The following is the story of the decline and death (euthanasia) of my cat Tweaks, on April 30, 2018. During my grieving process, I found other people’s stories of their own pet’s deaths, declines, and poetry about animal deaths helped me to grieve the loss of my own beloved cat.

It is in that spirit that I have posted my own story. When another of my cats, Apricot, died in 2014, I recounted her death as well. I had previously hidden that post (after feeling ashamed, although I’m not sure why) but, after grieving, and realizing that sharing these stories can help others, I made it public again.

 

On April 30, 2018, (a Monday), I attempted to load my incredibly weak and sick cat, Tweaks, into his carrier.

Even though he could barely move, he still had enough left in him to parachute his legs to make it as hard as possible for me to get him into the carrier.

On April 28, a Saturday, I took Tweaks to the vet because he had stopped eating the night before. I couldn’t even interest him in tuna.

After some blood work, an x-ray and a physical exam, they decided that he likely had a “mass” on his liver. That’s why he wasn’t eating. (Over the past few years, he had been gradually losing weight and becoming a pickier and pickier eater).

Tweaks on Sunday (pictured here) was very weak and restless.

The prognosis was “poor,” but the vet still gave me some liver medications, a syringe and showed me how to force feed him and how to force him to take pills.

I was hopeful that I could get him to start eating again, that there was no mass.

On Saturday night, I managed to get 20 CCs of water mixed with wet cat food into him, and onto him, and onto my clothes and the floor. It was hard, but I did it. I also managed to give him his pill. That would be the last time.

Sunday (April 29), I tried multiple times to both “pill” him and to force feed him with the syringe. All the attempts went badly but more importantly, I could see he was quickly deteriorating. By the end of Sunday, he could barely jump, he could barely walk and he was incredibly restless. Never have I seen a cat get up and move so much.

He sat on my lap on the couch a few times, for a few minutes, and briefly joined me on his favorite spot: half on the arm of a recliner, half on my leg.

Each time, he couldn’t sit still for more than a few minutes.

I kept a vigil with him. He moved between the inside of the closet to by bed, to the floor, to the doorway, and then back to the inside of the closet.

A few times, he jumped on the bed, moving from his heating pad, to the middle of the bed, to the bottom, and then a few times, coming up to my chest level, briefly lying down before moving again, the same spot, next to me, he used to sleep in when he was well.

At bed time, he finally decided to move to the older chair in the office and he spent the night there.

As he declined, Tweaks kept on moving on the floor, on the bed, from sun to shade.

When I woke in the morning (April 30), I could hear a sound here or there in the house, but I wasn’t sure it was him. I woke early, maybe 6 a.m., but I was afraid to check on him. I was afraid he had passed in the night. I was hopeful he had passed during the night so that his suffering would be over. I was scared he had passed in the night because that meant I would not be able to spend his last moments with him.

He was awake, swishing his tail. I picked him up and put him on the bed. He continued to be restless. I gave him one last cuddle on the bed.

In the living room, I laid out a partially folded flannel sheet for him.

After I left the house, I texted my girlfriend, Michelle. (She was at the house when I came back with Tweaks on Saturday, after taking him to the vet. I asked her to go home. I prefer to be alone when I grieve.) I told her, if she wanted to see him one last time, she should head to the house then because the appointment was for 11:15.

When I came home, after finishing a story at work, (Monday was the B-section deadline day) (I left at 10:50. I had previously called the vet and made a 11:15 appointment) he was on the flannel sheets.

As I tried to get him into the carrier, this incredibly weak being managed to parachute out his front and hind legs, managed to make it incredibly hard to get him in. I did. I still buckled his carrier into the front seat. I drove to the vet, the AC on medium, the music barely audible, taking each turn, dip and bump and gingerly as I could.

In the waiting room were two other people waiting to be seen. We waited. And waited. I opened the top of his carrier (it was soft shelled) and was able to rub his head and cheeks. Up until I put him in the carrier one last time, he would still head butt my hand.

The woman next to me had a silent chiuaha and the man had a 15-year-old small dog. They thought the older dog might have had a seizure.

Of course, they asked if my kitty was sick.

This set me off and, through sobs, I said I was here to euthanize him.

They asked what happened, and I explained, as best I could.

The man recounted the few cats he’s had, as well as his daughter’s cat. One cat he took with him everywhere and he was driving to Boise, Idaho, when he let her out of the car at a park so she could pee. (He was driving a convertible). Nearly 200 miles later, he realized he didn’t know where the cat was and he drove back to the park, but couldn’t find her. He put an ad in the local paper, offering a $200 reward. As he was driving around, looking for her, he saw an animal on the side of the road that had been run over.

He didn’t stop, because he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t bear to know she had been killed. He never saw her again.

The man said he cannot bear to get another animal after his 15-year-old (spunky!) dog dies. It’s too much heartbreak.

My dad said the same thing when my first cat, Angel, passed away (from complications of old age). He told me he did not want to have another animal because of the inevitable, or possible, pain losing such a beloved one causes.

I got her when I was in the first or second grade and she lived to 19 or 20, despite problems with cat anorexia and bulimia. (In later life, she had her teeth removed because of the bulimia).

I left her in Carson City with my dad when I went away for college at 18, although she was still bonded to me. She truly became my dad’s cat after I moved to Germany for over a year to be an au pair.

This is tweaks in 2016. His decline was incredibly fast, as it is with many cats.

Finally they took me into a room and the vet gave Tweaks a sedative. With the carrier open, I was able to pet him as he fell asleep (although his eyes remained partially open).

Finally the vet came back, pulled him out of the carrier and into a towel, shaved his leg, dabbed it with alcohol, stuck an IV line in him, hooked up the barbiturate to his IV and plunged it in. (“It’s the same thing the kids are killing themselves with out there,” she said, which wasn’t totally true because barbiturates and opioids are different types/families of drugs and as the cops and courts reporter, who reads all the autopsy reports for Rio Arriba County, I can attest very few people overdose on barbiturates in our area).

“Take as much time as you need,” she said, before wrapping him in the towel.

Somehow, he was placed back in the carrier and, after a few minutes of uncontrollable sobbing, I went to pay. The vet waived the fee (likely because her fellow vet gave me a 30-day supply of liver pills when his life expectancy was closer to seven days, at a cost of $50) and I walked to my car, wailing.

Finally, able to drive home, I started digging his grave. The day before, I had gone to Lowe’s to buy a shovel so I would be prepared. Three-quarters of the way through digging the hole, the brand-new shovel broke, and I went back to the hardware store for a shovel that didn’t have a wood handle.

When I arrived home again, I finished digging the whole, went back inside, grabbed a polarfleece blanket and said my one last goodbye to my lifeless cat. His face was pointed away from me and I remember looking at his eyes one last time. The membrane had already begun to cloud over his beautiful eyes. I wrapped him in the towel, followed by the blanket.

I thought it was ironic that this one last time, I was able to make him into a kitty burrito, when he had so vehemently refused it before.

I carried him to the grave, placed him in, and then got a can of smoked sardines, a can of tuna, and one of the toy rats he so lovingly destroyed with his back paws before he started to lose his desire to play.

After cleaning myself up, I dressed and went back to work.

It wasn’t until the following Wednesday, May 2, that I was able to get closer to finishing his grave. I de-labeled 10 stubby beer bottles, cleaned them, and used them to mark the borders of his grave, to mark the 10 years of his life before I got him.

The plan is to plant some shade-friendly annual flowers on his grave, and mark the outer boundaries with a few more bottles to commemorate the years I got to spend with him and two blue flourishes for his eyes.

Now, each day when I open the front door, I expect him to come running. I walk to the bedroom to charge my phone and I expect him to be on the bed.

 

Early life

When I first got Tweaks, it was shortly after I lost Apricot. I went to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter which, if you’ve never been, is actually hard to get to, off of the frontage road of 599.

I was walking around the cat room and I saw him, and he was friendly enough. He was 10, a little old, but I figured that older cats need to be adopted too, need to be offered the good life later in life. Santa Fe is overrun with older cats whose owners abandoned them, moved away or, more frequently, died.

I learned from the staff that Tweaks was originally brought to the shelter, 10 years prior, as a stray. He was then neutered, chipped and adopted out.

For whatever reason, that same family (or person) brought him back 10 years later. He was still in the system, just, he was no longer a kitten.

At the shelter, they told me they thought he had arthritis, as evidenced by the way he peed in his litter box there. When I took him to the vet for his initial checkup, they said, don’t worry about it. He was never creaky, although he was cranky after longer naps.

Tweaks loved his heating pad. He was not a fan of being harassed during naps.

One of the first things I bought for tweaks was a bunch of polar fleece blankets. He was never that much of a fan. I also bought him a heating pad because of the arthritis.

If you have an older cat, I highly suggest you get him or her a heating pad.

This is the specific version I got (link to Amazon), the “K&H Pet Products Thermo-Kitty Mat – Heated Mat for Cats – 6 watts – MET Safety Listed”

I would put it away in the summers, when the house would get to hot, but otherwise, it would stay plugged in all the time, on the bed. He loved that thing.

I visited with him in the one-on-one play area and he immediately jumped in my lap. I took him home and initially gave him the run of the house. He quickly hid in the back of the closet of the house I was renting in La Puebla.

With Apricot, I had followed the normal instructions: keep the cat in one room (usually the bathroom) until its acclimated, and then let it explore. Apricot, unlike Tweaks, was incredibly head-strong, brave and rambunctious. She immediately wanted out, and also, she immediately wanted outside.

After a while, Tweaks warmed to the house and either that first night, or maybe a few nights after, he started sleeping on the bed.

I never called Tweaks my “little boy” or “baby” or “child.” I figured that I adopted a full-grown man. At 10, he was 56 in equivalent human years.

I always wondered, and still do, about Tweaks’ early life, and what he was like as a kitten.

Unlike Apricot, Tweaks did not really want to go outside. With Apricot, I tried to let her into the small fenced area in the back of the house but she immediately jumped the fence and went exploring. I would later compromise with her and leave a window open during the day and close it at night. In the early mornings (4-6 a.m.) she would bat me in the face with her paw, demanding to be let out then, after an hour of exploring, come back in.

Tweaks, on the other hand, he liked to sleep in. When I let him into the fenced area, he never tried to jump the fence. He would just sit in the sun and observe.

Later on, when I moved to Espanola, I did not let him outside at all because there was no fence. After a year, I put small fences on either side of the back of my house so he could be outside. He only got out twice. Once, he jumped over the 4-foot-high chicken wire and got into the front yard. The other time, he managed to climb the seven-foot coyote fence at night. I found him on the opposite side, unable to climb back up.

Well, here’s to you Tweaks. I might have only had four years with you, and I was convinced up until your vet appointment that I was going to have another four at least, but the heartbreak, tears, the hurt, was all worth it.

I miss you buddy.

 

Notes made during the decline

I watched Tweak’s decline and, as it happened, I decided to write down what was happening, to purge a little of the emotion between bouts of bawling. The following is those notes:

Watching Tweaks quickly fade, as he stumbles, refuses to eat, paws at the ground before not drinking water, is incredibly hard.

(Monday morning, he walked over to his water bowl and tried to so viciously paw the ground before a few laps of water, but there was no viciousness there. There was only his failing motor skills, exaggerated motions.)

Pilling him is incredibly hard and it makes me feel like my last moments with him (I am sure that whatever is going on with his liver will be fatal) are going to be bad, bad memories and he will die hating me, even though I am doing what little I can to save his life.

I’m upset that we could have gone the feeding tube route (internet research) but the vet never brought it up and seems to think that it will be fatal irregardless.

I’m upset at myself for, in the middle of crying, thinking about what I will do next, whether or not that’s a coping mechanism.

I know I’m going to lose him and it hurts so much.

On the afternoon of April 29, after one botched pilling/feeding attempt, Tweaks continued to move between the bed, the couch and one of the office chairs.

Then, I went to look for him and found him in the back of the closet.

Although I already suspected that he was not going to make it, that cemented it for me.

I continue to struggle, especially considering the 29th was a Sunday, whether I should try to seek a second opinion and a feeding tube or if I should just recognize that he has a mass on his liver.

One of the things that seems to help me grieving process is reading the personal stories of other people who have lost their pets (cats or dogs) to old age or sickness.

Reading poems about lost pets and the grieving process also seems to be helping. It triggers more emotions, but I feel better afterward. Assisted grieving. Triggered grieving.

 

Some memories

I wanted to share a few memories of Tweaks, especially before they fall victim to time.

Given a whole couch to sit on, Tweaks would seek out the newsprint.

One of Tweaks’ favorite things was to sit on paper.

It was weird. I never understood why.

I guess it’s good that I work as a newspaper reporter.

Tweaks really liked sitting on paper. Newspaper, sketching paper, glossy paper, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter if it was on a couch, a lap, a table, the floor. He wanted to sit on paper.

Tweaks had a cat tree and usually when I’d get home in the evening, he would be on the cat tree, staring at the window. As soon as he made eye contact, he would start meowing at me. I could see his jaw moving, even if I couldn’t hear him.

He was a people kitty.

When I had one of the interns from work over, before we went out to La Madera to canvas for a story, he immediately jumped on Jacob’s lap.

Later on, when my dad came to visit, he would stay in the bedroom. I never figured out why he liked Jacob so much.

I previously wrote about keeping track of records requests in a spreadsheet, something that I encourage every journalist to do. That post has links to sample spreadsheets and various ways of keeping track of requests.

Public records are not the only thing that you can easily keep track of with spreadsheets.

Really, the options are limitless.

For personal use, you can keep track of accounts and user names. You can record all your serial numbers and item descriptions in case your house if burglarized or your stuff is otherwise stolen.

Having serial numbers at the ready makes it much easier for police to recover your stolen property because of national databases.

But working as a journalist, and more specifically as a cops/courts reporter, there are a few specific instances where I use spreadsheets to make my life that much easier.

Tracking criminal cases

Rio Arriba County has a high crime rate, as illustrated by the cases I’m following.

When it comes to being a cops/courts reporter, I keep a bunch of spreadsheets to track everything going on in my beat and, often, to keep track of what went on.

I have one spreadsheet I use to track all the criminal cases I’m covering.

As you can see, Rio Arriba County has a lot of ongoing and serious criminal cases, although one or two of those may be northern Santa Fe County.

Although not shown in the picture to the left, this spreadsheet currently has three sheets: “open,” “closed” and “master.”

The cases pictured are only the open cases. Everything goes into the “master” case list, is then copied to open cases and, when a case hits final adjudication (either through sentencing or the appeals process) it gets moved from open to closed.

The spreadsheet currently has the following sorting columns:

  • Type
  • Defendant Name
  • District  case number (higher court)
  • Offense date
  • Status
  • Victim
  • Ancillary case number (such as the pre-trial detention case number, a civil lawsuit or restraining order)
  • Weapon
  • Magistrate case number (lower court)
  • Report (if I have police reports for the case)
  • Appeal case number
  • Date filed (district court)
  • Date filed (magistrate court)

As shown in the screen shot, type refers to what kind of crime was committed.

I include fields for the date of incident as well as the date filed because the date of incident is a field that moves with court filings as they wend their way through the judicial system. That makes it a necessary number when sorting through court records.

While this does take a small, to moderate, amount of time to set up and initially populate, it’s well worth the time savings later on, the brain-wracking when you can’t remember which case is supposed to go to trial in a few months and from potentially missing important hearings.

While I’ve still missed my fair share of court hearings, keeping a spreadsheet makes it easier for me to check on statuses of everything I’m still covering.

Tracking lawsuits

As the cops and courts reporter, I also cover lawsuits against all our public entities, including the various school districts, our college, the city (and its police department/officers), the county (and the Sheriff’s Office) and even State Police.

Keeping track of all those cases requires a little bit of data entry, but it prevents me from forgetting about cases entirely.

Moreover, spreadsheets can have formulas which means you can keep a running tally for how much a specific entity has paid out in settlement agreements and court decisions.

It also means you can make a new “sheet” or tab in your spreadsheet, dump in all the lawsuits that name a specific person (think of individual officers named in civil rights lawsuits, or all of the lawsuits arising under a specific chief or president’s tenure, or all the lawsuits that are whistleblower claims) and create a simple formula to add up all the amounts.

Keeping a spreadsheet of lawsuits (I break mine down into groups, such as “city,” “county,” “state” and “schools”) also serves the same purpose as my spreadsheet keeping track of criminal cases: it helps me not forget about cases.

Tracking death (overdoses, suicides, etc.)

Once a year, I go to the Office of the Medical Investigator to photograph all of the autopsy reports for Rio Arriba County for the previous year.

It usually takes a few hours to take the pictures and then quite a few more to sort everything.

Each year’s overdose spreadsheet has lots and lots of sub-sheets. I didn’t even mention pivot tables, and the massive things you can do with them.

Once all the reports are sorted into their respective folders and sub-folders,  I start adding all the names to a spreadsheet, along with the day of death, the year of birth, age at the time of death, agency that handled the investigation, the place of death and a bunch more fields related to alcohol and prescription drugs.

I also have one column for all the drugs the person overdosed on. I also break these out into another sheet, with one drug per row.

That spreadsheet helps me with a couple of different aspects of reporting the story.

When I’m writing it, it’s pretty easy to crunch the numbers of how many deaths involved what drug or what drug combinations (as seen in my story on the number of deaths in 2014).  In 2016, for 2015’s deaths, I did the same thing:

Heroin continued its trend of being involved in a majority of overdoses. It was involved in 17 of the 24 deaths, or 70 percent. Three deaths were caused by heroin, alone.

Opiates garnered an even larger portion, being involved in 20 of the 23 deaths, or 87 percent. Heroin is an opiate.

The third most-involved drug was alcohol, contributing to 13 deaths, or 54 percent. Alcohol-only overdoses were not counted.

Prescription drugs, including the opiate methadone, were responsible for nine deaths, or 37 percent, while cocaine was involved in six, or 25 percent.

Having those spreadsheets handy also makes it easier for me to figure out what police reports I still need to request for which deaths.

I can also sort the sheet by age, by drug, by date of death or by location.

It makes reporting the story much easier.

Sorting salaries

Every October, we run the salaries for all the entities we cover.

That means going through whatever document has been provided and updating/adding to our salary list document from last year with new salaries, positions and deleting employees no longer there.

Doing this is easy when the salaries are provided as a spreadsheet.

Doing this is hard when the salaries are provided in a PDF. There are a few different solutions, depending on the layout of the document you were provided, but the point is to get them into a spreadsheet for future reference.

Even if your paper doesn’t run salary lists, it’s still a very good idea, once or twice a year, to request them.

There are a lot of things you can do with that data, including looking for pay discrepancies, but they are really important as reference documents.

Not sure how to spell that employee’s name? Salary list.

Someone got put on admin leave with pay? Salary list states how much he makes and you can then calculate how much he is being paid not to work, per week, per month, etc.

Someone got fired? Salary list states how much he made.

Tracking award entries

If you’re anything like me, your boss comes into the newsroom and says that you have a month to get him your contest entries for the state’s annual newspaper contest, and you then scramble to figure out what you’ve written in the last year that warrants entry.

My contest entry spreadsheet is tailored to New Mexico’s better newspaper contest and the way my paper keeps its archives. None of these entries won during the 2016-2017 contest period. I won second place for news writing.

There is a better way!

Instead of scrambling in June or July, and looking through old PDFs, paper copies and your pre-production text documents, you can keep track of everything you want to enter in a simple spreadsheet.

You only need a few columns to keep track of everything important:

  • Headline
  • Date (run)
  • Content (story vs series vs photo)
  • Continuing
  • Other dates
  • Location (in paper)
  • Collaborators
  • Contest category

The most important part of keeping track of contest entries is to put them into the spreadsheet shortly after the story runs so, at the end of the contest period, you can go back and cull what you think are the best entries to submit.

In the case of continuing coverage, it’s very important to update your entry with the new story dates because if you don’t, you’ll be scratching your head and asking your editor who has the better memory for all the stories that ran as a result of whichever broader story.

This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Only 4.0 license.

A poem

 

Sept. 22, 2014

La Puebla, New Mexico

 

I buried my cat today.

She died the night before but they told me today, late morning. I should not just write my cat, she she had and had a name outside my own existence. She proved she had her own.

Apricot. I buried Apricot today. I buried here at the end of the orchard, next to a corner. The ground was orange-red clay. I thought it was fitting with her fur.

I dug her grave first. I made sure it was plenty deep.

Then, I grabbed a box cutter and the box the vet gave her to me in and I walked over to her grave, with a polar fleece blanket she should sleep on, resting on my feet.

I opened the box, taped, with the box cutter. She was in a plastic kitchen bag.

I cried. But that’s a given, the bouts of bawling and tears and sobs. Tears, the by-product of the bawling and the sobbing.

I opened the bag with the box cutter and I took her cold body out. When I first touched the bag, I felt her. Frozen.

I moved the blanket, that I had brought, further under the cover of an overhanging tree and put my frozen cat’s corpse on it. I cried. I petted her. I observed her frozen tongue sticking out of the side of her mouth.

I laid her on her left side, the side of the vomit, the yellow liquid had frozen to her fur. I looked at her face and I did not know, I did not want to now, I do not want to know, how much pain she was in. Her eyes were almost completely closed. Just a silver open. I should write something poetic, about either her fair at the end, being in a strange kennel, or about her nature as a cat. I reject these.

Most likely, she died in pain.

The vet said she likely died of an infection, that she had a lot of fluids in her her body cavity, when they did the surgery, and she had an infection.

I did not know if anyone was there to check on her on Sunday, the day before the night she died. I know she died from an infection.

I saw her slightly bloated belly, her body still frozen, and I petted her a few last times. Her fur was as soft as ever.

I wrapped her in the blanket, put her in the grave (I do not want to acknowledge its nature as a mere hole) and put a few handfuls of dirt over her wrapping, of her and her front paw, where her IV line had been.

I noticed her back paw was dirty or bloody. Her body, slightly curved, a crescent or half circle. The former sounds so much more regal. Half moon. Her her coloring, a calico, white and black and orange. The moon on a normal night, the moon in a wildfire or engorged or close to us here. Orange. And black, the new moon.

I buried her proper, with shovel upon shovel full of dirt. I tried to keep the topmost layer of the orange-red clay dirt, in keeping with her own coloration.

I came to peace with the black and grey decayed earth, matching her own black. I raked her grave, and the area around, not to mask the intrusion, but to make it even.

Four bottles not mark the corner of her grace: one white wine bottle (clear), two green ones and a single stubby brown beer bottle. They are to represent her tri-coloration, her female caliconess. Clear for her white. Green for her orange. Brown for her black.

I’m still crying over her. I am in a shock.

My dad wrote me, the point is now how she was injured, or received her injury. The point is she is gone. (The point is she is no longer suffering.)

She will not come back; her body will thaw and decay, shielded only slightly by the synthetic burial shroud. Or, just, her blanket shroud, or her synthetic shroud.

In the early morning, she will not wake me with her her razor claws on my face, demanding attention. When I come home, I will no longer listen for the tell-tale sign of her collar’s bell or feel heartened as I watch her run to me.

She is dead, killed by an infection, following two surgeries. One done in the middle of the night, one done in the middle of the day. She is dead, killed by an infection, after something happened, causing an extreme hernia, causing internal bleeding and shredding her urethra between one of her kidneys and her bladder.

She was missing her collar when I saw her Thursday night. I suspect she had been lying under my bed. She came out and I found her distended belly, her extreme lethargy. (I have told his tale now many times, and I will tell this tale, of her finding, many more. My opinion of it is, as my dad wrote about the nature of her injury, moot.)

The last time I touched my living car, she was sitting in a litter box in a kennel, in “extreme amounts of pain.” She meowed, in anger or pain or acknowledgement at me, and I did my best to maintain my composure. The prognosis was good.

The second to last time I touched my living cat, my Apricot, she was in another kennel, lying on her right side against the wall, hopped up on pain medication. It was a better meeting.

My only wishes were to bring her some pain relief and, in that moment, be with her in her passing. In her dying moments and her death.

She died sometime Sunday night in a kennel. They told me Monday, late morning.

I picked up her body in a plastic bag, in a cardboard box.

I buried my cat today, and touched her for the very last time. A feeble, senseless attempt to comfort her in her already long-gone last moments.

I buried my cat today.

Apricot’s grave in La Puebla

 

Here’s the thing about being a journalist, at least, being a newspaperman.

I think about what I’m going to write while it’s happening. It’s not always pleasant. Most of the time, I’m sure it mucks up what I should be doing or feeling.

It means I look at too many things, and think, would that make a good lede? It’s not things I look at. It’s events, it’s actions, is components of existence. That is, a good first sentence, or more broadly, a good start, to my story? To whatever story I’m writing. To whatever story I assume I will write.

Although I try to avoid recording life (I will take pictures at parties, if that’s my delegated role) I often cannot help myself, often when alone, from thinking about how event, the idea, the moment and the feeling, will and would be written.

I buried my cat today. Really, I buried Apricot today. She lead her own life. But that’s not the point of this post. That’s the point of another post. This is the reporter’s notebook about how I buried my cat, Apricot, today, as NPR would put it.

That is, the bits of the story that didn’t go into the story, but still should get a little air time, get a little more personal. Which is not applicable in this instance, considering this is a blog post, and the preponderance of “I,” thematically, literally and in real terms.

I wrote something. Either a journal entry, or a prose poem, or maybe a story. Maybe a cross between the three, a story that is a little bit of a prose poem that I will eventually paste into my journal. (I write journal entries on my typewriter, then paste them into the journal itself.)

I wrote about Apricot’s death, about her burial, about what happened. But I left much out, as I came to my ending sentences, as I made my final structure.

Here’s the link to just it.

I left out the part, where I think about picking up her corpse at the vet, after paying the bill. ($230 something, roughly 90 percent less than the emergency vet at $2,300 and change) (The total cost came in around $3,000).

They hand me a cardboard box. It weights a little over 8 pounds. Maybe even over 8.5 pounds. I know they listed her weight on the bag-tag, (the veterinary equivalent of the toe-tag?) but I don’t remember.

I left out the part where the pretty vet who dealt with her abscess comes out, and touches my shoulder, and says they did all they could.

(The lady who takes my card asks my how long I’ve been working at the Rio Grande SUN. I’ve never spoken to her before this moment, where I’m paying for dead Apricot’s minuscule vet bills, the big ones having already been paid).

I likely did not respond, more than to say, thank you, or some other courtesy. One of them tells me, it’s always hard, it never gets easier, and this is the worst part about having a pet. That’s the lady I’d not seen before, who took the card.

I will write: the worst part about having any relationship, animal or human, is its ending, especially if the ending is done in death.

The vet, the cute one who came out to say they did all they could, tells me I should come in some time. They often have kittens needing adoption, and I seem like a good pet owner, like a good cat owner. I think she says this, partially, because the bill and receipt and invoice for Apricot’s emergency surgery were attached to the sheet. Everyone saw the $2,320 receipt.

(This comment strikes me something terrible, because it presses on the guilt I feel for allowing her to go outside in the first place, in my reasoning, allowing her to have her own life.)

I do not want a kitten. (I prefer cats, for various reasons). I smile. This is my social obligation. I want to say, what happened? Why wasn’t she on higher levels antibiotics? More intense ones? How much pain was she in when she died? If you knew she was going to die Sunday, if she was doing that bad, why didn’t you call me? I wanted to say one last goodbye, to pet her one last time, to have that kind of closure.  I believed, until I received that phone call, she would be doing fine: she would be coming home with me, if she and I were lucky, that day. I had just finished telling one of my co-worker’s that when I got the call. I want to ask, was anyone even here Sunday? To check her temperature? To see if she needed another surgery, or a change in her meds or even more pain medication?

(It appeared the entire veterinary office knew about her death).

(Shortly after the call, I went home, grieved, came back to work).

(In case it’s not clear, this, and the related posts, are also a form a grieving, although public by nature).

The orderly comes out with my frozen cat in a box. I fold the invoice and receipt, take the box, hold back tears and walk out the door. Once outside, I begin to cry.

In the car, I cry. As I drive away, normal speed, no theatrics here, I cry. I don’t stop until my co-worker calls me. He wants to talk about work. (He was in ABQ covering a trial for me, because I still thought my cat would be coming home with me that day, and require care).

Later, when home, my landlady asks me how I’m doing. I reply, horrible, but I’ll make it through. She is surprised by this answer, and comes over and she wants to talk about what happened to cause Apricot’s injury. She continues to speculate. I become more uncomfortable.

This is not something I want to discuss. She says, we can take a walk and look for the collar. I tell her, maybe in a few days, but I’m not ready for that.

We talk about a dog she had, beat up by other dogs. She footed the $900 in 1998 dollars vet bill. The dog got beat up again, and died.

I reply, thinking and hearkening back to my conversation with my dad about how much I was willing to spend on the cat to save her. I say, and mean, I would have been happy to spend $10,000 if she had just lived. I had told my father, around 10k was my breaking point.

This is the truth, and as I say it, I begin to lose it again. She tries to comfort me, puts a hand on my shoulder. I pat her shoulder in return. It’s the only thing I can think to do.

(I’m not particularly into being touched by people whom I do not consider to be close to me).

I think, now, a lot about the nature of bawling, crying, sobbing and tears. It is not something I do often. Once in awhile, a movie will make me shed a few tears. But full-on sobbing, that’s reserved for death or the possibility of.

I’ve lived a sheltered life, and a lucky, life. I might deal with death professionally, but I rarely must (as of yet) deal with death in my personal life.

When I received the call from my dad (I was living in Reno at the time, finishing up my degree, or maybe I’d already gotten it) that my cat, the one I left behind with him in Carson City, had been run over (and consequently she might die) I bawled my eyes out. (She lived). As I remember, I bawled pretty steadily. At 18, she’s going slowly, but steady. She cant jump well any more, but, she can still walk.

Now, for Apricot, the bawling comes in fits and spurts. Really, the bawling was limited to once I got home from work, after I’d got the call. Now, it’s the sporadic sobs.

Really, though, I’ll expand on that later. I’ll claim it’s all part of the grieving process.

When I got her cardboard box out of the car, I set it on one of the chairs I leave outside, while I went and dug her grave.

Thinking about it, I don’t think the disbelief has yet left me.

At the end here, I will include a picture of my dearly departed pussy cat. I put it at the bottom because I reduce the physical affectations to the bare minimum.  In doing so, though, I think about how I did not take enough pictures of her. I always thought, there would be time to take more. I was wrong.

It seems like a metaphor for everything.

I didn’t take enough pictures because I thought there was always more time. I was wrong.

Here’s to you sweetheart. I miss you.

Apricot 5 Small

In both shots, Apricot lies on the blanket I buried her in. This picture, in particular, hits me hard for two reasons. The first, she is lying in her splayed-turkey position, one of her favorites. The second, and more important, I see her as she was, and as I let her down. I feel guilty for allowing her to come to what would be her death.

 

Apricot 2 Small

Apricot’s grave