Abbie The Cat Has A Posse
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Monday, July 22, 2013
Dear readers and friends of Abbie the Cat,
It is with a heavy and desolate heart that I write to inform you that Abbie the Cat is dying.
He has terminal pancreatic cancer which has spread to his chest, making it terribly hard for him to breathe. We had no idea and he wasn't sharing any of his pain with us. Things suddenly flared up a week ago Saturday, when he started breathing too shallow and too rapidly to be healthy. The emergency vet we took him to drained his chest of a large amount of fluid which had been restricting his lungs, and ran some tests. There were three possible diagnoses, none of them good; the worst was cancer. An ultrasound taken on Friday revealed the worst.
At the present, he is currently lying down in a cool living room, hunkered down in one of his favorite boxes, close to the hanging catnip plant which once used to dangle far too low for its own good. He has stopped eating; he had been taking baby food up until yesterday. Not even salmon would get his attention--and for the biggest mooch I've ever known to turn down fish, that is a bit of a shock. He has kept drinking all this time, and we've swapped out his water for Pedialyte so that he gets as much nutrients as he can while he can. Still, he has lost his strength. He is tired. He has lost so much weight. But he is home, where there are people who love him, and this is where he will stay. It is now just a matter of time.
The living room is now a Cat Hospice. It even says so on the door. I will not be taking him in for any further vet visits or invasive treatments. I cannot in good conscience let a 16-year-old cat undergo chemotherapy. And while I may have to make the decision to ease his suffering if it becomes too much, I would prefer him to take his leave as he's always left a room: when he's ready. I want to give him that chance. He deserves it, and I trust his judgement.
It is so hard to say goodbye to a friend of sixteen whole years. I am not one who considers myself Dad to the cat, but I often marveled that I'd gone and raised a teenager. Abbie and his sister Martha helped me through some very rough times, and I nursed them through some rough patches. If you've ever had a cat watch over you as you fall into a troubled sleep, then curl up and sleep beside you, then you know how reassuring and comforting they can be. Aggravations and frustration are temporary; love and companionship are constants. Abbie had the kindest heart I've ever known in a cat. He never knew malice or hate. He never lashed out in aggression. He may have said the occasional cat cuss word, but who hasn't? He knew the sound of my footsteps and, upon my arrival home, would rush to the top of the foyer stairs to meet me and complain all about the injustices which had been heaped upon him that day and maybe also what he ate. (He would not rush to meet other housemates. I hope they did not take it personally.)
I started this blog twelve years ago on a whim. I have always been very fond of Don Marquis' Archy and Mehitabel as well as Diane Duane's wonderful Book of Night with Moon series, and I often wondered what Abbie and his sister Martha were doing exactly while I was away each day at work. Judging from the condition of the apartment sometimes when I returned, it wasn't sleep. Over time, Abbie found a voice, and people found him. I don't know how you did it, but I am glad you did. Martha found her voice too, and then her calling as a pirate; she enjoyed riding around on my shoulder like a parrot enough that she decided to see who else parrots rode around on. And when she passed away nearly eight years ago, half Abbie's current age, there was a tremendous outpouring of love and support from friends and strangers alike. Her final story was one of the hardest things to write, but it was all so very real and powerful that Abbie and I had to get it all out. I still think of her quite frequently, and I know others do. Her farewell post has comments from people who have come back to it time and again as a touchstone; others have come back to read it after losing a cat of their own. It gladdens me to know she could touch so many people, offering comfort and solace in a dark time.
Abbie's fame, while not enormous enough to warrant a television option or anything like that, grew well beyond what I thought would be. When he got out of the house in 2008 and was gone for two weeks, friends from all over helped in the search. Some even looked in different time zones and continents, just to be sure. Turned out he was just over in the neighbor's garage. They discovered him when they returned from vacation. Friends came over from as far away as the Czech Republic to visit the cat. Maybe me, too. Every now and then I would hear that someone I admired had read his stories; he was once even quoted by Wonkette on, of all things, the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I don't know how these things happen. It is the Internet.
Most importantly to me, several years ago I heard from folks who had found Abbie from a link on Diane Duane's sidebar. To think that one of the people who inspired his stories and mythos had read him and thought enough to recommend him to others. It is one of the highest compliments I have ever recieved.
And all because of this cat. This Cat. This fellow whom I adopted when he was six weeks old, and who has traveled with me through nearly half my life. This overly expressive and affectionate curmudgeon, this gourmand of all things People Food, this boon companion and loyal pal, this cat. A good cat. My buddy. And a buddy to a lot of other people, too.
HarryCat, Scout, Zippy, Sadie and Speedy, Scamp, Annie from Tasmania, Weezer the Amazing Tubcat, Shelley, Anne, Barb, Coriander, T.R., all those who have stopped by to say hello and the lurkers alike, whether you are still with us or have Gone Before, thank you. Because of Abbie and because of you, my life has been so much richer and warmer. We love you. Please keep in touch.
I did not think it right to announce Abbie's condition in character. I hope, however, that he has a draft of something saved somewhere that I can find and post. He always was a little messy on the computer. It is not in his nature to say goodbye, however, so I must for him.
Many years ago I read James Herriot's series of veterinarian memoirs and I read them again and again. One passage stands out for me in particular, from an essay I think included in All Creatures Great and Small. It is a conversation Herriot had with an elderly woman whose cats he cared for. You may be familiar with it. The widow confides in him her deepest fear, and Herriot responds with one of the wisest and most comforting philosophies I have ever taken to heart.
"It's the dogs and cats, Mr. Herriot. I'm afraid I might never see them when I'm gone which worries me so. You see, I know I'll be reunited with my parents and brothers, but ... but ..." She gazed at the two cats curled up at the end of her bed.
"Well, why not with your animals?"
"That's just it." She rocked her head on the pillow and for the first time I saw tears on her cheeks. "They say animals have no souls."
"Oh, I've read it and I know a lot of religious people believe it."
"Well, I don't believe it." I patted the hand which still grasped mine. "If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans. You've nothing to worry about there."
"Oh, I hope you're right. Sometimes I lie at night thinking about it."
"I know I'm right, Miss Stubbs, and don't you argue with me. They teach us vets all about animals' souls."Abbie is resting in his box. His eyes are still big and expressive. He purrs when I pet him. He turns his head and very gently licks my wrist, something he has done since the day I first met him. I sat on a couch and they put a black-and-white kitten in my lap. When I reached out my hand and scritched his head, he vigorously licked my wrist.
oKAy mister you are now my Guy
and I iwll be your ABBIE
what do you think of That
He lays his head down on his outstretched paws and does his best to breathe. It is frightening, but he is not alone. He is surrounded by the people he has loved and who have loved him for so long. And the cats who have Gone Before are with him. They sit in the shadows and the sun, singing to him a song they have always known. He quietly listens, eyes half closed, and sings along in his head. Soon he will join their song.
And we will miss him dearly.