Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lusay, requiescat in pacem

Today I had to put my baby girl to sleep. I have, no had, three cats: Ulysses (almost 16), Loki (almost 9) and Lusay (almost 9). Lusay was my baby girl. Ulysses is an old tom who has some serious arthritis and mobiltiy issues, but he still tries to impose himself at every oppotunity. He has been by boy since he was less than a year old. It is really hard for me to see him so impaired, but he plugs along. He has a self-replenishing water dish, so he can get drinks out of that, and he does, but he also insists upon being hefted up into the bathroom sink for a fresh drink from the dripping faucet, and I imagine he always will. Ulysses was sick for a time this fall, and I was afraid I was going to lose him, but he not only recovered, he rallied! Despite his arthritis, I have seen him run and play with Loki a couple of times just this month. It was a huge and welcome surprise. He still cannot make the trip up to the sink by himself, but he is doing better. By his personality and physical characteristics, I know that Ulysses is at least half Blue Russian, but he has some tabby in there somewhere. He had more tabby striping when he was younger, but now he has the Blue Russian fur, but with a regular domestic short-hair physiognomy.

Loki has never had any kind of health problems. I have had Loki since he was an eight-week-old kitten in 1999. He was born in August and I got him about the middle of October. He was about the size of my hand and nothing could contain him. As he grew older he became really aggressive toward Ulysses and began to spray. I was about ready to put him outside permanently because of the spraying when I decided to try neutering first. All of the websites said that once toms start to spray that neutering them late will no break them of the habit, but it was my last option besides exile--and I know exile would have meant an early death for him from exposure to the elements no matter what kind of refuge I provided for him outside and fights with other toms. I tried the neutering, and it worked, although I felt guilty because he was in a bad way for a couple of days after his surgery. I know he sprayed three more times after his surgery, but he spray did not have the strong smell of before and then he just gave it up. So if you have a spraying cat, do the neuter and give it a chance. Loki bucked the advice of all the websites, and he continues to be strong as an ox. He is my stubby Manx kitty and he is still lord of the house, but he is especially tender with Ulysses--Ulysses raised him from kittenhood, so they have a strong bond.

Now, about Lusay. She was my baby girl. I got her from a good friend of mine. He was moving from a place that allowed him to have a cat to a place were all pets were verboten--even fish. That is just so fucked up to me. Such landlords need to be stripped of their pets AND children and the pets and children be reared in some hippy commune. Lusay's options were to come live with me or be taken to the pound and hope that someone adopted her before her few days of incarceration were up. The whole pound system seems like one big animal Auschwitz to me, so I acquiesced, even though I could not afford her at the time, provided that my friend pay "child support", which he did for a year--ten or twenty dollars a month. After a year, I got a new job with vastly increased compensation (all thanks to being cursed in an internet Nidstang by some witch wannabe out of New Orleans). Next time I hear he is cursing me, I am on the road to Idaho for Powerball tickets!

Lusay did not integrate well into a two-male cat household at first. In fact, she never completely integrated. Her first two or three nights she sat on top of the fridge and growled at me when I would pass by in the morning. Despite her growling, I would look up at her and just say, "Good morning to you, too, Lusay." About a week into her living here, she hopped up on the bed while I was settling in, reading, and came up to me and just sat there. I tentatively reached out a hand and scratched her behind the ears. The boys were in a state of fight or flight. The next thing I knew, she hopped up on my hip and made herself at home. This was the beginning of a nightly ritual of her tucking me in and laying on my hip that lasted for the next six years. Over time, she and I developed quite a relationship. She would play with Loki, but she detested Ulysses and would often ambush him around corners and under furniture. Sometimes Loki would tree her on top of a shelf or in a room with me. She would sit with me while I surfed the internet, wrote emails and essays, or watched TV. She was the one cat I could trust going outside by herself, because she would do her circuit of the yard and end up sunning herself on the fence or laying in the dirt of the flower garden. She loved her catnip and would roll in the stuff and be all playful like a kitten. (Yes, I got my cat's stoned, so what? I even *gasp!* raised my own catnip!) Lusay became to the first to greet me at the door, make herself at home on my lap or belly when I was on the phone and lodged on the chair, and the first to tuck me in at night. She would shadow me outside when I worked in the garden or just sit nearby and talk to me when I sat outside on summer evenings or fall afternoons. I talk to all of my cats, but I came to talk to her more because of her almost ubiquitous presence. I would ask her what I should write about, talk about the weather, ask her which kind of soft food she wanted--she was partial to salmon and tuna and knew the difference in the cans, somehow--and asked her if it was time for me to go to bed.

Now my baby girl is gone and my heart is broken. She had been losing weight over the last month, but she still acted like herself, so I did not think much of it, because Lusay was still Lusay. I came home this last Sunday, she still met me at the door, and she still jumped up on my lap and belly for a scratch and loving and telling her that she was my pretty girl. Later on in the evening, she vomited a little--not much--and I noticed her hanging her head down. During the evening, she became less responsive. She slept part of the night on my hot pad and part of the night on my office chair. In the morning, I called the University Veterinary Hospital and brought her in. Her potassium levels were high and she was not producing urine. A subsequent ultrasound showed that she had kidney stones blocking her ureters and that the backed up urine had poisoned her kidneys, probably damaging them beyond recovery. They rehydrated her, gave her meds to bring down her potassium levels and for pain. She did rally a little bit. Enough that she protested being taken away from me last night when I came to visit her.

However, this morning, she was back to being lethargic. She recognized me and stirred momentarily as if wanting me to take her home, but I calmed her and spoke to her and told her I loved her and I always would. I cried--alot. The doctor and I had spoken the previous day about our options and now there was only one. She was suffering, even on the pain medications and a sedative. After spending a good amount of time with her, I finalized the paperwork and Dr. Walton, who was an angel of hope, concern and mercy, came in with the fatal syringe. After the injection, there was an episode of vomiting, then some twitching. That was really difficult for me to see. Then she quit breathing. Dr. Walton listened with her stethoscope to Lusay's heart and after about twelve seconds that seems like twelve minutes, her heart stopped. During this process, the pain drained from her eyes, but her eyes did not close. I bawled. I put her head in a more natural position and bawled some more. Finally, after some more time alone with her, I pulled away and left.

My arm, which was injured back in October, is still not well and I cannot dig a grave for her, especially in the frozen ground. She will be cremated and her ashes scattered in an orchard in Santaquin. I think she would like an orchard. I ordered a plaque of her front paw prints to be made for me in black and white--the colours of her fur. A sentimental thing, but all that I will have left of her and more than I have of my cat, Arthur, who died in 1991.

My baby girl is gone and my heart is broken again. Ulysses and Loki know it. Loki, especially has reacted to her absence. I just think that Ulysses did not care for her much because she teased and tormented him so much. I have missed her the last two days, greeting me at the door, roosting on my belly while I am on the phone with Joe or Maureen or TaMara or my mom. Laying on my hip in bed while I drifted off to sleep or read a book. She is irreplaceable and I am happy that we had six years together.

Requiescat in pacem, Lusay. Go rabhaimid le cheile aris agus go brath sa bheatha a bheidh ag teacht tar eis an bhais sa bheatha seo. Beidh gra' agam duitse i gconai agus ni dhearmadfaidh me thu choiche.


Aisling the Bard said...

This made me sob out loud, my dear brother. What a lucky cat Lusay was to be so beloved. She is still with you, and I know she will make herself known, even visibly. I wish I could give you a hug right now, but you know you are in my heart. Rest easy, Lusay. You were, and are, beloved.

Ruadhan said...

You know Ulysses and the kind of cat he is. He has not changed a lot since we lived together. Loki and Lusay are a different set of bookends in a way. You have met them both, you even took care of them when I was away in Dallas and Seattle.

I will keep watching for manifestations of Lusay. Ultimately, she is free to roam the orchards and fragrant fields and parks of the Summerland. If she does not keep an eye on me and bounds forth into the adventure of the Summerland, I can come to grips with that. It would be nice to have a message, a feeling sent forth to let me know she has arrived and there goes she . .. Then I can truly rest.

My heart still aches no matter the medication I take or the relaxation I try. There is a pain in my chest that will heal, but it will take some time, just like other deaths in the last year.

I keep hearing Eddie Vedder's song and Loki trying to love me even more. The tears come but now some of them are happy for her being pain-free and starting a new life and knowing how much I love and miss her. Long grass, clover, fresh turned earth with mint and sage growing nearby. I see her sitting in the sun on fresh earth with her tail twitching in the warmth.