Friday, November 21, 2014

Joey's Last Walk

It is with a heavy heart that I announce our 19 1/2 year old paranoid schizophrenic all black cat Joey was put to sleep in the early afternoon hours of November 17, 2014.  Poor Joey lived under the shadow of his alpha brother from another mother Tom Cat for most of his life.  Although a fine male feline specimen and a little bigger than Tom, Joey was a little slower and subjugated himself until Tom took his last walk to forever last year.  Then it was the reign of King Joe.

But Joey was one of those cats afraid of his own shadow, and sometimes just a cross eyed look from me would put him in a tail spin to another planet.  I think he was listening to too much Yoko Ono on his cat IPaw most of the time, although ever once in a while a little Leon Russell would seep in and he would become a normal, loving cat that you could actually pet and stuff.

He was an indoor/outdoor cat his entire life, and like his brother Tom he did the 4 year 5 house 2 state walkabout thing with us.  He also lived near the same busy street as Tom, and he, too, managed to live a long, pretty much healthy life.  So he couldn't have been that stupid.  Paranoid, yes.  Schizophrenic, yes.
A blithering idiot stooge cat, no.

He did have a little scare almost a decade ago when we lived in Monterey.  That happened the same day of Tom's blood paw tail tale CSI thingamaroo. 

I probably need to elaborate on that.

It was morning.  I was then recovering from foot surgery and was the errand runner and domestic around the house.  My lovely wife had recently accepted a new position and was a high powered executive vice-president of a large corporation.  Yow Mama!

At that time, Tom and Joe were around 8 and 9 years old.  They both had been let out at daylight, and then came back into the house about an hour later.  As my lovely wife was getting ready for work, she saw Tom in the mirror, freaked out and screamed.  A couple of his paws and about 5 inches of his tail were covered in blood.  Covered.  A sopping mess.  Looked like the domestic's day was going to be busy.

I scampered up the stairs as fast as a Festus style pace can scamper and joined in the freakishness.  We picked him up, got him over to the sink and rinsed his paws and tail a bit.  Nothing was spurting, so that was good.  I couldn't really see any major injuries either, nevertheless it warranted a trip to the vet.  Both cats needed their shots anyway, so we'd cover a couple bases.

While my lovely wife went off to work, I wrapped Tom in a towel and took him to a vet in town that specialized in cats.  They immediately took him in, and then I went back to the house to find Joe so I could get him his shots.  It took a good half hour of looking, he can be skittish, but I finally got him in a position where I could pick him up.  And when I pressed my hands around and under his torso a huge bucket of pus burst out.  All.  Over.  Everywhere.  All over my hands, bare feet and just about everywhere.  If there was ever a time to puke, that would have been it.  Could you imagine that mess? 

"Well, that was certainly a surprise," I thought to myself, "And not a real welcome one."

That was probably why he had been acting stranger than usual.  He was no doubt running a temp.  I rinsed the obvious goo off my flesh, wrapped Joey in a towel, tossed him in the cat carrier and dropped him off at the vet.  Then  I went back to the house and cleaned me and it up.  Considering my gimp and the mess that took the better part of the day.   Blood and pus. What a great day.

Later that afternoon I went in to pick up the cats.  They had cleaned Tom up real good, even trimmed all the fur off his once glorious tail.  Ever see a cat's tail without the fur?  Looks like a rat tail.  Only longer.  No kidding.  They found no injury to him whatsoever.  We figured he must have CSI wandered through a blood soaked crime scene, either animal or human.  Or maybe he bagged a deer.  There was way too much blood for it to have been a mere rodent.  I dunno.  He could have held the key to an audacious crime or he could have been the most audacious domestic feline hunter of all time.  I guess we'll never know.

Joey, on the other hand, got to spend the night.  The vet had to slice his underside all the way from rectum to sternum to remove all the pus.  Apparently Joe had about a dozen puncture wounds that had become infected.  He rarely let us pet him so what did we know?  We figured he had either run afoul of a big tree rat or possibly the big bully cat next door.   Joe was afraid of his own shadow and could easily fall victim to whatever might accost him. 

Although I give him a bad time, Joe was an agile and avid hunter.  He and Tom would routinely get birds, and there was one time my lovely wife and I witnessed Joe snag a hummingbird.  Man he was quick.

Back in Monterey, where we were renting a house a few miles out of town and in the country, our backyard sloped uphill to the road.  It was a good acre of land in back, a weed eated upward sloping meadow of uneven terrain.

In the evenings, Tom and Joe would be up there on what we named "Vole Hill."  There were hundreds of vole holes on the hill, and many of those furry little delicacies would come out at dusk.  Many did not return.  Our cat food bill was way down when we lived in Monterey.  The cats had a blast.

As recent as two years ago Joe was still hunting, at seventeen.  His two big chompers were long gone, but he still had maniacal claws that could tear through steel.   He was also a big catnip enthusiast.   He'd have a few snorts, and then if the plant was big enough he'd loll about in it.  Joe would tear into it like an unabashed inebriated professional wrestler hopped up on Bailey's Irish Cream and then scamper off attacking phantom specters in the night.

His gait had slowed considerably in the last year, and though he was still a pretty good eater he was getting thin.  His rear hips were getting bony too, but he was still moseying along.

Then the other night he apparently fell in the hall and could not get back up.  His back legs weren't working, at all.  We figured he had a stroke.  It was a long night, but both my lovely wife and I managed to get a few hours of broken up sleep.  We both awoke at 4:00 AM, and we found our youngster kitten Daisy had been keeping Joe company.  And Joe still wasn't really moving.

Our regular vet is semi retiring, so I found another one in the phone book that made house calls.  Or said he did.  I became a little concerned about his veracity during our initial conversation.  He's been a DVM for 45 years, and the fact that I had to repeat everything I said two and three times also hinted that he might be getting old.  Nevertheless, and even though his cost was $30 dollars higher than another vet in town, I booked the appointment.  He was going to be at our place between 10:45 and 11:00 to euthanize Joe.

I sighed.  I did a few small things around the house, but spent most of the morning with Joe.  As 11:00 approached, I wrapped him in a towel and we went outside to sit on the front deck.  I wanted him to be able to feel some of the wonderful mountain air he had been breathing for most of his life.  Maybe smell some memories.  I talked to him as I stroked his feeble body, his back legs unable to move.  He whispered back. 

At 11:15 I began to wonder where our vet had gone.  At 11:30 I called his office.  I left a message on his machine, asking where he might be.  This wasn't getting any easier on anybody, especially me.  I mean Joe.  I mean me.  Dang, he'd drive me crazy sometimes but he was a part of the family for 19 years.  It was hurting, and not in a good way.  Tears were starting to flow.

At 11:45, roughly an hour after the supposed arrival of the first vet, I called MOTHER LODE VETERINARY HOSPITALThe nice gal I spoke with there said I could bring Joe in right away.  I called Stupid and canceled.

I re-wrapped Joe in a towel and gently placed him on the shotgun seat.  Usually Joe had to ride in a cat carrier, preferably on a few kitty Quaaludes if we had 'em.  If he wasn't in a carrier, he'd usually ride on the ceiling.  This time he just lay on the seat next to me.  He didn't move and he could barely whisper. 

The front staff at Mother Lode was incredibly kind, compassionate and considerate.  I highly recommend them to anyone.  Joe and I were in the exam room within a couple minutes, and there I started to say good bye.  I reminded him of some of his many hunting exploits, of his many lazy afternoons laying on the front lawn in the sun (or shade) depending on the season.  He whispered back.

The very kind and compassionate vet and his assistant were soon in, and with just one look they, too, knew it was his time.  I placed my head next to Joey's and tears began to fall.  Again.  Dang.  The vet put the needle in and depressed the plunger.  I whispered a few affectionate words and Joe was gone. 

I re-wrapped Joe in his now infamous towel cape and walked out to the car.  There I called my lovely wife to let her know the deed was done and he was gone.  More tears.  Geez, I wasn't very good at this.  Stoic?  Apparently not.  Not in my vocabulary this day.

I brought him home and buried him on the hill.  He now rests next to his brother Tom in a rose petal strewn hole fit for a cat.  From fur to dust.  

Then I went out and bought some doughnuts.  If I still drank, it would have been time for a bottle of bourbon.  Probably two.  But I went out and bought some doughnuts instead.  I could manage those.

When I got back from the doughnut shop, I noticed I had a message.  Upon further scrutiny, you know, like when I replayed the message, I discovered it was Stupid.  He was returning my calls.  He stated he was at my house at the appointed time, 11:00 AM.  He was on the front porch, rang the doorbell, said no one was home.

Really?  I was here, I know that.  I was on the front porch with a dying cat.  I wasn't in back.  I wasn't in the cellar.  I was on the front porch.  Where the hell were you?  It apparently had not even dawned on him, even after hearing both my messages, that he might have actually gone to the wrong address.

Dude, ever hear of a CELL PHONE?  I understand they're the latest rage.  I mean, you do have a mobile business, right? 

You could have called me from where ever the hell you were and said, like, "Hi Dave, I'm standing on your front porch..."

And then I'd be like, "Um, no you're not.  I'm on my front porch and I sure as hell don't see you.  Are you invisible?"

You know, then we could have figured out where you actually were and maybe, just maybe, gotten you over to my actual front porch.  But that might have been a challenge as well.

I mean, I repeated everything two and three times our first go round.  I even gave him landmarks which he said he knew.  I gave him SPECIFIC DIRECTIONS, which he claimed he was writing down.  At least that's what he said while he kept asking me to repeat everything I was saying.  And he still went to the wrong house.  The mind reels.

In the meantime, the kind and compassionate folks at Mother Lode accomplished the task for half the cost of Stupid.  What are you gonna to do?

And so, Joe, once again I bid you farewell.  You are off to the land of hummingbirds and butterflies, where the sun always shines and catnip is a plenty.  May your kitten heart now frolic freely and not be besieged by shadows any more.  Peace Joe, peace.