I will never love again.
That’s how it feels.
First, she started peeing on the mat outside the litter box. Next, on my boyfriend’s pillow. Then she stopped sleeping in the bed with me. For three months or so, she “yowled” at night. Then, shortly after we got a puppy, she stopped doing that. We thought she was improving–but maybe she just didn’t have it in her to yowl anymore.
Fast forward to today. At 8 a.m., I drove to the new veterinary clinic in town, health record of Minnie the Mooch, DOB 2000, Breed Siamese, Sex F, Markings Blue Eyes, tucked into my purse; Minnie in her carrier–blue eyes glazing over, orifices excreting foul odor and liquids. Before we left the house, I told her “this is your home, baby girl, we love you so much. We love you so, so much.”
A beam of light was gathering on the hardwood floor, possibly her favorite thing ever, so I put the carrier there, opened it up, she lifted her face to the sun, and I cried. She looked at me concerned, not for her but for me. Because she was like that. Because that’s exactly what she was like.
At the vet, after we (the vet, Katie, and I) decided that euthanization was the appropriate route to take, I tried to give her a treat I had brought, a greenie, but she wouldn’t take it. That affirmed how bad it had gotten. Just one week ago, I’d say “treat” and Minnie and the puppy would both come sit and receive their treat. Minnie got two treats, because I knew she was dying.
I set the greenie aside and rubbed behind her ears. I noticed all the blinds were closed in the clinic and I opened them up, the room was facing the east and sunlight filled the crematorium. Minnie lifted her head once again. She purred, if lightly.
“I love you Minnie, I love you Princess.”
By now, I was waiting on the form to sign which authorized Katie to euthanize my cat.
Katie came in.
Minnie and I had spent the last hour together, so I felt that it was time. Plus, she was suffering–which was the whole point of the euthanization. Another gal, Jill, arrived too, to help hold her down.
“You don’t have to witness this if you don’t want to,” Katie told me.
“No, no. I want to be here. I want to give her lovin’.”
Katie and Jill nodded.
I stood in front of Minnie, got down at eye-level.
“I love you so much. I love you so so much.”
I’d tried giving her one more greenie a few minutes earlier, while we were waiting, and she’d eaten it. I didn’t manage to get the steamed milk from the pull-up coffee shop. Now that we were here, I just wanted it to be done with. Minnie had been shivering all morning, which was unlike her. It was eighty degrees out. Her body ran a gamut of issues, none of which I could afford to treat, if I am being honest.
One hundred and sixteen dollars later, I was escorted out a side door. Jill carried Minnie’s body in a white cardboard box. White boxes are reserved for animals with the purest of souls, I imagined.
In the summer of 1993 I was eight years old.
Our second favorite thing to do (second to swimming in the Smith River) was going to the Drive-In movies. Our second cousins ran the Drive-In, but we still popped our own popcorn, storing it in brown paper grocery sacks. Dad would buy us cokes and Red Vines when we got there. A lot of the time, he’d take as many kids as could fit in the camper of our pick-up truck. I was an only child, but the neighborhood kids, some of whom had 5 or 6 brothers and sisters, adopted me as a sibling and my Dad as a fill-in Dad. We never knew when we were going to the Drive-In and we rarely knew what was playing, but it didn’t matter. As soon as Dad said “Drive-In” we’d all be putting our long pants on, begging for popcorn, and gathering as many neighborhood kids as we could find.
One evening, I’d been helping the Philpott’s get their Drive-In supplies together–blankets, pillows, ninja-turtles. Sleeping bags were a thing and every kid owned one. I’d hoisted a sleeping bag up over my shoulder, like I’d seen my dad do with hay bales and bags of dog food. We needed to be at the Drive-In by dark, and the sun was already escaping behind the mountains.
I walked through the Philpott’s sliding glass door, perpetually dirty with handprints of boys; I couldn’t see as the sleeping bag was smothering my head. I just needed to make it down the few short steps off of the porch and into the bed of the truck.
Something crunched beneath my foot. I lifted my heel, I lifted the soft, but heavy, sleeping bag, craned my neck, and peeked behind me.
Beneath my heel lay an orange tabby kitten, writhing with pain.
The Philpott’s Mom was upon me immediately, not angry, just concerned.
“Go get your dad. Go get your dad. Go get your dad,” she told me.
The cat convulsed, its head seemed to be glued to the porch, while its small, bony body tried to get away but couldn’t.
I am standing behind the trunk of a tree. My fingers are in my mouth–a nervous gesture–and I am horrified. The kitten is on a tree stump used as a chopping block, and my father is raising an ax to the sky. It’s been so little time since I stepped on the kitten that it isn’t even dark yet. I do not remember now if I “got my Dad” like Francine had asked me, or if somebody else did. One of the boys probably beat me to it, because that’s what boys are good for. They come in handy in times like this.
My first love was a kitten named after our property manager, Kitty Rose. My father brought her home not long after my mother left. To fill the void.
Dad taught me how to hold the cat, by cradling her bottom, not by holding her under her armpits. He told me that cats don’t like to be petted when they’re eating. We kept her food and water by the garage door. This was when we still lived in town, before we moved to the mountains.
By the time we moved up-the-hill, Kitty Rose was my confidant. Kitty Rose is my best friend, I wrote in my dairy. Kitty Rose was also full grown and not spayed. It wasn’t long before she became pregnant.
“Your cats a slut,” one of my older, more in-the-know friends told me. “I saw her over at our house, and then I saw her at the neighbors house across the street.”
“No she’s not,” I defended her.
But from then on I kind of thought that she was. Kitty Rose was very pretty, with her full white collar and striped fur, and with the limited knowledge that I possessed, well I thought slut and pretty were synonymous. Or at least closely related.
I tried to push it out of my mind when, after Kitty Rose prematurely gave birth to a litter of kittens behind the tool shed, Dad told me he thought she’d eaten a couple of them.
Did not, did not, I told myself. I stored it with the very few things down in the basement of my mind which I just could not, would not accept about the world. I moved on. I kept my cat calendar fixed to the month with the cat that looked just like Kitty Rose. It was my birthday month, and the kitten sat in a pumpkin patch.
At least one of Kitty Rose’s kittens survived. Dad named him “Junior Rose”. I was kind of peeved that Dad named the cat without me, but I had to give it to him–he always picked good names. Junior Rose had identical markings as Kitty Rose, but he was short-haired. He wasn’t nearly as sweet. He was a “wild cat,” Dad said, and he only came around to eat and when he did he wouldn’t let you pet him, just scampered off into the trees.
I tried not to think too hard on why Kitty Rose didn’t run around with him or lick him or care for him. He was still young, though pretty big. Everyday Junior Rose got stronger and more independent until eventually we rarely saw him at all. Hardened as he was, physically and emotionally, we didn’t even think to bring him when we moved back to town. Junior Rose was his own thing. His mother’s abandonment had made sure of that. Though I truly believe she’d done her best. It was a narrative I knew well.
The family was splitting up. Dad was going one way and I was going another. We weren’t sure who to blame it on but I blamed the pastor of his new church. I toilet papered the pastor’s house in protest. In retrospect, the pastor actually had a whole lot to do with it. “Let her find her own way,” the pastor had said. I was just fourteen years old. So my dad left town.
Kitty Rose was stuck in the middle. I was a teenager, and she was no longer my best friend. My boyfriend was, because I was stupid. Stupid in that young kind of way. Not surprisingly, my boyfriend had no interest in hanging out with my cat, who lived at my Aunt Julie’s house–a neutral location. Someone will come for her, Dad and I decided, when things get sorted out.
Things did not get sorted out. In my absence, Kitty Rose wandered off into the woods behind the house and never returned again.
I guess I figured Minnie would do the same. Abandon me for a better life. Retire. Expire. You hear of people who say their cat slept under the porch or in the closet for a few days and then just died. In their sleep or while you were at work. Nice and easy. No ax.
I assumed that would be me. I was wrong. Never assume, how could I forget? It’s one of my favorite tenets.
Things got busy. She got worse. She is still eating and drinking, I kept saying. But then I noticed her food dish remaining fuller and fuller. Her water dish too. She stopped coming in to eat as much. She stopped coming in at all. She slept outside for 2 nights, but she didn’t die. She didn’t whimper either. Very quiet. Very still.
“I don’t know how to do this,” crept into my mind but I quickly stowed it down in the basement. I put my work boots on, kissed Minnie’s head, said she’ll either be fine or she’ll die when I’m gone. Nice and easy.
Bad got to worse in a matter of a weekend. By the time I recognized her agony, it was too late. It was then I realized, being the fighter that she is, she wasn’t going anywhere easy.
“Baby girl,” I told her, “I love you so much. I love you so so much.”
More than words, I touched her. I petted her like I haven’t done in years. Maybe like that time she licked my tears away and I felt like I had a soul-companion. I held her close and stroked her, amazed.
Minnie, do you remember when you first came to my house? You were so curious, round, and loving.
And then there was when we lived on the outskirts of town, near where you lived with your family before me. You knew all the streets still, and you’d go and visit the neighbors. “Minnie! Minnie!” I would call and you’d come galloping down the road like a dog, the bell around your neck ringing, signaling your return. You were in your prime then.
Next we moved to Oregon. It was the biggest move of our life together, a huge shift for me. We whittled our belongings down to fit in one 2-door sports car–and we traveled for one month in California. Every house we stayed at, you were The Nice Cat. You didn’t pick fights, you located the litter box, and when we stayed in hotels you peed in the bathtub drains.
In the redwoods you stalked a snake, but I picked you up before you could pounce.
When we got to the ocean, I took you out to the sand. You didn’t love it, but I did. We didn’t stay long.
Everywhere you went you were loved. Everywhere you went you were love. You. Were. Love.
Minnie the Mooch
Markings Blue Eyes
My last love.
It hurts, it hurts. I want to tell someone.
It hurts, it hurts. She wanted to tell me.
Does anyone feel that the sky is falling? Some parts of the world are burning, other parts of the world are drowning. We are all turning to steam. A cat dies, a baby is born. You make a buck, you spend a buck. You get it together, you fall apart. You anchor to hope. “Hope’s just a word that maybe you said and maybe you heard, but that’s what you need man and you need it bad.” You quote Bob Dylan. You call a friend. You make something new when destruction surrounds you. You bury a pet and try to unearth her essence.