I kept the gave site marked till I sold the place in 2010 nearly 10 years after she died.

  2. Awwww, so sorry for your loss. I know how bitter sweet it is. I have been there. Pets are so awesome. They are family. Hugs, my friend.

    Cathy

  3. Good night sweet girl … the incomparable friend of dear Brian and named “Tabby”
    It is a wrenching loss for you Brian, and shared by many around me here.
    Penned at the Royal British Legion, Rainham, (for veterans – I was 7 years at Sea).

    The final days of Tabby, you also friend.

    george

  4. A moving and loving tribute which allowed a person like myself who has never had a pet to bond with, to feel the connection of an animal and the love they provide, and unfortunately, also what it feels like to lose them. Very few could put this into words and make someone feel the feelings they never experienced as you have done Brian. With every loss there is a gain……most often …….spiritually ……to allow us to feel stronger and safer in this world as we seek guidance and solace from our pain.

  5. Brian good bud,
    I cannot know your loss and loneliness. I have children. It must be hard to loose the last life in your house. Death has been too hard on you, but I know you are a strong one with potent self esteem that will carry you through. And looking forward to a new friend to choose and love will be good. It is understood that sharing life with a companion is a healthy endeavor and ought be cherished. I say be at peace with your self, grieve and heal your loss. Renew the life to be lived!

    With love my brother,

    Able

  6. My sincere condolences. I believe it is sometimes harder to lose a creature who totally depended upon us than to lose an independent family member.

    I still choke up when I think of Spyder (my twitter profile pic) who I had to put down the day after labor day last fall. He was the sweetest most gentle dog that I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing life with.
    Sadly, he had to suffer with debilitating arthritis until he decided that he’d had enough of the pain. After physical therapy (it helped me with my arthritis) and all kinds of pain meds, he slowly stopped eating/drinking. We got a vet that made a house call, which was wonderful. I spent the Sunday and Monday that holiday weekend just sitting with him and stroking him until Tuesday came and so did the vet. He wouldn’t drink water or eat and was becoming dehydrated which made the weekend that much more difficult.
    Very peaceful, he was ready, and just stopped breathing as I was stroking his head. The rainbow bridge is comforting to think about, however, my intellect tells me it is all fantasy.

    I often wonder how we can be so humane with our pets, yet we make our human loved ones suffer until they finally expire. I hope I have the wherewithal to prevent that sort of demise for myself.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    gb

  7. So sorry for your loss Brian,

    It was sad and intimate to read your thoughts and deeds with your cat. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

    Be well, Thanks for your love and kindness in all you do.

  8. So sorry Brian… I inherited a cat from my BF and I know I will not like facing his time when it comes.

    He’s diabetic and so far so good with the insulin shots… but he is 11 years old already. We love him to pieces.

    This is why did not want another pet, but I took him in when I took in his owner who could not afford to keep him. I said I would take up the responsibility, as I did not want him put down for a curable or controllable illness.

  9. I am so sorry about Tabby. The death of a great pet is heart-breaking.

  10. Indeed, I can sympathize…
    We’ve had our share of such heart-wrenching decisions…
    with both dogs and cats, guinea pigs, gold hamsters…
    and we have our own private pet cemetery
    right around our house…
    They were and are a part of us…
    They were not pets… They were not toys…
    They were living companions…
    Greetings, Gerhard

  11. A beautiful, thoughtful essay, Brian. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  12. Brian what a touching story.
    I am so sorry to hear and I was crying reading it.

    My heart goes out to you.

    Brett Elkins and family,
    Author “Teach Your Teen to Drive and Stay Alive

  13. I still think about my dog that I lost to cancer 5 years ago, though I don’t often tear up now. When he was still a pup, someone told me I would never have a better friend. So true. Cherish all that you love now. Everything changes. I fully expect to see my furry friends once I cross over. Looking forward to it.

  14. How bittersweet…. Be kind to yourself; it’ll be awhile before the ache and ingrained habits begin to ease. (After 20 years of Friskies shopping, my cart would automatically turn into that aisle on its own, long after the need was gone 🙂
    Back then, there weren’t any pet-loss support groups. But it’s a great idea, long overdue, because pets are the best friends ever — accepting, non-judgmental, playful, affectionate, and trusted keepers-of-secrets. It’s not for nothing we mourn them so.

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