Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chasing the Little Pink Mice

When Quinn wakes up in the morning, he doesn't just wake up; he hits the ground running and heads straight for either the kitchen (if he's hungry--yelling "Bre-fest, Mama!") or the living room if he just wants to play. He's typically down the hall and has already strewn his Legos across the living room floor before Chris and I can even register that it's a new day.

Lately, Quinn has been the one to discover the "kitty mess" that's happened more and more frequently lately--piles and piles of vomit letting us know the steroids we'd tried to reduce the inflammation in our cat's intestines weren't working. The cancer was too big. (By the way: Fuck you, cancer.) It had also spread to his lungs, so surgery wasn't an option.

After a weekend of bloody diarrhea and three days in a row of "kitty mess," we made the decision it was time to let our 10-year-old kitty go.
I drove him--in tears--to the vet's office yesterday afternoon. As I walked into the reception area, I couldn't even speak; the receptionist took one look at me and ushered me down a hallway into the euthanasia room. They laid a soft wool blanket on the metal table, and I put Panthor on it, rubbed his ears, nuzzled his head, told him over and over again how sorry I was. 

I'd never done this before. The other pet I lost (Panthor's brother, Battle Cat) died suddenly of a heart condition at just three-and-a-half years old. I stayed with Panthor while the doctor administered a sedative, cried as his eyes glazed over. "Go chase those little pink mice, Panthor," the vet said.

After about five minutes, when my cat was good and high, the doctor gave him an overdose of anesthesia. Less than a minute later, he was gone. I cried my eyelashes off (literally).

Is there any way to do this and not feel guilty? He was a rescue cat, half blind from a terrible case of conjunctivitis when I adopted him ten years ago, and found in a parking lot on Maryland's eastern shore. Chris tells me he was on borrowed time from the beginning, which might be true, but doesn't make me wonder any less if I'd paid more attention to him over the last year, would I have been able to catch the cancer earlier? Stopped it somehow? Loved him a little more instead of been irritated that every single one of the rugs in our house is ruined?

Until Quinn came along, Panthor was my baby. He moved cross-country with me four times, slept nestled in the crook of my shoulder when I was recovering from neck surgery a few years ago, chased the rats in my walls in my ghetto apartment in DC, and once proudly dropped a dead mouse in my bedroom slipper. He was also an excellent scorpion hunter, and he never once scratched our furniture (unlike our other cat...) 

He was the biggest cat most people had ever seen, and as I was carrying him through airport security once, a TSA agent asked me whether he was an actual panther. Chris nicknamed him McTubbins, Tubbinstein, and a number of other variations on that theme. But he'd lost so much weight over the past few months that he was actually bony. His coat didn't have the same shine or thickness. He spent most days lying around half-awake. 

I asked the vet how we'd know when it was time to put him down, and he told me this: "You can start to get into a fog, and you want to make the decision before you're in the thick of it, when you're just at the edge of the mist. There's no perfect time."

I hope we weren't too far into the fog with you, sweet boy. You're going to be so very missed.

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