by Kevin Burton
(This is the fifth of a five-part series about a good friend, my cat Mex.)
My favorite afghan was also my cat’s favorite. Give us a lazy NFL Sunday, a recliner, maybe a snack, and that’s what’s for Sunday.
You could count on it, me and Mex sleeping through another game and most likely my wife Jeannette sleeping in the other recliner.
The good old days were very good for Mex. On her yearly trips to the vet for a booster shot, they would say, wow she’s in great shape, for 16, 17, 18, as the years went by.
At some point there was no more data to be had. “What would you advise for an 18-year-old cat?” I would ask, only to hear, “We really don’t see too many of those.”
By this time Mex was beyond chasing her mini tennis ball. Once I rolled it anyway. She followed it with her eyes, seemingly saying, “Can you believe I used to run around chasing stuff like that?”
Mex gave me a severe scare at one point when she began falling over sideways. It was like one of her legs wouldn’t work anymore.
At that time the vet gave us Enisyl-F Lysine Bites vitamins. Those pills did the trick. Mex returned to senior good health and activity. She was probably with me an extra 16 months or so because of those pills.
Getting her to eat and keeping weight on her became more of an issue though.
I remember what became our last game of “chase the kitty.” I gave her the old line, “chase the kitty, chase.”
Well the best she would offer was a brisk walk. I was by this point a retired beep baseball player. We had both lost a step or two. Still, we shared our game.
I began putting her food bowls on boxes at just the right height so she wouldn’t have to crouch on what we figured were arthritic legs, in order to eat.
But with those few changes Mex was good to go I thought. Not good as new, but good.
Then again, my wife says I see what I want to see. It would follow then, that I don’t see what I don’t want to see. Maybe I just didn’t want to see.
The end came on a Sunday, meaning my local vet was not open and I had to take her to a place in Wichita.
Mex meowed very loudly that morning then made her way downstairs. When she got there though, her walk was very unsteady. She stopped and laid on the floor on her stomach in a way she never, ever did and just stayed there. She was in trouble in a way I couldn’t wish away.
When we got in to see the vet, they took Mex to the back to give her fluids. We waited for what seemed like hours, then they brought her back so we could see her. I instructed the vet to put her on the table and not in her cat carrier because if she was put in the carrier she would think she was going home.
By saying that out loud I was telling myself this was the end.
I had the choice of keeping her on fluids and at the hospital overnight. This would not be cheap and carried no guarantees of recovery.
I just could not leave her alone in a strange place like that. I was about to leave my job and it was not a good time to rack up those kind of costs. Anyway, I thought her chances were not good.
I was not mentally prepared to say goodbye. But there we were.
Cats know when they are supposed to die. I kept repeating to Mex, “I’m so sorry little girl, I love you, I am so sorry.” She knew the word “sorry” because I used it for 19 years every time I accidentally kicked her.
On the table, in her weakened state, she did not get up, but she shifted her body to turn and face me. Was she saying goodbye?
It took me a year to write these words. Sue me if I went too long.
Part of me believes I let her down when she needed me most. She looked to me for everything because I had thumbs! I could pull fish out of a can for God’s sake. I was supposed to be the one to pull her through. It crushes me to this day that I could not.
Jeannette said, “You did the right thing by her.” I hope so.
God did let me see Mex again in some dreams. She was the healthy Mex with some meat on her bones. That helped.
Mex took me from the beginning of my middle age to the end of it. She was the grouch I deserved for a pet.
She was a friend, antagonist, conniving at times, quick to spit. We had an understanding. She was a full-blown son of a bitch, just like me, and we belong together.
Now we are not.
I had prayed that when the time came He would take her in the middle of the night. I didn’t think I could bear that empty cat-carrier car ride home. God did not honor that prayer, but this way, I did get to say goodbye.
I have a display where I honor Mex. Her ashes are there in an urn with her nametag on it. There is a can of her beloved Fancy Feast, one of her treats, her vitamins. There are a few locks of her hair. There is a teddy bear that used to make a crinkling sound when you squeezed it. Mex loved that bear when she was a kitten.
There is a set of headphones there, just so she knows that all is forgiven.
Her paw print that they made for me is in a drawer because it is fragile.
For the record, it took two doses of that drug to actually put her down. I was so not surprised by that, because that’s my girl.
To the very end, that’s my girl.