Well, Toots is gone. Finis. Kaput. Dead.
We, for the first time in twenty years, have only one cat living with us. He (Bert, by name) is snoozing on Toots’s old electrically heated pet pad, which has now been moved downstairs and tucked into a hidey-hole by my desk. It’s his now.
Bert tried sleeping on the pet pad a few times when Toots was alive, but she’d have none of it. Half Bert’s size, she was the Grand Dame of the house and would run him off. In her last year or so, Toots got pretty weak and just didn’t have the skookum to shoo him away, so she’d walk over to my chair and ask for my help. After making enough noise to get my attention, she’d turn her head in the direction of the pet pad and the impudent Bert. It was her pet pad and she wanted it back. Naturally, I’d oblige and make Bert move along.
For her last six months or so, about all Toots would do is eat, sleep and take a dump. She’d stopped scratching almost a year ago then, in April, stopped grooming. Toots was old. Very old. We adopted her from a shelter in 1997 when (according to the shelter) she was anywhere from three- to five-years old. However, the doctor at our veterinary figgured she was closer to ten.
Two weeks ago, Toots started to fail. Already bone-thin from age, she wasted away even more. A few times, when coming back from the sand box, let let out yelps, obviously in some discomfort.
The only times she’d been getting off her pet pad was in the morning; I’d come into the kitchen to make an espresso and she’d come in to greet me, get some pets and breakfast.
Then she stopped eating.
Out in Nature, Toots would have never made it this far. Weakened my her spavins, general decrepitude and lethargy, some other creature would have spotted her and finished her off. That, or she’d have succumbed to the dews and damps, dying of pneumonia. But here in the house, and on the pet pad, something else would have to carry her off. Jo and I discussed what that might be and we both agreed, a trip to the veterinary for a lethal injection was not an option. Toots, you see, had a mortal dread of the car. On those times when we had to take her somewhere, I though she was going to have a heart attack. I just couldn’t see subjecting my old furry friend to such an ordeal in the last moments of her life. No, it was decided that, like Kitty, Moe and Zeke before her, she’d die at home.
On Tuesday, I asked Dr. Black for some heavy-duty narcotic with which we could sooth her last moments and he gave my eight small syringes preloaded with a stout opiate. Jo picked them up and brought them home. Toots, in a complete torpor, laid on her pet pad all day Wednesday, not eating or drinking. On Thursday, just before my alarm went off, she got up and was walking through the kitchen when she collapsed. I heard her call out, but as that was nothing unusual, I hopped in the shower. Jo, however, got up to see what was ailing our old friend and discovered her laying there, her back legs splayed out and useless.
Jo picked Toots up and put her back on the pet pad and when I got out of the shower, we gave her half the doses from Dr. Black. As she drifted off into a painless and happy stupor, Jo and I said our goodbys; I figured Toots would have slipped away by the time I got home that night.
Well, no such luck. Plucky old thing, Toots came out of the stupor in midafternoon. Jo found her moaning and totally enervated. With the help of our friends’ daughter, Jo gave Toots the rest of Dr. Black’s potions. Jo called me and told me it was time. By the time I got home, Jo had dug a suitable grave out by an old maple and had my .357 loaded and laying on the table, along with an old towel to use as a shroud.
I knelt by Toots to offer what comfort I could. Groggy though she was from the dope, she made eye contact with me and in the quietest little voice, said “I want to go home.” As gently as possible, I moved Toots onto the towel and picked her up. She moved a bit so as to get comfortable, then was still. I wrapped the towel over her to keep off the chill evening breeze. Going downstairs to the back yard, I told her that I understood and would gladly accommodate my old friend’s wishes. Toots had so wasted away these last days, there was hardly anything hold. Out in the yard, I laid Toots on a soft tuft of grass, talking to her and petting her while Jo handed me the magnum. Saying my last goodbye, I gave her two rapid shots to the head and Toots passed into the Grand Realm.
A rough business to be sure, but Toots died at home and in peace. She died in her own back yard and in the company of the two humans who came to love her deeply over almost fifteen years.
When at last I lifted Toots’s body to take it to the grave, I was stunned how suddenly heavy it was. Moments before, on our way to the yard, there was hardly anything to her. Now, a ton of dead weight. Jo and I performed an honorable burial and placed a marker stone over the grave. It can be seen from the deck.
This afternoon, as I peck away at the keyboard, Bert is completely at home on the pet pad. It’s a cold, cloudy and blustery day so he’s curled into a little ball and sleeping the sleep of the just. I’m watching him and realize that the old pet pad has served three of our four-footed friends: Moe, its original occupant, then Toots, now Bert. I think we could consider it a family heirloom.
As you might imagine, Toots is missed.