When I knew she was dead, I picked her up from the kitchen rug on which she had lain, barely moving, for two days, and laid her on her blanket. I folded the blanket over her, picked it and her up, and put them into a large blue plastic bag. I got the box I’d saved for the purpose, and put the bag, the blanket, and Crickett into the box. It was not an easy fit, but after considerable gentle readjusting of the bag, I managed. I got a roll of clear plastic box tape and closed and sealed the box. I then carried it to the elevator, rode down to the first floor, went out the back door and laid the box carefully in an open dumpster. I covered it with a couple other empty boxes and returned to my apartment.
A large city is not conducive to a dignified burial beneath a tree, or deep within a flower bed. But I’m sure Crickett didn’t mind. Were I one to believe in the Pathetic Fallacy, which ascribes human traits and feelings to animals, I would have felt more guilty than I did. And were I to go down that mental path, I’d have truly grieved at the thought that for her entire 18 years, she may have been outside a total of less than a dozen times, and was terrified each time. To be in a box in a dumpster on a cold winter’s day in Chicago....
I got Crickett when she was a kitten, and she was a strange cat, even as cats go. Yellow-orange and white, she was very pretty, and must have had some sort of genetic disorder because her eyes were always fully dilated, never slitted. I don’t recall ever having seen another cat with eyes like hers. Like all cats, she loved attention, but only on her terms. When she came into my life, I already had Thomas, a huge black male with the disposition of a saint. Thomas was everybody’s pal. Crickett wasn’t much into having pals. She largely ignored Thomas, and they never became friends. She was the same with my dog, Samantha (Sammy), and the several other cats that came and went over the years. She remained aloof from it all. Up until the last month of her life, the only time she ever got on my lap, it was on her terms, not mine. And even then she would sit down, get up, circle around (swatting me in the face with her tail), sit down, get up turn around again, etc. until I’d get exasperated and put her on the floor. Occasionally she would climb on my lap and move up to drape herself over my left shoulder (never my right) as she had done when I would hold her as a kitten. Toward the end, she spent a lot of time calmly in my lap. She seemed to need me more, and that broke my heart because I felt she knew something was not right.
While I have had animals all my life, I have not been present at their deaths more than a few times. When Thomas, who I had found as a kitten in Los Angeles, died in Pence, coincidentally also at 18, his decline was rapid, the result of old age and a good life. I found him lying on the basement floor one morning and knew he was dying. I carried him upstairs, where I put him in my lap and sat petting him until he died…I hope peacefully.
Crickett was not so lucky. She developed cancer at the site of a rabies shot she had received more than two years before. The vet said this is far more common than anyone realizes, and she avoids giving rabies shots to indoor house cats for that reason. At any rate, Crickett’s death was neither quick nor easy. She did not appear to be in pain, and the vet prescribed two different medications which appeared to be very effective in keeping her comfortable. But she lost the use of her leg, which she dragged behind her.
I know, I know. I should have gone along with that infuriating euphemism of having her “put to sleep.” But it is not putting her to sleep. It is killing her, and I could not bring myself to play God. I wanted her to die as comfortably as possible in her own familiar world. (I did,, call the vet, who said she would come over and kill her at home, but I still could not bring myself to do it, though I felt both remorse and guilt as, over the weekend, I feared she might be in pain. She’d stopped eating or drinking, and just laid there. When she tried to stand or move, she’d fall over. The one medication required being put on her food, but when she stopped eating and refused to be fed, I was left with only the second medication, which I could put into her mouth with a small syringe.
I was surenight she could not possibly last until morning. But she did.
Finally, at about, she died.
I know…she was “just a cat.” But she was a part of my life nearly every day for 18 years, and one more link to my past. And I miss her.
And why am I telling you all this? You never knew Crickett. But if you’ve ever lost an animal who was a part of your life, you know the need for catharsis. Writing this is mine.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com: