So many times, working here at the computer, I'd look down and to my left, and Pandy Bear would be sitting or snoozing on the rug there, close by.
I just realized that that never happened at the Old House. And now it will never happen again.
Twenty-four hours ago, there was no real sign of trouble. All was more or less normal for me and the quats here in the Still-Mostly-New, Still-Mostly-Different DuckHaus. Pandy Bear had maybe not eaten as much the night before, and yesterday morning he showed little interest in food, which was unusual I must say. Pandy Bear loved his food and food was love.
(I'm going to have to change my whole way of thinking, my whole way of how my guys get fed... he ate as much as two of his siblings put together. I'm not going to know how to do my chores anymore...)
Pandy Bear. Mister Bear. Mr. Pand E. Bear. In the mornings, when I was wiping the floor around where the Quat Fud dish sits, he'd be right there in in my way, I'd say, "Geddoud of my way! I have to clean right where you're standing!" and then I'd say, "O Mister Bear, you're a good bear," and kiss him on the top of his head.
But last night he didn't come into the kitchen for dinner at all. THAT set off the alarm bells. I found him under the dining room table, breathing hard. I gave him a pet and said, "O Pandy Bear, don't you want your dinner?" and turned back into the kitchen to finish putting the stuff out.
When I looked back into the dining room, he had obviously tried to get up and follow me. But he was lying on his side, a few feet closer, gasping for air.
And I knew. I've been through this a few times before. I knew, and I started sobbing right then and there.
After Mom died, he spent days and days wandering through the old house, yowling his head off, looking for her. But she wasn't there and she was never coming back.
Pandy Bear was big and fat and dumb and adventurous and cute and infuriating and loving, and he was not a quat who could be ignored, he lived large.
In our last years in the old house, maybe he sensed how wrong things were going. Mom had frankly Given Up, and I was keeping myself well-pickled to numb the pain -- of what was happening to her, of being responsible for her, and of having to spend the bulk of my days working in a job that I hated for an evil harridan of a boss who did everything in her power to make all of her employees feel worthless. I was no different, I wasn't special, I just handled it worse than anyone else on the staff.
In those years, Pandy Bear would "mark" the house everywhere that he could. I was always having to clean up his puddles around the house, against the walls. The basement door was his favorite spor -- all the paint had worn away from his urine, the mat had peeled away, the door itself was warped.
That stopped only after we moved here into the new DuckHaus. Once in a while he'd lapse... nut I see now that was probably more my fault than his.
I tried to sleep beside him on the floor last night, but after three hours of that my legs were cramped, my back was kinked, I couldn't take it anymore and moved onto the living room couch. Every hour or so I'd wake and check on him: sometimes he had moved, sometimes I thought he was already dead. But when I shone a light on him I could see him still breathing, hard.
All three of the other cats spent the night in that room, with him. They knew. It was only coming on towards dawn when the girls came in and sat on me while I slept on the sofa.
The damn cat was such a split-personality type when he was a young man. He was probably the most affectionate, the most people-focussed cat in the place... and yet he would lay in wait, and whenever he saw an opening -- VOOM! Out the door he went! -- and from then on there was no approaching him. He wanted nothing to do with people. He was singing "Born Free" in his head.
He would disappear for a week at a time. Every once in a while we might catch a glimpse of him in the brush a half-mile down the road, but he would not let us approach him. We could tell that he wasn't eating: grossly fat when he escaped, by the time he let us get ahold of him he had lost so much weight that he was practically svelte (and very beautiful). Only when he realized that he was going to starve to death outdoors would he let us catch him. And then, once safely back indoors, he would once again be the most attentive people-focussed quat in the house. Of course, he'd also pile the weight back on in nothing flat.
Just now, I looked around and couldn't find my other Guy Quat, Whitey. Pandy and Whitey were kind of pals. While the girls slept with me upstairs every night, I'd oftenimes come down in the morning and find Witey and Pandy Bear snuggling together on my TV chair or on the rug. I looked and looked and Whitey was nowhere downstairs, which was really unusual, I finally found him upstairs, wandering around in the back bedrooms where Pany Bear sometimes crashed on the hottest days,
This morning -- Pandy Bear seemed a little better, but he was still breathing hard and I just knew that I had to get him to the vet. I picked him up and hugged gave him a smack and in spite of how terrible he must have felt, he still managed a soft purr.
I put him in the carrier.
As soon as he got into the car he started raising a fuss. He actually escaped from the carrier. Thankfully, the vet is only about a block and a half away -- a real blessing of living in town. When we got there, I decided to just carry him in, in my arms; he was out of the carrier anyway, and it would be nicer for him maybe, and he was so weak, how much trouble could he be?
Well -- when we got in there, he forgot all about the weak part. He went berserk. Yowling, thrasjing, clawing. He peed all over the waiting room seat and all over me and when I got up to try and find dome paper towels he shot pee all over the floor and when I turned again he peed all over two ladies who were waiting on the bench beside me. They started screaming and I said "sorry, sorry" and ran out with him into the parking lot. I took him back into the car and shoved him into the carrier.
When I turned back to head inside, I saw that one of the vet techs had followed me out. She said, "We'll take you in right now."
Inside the examination room, the vet said something to the effect of, "His last great act of defiance," and I thought to myself Damn it! Damn it all!
Gawd, at one time my mother had something like thirty cats in the house and as many outdoors. And we loved them all. Every single time we lost one it was a blow. In the end a terrible sickness swept through both inside and outside cats and only the hardiest survived. I must have buried dozens of cats that year. From then on, it was never more than three or four outdoors, four to six in. So -- I have faced cat grief before. I must have buried dozens of cats in my lifetime. But I wasn't alone in those days, I didn't have to do it all alone.
Sure enough, Pandy Bear was all worn out by his antics in the lobby. He lay on the table gasping for air. The vet jabbed a needle into his chest and the syringe filled with a thick, viscous fluid heavy with blood. "That's not good," he said.
No shit, Sherlock.
They took him into one of their fancier rooms and gave him oxygen, The vet kept jabbing him with the needle, but now nothing came out. I thought Stop it, stop it! but the vet was clearly puzzled. He admitted that he didn't know exactly what was happening, but he knew of several possibilities and all of them were fatal. He said, "We can do a chest x-ray and you can spend beaucoup bucks, but even if we figure out exactly what's happened, it's going to end the same way."
Most of the time, Pandy Bear lived downstairs and didn't explore the upper reaches of the house. I think this is because he had been trained, in the later days out in Albion, by my new kitty Honey who adopted me the night that Mom went into the hospital to have her leg chopped off. Honey thought of the upstairs as being Her Domain and she protected it assiduously, for a young little kitty.
That restriction relaxed when we came to the new house, but still it had taken hold in their minds. Even so -- as I mentioned above, in the hot of the summer Pandy would seek out the coolness of an upstairs guest room, and I would sometimes find him curled up, perfectly happy, on the studio bed.
And every now and then -- and surprisingly often in the past few months, Pandy Bear would appear in my room at bedtime, and PLOP himself in beside me, purring like a chain saw that needed oil. Sometimes in the middle of the night I'd turn over and -- THUMP! -- there he'd be, a large blob right beside me.
Whitey is clearly very upset. He's running around the house looking for Pandy Bear, and when he sees me he comes running for a hug. He's wanting a lot of attention. And the truth is, the house does seem awfully large and empty now. When we moved in there were six of us: Pandy Bear and Spooky and Whitey and Patches and Honey. Spooky -- who was in chronic ill health and frankly made my life a living hell with her uncontrollable bowel movements all over the house -- was the first to go. I buried her in the back garden and put one of my mother's wooden, painted flowers on her grave.
In the old days, the vets used to protect us when we had to put an animal down. They'd shoo you out of the room, assume without asking the business of cremation, and we would leave there, shell-shocked and empty-handed. This young man was not about sparing anyone anything, and was anxious to get on with it. He gave Pandy Bear a shot to relax him. Then he shaved Pandy's left front leg.
Pandy already looked half-dead, except that his whole body was heaving with each breath, and gobs of bubbly clear fluid were pouring out of his mouth.
And I can't help but think of the last time I saw Mom, in the middle of the night, in an empty hospital, lying on the bed with her mouth open in an ugly way. Her hands were already cold and her upper body was already stiff when I touched her shoulders, and she was getting noticeably colder to the touch by the second.
The vet said, "He doesn't even have a vein left." He stuck the needle in and a few seconds later Pandy Bear's breathing just stopped.
They put him in a garbage bag. In a GARBAGE BAG! They put my Pandy Bear in a fucking GARBAGE BAG.
So then I took him home. I had to change all my clothes and take a shower because he'd peed all over me. Then I went out and found where Spooky is buried, cleared away the weeds, and dug the hole. I couldn't bring myself to take him out of the garbage bag. As it was I had to fuss unpleasantly with how I arranged him in the hole. I piled the dirt back on, and -- almost exactly three years after I'd done the same for Spooky, almost exactly to the day, put one of my mother's wooden, painted flowers on his grave.
It's pouring rain outside tight now. I know that I should read all this crap over and make some corrections and stuff before I post it, but I don't want to and I'm not going to. I'm starting to get condolence emails and in at least a couple of them, stated only implicitly, are the words: "Don't drink?" -- well, hell yeah I'm going to drink and have already started. Hell, yeah. Sometimes it doesn't matter how it might affect your health.
I just looked down and to my left and Whitey is right here beside me. He wants a hug and so do I. The only hugs I get are from cats, and most of the time they are given to me reluctantly! So...
I think of the classic Irish song that Van Morrison sings so well, "Carrickfergus." I'll say no more, 'til...