For months now we’ve been longing for the end of the pandemic, which at last seems like a possibility, provided we all stay vigilant about the recommended protocols until our country achieves herd immunity. During this time, there have been many other endings of people, places and things. Life, as they say, goes on. Or sometimes it doesn’t.
My friend Piebald, an unapologetic feral who befriended my cat Friday in 2011 and has been a guarded member of the household ever since, is, at this writing (Thursday, April 8, 2021), mostly sleeping. Every so often I look over to the kitchen corner where he’s been all day and study the minute rise and fall of his sides, his breathing soft and faint. His life hasn’t ended yet, but clearly it is in the process of ending.
It makes me really sad.
Me too, 9. Most of us are probably in communion with our 9-year-old inner selves when a pet is dying, feeling a child’s deep sorrow at losing a well-loved friend.
I’m amazed at how friendly he’s been lately.
I know what you mean, Lily. I’ve heard of it happening, how lifelong touch-me-not feral cats may come to tolerate pets when they get sick. Recently, he’s let me scratch him between his ears. He’s even purred!
Unfortunately, before then (and probably now, too, if he had the strength) he was the kind of guy who had to be trapped and sedated in order to receive any kind of veterinary care. I consulted with the vet in January, when I first noticed Piebald losing weight. The symptoms indicated a food absorption problem, probably caused by cancer of an internal organ and really not treatable, even for palliative purposes.
Endings. I’d hoped for a happy one like I always do because cats and dogs should live forever. On the advice of the cat expert at the pet food store, I switched Piebald to a low-fat, easier to digest senior kibble. This change eased his symptoms for a while. But soon he started gobbling incessantly, constantly begging for more as it pushed rapidly through his body without providing many nutrients.This also happened with Grizelda, my girl kitty who passed away February 29 of last year, as she neared her ending.
So, here we are. I just looked over at him and observed the very faint rise of his breath.
I really hate ask, but don’t people usually have pets this sick put to sleep?
Yes, 9, that’s what usually happens, and that’s the way it’s been for everybody else in our animal family- -last year with Grizzy, and Doc a few months later. But they were not wild like Piebald. Even yesterday, the two times I had to pick him up and help him get somewhere, he stiffened and resisted. The stress he’d experience from being put in a carrier and taken to the vet would probably kill him. It’s clear that his time is close. I don’t want his last moments to be filled with preventable fear and anguish.
Is he really so different than the other cats?
He is, Lily. The best way I can explain it is, in spite of being so sick and weak, he hasn’t once looked at me with that helpless and resigned expression that says “I’m done.” All the others, all the way back to my first kitty, Moo, who died in the late 1990s, have done that.
His whiskers just twitched. Maybe he’s dreaming.
Witnessing human endings, especially with Bruce in 2018, has attuned me to the fact that each life and each death is unique. I’m doing my best to honor that with Piebald. Sometimes, when there can’t be a happy ending, there can still be the right ending.
UPDATE: Shortly after 2 AM, Friday, April 9, 2021, Piebald passed into his next life. Endings lead to new beginnings. He was a very loved boy and will be missed.
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