That thing that isnï¿½t letting me write or think is now asleep. For a precious few minutes I am here, alone. That thing is smelly minutes after a bath, loud when it needs to be quiet, and ready to cuddle only when I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown (that it senses when I am on the verge and becomes uncharacteristically sweet --- that itï¿½s triggered some primal, care-taking space in my body --- is all I need to love it forever.).
Let me back this up, itï¿½s storytime:
Last year I had a sweet, 17-year-old, Siamese, Aphrodite.
She was, by far, my longest, most nurturing relationship (short of chosen siblings and late parent). She picked me from her litter by catapulting her barely grey-tipped cream-colored little self into my lap and up my shirt with a sigh and a purr. It took nothing from me to hear her purr. She head-butted my face between my forehead and the bridge of my nose, it was her fiercest move that said, ï¿½I love you, you are my person. Go ahead.ï¿½ I never slept alone. I never peeï¿½d alone. The moment I walked in from a long, hard day she would be there, waiting, ears pitched forward, body ready to snake around my ankles until I picked her up for a proper hello. I had a terrible roommate in a terrible apartment in a terrible Boston village/student ghetto (Allston) that told me she would rouse and run to the door approximately five minutes before I made it to the top of the stairs. She knew my uneven footfalls from two blocks and three floors away. I knew and loved her smelly fishy breath from a yawn across the bed. Her favorite activities were tail-sucking, sleeping in crotches, sleeping between breasts, sleeping on stomachs, sleeping on butts, staring contests, and winning over self-proclaimed ï¿½dog-people.ï¿½
(That was Aphrodite in the usual position - excuse my face and hair, I looked sick because I was)
Weï¿½d been through countless moves, friends, lovers, heartbreaks, death, grief, surgeries (both of us), and finally kidney failure.We managed with nightly subcutaneous injections of fluid. It was enough fluid to give her a big lady lump between her shoulder-blades that would recede over the course of a television show and a cuddle. It was expensive and a little difficult to master but worth it - she was happy and healthy. I knew, however, after two years of treatments her body was no longer responding. She abruptly stopped sleeping with me - that was something wild horses couldn't keep her from her entire life - allergic lovers/wild horses, same difference. Her tail was dry -- her tail-sucking was legendary and even that provided no succor. Then, when her purrs became so soft I had to put my ear to her neck, when her purrs finally stopped, ugh I couldnï¿½t make the appointment.
My girl and I brought her in her blue crate to the vet, on my lap. Her usual operatic and sorrowful vocalizations on the car ride were gone. The was silence. The spouse drove, she being the one who made the appointment, her denial telling her she just needed a new treatment. I held my beautiful, silent cat on my lap as hot tears streamed down my face. She didnï¿½t even snuggle my fingers through the grate. I regret those selfish two weeks of putting it off.
When the vet told us that this was her ï¿½final turn for the worseï¿½ (the worst) we sobbed. It was time. ï¿½Did we want to do it here or at home?ï¿½ We had her euthanasia planned perfectly (Is that a paradox?). We would have them come to our apartment and she would lay across whichever breasts or bellies she wanted. We would give her wine, peach yogurt, and all the bitten apples she could lick. We took a private minute and knew the best would be here and now. She had lost interest in everything sheï¿½s adored her entire life. She wouldnï¿½t lick an apple, stick her head in a peach yogurt container or beg for wine ever again. Sheï¿½d already stopped. Part of me already knew the happiness was over and prolonging her pain would break a promise I had made to her two years ago.
We held on fast to her tiny body as they gave the injections. Her slipping from sickness to sleep to death was so subtle the vet tech had to tell us she had passed because we were still sobbing over her,(ï¿½Iï¿½m so sorry, baby. I am so, so sorryï¿½) kissing her head, and begging her forgiveness. I shut her eyes. They were still open, just a tiny bit.
The car ride home was the same. Tears that wrecked and rocked our bodies. Is it safe to cry and drive? Have they studied how that rates with a glass of wine? Is work crying different from pet grief crying different from suicide of a love one crying? Is there a ways to measure that numerically? We definitely seemed .03 or something substantially over the legal limit of emoting while operating heavy machinery.
Our house echoed with loss. We hid all cat toys, accoutrement, and tossed all of her old meds. Cried. I started shoving an uncomfortable pillow underneath my sheets so I had something to accommodate in my sleep. We walked. Talked. Repainted some accent walls. Shook the house up a bit. There was a lot of hugging and holding. There was some vomiting and weight loss for me.
Months passed and we decided we were ready to start looking for a new kitty to rescue (us).
We planned to go to a cat adoption event that was held in a faraway park that Saturday. Usually, Saturday was strictly for hiking, from our house, to Fern Dell to the looping and lurching far trail up to the Griffith Observatory. Since we had this adoption event to attend we went the ï¿½easyï¿½ route from the Vermont trailhead closest to our house. No sooner than we had taken our final swig of water before leaving the main road to trudge up our little mountain trail then a little reddish blur came running at my feet. There were a couple of men hiking and we asked if the tiny puppy belonged to anyone. It squirmed and wiggled and showed us its belly. Wiggling and wagging and forcing us to chase it (Iï¿½d seen coyotes three times in this spot and it looked like it might be delicious coyote bait). My M. carried it all the way up the mountain tucked under her neck like a discus. They had the same red hair. ï¿½Donï¿½t get attachedï¿½ I said to her (and myself) with a laugh.
We did all the usual things to find her people. We waited. Posted signs. Posted an ad on Craigslist that made for the saddest calls I have ever received from strangers ï¿½I am so, so sorry. This isnï¿½t your dog. I really hope you find her. Really.ï¿½ We decided to call it Larry because ï¿½itï¿½ seemed just wrong. He was very quiet, everyone said so. Nice and calm too. Submissive to a fault (a little pee would come out when meeting new people). Would make a perfect apartment dog --- if we couldnï¿½t find his owners.
We walked Larry in Aphroditeï¿½s old harness (she never took to walks, funny that for a cat). We googled other puppies and guessed he was a Chiweenie (chihuahua and dachshund mix). Larry was the cutest of all the puppies.
We took him over to meet our friends and neighbors who cooed like people with hearts should at a tiny little creature flopping around for love. During one of his flops Larry showed his tiny penis. Tall, handsome, actor, stuntman Josh picked him up, flipped him again and informed us he was a girl. It was a giant vagina --- seriously indiscrete.
They laughed for months at the lesbians who couldnï¿½t tell.
Larry became Foxybrown for the following reasons:
1) I love Pam Grier
2) She looks a like a tiny fox
3) Sheï¿½s a badass bitch
4) She has a vagina (it is massive and sticks out, I swear)
I crocheted Foxybrown some sweaters, she was a little prone to shivering (also itï¿½s fun to crochet tiny sweaters).
"Sheï¿½s a little finicky about food."
"I donï¿½t think sheï¿½s eating. Sheï¿½s stopped drinking."
"We have to go to the vets right now."
I took her alone. I felt paranoid and overly protective. I used the same blue carrier I had brought the cat in and the ladies at the front desk insisted I take her out and like the other dogs. She shivered on my lap in a tiny sweater I'd made for her under a tiny blanket (I'd also made for her - tiny crochet is fun) and she burrowed deeply into the hollow of my neck. I had spent the night before doing panicked research and was pretty sure she had parvo and was pretty sure she would die.
It was parvo. I cried and sobbed and asked for a minute alone to call my spouse. We decided we couldnï¿½t afford the thousand dollar, week-long, in-patient treatment that promised a 50-50 outcome. We asked the vet for meds, fluids (which I was plenty experienced injecting from Aphrodite, and he threw in for free), and were given a four day recovery window. I sobbed all the way through the office as she had to be taken out the back door, away from the animals in the waiting area (like a leper). She was six weeks old, four pounds, I had known her four days and I cried all the way home. Softer than months before, but there were still tears. Foxybrown had a new home, I had a new furry love - no matter how temporary.
(That's Foxybrown looking into the sea as I look out to sea in La Jolla, 9-25-2012)
Sheï¿½s no longer quiet, or finicky, or prone to shivering. She still sometimes pees a little when she meets somebody particularly exciting. Or re-meets them. Or you know ï¿½ well - weï¿½re working on it. Sheï¿½s the fastest dog at the dog park and not even remotely the brightest. Sheï¿½s funny, loyal, and dances with me in the morning. She forces me to look at either a sunrise or a sunset a day (or both). I have met many neighbors. In a city ï¿½ thatï¿½s an accomplishment. Sheï¿½s a destructive and spastic little girl. Sheï¿½s teaching me how to be more assertive and consistent. Sheï¿½ll be a year old in a couple of weeks.
Sheï¿½s a pretty cute distraction who has just run up my dress and licked my legs while snorting.
Somebody is awake.