To those who commented, donated, prayed, texted, IM’d, messaged, called, emailed, and showed support in various ways, I thank you.
Forrest and I made it up here around 10am. Dammit was hiding under my mom’s bed, and his meow sounded…wrong. It’s hard to describe. I managed to get him out to hold him, and I felt a literal shock as my brain processed what I was feeling/seeing. He smelled and felt like a taxidermy animal (except pliable). No muscle tone, no real weight, and it was clear his body wasn’t processing toxins out of his bloodstream.
I briefly freaked out (the last time I saw him, he looked like this, which is to say, he was healthy and shiny and had some heft…and life in his eyes), my mom got dressed, and I carried him in a towel to the vet while she drove.
I took a photo of him (with Forrest’s phone…it seems that every time I come up here, there’s camera drama, and my battery was dead), before we left, and I can’t even post it, because it’s horrifying to me to see him looking so bad. He was that way once, four years ago, but after his diagnosis and treatment for triaditis, he bounced back and was his old, doofy, self.
This time, there was no bouncing back.
The vet made it a point to tell me that my stubbornness four years ago gave him the equivalent of nearly two decades in “human” years…and aside from having to live in a glorified shed for nearly a year, those were good years. While up here in STL, he had free reign of a safe yard, and liked to get into trouble by climbing into the birdbath and, more recently, falling into the pool my mom set up a few weeks ago (this had nothing to do with his illness – he’s always been clumsy). Water fascinated him, and he even liked going out in the rain before realizing that, hey, he was wet, and should probably go inside and roll on my mom’s face while she was in bed (because he was awesome).
There’s no doubt that he earned his name. “Dammit” was what was most often uttered in his presence as a kitten, until he came running when it was said when he wasn’t in the same room. He chose that name, and even this morning, I found myself saying, “Well…dammit,” when I realized just how ill he’d gotten in such a short time.
He probably didn’t know, but he saved my life when I was nearing the end of my marriage. If it wasn’t for him keeping me company and constantly meowing, purring, and climbing in my lap, there’s a very good chance I would have committed suicide. (Yes, it was THAT bad – that situation is the reason why I know I would never be able to shoot myself or OD on medications, because I had a plan.) He knew something was wrong, though, and I knew that every time I was upset, I could expect a flurry of movement from his lanky, clumsy self, as he walked all over my face and head-butted me to get me up in the mornings.
When we took him into the exam room at the vet’s office, there was a fleece blanket on the metal table. We laid him on it, and after a second of thinking maybe he didn’t want to be there, he briefly glance around, and then just laid his head down on his front paws. He was ready to go.
The vet was wonderfully nice, I used half a box of tissues, and Dammit went very peacefully. No struggle, no fuss, not even a last meowed protest. He knew.
It was the best thing we could have ever done for him…but Dammit, I’m still crying. It still hurts.
He’s buried beneath a weeping willow (very appropriate), and the following came to my mind (from nearly 21 years ago) as he was laid to rest:
When at night I go to sleep
Fourteen angels watch do keep
Two my head are guarding
Two my feet are guiding
Two are on my right hand
Two are on my left hand
Two who warmly cover
Two who o’er me hover
Two to whom ’tis given
To guide my steps to Heaven.
Goodbye, my beautiful friend. May angels lead you in.
Cause some mischief. Have fun. I’ll never forget you.