Exactly 21 years ago today, my cat Teener died in a termite tent accident. This morning, I came downstairs to find my cat Augustus dead and cold. Gus' death, unlike Teener's was a long time coming; he had been sick, probably with liver cancer, for months. The medication he was given to cure his chronic diarrhea did nothing and so three weeks ago we decided to take him off them. At first, he seemed to rally as he was no longer bombarded with mega-doses of antibiotics, but then came the total loss of bowel control and his confinement to the kitchen lineoleum. Last week he lost his appetite and finally this week he stopped drinking water on his own.
Although hesitant to do so, I was prepared to take him to the vet and put him down. Laura, however, describes herself as radically pro-life and does not believe in the practice of euthanasia. We then decided to make him as comfortable as possible with pain killers. This seemed to help him sleep better and not cry out in pain.
Last night we knew the end was near as his breathing became slower and more shallow -he lay very still as the pain medicine did its work. Sometime between midnight and 6am, he died. We took off his collar, placed him in a box and entrusted his body to the vet's assistant as the tears rolled down our cheeks.
As I reflect on his nearly 16 years of life, I remember he and his brother Julius as little kittens that were dumped off at my Grandma's house; they were so cute. Grandma wanted to keep them herself, but knew at her age, they would outlive her. She was right of course-she died before her 95th birthday nearly 8 years ago (Julius died the following year). She kept them for us until they were about six months old when we moved into our new house, had them fixed and declawed. She even provided a monthly room and board subsidy until my aunt took over my Grandma's bill paying and stopped it.(of special irony -the amount I paid to the vet today was the same as their monthly "allowance") Grandma spoiled the boys so much that it was hard to break them of certain behaviors - she fed them cow milk and let them do as they pleased. It was Gus that climbed up on the stove and nibbled away the top layer of the holiday cornbread.
Gus was always more of Laura's cat than mine. He preferred to lay on her while Julius used me as his cat bed. Both boys never liked store-bought toys; Julius liked to play with a pecan while Gus like to chase the shadow of a stick. When Juey got sick with cancer, Gus adopted "sympathetic" bad behavior, marking his territory eventhough he had never done that before. We cured Gus of that behavior by setting up a ladder in my bedroom that he would climb to reach the upper ledges below the vaulted ceiling; he would run around the edges, squealing with delight, being "chased", as it were, by his invisible ghosties. He cried mournfully when his brother had to stay at the hospital overnight for treatment. When Juey got better, Gus was there to play bite him in the "private parts" (or what was left behind after neutering) and take it in stride when his brother returned the favor.
Gus was always a biter. When he was little and teething, we called him "Vlad the Impaler" for his vampire-like way of biting a cardboard box. He would slowly bite down leaving a perfect bite impression. He would then slowly unbite the box, move to an unbitten portion and repeat the process. We had numerous cardboard boxes with his unique perforations left behind. Just a few weeks ago, I was reminded of what a good biter he was when he bit me rather than the piece of salmon I held for him in my fingers.
Laura had dubbed him "The Love Kitty" because of the way he was so lovable with her. He was, as I stated earlier, sympathetic to others; he tended to his sick brother. When Juey finally died, Gus walked the house mournfully crying for his brother. Sometimes I wondered if his plaintive cries out the window weren't calls for his brother and friend.
These past few years, Gus had slowed down a bit; he couldn't climb the ladder anymore and jumping on top of the refrigerator from the counter was more of a distant memory. He would still wanted to sneak outside when he had the chance and would beg to be taken for walk outside on his leash. He had a long full life with fairly good health until these past few months. As I said in the last post, one day we will have new kitties and new adventures, but today I mourn the loss of my furry friend.