Jerome, RIP

Sunday, January 11, 2009

This last Friday afternoon, I had to euthanize my beloved cat, Jerome, after more than seventeen years of his constant companionship. That was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I take comfort knowing that doing so was best for him.

More than twenty years old, Jerome had been suffering from declining renal function for quite some time, and had gotten much worse around the holidays. Upon my return from New Orleans, he was noticeably feeble and lethargic due to dehydration.

He rallied for a day after I took him to the vet, where he received subcutaneous saline and I was shown how to continue the treatment at home.

There seemed some hope that he would survive with the fluids long enough for my wife to say good bye to him when she came down to Houston on vacation in mid-February, but it was not to be. Thursday night was very ugly. Several things made it clear to me that Jerome was suffering and would not improve, and that it was time to let him go.

The next morning, I went about my usual routine of blogging, then worked on my paper at home so I could observe Jerome a little more, and otherwise be sure of my decision before calling the vet. Around noon, I called and set the appointment for 3:45.

After giving me some time alone with Jerome, the vet and her assistant came in, administered the injection, and, in a very short time, he was gone. It was a little after four o'clock.

I was only twenty-four when I welcomed Jerome into my home, and he was with me through thick and thin ever since. Until near the end, he'd race to keep up with me during my morning routines, sit on exactly the next book or paper I was going to read, and prance back and forth in front of my computer screen while I was trying to write. (I once knew it was time to go to bed when I tried clicking on a window in order to superpose it over him.) Knowing for some time he was going to go, I am fine, but I have been amazed over the past couple of days how entwined around his presence my routines at home have been.

The ... photograph ... above shows Jerome in his prime. That picture always amuses me a little bit because the demonic eyeshine contrasts with his very friendly disposition. In that way -- and because he will be looking back at me from my desk one more time -- it will be a perfect reminder of the little critter, along with the following memories:

... Shortly after I first acquired Jerome back in Norfolk, he got out of the apartment after just a couple of days. I spent hours trying to find him and was about to give up when I was heading for the stairs. A couple of orange dots in the bushes turned out to be his eyes. I coaxed him out of the bushes and carried him back upstairs, slung over my shoulders. He likes to be carried around like that to this day.

Back in my Navy days, I often snacked on olives. He started showing up as soon as he heard me open the jar, so I let him try some. For years, we were both snacking on olives, but he usually just sniffs around them when I offer them now. I have to hide photographs from him. Many cats find the gel coating on some prints very sweet and Jerome behaves like a junky around such prints. Normally, he has excellent control of his claws, but I have to pick him up by the scruff of the neck to pry him away from a photograph without getting hurt! Years ago, I trained him respond to the word "photograph" delivered in a stage whisper by letting him lick one for a few seconds. (He'll follow you around after getting his fix if you're carrying the photo or anything that looks like it might be one!) In any case, I always assumed that the word had to be stage-whispered.

I was wrong. One day, I had guests over and casually used the word "photograph" in a conversation. Guess who shows up? That's right! Jerome the dope fiend in search of a fix! (How many cats have you ever heard of that can recognize a three-syllable word?) ...


When I'm at the house, Jerome is almost invariably near by. He sleeps at my side or nearby on my wife's dresser at night. If I watch a soccer match, he's on the couch with me. He's laying here against the back of my laptop as type this, in fact. Back in grad school, when I had to read at night until the wee hours, he'd sleep on top of my rolltop desk (whose wood his fur matches perfectly). One of my more amusing grad school memories came from this habit and the fact that, for a cat, he's a little clumsy! I once glanced up from the book I was studying just in time to see Jerome, asleep, roll off the back of my desk. (There was some frantic clawing on the way down.)
We had some good times, buddy! I'm going to miss you.

-- CAV


Burgess Laughlin said...

> ". . . I have been amazed over the past couple of days how entwined around his presence my routines at home have been."

I know the experience. I had a similar experience with a person. He had been around every day of my life--and then he had a heart attack and died. But (at the age of 17) I found myself walking into a certain room--and he wasn't there where he "should" have been.

I understood then why some people in the ancient past could have come to believe in ghosts or other spirits. Under stress they might not distinguish (or want to distinguish) between a vivid memory and a sighting in the present. Wishful thinking could lead to belief in ghosts.

If a friend is "another self," then losing a friend or even a beloved pet is a loss of a mirror image of oneself--temporarily.

Galileo Blogs said...

My condolences, Gus. I know how hard it is. Your reminiscences remind me of how unique every cat is. I would not have believed it until I had them in my life. I have loved every one of my unique "monsters" (as I affectionately call them). With his lovable quirks, your Jerome was clearly his own cat.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you, Burgess. You are absolutely right.

I had wanted to say something like, "This is as close to losing a person as a losing a pet can get," but absent my being sure why, it seemed too self-indulgent to include. But that is why.

He was always around, was the very soul of benevolence, and I got to be his favorite person. And, as you indicated might happen, my mind turned some sound from the background Saturday into one of his purrs.

I will be collecting his ashes from the vet next week: I miss him that much.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thank you. I look forward to my next cat, after some time. I need some time, and Miss Maple deserves her day in the sun. Jerome did crowd her out rather effectively.


Kelly said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. We really love our cats around the edge household, and I know how it feels to lose one. Your story is so touching and reminds me to open the door to my studio more often so our beloved friends can come and sit on my lap :)

Feel better.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you, Kelly.

Brian Phillips said...

I'm sorry to hear about Jerome. I went through a similar experience last year. Even though I knew it best, it was much tougher than I would have thought. But that brief pain was well worth the many years of pleasure Leo brought me.

Gus Van Horn said...

Yes. Doing this WAS a lot harder than I expected.

I'd started considering this possibility before I left town, and went so far as to read about what to expect. I was amazed at how upset it made me to read about it.

In a sense, I'm glad it all happened quickly. I still would have rather had my wife here with me, but there is something to be said for having this behind me.

Paul Hsieh said...

Please allow Diana and myself to express our deepest condolences.

Having put down our dog Kate recently, we sympathize with you and your wife.

We're sorry for your loss...

Nicholas Provenzo said...

I'm sorry to hear about your grief. On one level, it feels silly that one would feel such sorrow for an animal, yet they do become our stalwart companions and the bonds that we establish with them do run deep. For example, about two years ago I lost a pug when he died during a routine teeth cleaning at the vet. I was heartbroken because this dog was so full of life and such an ever-present part of my life; I had put countless enjoyable hours training him, exercising him and getting licked and snorted at in return, and then suddenly . . . he was gone.

It was jarring and I wept openly. Such is the nature of these things. And yet, looking back, I'm glad that I had the time that I did with him and would not trade it for much of anything. The experience made my life richer, and in the end, that's what life is all about.

So here's to Jerome, my friend's feline friend. May your grief be short-lived and your memories of him always good ones.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you very much, Paul and Diana.

Harold said...

17 years? Damn, that's longer than a lot of marriages.

Gus Van Horn said...

It's also longer than most cats live, and at 20, he was older than his last sitter.

Anonymous said...


I had to put my mother's cat to sleep two years ago. She was only 13 but had a kidney disorder that made her life miserable. My mother couldn't do it. It broke her heart. So I understand the heartache involved.

But let me ask you a question if I may. Jerome lived past 20. That's exceptional. All of my mothers cat's die somewhere around 12-15. None have made it past that.

Diana and Monica are blogging heavily on diet from the natural foods or "Paleo" perspective. They have even argued that dogs and cats need to eat a diet that is in line with their evolutionary history. My mother feeds her cats almost all grain based foods and I think that is why they die relatively young. What did you feed Jerome? Jerome may have just been a cat with great genetics. But I'm wondering if diet played any role.

Again my deepest condolences for your loss.


Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for your sentiment.

Regarding Jerome's longevity, I fed him Science Diet and the odd table scrap here and there.

Jerome was a member of an ancient, naturally-occurring breed of cat known as the Turkish Van. Vets have told me more than once that they tend to outlive most other cats. In addition, he was strictly an indoor cat, which doubtless shielded him from many diseases and probably lots of injuries.



Rational Jenn said...

Gus, I'm sorry. We euthanized our cat several months ago. It's hard, even when you know it's the best thing for him. I'm sorry your wife couldn't see him one last time.

Don't know what else to say. My condolences.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you, Jenn.

Gus Van Horn said...


My very belated thanks for your sentiments. (Your comment got trapped in the void of Blogger's comment queue rather than being sent to my GMail account as the others were.)

I also wept over the loss of my pet. He was a part of my daily life for quite a long time.


Michael Labeit said...

Present arms and salute to Jerome.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you, sir!

Diana Hsieh said...

I'm very sorry to hear about your loss of Jerome. I'll give my two kitties an extra rub on the belly for him.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks, Diana.