4/8/17

The Family, Diminished

Many of you have, I'm sure, felt the loss of a family pet. I grew up on a farm, and once upon a time, I counted at least a dozen pets at once, between dogs, cats, and lambs. I moved out of state to go to college, and I've never lived again in my family home (though as of this writing, I still own a quarter of it - an inheritance from my parents' passing.) I therefore had a mental distance introduced by the time most of these reached the end of their lifespan.

Post-college, I had a cat rescued from the street outside the chemical plant where I worked in New Jersey. He lived with me and my new wife about a year before a passing car took his life. I was very blue about it. That night, I made a rare call to my folks, to cry on their shoulders. (I grew up when long-distance calls were a strange and rare event, and I've never really shaken that background.) I had no way to know it - but that was going to be the last time I ever spoke to my father. He died the next day, from his second heart attack.

Almost two decades of pet-less time followed. Finally, at the wheedling of our daughter McKenzie, second (and final!) wife Brenda and I made room for a kitten a few months old. As it was to be McKenzie's cat, she got to name it, and she chose "Titania" - queen of the fairies in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer's Night Dream." Later, a vet revealed we had miscast our furry friend as female; she was really a he! So Titania was rebranded "Titanius." And that's how our pet got his rather unusual name.


When McKenzie went on to college, Titanius became my cat. We became quite close. After our move to our current home, it seemed he wanted more and more lap time, and if he wasn't seated on me, he wanted to be nearby. I returned the affection.

The year 2016 had warnings that Titanius was reaching his expiration date. I won't bore you with the incidents; they're typical for aged cats. When he suddenly went missing in mid-December, I combed the yard, poking in every bush, looking up in the trees, checking any place he could conceivably
reach, including under an inverted canoe. I even hung upside down in a storm sewer manhole, so I could peer down the pipe with a flashlight. No pussycat. Titanius had made the 5-mile move from our old home in good order a couple years ago, knew the boundaries of our property, and seemed perfectly content to stay within them, without prompting. (He was an indoor/outdoor cat.) I concluded that he had decided his time was up, and had gone in search of a quiet and private place to die. Nevertheless, I posted in the neighborhood Facebook page, in case he turned up.

On the fourth day of his absence, I got a call from the far side of our subdivision. A cat answering Titanius' description was on the lady's back porch, eating her dog's food. Would I come have a look? Well, it was he. And he was blind. Suddenly, things made sense. He must have had a stroke or similar, gotten disoriented and lost. He was 3 pounds lighter and starving.

I got him to a vet the next day, who confirmed the blindness. He was otherwise ok... but the vet noted that a 15+-year old cat was "a kidney disease waiting to be diagnosed."

I had two more weeks with my friend. We were even tighter; I needed to ferry him inside around the house, and outside for nature calls, until he learned to navigate again - I suppose, by counting steps. But warning signs persisted, and on Friday afternoon before Sunday Christmas, I made an appointment for euthanasia on Monday.

I was too late. I should have acted sooner. On Christmas Eve, Saturday, about the time we were leaving for a Christmas party with old friends, Titanius had a fit. His limbs jerked spastically, and he couldn't stand. He mewed pitifully. I sent the rest of the family ahead, and I held him closely until he shook off the fit three hours later. It left both of us drained.


On Christmas he had some smaller fits, but much of the day was peaceful, and we were able to enjoy having the whole family collected for the day. We normally shoot a family portrait each New Year's Day, but we moved it up to be able to include Titanius one last time.

I hung on into the wee hours that night with Mr. T, then shot this
picture of him, lit only by tree lights. It was his very last picture. I didn't know until the morning that as soon as I left, he crept to McKenzie's door and cried. She came out and slept with him on a mat on the floor, where I found them in the morning.

Going to a vet for euthanasia services is a very trying experience. I don't recommend it.

 A couple weeks later, I got this little box with his ashes. It has spent the last four months at my feet while I am in my home office. I waited for a hopeful Spring day to bury them.

Now a small rock cairn will remind me of the little fellow who for fifteen years was a part of my family. He is under a river birch, where I can see him from the kitchen window.

I miss him a lot.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to give you a thanks for your readings. Reading Great Expectations is very difficult by myself, but you've really aided me with your recordings. Thank you!