The contract

18th April. One of my favourite bucolic scenes

That day I wished I was a bird that could sail into that wonderfully clear, impossibly blue sky.

To perch in the trees, just now coming alive.

Days like that it is impossible not to feel good.

My mother’s funeral was on such a day.

As we drove back from the crematorium, I gazed up at the sky with misty eyes and a part of my broken heart was comforted. The spirit that had occupied my mother’s body was out there somewhere.

A part of her would be with me always.

Losing my mother was hard. I never got to spend nearly as much time with her as I would have liked and I think she did not understand me. But I loved her deeply.

As she aged, my mother developed a variety of health issues and I worried about her without being able to help. When she died, just short of her 86th birthday, I realized that I had been grieving the loss for a long time.

There was no flood of tears. They had already been shed, the last time I saw her, when I had seen that her body was failing. I turned to the friend who was driving me away and said “she’s dying.”

While I was profoundly sad, the inevitability of my loss somehow made it more bearable.

Sometimes, when I suddenly lift my eyes to a deep blue sky, I am taken back to the day of the funeral and I always get a little misty.

Love and loss are inextricably bound. One cannot occur without the inevitability of the other.

It’s the contract we accept when we bring animals into our lives. I’m not sure why, but for me the loss of a pet has always been more heart-breaking than any other.

Unless you are inclined this way yourself, I am sure this must be hard to understand. It isn’t that I have never deeply loved a human being. It’s just different.

It’s a different sort of emotion for me.

From my early childhood, animals always touched me, deep inside. I always wanted to save them all.

It’s been quite a few years now since I was forced to stop reading books about animals because they were wringing me out too much emotionally.

It’s inappropriate, a mental aberration. It’s just me.

You might say that my owning animals is like beating myself with a big stick. I have lost count of the animals I have loved and lost. But life without them would be empty.

When I retired after my spine fell to bits, I was not able to get involved in anything like the amount of rescue work I’d envisioned. But I couldn’t do nothing.

For me, that would have been the ultimate failure.

So I bought a big house and began fostering cats, and that meant accepting responsibility for their welfare.

Sometimes a small investment in medical care can buy an animal time. As long as it’s a good option for the animal, that’s what I choose.

But it can go badly wrong.

Cats are very sensitive to anesthesia. A responsible vet checks blood work to use as guidance, but there is still a chance of problems.

One of my fosters was a very sweet black cat named Simon. His teeth were in bad shape which could have led to health issues. So we took him in to have them cleaned.

Simon had a bad reaction to anesthesia and a day later, he had a stroke that paralyzed him.

As we had him put to sleep, we wept bitter tears.

It’s why ever since, we have always been over-wrought with anxiety when we’ve had to have a cat anesthetized.

Many years ago, when Yeti’s vet found a small lump on her tail, she told me that in cats these things are often cancerous.

Yeti came home with a fetching green bandage on her tail and lived till kidney disease took her, aged 17.

But I’ve always remembered the warning and Blackie’s bumps seemed to have increased in size. So we took a deep breath and made the decision.

Or maybe made the decision and took a deep breath.

Blackie is of nervous inclination and when she saw the carrier, she began to quake, then cried pitifully, the whole way to the hospital.

Fortunately it’s only an 8-minute drive.

(One of my cats was so traumatized by vet visits, after 10 minutes, she would let go at both ends and I had to carry the where-with-all to clean up.)

We were immensely relieved to get a phone call not too much later, to say that Blackie had done well and was resting comfortably.

It’s always rather shocking though, to see your pet with a great shaved patch and a head cone, even in a nice shade of blue.

Blackie was still all loopy, eyes wide and staggering, completely dis-oriented. So we confined her to my room.

By the time I went to bed, Blackie was ready to forgive and to cuddle close to me.

Amazingly, she seems unbothered by the collar. It is soft, which makes it manageable though I’ve never before had a cat that was prepared to manage!

So we are relieved and very proud of our Blackie.

We have a more difficult decision to make for Patches.

She has chronic coughing and sneezing that may be caused by a polyp in the soft palate. There is a procedure which would confirm and remove it, but once again it means anesthesia.

Patches has come such a long way from the timid little cat she was. I am worried that she might wake from the procedure in pain and lose her trust, possibly for no gain.

But we hate to see her in spasms of coughing.

What to do?

7 thoughts on “The contract

  1. Thank you, Carolyn, for your musing and interesting pictures. Unless the creature is in pain, I would not put her through unpleasant and invading treatment, I had a bad experience with a few vets!


    1. Well that’s the thing…the coughing/sneezing appears to us to be distressing but Patches is used to it. It probably seems normal to her. I am inclined to leave well enough alone.

  2. First Blackie, now poor Patches. Those decisions are never easy. As I watch Ollie grow old and sleep so much, (sometimes 18 hours a day) I also fear the decision that will have to be made eventually. I try not to imagine life without my 24/7 companion, but my brain makes me do that.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. It’s torment, but I’ve never found a way to stop myself. You just have to love them as much as you can for as long as you can. My first foster’s name was Oliver/Ollie. It broke my heart to let him go but he deserved to have a proper home. He is old now and blind but I see his picture on Facebook from time to time. I have never forgotten my foster cats.

  3. I’ve also mourned my dad months before he actually died … we drove every weekend the nearly 150 km to see him (and every time I said goodbye, because I thought it was the last time) … it was difficult.
    I LOVE animals – after our two cocker spaniels died, my heart was broken for a very long time … and after 7 years without a pet, I still cannot buy/adopt another one. I admire your braveness with all your cats! As for Blackie, she looks great in blue … glad she’s doing ok πŸ’Œ.

    1. When I came to live in the States, all those years ago, I lived with my aunty Kay. She was besotted with dogs and at the time had a black and a tan cocker, sisters. After there were two buff coloured pups, and there were two others. It wrenches my heart when I see a cocker spaniel for various reasons. But I do miss having a dog in my life.

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