February 11, 2003

 

It was a wonderful life...

 

I said goodbye to a dear friend today.  My dear old Mo man, my Morris kitty, went on ahead to join his friend and rival Miss Kitty at the rainbow bridge.

 

I first met Mo in the spring of 1991 when I came to look at a veterinary clinic that was for sale.  A fat orange cat

was sleeping in a waiting room chair in the sunshine and was the first to come and greet me.  I always thought that if Morris had any say in the sale of the clinic, he would have voted for me.  I’m sure he took one look and thought “now THAT girl looks like she knows how to feed a cat!”.  When I decided to buy the clinic, the future of the clinic cats wasn’t discussed;  I did wonder if they planned to leave them and thought I wouldn’t mind keeping that old orange cat, having always had a soft spot for the color.

 

They did, and I shudder to think how much I probably paid for him if I looked back at the inventory valuation.  Whatever it was, he was worth more.

 

Mo came to the clinic on December 6, 1988.  He had a tumor in his ear that was removed by the previous veterinarian/owner, leaving him with a permanent head tilt and a sort of quizzical expression.   He was a whopping 18 lbs when I came on board and we spent years trying every reducing diet out there.  He finally evened out at about 13.5 lbs and we were satisfied with that;  I won’t tell you where I ended up but let’s just say Morris’ diet was more successful!  He was expert at ripping holes in food bags approximately .27 seconds after the food delivery arrived;  always the 40 lb bag of the most expensive prescription diet.  I figure he cost me at least six thousand dollars in prescription diets  over the nearly twelve years I owned him.  We learned to put the food away promptly and got a plexiglass cover for the food shelves.  He learned to open the cabinets, pick up the sample bags in his teeth, and carry them back to the kennel where he could binge in secret.  We got childproof latches which foiled him for a while, but finally brute strength won out and he broke those also.  We finally gave up on keeping food samples except for the boxed puppy and kitten kits– he couldn’t quite manage carrying the whole box away.

 

Morris always reminded me of the late comic Sam Kinison– they both were a little pudgy, a bit slovenly and disreputable looking, and both were very loud.  When Mo sat in the back hallway at 4:00 and started yelling for his dinner, I always heard Sam’s voice in my head- “Did you ever think about feeding the F#$%ing CAT?!”

 

They guessed his age at 5 or 6 when he came to the clinic so we figured he was about 19 now.  We had a scare a couple of years ago when he developed a urinary obstruction and we subsequently discovered his heart

was pretty bad and eventually that he was hyperthyroid as well.  For all of that he was amazingly healthy and never missed a meal.  On December 6, 14 years to the day of his arrival at the clinic, I came to work and noticed that he had a slight swelling over the side of his face that had not been there when I gave him his pills the day before.  I thought it was probably an abcessed tooth and screwed up my nerve to sedate him with his terrible heart and take care of it.  When I got in to look at the tooth, my heart sank– the bony tissue around it was mushy and soft and I knew it was a tumor.  A biopsy confirmed that he had squamous cell carcinoma.  On the upper jaw around the carnassial tooth, it would be virtually impossible to remove it all even with radical surgery, and he would probably need a feeding tube.  The only other option was radiation therapy and he would have had to go all the way to Cleveland for that.  Best case scenario with the most aggressive treatment was only 4 to 6 months.  My Mo always lived to eat and I couldn’t do that to him, so we decided to take one day at a time.  The day he couldn’t eat would be the day we said goodbye.

 

Sunday was the first day he really didn’t eat anything at all.  I had been buying him tuna for the past week or so (I’m sure he thought he was ALREADY in heaven).  Sunday I bought him a little mini-smorgasboard of baby foods as well as tuna and the yummiest canned food our shelves had to offer.  Nothing– he wasn’t even interested anymore.  No more sitting up to beg for treats, and when Ray the food delivery man came last Friday he didn’t even come out for his cookie.  I was hoping against hope he would rally again and eat for me Monday night, but it wasn’t to be.

 

So today we sat on his couch in his office and let him go.  He had been ready for a while;  I would never have been ready left on my own.  Despite a blizzard on the way to work this morning the sun broke through this afternoon and he spent his last few hours sleeping in a ray of sunshine just as he always loved to, on his fleecy blanket on my scanner.

 

Clients always ask me how they will know it is time to let their pets go.  The real answer is you will never know.   You will agonize and cry and never be sure you made the right decision at the right time.  Even as I

looked at my poor 19 year old hyperthyroid cat with a bad heart, bladder stones, and inoperable cancer, shrunk to a mere five pound shadow of his former self I wondered if he had had a better vet if we could just have bought him a little more time.  If we gave him just another day maybe he might rally ad have a little good time left.  The head always sees through the lens of the heart.  I thought when he was gone I would feel  relief and an easing of the burden of dread I had been carrying knowing I would have to do this.  I felt no relief at all but

only a deepening of the pain of knowing that for the first time since I was a new graduate I would come to work without my Mo.

 

Tonight, it occurred to me as I made the first of many phone calls, that while Mo may not have had a human life ,he had a life that made a difference.  He had many friends who needed to be told of his passing– more than many humans leave this world with.  Unlike most cats he loved strangers, especially children and puppies, and he never met a dog that made him flinch (and only once in that 12 years did a dog ever try to chase him).  He raised and socialized several kittens and puppies and was always a wonderful “uncle”.  In his younger years the sound of children in the waiting room always brought him begging for attention.   He saved more than one life by donating his blood, and comforted many clients grieving for their pets.  He served as “nurse” for dogs recovering from surgery by snuggling up against them– I’m sure keeping himself warm was the furthest thing from his thoughts!  He even appeared in a TV commercial.  He woke every day looking forward to what the day would bring– at the very least, dinner!

 

Rest in peace, my Mo Man.  I hope you are somewhere where there is always a spot of sunshine and a full food dish.  Watch out as you cross the rainbow bridge– I bet Miss Kitty is hiding underneath and waiting to ambush you.  I will love you forever.