Feb 9, 2005

Is has become was: Samantha

My lap is empty, my heart is broken. I keep looking at the bed in the guestroom for a furry back, curled up in sleep. In the kitchen is an empty food dish, and the bag of favorite kibble.

The dish has remained empty since Monday afternoon, when I came home, and was greeted by a cheerful Sammy, with her tail held high, chirping at me, as cats do when they are happy to see you. I hate myself for having abused the situation, her trust and her sweet nature at that moment, because I scooped her up and started to shove her into the cat carrier.

She hates the cat carrier, never likes what it means, and I felt horrible because I knew why I was doing that. I actually wailed out loud. My own resolve nevertheless surprised me and I got the cat into the carrier. Then I wandered around aimlessly crying and bawling out loud. Then I called a cab and took Sammy to the veterinarian.

I didn't have the courage to stay with her for her last moments here on Earth. I wimped out, more focused on my own pain than on her, already in tears. I left the vet's and walked across the bridge. Once I had crossed it, waiting at a bus stop, having left both cat and carrier behind, I regretted not being there with her. I missed her already. It didn't matter that the doctor said she'd stay with Sammy; Sammy doesn't like strangers. I should've been there, held her in my lap, stroked her beautiful calico fur one last time. But I didn't. I left her to be executed. Signed her death sentence and left.

Such a horrible, irrevocable decision. Such pain. I could feel in it my chest.

All Monday evening was a cycle of wailing, crying, and constantly repeating, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!" and constantly missing her. I prayed that God had been far kinder to my cat than I had, and that He would forgive me for putting down my best friend, my protector, my angel who had been nothing but goodness itself all her 14 years with me.

I was sorry for having removed my best friend, leaving myself hurting so. I was sorry for having taken advantage of Sammy's trust. I was sorry for not seeing any other solutions. I was sorry for not staying with her longer. I was just plain sorry, and feeling guilty.

It is now almost 48 hours since that moment when I found the resolve to just do it, just get the cat to the vet's. I chickened out two weeks ago, a moment when Sammy was settled on my lap, facing me, draped upwards on my belly (yeah, cats can drape upwards). She was absolutely calm. She didn't move or twitch at all under my hands and I thought, "Now's the moment!" and held her firmly. She still didn't move. But I couldn't. I relaxed my hold and the moment passed.

Now that I'm calmer and no longer torturing myself constantly with my own decision, some things appear clearer.

First of all, I was always clear on why this euthanasia and why now. For over a year, Sammy has a nervous habit, and has been constantly licking her belly balder and balder. (It's a known phenomenon.) She was also an aging cat. Cat years are measured differently than dog years; the first year = 20 human years, then each year = 4 human years. So Sammy was a senior citizen, currently 72. There were other signs that age was starting to catch up to her, most notably with her digestion. She was no longer a cat that I could leave in the care of strangers, or alone for too long at home. I also saw that the nervous habit was just getting worse.

I just haven't felt emotionally or psychologically able to set about trying to do different things for Sammy, to try to fix what was wrong. For one thing, everytime we go to the vet's, she usually needs anaesthesia, because she won't relax or trust. And each time, her reaction to the anaesthesia is worse than before. Not something I wanted to willingly subject her to. So, what to do?

After much thought, making a list of facts for myself, knowing that a very stressful situation was coming up for her, I decided that maybe now was the time to euthanize her. Both my grandma and the vet said that it was better to be a bit early than to let things maybe go too far. So Sammy is gone, and I still feel like shit about that (I'm crying while blogging this) and I miss her. I just want her back, though I know that's not realistic for several reasons.

Now, secondly, there seems to have been an agreement after all. This is now becoming clearer to me. One instance was in the cab, when I was chiding myself, expecting to go to Hell for this, when I suddenly remembered that a dear friend as well as my grandpa had both had to put far younger and healthier cats down. I can still remember Grandpa's expression when he left for the vet's all those years ago. And no, I don't think he's in Hell.

The other clue to this agreement, that my prayers about a solution were answered, is Sammy herself. That cat could always read my mind. Always. ("Samantha", Sammy's real name, means "the one who listens".) She could tell if I was thinking about taking her to the vet's. I'd come home and the cat would be hiding or at least wary of me (and then she'd go hide). She could read my moods and knew in advance if I was going away for the weekend or something, before I even began to pack. My dragging out the suitcase was just verification for her.

So why did she stay still in my arms two weeks ago, when I was thinking about that dreaded pink cat carrier? Why did she let me catch her when I got home Monday? I had been thinking furiously about what I was going to do, and was sure that when I opened my door, I'd find the cat hiding or at least skeptical. But no, she was up and about and came right to me and let me pick her up. (I guess it's about time I say that Sammy is not a cat that enjoys being constantly held or petted.)

So the sweetest creature I have ever had the pleasure of knowing is gone. And I'm feeling a bit helpless, too. Sammy taught me respect, she taught me to relax. She taught me love and forgiveness.

She did me other favors, too: If I couldn't find something, I'd just ask her and then I'd find it. She'd react to the doorbell or phone ringing, alerting me, temporarily deaf to such sounds due to headphones and music full blast. She'd let me know of bugs that need to be helped outdoors. She'd warm my lap, and lower my blood pressure by stretching out on my legs, like in the picture here, digging a claw into my knee in pleasure, just before dozing off. (Sammy never did knead; she'd just dig her claws in once and deep. Ow.) The root of her tail would fluff out on its own when she was excited, like during a game of Peekaboo, with me chasing her through the apartment. It was during such a game, when I was peeking around a corner at her, that I was alerted to the fact that I needed new glasses: Sammy was out of focus.

So I feel like I've made a huge mistake although I know I didn't.

I don't know what happens to animals when they die, if they have souls. I believe they do and I hope she's in animal heaven.

Sammy, rest in peace. I love you.

PS: While at the vet's, I was asked if I wanted a joint or separate cremation. Huh? And then if I wanted the ashes returned. "We have a very nice selection of urns," and a catalog was offered me. So on impulse, I asked to have Sammy's ashes returned, in a white urn with a gold rose on it. The next morning, they played "The Rose" on the radio and I made the association to the urn's rose. I do think Sammy was a good seed for love.

PPS: I can't believe I'm writing about my dead cat. Still hasn't sunk in completely.