Friday, June 29, 2012

The story of a girl and her cat

Sometimes I think about strange things on strange days that, when really, truly analyzed, aren't that strange at all. For instance, I've been thinking a lot about my childhood pet lately. Even though she's been gone for quite a while, and I really am over it (seriously, I am, so don't make that face), today's date just kind of... sticks. And, so, I miss her a little, glare at Gizmo because I seriously can't believe how fucking dumb he is, and then that's it. 

The animal in question was, from what I understand, kind of a rarity outside of Russia (Siberian Forest Cat) and she just happened upon my parent’s back porch one day when I was about twelve. (I have a pretty strong theory as to how this particular type of cat ended up in the middle of fucking backwoods Georgia but I'm not going to get into that.) We already had a cat – a mean, tabby bastard called Woody – so nobody in my household was particularly keen on having another pet. However I was drawn to the adorable little thing on the porch and became attached rather quickly. I think the feeling was mutual.

I dubbed the cat C-chan (a reference to an old anime called Ranma 1/2) and hung out with her outside whenever I could. After months of her living in the back yard, I finally convinced my parents to let me keep her as an indoor-only pet. How could they not? She was way friendlier than their asshole cat ever was, and her fur was hella soft. (I also suspect that my mom was getting a little too freaked out about the "gifts" that C-chan was offering: random decapitated rodents. You know, to say "Thanks for feeding me," or whatever.) Of course, a new indoor pet meant a visit to the vet for some routine shots and some lab work to test for anything serious that could be lurking in her system. So her blood sample was taken, the doctor and tech excused themselves, and within minutes we heard -- from the other side of the wall, “We have a positive for Feline AIDS!”

The veterinarian obviously didn’t intend for us to hear that, but his tech lacked tact, and his practice lacked good wall insulation. Nevertheless, Doctor McDoctorson came in looking all grave and shit, and told us that C-chan only had about six months to live. And then I burst into tears, and my poor dad was all, “Oy vey,” and had to console me, which was definitely not how he had expected to spend his Saturday afternoon.

Anyway, C-chan stuck around for an additional seven years, which shows you the power of taking good care of your animal(s), folks.

I can’t really describe the bond that I had with that cat without sounding completely insane, but I’ll try my best. I’ll start by saying that my mother took to calling C-chan my “daughter” because she was kind of like my little hairy shadow of love and cuddles: She would sit on me and make muffins in the crook of my elbow; she would follow me around -- usually screaming a varied assortment of “MEH”s at the top of her little lungs, her dog-bone shaped collar jingling as she continuously begged to be fed (she was always hungry); she would sit and watch me draw, sometimes for hours on end; she would stand guard at the edge of my bed whenever I got sick, and she would curl up behind my knees for added comfort when it was time for sleep. For awhile she even acted as my personal alarm clock, waking me up exactly five minutes before the buzzer sounded (wtf kind of cat has a grasp on time?). I think one of the best examples of our... err... friendship, and something that really stuck with me, was a random moment during C-chan's final year with me. A few weeks before she fell ill (I’ll get to that in a minute), I shambled into a room and saw her perched on top of the cable box, just being... IDK. She was just sort of there. I myself was sad, and bored, and tired, and lonely, and stressed, and just in one hell of a funk. So I walked over, and instead of petting her, I hung my head: C-chan sat up and met me half way, her forehead knocking mine, and we stood there for about a minute. This will no doubt come across as crazy, but my cat fucking GOT me.

My only complaint was that she had some downright SATANIC gas: One fart could clear an entire room.

About a month after the "I know that feel bro" Forehead Bump she started to walk with a limp that would eventually begin to sporadically change legs. I had enough money in my meager bank account to take her to a vet, where she immediately turned on the terrified doctor (which was just not like her). This resulted in the most useless physical exam ever, as the woman doing said exam was afraid to touch or even go anywhere near her after that. So, we were sent on our way, with a small bottle of Torb in Val syrup (an opiate!) and only a couple of useless guesses as to what sort of leg injury was ailing the cat. As the weeks went on the limping got worse; her fur started to become lackluster and dull from a lack of grooming, and she developed an aversion to being touched anywhere other than her head. She started dropping weight like crazy and her insatiable appetite quickly became a thing of the past. However, she remained strangely bloated in her abdomen, but any attempts to palpate were met with uncharacteristic violence. She spent the majority of her time hiding under my roommates’ bed, presumably because the very act of moving had become painful for her. Something was very, very wrong, and – naturally – I was too goddamn broke to take her to the vet. This is going to come across as way overdramatic, but seeing her like that day after day was fucking brutal. I felt like the cruelest bitch on the planet because I couldn’t do anything to help her. (Damn you, super-crazy-expensive San Francisco prices!)

By the time I finally scrounged up enough extra money to take C-chan to the vet, it was too late. I mean, like, WAY too late: The day before her appointment I was home alone and I stooped down to pet her... and that’s when I finally felt it: a rock hard mass the size of a fucking golf ball in her abdomen. I flipped my shit right then and there, the Ugly Cry making one hell of a guest appearance right in the middle of the living room. That night, I went to bed feeling totally defeated: I had already had a pretty good idea that my cat was dying, but now I knew it for sure. What’s worse (?) is that she knew it, too. On our last night together C-chan tried to comfort me in her own strange way by mustering up the energy to climb onto the bed with me, and also by maintaining physical contact even though it actually hurt her to do so. For instance, I moved my leg (she was at the foot of the bed) and she moved over – through her pain – to make sure that we were touching.

Flash forward to the next morning.

“Oh, my God!” is something that you never, ever want to hear somebody say while giving a physical examination to anyone ever. But, that’s exactly what the doctor quietly breathed when he palpated C-chan’s bloated abdomen. The Little One had multiple tumors – at least three that could be felt. Plus FIV and old age. She was done. But she was also still (barely) alive, and that’s when I had to make the most devastating decision I had ever faced at that point. We were left alone, and I held onto her, and she did something she hadn’t done since before she got sick: she sat on my leg and made muffins in my elbow.

Jeremy went to wait outside and I stayed behind while C-chan was injected with Euthasol (AKA, the pink juice that will put your pet to sleep forever). I was hoping that she would at least close her eyes, but she never did, so I got to see the exact moment when the lights flipped off, so to speak.

It continues to be one of the most disturbing things I have ever fucking seen.

So, let’s stop to take a look at the overall situation I was in: I had moved 3,000+ miles away from all family and friends to a place I had never even visited; I was living with people that I didn’t know very well, working a shit job with shit pay (that’s a story for another time), the onset of my bipolar depression creeping in, and then I had to euthanize my furry little BFF who had always been there for me when no one else could. I did the only sensible thing I could think of: I called in sick to work and locked myself in my bedroom for two days.

That was exactly ten years ago today, which I find mind-blowing on so many levels. Of course I still feel a pang for my long-dead buddy when I see her photo or her old, beat up collar (of course I kept it) -- today, especially -- which is something that really probably should have passed by now. But she was family, so...

Anyway, now you know why everyone I knew thought that I was going to grow up to be a crazy cat lady.