I called and scheduled her appointment 3 times, and then I called and cancelled her appointment 3 times. She layed in the garage, too weak to get up to relieve herself. This went on for a couple of weeks. Twice a day, I stuck a big needle into her back flesh and forced normal saline into her long gone subcutaneous tissue. Too weak to stand, I stood her up while she obediently pretended to eat Science Diet kidney formula. I would hold her under warm water and clean her up after she became incontinent, I opened her mouth and forced Buproprion, a kitty narcotic, down her tiny gullet, and I prayed several times daily for her to die while I wasn’t home. Every time I pulled into the garage, I would hold my breath and pray… God, please let her be in kitty heaven…..Penelope had been diagnosed with kidney failure and mammary gland cancer. My cat had breast cancer, or so they suspected. There was never a diagnostic biopsy, as the treatment at her age would be no different. Palliative care; comfort care.
She found me when I was 18 and pregnant, in need of some creature besides my hoodlum boyfriend to nurture. I was swollen and scared, my Mother had recently given my sweet Sebastian to the pound after I pissed her off by moving out. …even though she told me I had to move out, and actually called the cops to have me escorted out, she was pissed…my Mother was an emotional midget. I welcomed the ketchup and grease stained kitten that followed David home after work one nite, he had a soft spot for sweet cuddly creatures. We cleaned her up, and David vowed to sacrifice his cigarette budget to feed our new responsibility.
Penelope was as independent as any cat, she was a hybrid indoor/outdoor model, loudly meowing in protest when any situation, indoor or outdoor didn’t suit her fancy, so Penelope always had a kitty door, and I always had a handy boyfriend to install her gateway to freedom no matter where we lived. We moved 11 times during her life. She was The Queen, and though obviously feline, she was also a smidgen canine; following me to the store, to the park, hiding in bushes, crossing streets. I would try to catch her before heading out on a walk, because..the cat crossed big streets… but, I was often unsuccessful, and I must admit….I was charmed by her devotion, risking one of her 9 lives to be near me. In the midst of one of our moves, she went missing for 24 hours. She came back to our old house the next evening acting strange…depressed? Was Penelope sad we were moving out of Kristin’s house? Would she miss Kristin’s fluffy black Persian Griswold, and Ashley, her equally fluffy tortoiseshell Scottish Fold? Hell no! Penelope was anti-cat, she was a cat, but all other cats were a nuisance as far as she was concerned, a reason to hiss, bite, and spit. I put her in her plastic blue kitty den, and drove her, worried, to our new apartment. Brent broke out his tools, and made sure the sliding glass door and kitty door were lined up and working. Penelope was a sun-worshiper, Brent even built her a carpeted perch off of our balcony, but when I brought her home, she just found a place under an end table in our bedroom to sleep. She refused to eat, and she was acting…depressed? I’m not sure why I believed depression was what ailed her, I was often depressed back then, and she was showing many symptoms as described by the DSM..lethargy, loss of interest in once pleasurable activities, loss of appetite…I layed on the floor with her all nite, her favorite toy, feathers on a stick, elicited bored stares when waved in front of her fuzzy face. I fell asleep next to her, and the next morning…Viola! Fresh and Frisky Kitty Witch! Kitty Witch was the name I gave Penelope’s kitten spirit…. her depression had lifted! She ate and barely protested when I tricked her into her kitty den with some salmon flavored treats We went to the groomers to get her seasonal lion cut. It was Brent’s idea, similar to a poodle cut, but….Penelope wasn’t a poodle. She got shaved, a little tail tassle, paw socks, and face fuzz, the only evidence of her once fluffy situation. The groomers soon called me, and told me there was what felt like a pellet in Penelope’s side. A pellet? Yes, like from a pellet gun, they told me…I had them take her next door to the veterinarians office to be examined, and sure enough….she’d been shot! The veterinarian told me she was fine, it appeared to have worked its way across her body, but removing it wasn’t necessary, she was healthy. Penelope hadn’t been depressed…she had a pellet, the size of a pea, moving through her guts. When she got really old and skinny, you could see that thing, clear as day sticking out from her side.
I don’t know what other adventures Kitty Witch survived that checked off, one by one, her lives, but by the time she was 18, it seemed like her lives had been used up.
I didn’t want to have to decide to end her life. Who the f*ck was I to say that it was “time?” So many well-meaning people said, “Kate, putting her to sleep… it’s the right thing to do…” This just filled me with anger and confusion…”how in the hell do you know?” I asked, Really?…If I didn’t know…how did they know? In the wild, animals just go off and die…they don’t dramatize, they don’t reflect on their lives wondering if they will go to heaven or hell. They just die. Do they suffer? What is suffering? Pain…with a story. Pain is simply sensation…I wont even call it unpleasant, because…I’m now trying…albeit, not successfully, to put myself in the mind of an animal…I don’t think animals obsess like we do, they live in the present, no past or future, pleasant and unpleasant, simply wavelets of energy moving through conciousness….when they are in pain, they feel sensation, they may cry, they may bleed, but are they “suffering?” I don’t know….when you sit in Vipassana meditation, you are instructed to focus on sensation, to focus all available awareness on sensation. Pleasant sensation, unpleasant sensation…feel it, and take the energy from the mind and its aversion or clinging…depending on sensation…and just feel. The Buddha says this…Pain is sensation. Pain with a story is suffering. I’m not quoting, I’m paraphrasing 🙂 I think we are anthropomorphic…attributing human emotions, desires, etc, to our pets.
In the end…after speaking with a trusted friend after yoga one sunny Saturday afternoon in August, I made my decision. “I just want god to take her!” …my friend said, “then Kate…why do you keep giving her fluids and forcing her to eat?”… I went home and called my vet AGAIN, complaining about god’s lack of interest in my wishes for her to “go naturally”, my vet said, “my Mother is 95 years old and I wish for it everyday!….bring her in.”
This time I kept my appointment. I bundled Penelope up in a blue and yellow striped towel and delicately placed her in the blue kitty cage that had been hers for 18 years..I tried to get an answer out of her, was I doing the right thing? Was she ok with this? Just big tired green eyes…When we got to the vets office, I asked the doctor to please give her a sedative first. The lights were bright and flourescent, it was cold and sterile. They shaved her paw, and as she was pushing the sedative meant to calm my kitty, because I wanted this to be as peaceful as possible…Penelope started puking green liquid, and before I could comfort her, or protest, the vet was pushing the pink pentobarbital that stopped her breathing…and then…it was done.
I picked up her ashes a few days later, a little white box with her name, “Penelope Gotsis” written across it, just like that, in quotes and cursive lettering…I planned on making an eye pillow out of her ashes, but right before moving to California, I let her go, scattering her ashes ( which strangely enough, resembled kitty litter, blue flakes and all) in the backyard she used to hunt and sunbathe in…she had forgiven me in dreams, in moments of quiet, I felt her kitty witchness near, letting me know…she hung on that long for me, because I needed her, because for 18 years, she was the one and only constant thing in my life….It had to be my decision, it seemed. She forgave me for what I deemed..an AWFUL death, even though…I’m pretty sure…she was only forgiving me because I felt like I needed forgiveness. I am clear…I did what I did FOR ME, not for her. I may have thought I was “putting her out of her misery”, but really I was putting myself of my own misery. Today as I write this…I don’t think Penelope cared either way.
I am still haunted by that day, the hard, cold counter, the bright lights, the green bile, and pepto-bismol pink liquid that stopped her breathing. I miss my constant, my friend who asked for nothing and gave everything. And, regarding my decision…I am still a question mark.