Little Warrior Page8

One of the most insightful articles I’ve read in a long time is All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior, from New York magazine. It’s ostensibly about parenting, but the really insightful part is about the difference between “pleasure” and “satisfaction”, and how some activities – like parenting, but also applicable to many challenging activities – can provide a great deal of satisfaction while being very little fun. In the early days, Sammy was both fun and joy; so easy.

Now it’s no fun taking care of her, but still a quiet sort of joy and satisfaction, knowing that I’m spending my last days with her, and knowing that I’ve done everything possible to give her the best care I could when she relies on me most; repaying her for the million smiles she has given me over the years. I don’t think you put a loyal pet down just because the fun is past, and taking care of the pet is now a much bigger chore. You have to realize it’s not a toy that has grown old, the pet is a living thing, with a right to try to keep living to the best of its medical ability.

One vet says it’s time for Sammy to be put down. The other says not yet. It ends up being an almost impossible to get right judgment call. The fact is she is slowly starving to death, getting less and less food down as the tumor grows. In the end, I decide that I won’t allow my cat to starve to death; I think her weight loss has accelerated, and she seems to be having a a harder and harder time actually getting the food, or water, down.

I make what has to be one of the, if not the, most difficult phone calls of my life. My vet will make a house call, or at least a house call for this purpose. Just a few minutes before the vet arrives Samantha is walking over my stomach and chest in her usual way. She is very much alive. The vet is very kind and gentle; I hold Sammy in my arms while the drugs are administered. In just a few moments, she goes from life to death. The strange sudden transition; from a body full of life to a lifeless body, is so jarring.

The vet leaves. I lay Sammy in her little casket with a can of Fancy Feast – her favorite classic salmon. I also write a little note – This Cat was Truly Loved – and put it in the casket. We bury her in the corner of the back yard, surrounded by greenery.

This is the note I send my family, the next morning:

Last night, just around sunset, the vet came. In the end, we took to calling Sammy The Little Warrior as she fought two different cancers during the last six months; she lost about half her body weight and all her beauty, but none of her will to live or affectionate nature.

Gradually, the tumor in her mouth had grown so large it was almost completely inhibiting her ability to eat or drink, though she kept trying. Just minutes before the end she had been walking across my lap, but I was determined to save her from the pain of the last stage of illness.

She died peacefully while I held her.

I am hugely grateful to Sammy for all the affection and pleasure she gave me over the 11 and half years we were together. I tried to do everything I could in terms of giving her comfort in the time of her illnesses.

You may not think of Sammy as a superhero, but she accomplished something that few people could – at least at times, she made me a kinder and gentler person.

As I was sitting outside last night smoking a cigar and looking at Sammy’s gravespot I saw a shadow pass by; it was a cat, coming from the same direction as Sammy’s grave. It was pretty dark, but I think it was a neighbor cat we sometimes see in our yard. Or perhaps not.

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