He noticed that the cat had thrown up next to the litter box on Thursday morning. Then that night, when he came home, the cat walked out into the kitchen and promptly threw up next to the refrigerator. Odd, twice like that.
That night the cat seemed sluggish and didn’t race the small dog up the stairs as usual when he went to bed.
In the morning hours, while they slept, the cat rolled over and made an odd sound. Not the usual pleasant sigh, but a cry of pain.
Friday morning. We talk about taking the cat to the vet. His personality is off. She said she’ll take the cat, but as he waits for her downstairs, carrier case put together with a comfy towel, he loses his patience and takes the cat to the vet on his own.
They make him wait maybe 20 minutes. A fat busty woman with a long haired cat in a big carrying case sits across from him in the waiting room. She wants to talk about cats, but he can’t bring himself to look up at her. Mike seems alert and watches the room from the cage.
A large lab comes out with nasty sores on his feet and elbows. His eyes are nearly swollen shut. “Nice old guy… how old is he?” “Four” she answers. “He has allergies.”
We enter the examining room. We weight Mike. The vet tech takes his temp. A big howl from the cat. The cat seems good. This must be some minor problem he thinks.
The vet enters. The cat is up and friendly. The vet feels his stomach and comes up with a fast diagnosis. The cat can’t pee. His bladder is blocked. They would need to put a catheter in him.
Sounded simple enough. He had an urgent meeting with a client at work. The vet would call him with the status.
The next hour would be spend with a new client that was easily 20 years his junior. At this point, the cat was the furthest thing from his mind.
An hour later it would come to the fore-front quickly. As he walked out of Arby’s, his cell phone rang. It was the vet. They had x-rayed Mike. He had roughly 20 stones in his bladder. She, the vet, wanted to operate immediately to clean them out and get a sample. He did the math, Mike was 9. He had many years to go. It would be an ‘ok’ expense. She seemed to think it would cost $600. “Ok do it” he said.
He spent the rest of the day working on code for an new website. Everything he wanted in the code was working and things progressed. But at 4:30 he knew he had to go gather Mike at the vet’s. He emailed the two partners involved in the project with the url for the pages done and got up and left early for the vet.
The vet apologized that she was not available on Saturday or she would have insisted that Mike spend the night. She also pointed out that if Mike had not come in that morning, he’d probably be dead by the time we’d come home for dinner. Toxins would have shut down his kidneys and the cat’s demise would have progressed from there. He was told to make sure the cat ate and was offered appetite enhancers on Monday if Mikey didn’t eat over the weekend. He was then told to feed him a baby aspirin on Monday AM.
The vet tech then told him the bill was $823. “ouch!”
Over the weekend the poor cat was caged and kenneled in the pool room. On one side of the cage there was a box with litter. On the other side was his traveling kennel. In the middle was a tray with water, wet cat food and dry cat food.
Saturday evening, they went out and spent money on some furnishing for the new closet. More money spent than he liked to, but they got a great discount.
Sunday, turkey flavored baby food was added to the tray. Mikey, for the most part, spent his days and nights either sleeping in his kennel or squatting in his box with no productive results.
The big dog was excited to see Mikey and spent some time sleeping outside his cage. We noted that the small dog just wanted to get to the tray of food. After two days of this, we noticed that the litter box really wasn’t gathering anything.
Monday morning, he gathered the weak shaky cat up in the traveling kennel and made his way to the vet for another 9:00 emergency appointment. He was thinking the cat would need the fore mentioned appetite enhancer. But after several minutes in the exam room, it was determined that he should leave Mikey there. They should catheter him again. Something was blocked. An hour later he got the call that the vet was going to open up the bladder to clear him out. Apparently one stone and/or a blood clot had blocked it this time. Mikey should spend the week there.
That night he laid in bed and mulled over the expenses of this year. The big dog, Grace, and her bone cancer scare this spring had threatened to cost $4000, but had only cost $800. The small dog, George and his car accident this summer had cost $400. What would today cost? In the middle of projects like Beth’s closet/dressing room and the need to do something about the living room swarmed through his mind as he tried to figure how would he spread out the hit on his credit card. The expenses of the weekend at pottery barn dug on his conscience. Knowing that business was not “great.” Yes, there was several thousand dollars of freelance money out there in “receivables” but it wasn’t due in soon.
He didn’t sleep very well that Monday night. He missed the sigh of the cat and the warmth pressed up against his leg.
Tuesday morning brought a call from Beth. She had stopped by to visit in the morning and was terribly upset by what she saw. The vet allowed her to visit Mikey down in the bowels of the small house they used for a hospital. A very depressing small room in the basement.
Tuesday noon brought a new call from the vet. His red blood cells were at 13 percent. Normal is 30 percent. She was suggesting a blood transfusion. One of the Techs had a cat that they use for this. It had been tested for feline leukemia and was negative. At this point, why not? The vet promised that the second operation was not going to be billed.
At 5:30 that night he stopped in to see Mikey. The poor little cat was wrapped in a heated towel with a catheter in one end and a IV in the other. He yelled “Mikey!” and got a flick of the tail and a slight movement of the cat’s ears. It was sad. The tech shadowed his every move and he just wanted to cry. But not with this crazy woman in the small room with him. He took some pictures. Several of the cat, one of the machine attached to the cat and one of a half full bloody bag of urine on the floor.
The vet popped in and was very optimistic about the prognosis. Once again, if he hadn’t come in on Monday AM The cat’d been dead. But the cat’s blood count was coming back up to normal. The cat’s bladder was very bruised and they talked about what would happen if it was not able to function.
“You or me,” he said “if we lost our bladder, it would mean a colostomy bag. But for a cat?”
In the back of his mind, he thought about a comment that someone had made to Beth that day about having to express urine out of a cat. The maintenance of this patient was going to be tricky.
That night when he got home, the big dog smelled him down. She knew he’d seen her friend Mikey and was checking on the status.
He didn’t sleep well again that night. Although he thought the prognosis was good, he worried about many things. The money, the future complaining about urine leaks and how uncomfortable it would be to be constantly explaining to people not to squeeze the cat, “he leaks.” And the money. He wondered if it made more sense to “pull the plug.” Mike was too good of a cat to go that route. He knew that he could not take him into the vet and say “put him down please” if Mikey was standing there flicking his tail. Even if he was drenched in pee.
Wednesday at 8:00 the phone rang.
Too early for the kids, must be one of Beth’s employees. He squints to read the caller ID, but can’t make it out.
It’s the vet. She’s in tears. He can hear it in her voice before she says anything. “Mikey didn’t make it.”
“Mikey didn’t make it!”
Mikey’s entire life flashed in front of his eyes. From the little movie of Mikey and the big dog, Grace drinking out of a water bowel at the same time; to remembering how big, warm and soft the cat had felt when he’d picked the cat up to give him a hug that last weekend.
But all he could do was wail into his pillow.
There was a quick conversation with the vet. Details such as she’d visited the office before she took her kids to school and Mikey was still warm. It must have just happened. No, she hadn’t done the bill. The techs would “prep him” and put him in a cat coffin. He could pick the cat up anytime in the next day or so. He barely remembered this conversation.
Later, that day, he stopped off at the vet. The vet was red eyed and red nosed. He felt red eyed and red nosed too. She looked like she’d been crying between her visits with other clientele. She hadn’t entered anything into the computer and had no final bill. We all agreed that at least we’d tried and we were thankful that we didn’t get to a point of having to “pull the plug.” He hated feeling so pragmatic about the loose ends of an undetermined bill.
They brought Mikey up in a giant card board box with beveled lid. And of course, they forgot the carrying kennel. He waited as they retrieved the kennel and tried to imagine digging a hole in his stoney yard to bury this box.
He pulled into the drive, pulled up to the garage door and watched the door slowly rise. A weird relief wanted to flow over him. The situation was resolved, but dammit, he missed Mikey already.
He stepped out of the car and put the card board box on the car hood. He reached in and got the kennel and put that on the driveway. The big dog was barking crazily in the house, so he left both boxes there and went in the house to let the dog out. She gave him the smell over and then ran out to the drive.
The big dog ran straight to the carrying case with her tail wagging away. It was heart breaking. He grabbed his camera and took a picture. She soon stopped wagging her tail stood there with her head and tail lowered and looked at him gloomily. He took another picture. He picked the box off the car and opened it up. It was the first time he’d peeked. Grace and he looked over the small gray cat wrapped in a blue towel. Nothing looked different. The cat felt the same. He was soft, but cold to the touch. The big dog stuck her nose in tight and examined everything with many deep sniffs. Neither one wanted to close the box.
But he did. He put the box on the workbench and the carrying case on the ground in the garage. The other cat came out to smell the carrying case. When he was offered a sniff at the other box he withdrew and wandered off.
That night, they went to the movies. It was boring. He slept that night remembering all the things that Mikey use to do. The way he’d play with the small dog, chasing him around the house or just chomping down on the poor pup. The way he’d wander into his office and if his feet were up, the cat would insist on lying on his legs until his legs felt like they were being bent backwards. He remembered the sound of the dryer and it’s thump as Mikey jumped up for his bowl or the corresponding thump when heard downstairs as the cat exited the top of the dryer. He thought about how the cat would not tolerate an empty water bowl upstairs and would come in bellowing first thing in the morning if he found it empty. The small dog was going to suffer as he was the one to usually profit by the cat’s complaints. Sometimes the cat would come in early and howl for no reason at all. After a while of this, he’d jump on the bed and nestle up next to your legs and usually cause you to be late for work. He would miss the way the cat would howl at the door while the big dog was outside and although the cat made motions to leave while the door was open, the cat would always turn and follow the big dog inside as the dog came in. And what about mice? Mikey was the best. This cat had personality. Mikey always visited with visitors to the house. Mikey wasn’t afraid of the grandkids. Visiting dogs would be swatted if they didn’t behave. This cat took no shit from anyone.
The next morning he walked out in the yard to figure out where he was going to dig. Amazingly, there was a huge area of mushrooms right where he had planned to do it. He took that as a sign.
That evening he left work at 4:00. He brought out 3 shovels. He changed his sneakers to boots. He let the big dog out into the yard with him. And then he set to work. A hole, 3 foot deep and about that long. He brought the box out from the garage and walked it up the yard to the hole. The big dog sat in the front yard and just rotated her head watching him walk by.
When he put the box down and opened it, the big dog bounded into action. Wagging her tail and sniffing away the big dog studied the dead cat for several minutes. He looked at this wonderful cat and stroked it several times realizing as he had learned from the passing of his parents, once buried, this friend would never be the same. He’d never see him or touch him again.
He put the cat into a flannel pillow case with a light pattern of ivy. A flash entered his mind about the last time he took both cats to the vet. Mikey had lost out and traveled in a pillow case. There was an irony there, but the mood wasn’t one that felt like joking about it.
When the hole was filled, he found a small belgian block and placed it as a head stone. He covered the area with grass seed and raked it smooth. The big dog sat several yards away and spend the next half hour holding court over the new grave as he wandered around the yard fixing holes in the grass.
That night it rains, and rains hard. He wakes at 4:00 AM, hearing the storm outside and thinks “Mikey wouldn’t like being wet like that. I wish he were inside.” Guilt weighs over his gut.
It’s done. Still don’t have a bill for the final portion of his vet stay. But the grave is in a great spot in the yard. Everyone will always feel like he’s there with us.
He was wonderful beyond belief. Completely irreplaceable.
A note from 6 weeks later.
The final bill was $620. Total bill was $1463.
Every unexplained thump in the house seems to be Mikey.
Each time I go in the laundry room I look to check the non-existent litter box and his non-existent cat food.
We’ve tried to bring Bob in the house, but it probably won’t work. He just hides under chairs.
Every so often Mikey pops up on my screensaver and just brings me to tears.
I really appreciate the nice notes people have left here and on flickr.