Little Warrior Page7

American society is not comfortable with death; especially not with mourning anything, whether the grief be over people or animals or love affairs. The idea is always to move on, to put the past behind us, to let go. But I don’t want to move on from Sammy, or to let go. In fact, just the opposite. I want to treasure the memory of a little thing that gave me so much love, so much daily pleasure. I want to savor how uncomplaining and affectionate she was, even to the very end. I don’t want to rush out and get another pet, although I know the shelters are full of animals just as sweet and affectionate as Sammy.

The past is to be cherished, not dismissed. The first time I kissed Diane outside the classroom; my young girlfriend running up to me and jumping in my arms outside Park Place; Dane in London; joking with Flora about the things she loved to buy. The past may be in the past, but it’s a place I enjoy living in.

Blood everywhere. Blood in the kitchen where she eats, blood on the walls, blood on the couch. She only bleeds when she eats, and it’s not, the vet tells me, as bad as it looks. How long can we put up with ruining furniture? I try to get the blood off the walls, but nothing seems to work. Fortunately for Sammy, and for me, the woman of the house loves Sammy and is infinitely patient with her, despite the fact that she normally keeps a meticulous household. But how much can I expect her to put up with?

She is no longer the pretty cat that women would swoon over; the lush beauty with a full coat of hair; she now looks like she has emerged from the wrong end of a nasty fight and, in fact, that’s true; her fight with nature, with cancer. But to me that makes her look more like a man’s cat; the superficial beauty of her looks are gone, and all that’s left is the beauty of her fight for life.

This is not some princess who leads a life of catnip and coddled comfort; this is a boxer who has just lost the fight but refuses to concede. All I can think of is the Dylan Thomas poem:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Let the ladies walk away with sad eyes and pity for my beauty’s loss; she and I will rage against the dying light.

She doesn’t understand that she is supposed to be on the brink of death. She certainly looks like she’s on the brink of death; the tumor is huge in the front of her mouth; her teeth appear to be gone; her mouth is completely misshapen. Yet she does not die. In fact, she’s pretty lively; she spends less, not more, time under the bed. She jumps in my lap at least as often as in the past, probably more so. She seems even more anxious for food, knowing that I’ll comply as often as she wishes. When I rub her in the area of her mouth, she shows no signs of pain or discomfort; quite the contrary, she seems to like being rubbed in this area as much as ever.

I was told the signs of retreat from life were that she would go and hide some place in the house, spending less time around people, and being less interactive. That she would eventually give up the attempt to eat; that her eyes would become glassy. None of the above. She looks like death, but acts like life. What is it going to be?

Went to the vet again yesterday. Each time we go I think that Dr. Bracken is going to tell me the time has come; it’s time for her to be put down. This time I was ready for that, and it almost would have been a relief; I have to admit it’s become draining to keep washing sheets, scrubbing the blood off the walls, administering drugs, trying to find a food she likes, etc. The house is a mess. I also need to make sure there is no hope of recovery. As I expected, none.

But Dr. Bracken’s attitude is that if the pet is still trying, we should still be trying, and I agree with that. I worry about keeping Sammy alive for my sake, rather than hers, so I need to confirm with the vet that she does not appear to be in any pain, and that I’m doing the right thing. The vet tells me that “She’s a fighter”, and indeed she is. Around the house, we begin calling her the Little Warrior. But the objective evidence is not so good; she’s down to 6.2 pounds, having lost 8 tenths of a pound just since her last vet visit a month ago. That can’t be good. Her entire head, and brain, and legs, and body, and diminished tail; the whole package now weighs about half of what she did in her prime, and about what my forearm weighs. The vet is now talking in terms of days, not weeks.

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