Life and Death in the Animal Kingdom

The cat died a couple of days ago.  She had pretty much stopped eating as we went into the preceding weekend and no longer wanted to be petted. We would find her just sitting in front of her litter box or in front of her water bowl as if she just couldn’t remember why she had been headed toward them or just didn’t have enough energy to go any further. I asked the vet (Dr. Cohen at Alexandria Animal Hospital on Duke Street) to euthanize her Tuesday morning. She died peacefully while I stroked her head.

Dino Spouse and Mouse have mostly stopped tearing up at the thought of the cat. Mostly. They took it the hardest. Me, I’m still sort of peevish and efficient, which is apparently how I grieve as an adult.

Podrostok loved the cat. He was sad. TeenBot, who is allergic to all animals and plants, claimed that he was not. Neither of them seemed too upset on the day of. But they both had the sulks yesterday, and last night they busted out into full-on fisticuffs over pretty much nothing. The final casualties (between their fight and related rage attacks on inanimate objects) were two sections of drywall, one vanity mirror, two pairs of glasses, one set of sliced-up knuckles, and Mommy’s lumbar spine (after bodily separating the bull elephants from each other twice and threatening to summon the police before I finally managed to get them into separate rooms). Dino Spouse got home about 20 minutes afterward, as Mouse and I were cleaning up blood splatter while TeenBot dressed his wounds and Podrostok hid in his room. It was truly a crappy night for everyone.

I really hope they learn other ways of coping with grief before they reach adulthood.  They will certainly learn a lot about drywall repair and handling broken glass, at this rate.

(Poor Mouse. Between being scared out of her 11 year-old mind by her brothers’ performance last night and then reading the latest Time article about rape on college campuses, she’s  had way more consciousness-raising about violence than she can stand.

(Maybe I should have refrained from laying on the “attacks on inanimate objects will escalate into physical violence against people, do not tolerate this behavior if you’re in a relationship” speech to my girl as we were sweeping up glass off the floor. After all, the boys’ wrath was directed at each other, and she wasn’t even in the same part of the house as they were while they were fighting. But it seemed like a teachable moment.)


Death and the Saber-Toothed Tiger

Our house cat appears to be nearing death. She’s 20 years old. The vet says it’s congestive heart failure. She has been responding to the medication they sent home with us last week, but that’s only to the extent that she actually digests it.* The long-term prognosis is not particularly long-term. According to the Internet, she’s roughly 97 years old in terms of a human lifespan. Average survival time after diagnosis of congestive heart failure in cats is allegedly 180 days or so, but that figure includes diagnoses in cats of all ages.

I haven’t had any direct experience of death when it comes to people I’m close to. I’ve lost older relatives who seemed to have lived lengthy and complete lives (the definition of “older” being relative to my own age, of course – 62 seemed like 92 to me when I was 18, while now 70 seems like just barely a full life span). My reaction to their deaths was muted, which is a delicate way of saying that I did not grieve. Indeed, my predominating reaction to the first deaths I remember was irritation at others for being so emotional about the whole thing. This was in my teens (14-18). I am still not sure whether to attribute that to my self-diagnosed Asperger’s or chalk it up to the other possibility, equally likely, that I am a (now better-socialized) sociopath.

It’s different now. I’m still matter-of-fact and low-affect about death, but now I get sad about it and/or sentimental about the deceased. This is either a sign that I have matured or evidence that I have gotten better at feigning normal emotions. In either event, I know enough now to dread the loss of loved ones, ptu ptu ptu. I even occasionally remember that “matter-of-fact” and “low-affect” don’t necessarily scan well to people in the throes of grief. I strive to keep this in mind now as I model grief to my spawn and, in particular, as I confer with Dino Spouse about end-of-cat-life decisions. It will come as no surprise to the paleontologists among you that Dino Spouse and I have diametrically opposing approaches to grief.

*Dosing cats with pills is a skill I learned from my ex-husband and his parents, who bred Himalayans for sale and show. Maybe it’s easier to make cats with messed-up airways actually swallow the pills. Our cat is not one of them. She can hold those things in her mouth for way longer than I would have thought possible, then she spits them out after we stop looking. She will eat pills in her wet food, but only when she feels like eating at all. I am adjusting my technique accordingly.

Of A Sunday

First there was Easter. Easter went reasonably well. Actually, all but one of the Four Conditions For A Happy Holiday were met. Ma Protosaur, aka my mother, wound up in the ER after breaking a bone in her hand at our house in the wee hours of Good Friday. This did not prevent her or us* from traveling to West Virginia to visit my grandfather or from enjoying Easter Dinner at my sister’s house.

This week got off to a weak start. I’ve never been allergy-prone, but whatever was blooming Monday last affected me like the poppy field in “Wizard of Oz.” I think I slept for a total of 24 hours or so between mid-afternoon Monday and Wednesday morning.

Yesterday I switched out my cold-weather wardrobe for my warm-weather wardrobe and scoured the floor of our basement cold room. Our elderly housecat recently decided that certain concrete surfaces of the cold room floor are preferable to her litter box and its eco-friendly mix of pine, cedar, and corn litter. Three hours and an extra litter box with conventional litter later, she reconsidered. Thus my home looks like hell today, but it smells a lot better. Recommendations for eco-friendly litter that feels like kitty qwik-crete would be most welcome.

* One of the reasons that the Dino Marriage has survived this long (17 years in May) is the fact that we stopped undertaking long-distance family travel together in year seven or so. We do not function well in tandem when in close quarters, physical discomfort, and the presence of kids and extended family. So I travel with the Dino Kids solo, and he stays behind lest Babushka require his support.

Today I will ridding Mouse’s room of all the clothes that don’t fit her or fit her a little too well for my comfort. Oh, my blooming Mouse! She shot up two shoe sizes a week or so ago (now rocking a women’s size 10 shoe at the majestic 11 year-old height of 5’4″) and went shopping in her aunt’s closet last week with great delight. She will probably find herself with a whole bunch of new drawer space by day’s end.  I am still holding out hope that she did not inherit the giant freak feet that plague me, her uncle, and her cousin, but so far the signs are not super-encouraging.