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.We had some good times, buddy! I'm going to miss you.
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.)