[By Nic Lindh on Saturday, 19 November 2005]
As I wrote in this post, our cat Turbo had been diagnosed with feline diabetes. After the blood work was done, the vet thought her diabetes would most likely be treatable by a combination of two pills a day and a prescription high-protein diet. She would have to be on the pills and the prescription diet for the rest of her life, which for a five-year-old cat could well be more than ten years.
We gave it some serious thought and did some research on the Internet, and feline diabetes needs a lot of monitoring and can lead to some very unpleasant symptoms (much like human diabetes). So the odds of her leading a full and pain-free life did not look very good. In addition, Turbo was a difficult cat when it came to administering medications. Somehow, she never seemed to understand that it was for her own good…
In the end, we decided to put her to sleep. She’d had a very good life, and a merciful death seemed like the best way for her to end her life, instead of us forcing her to go through a painful illness just to make ourselves feel better.
So today I took her to the vet after work. Before putting her in the pet carrier, I gave her a bunch of her beloved cat candies, but she was too sick to really eat them. Once at the vet’s, Turbo and I went into an examination room and one of the technicians went through the procedure with me.
While you can choose to be in the room when they administer the poison, she recommended against it, since putting a younger cat to sleep can sometimes be problematic, as for some deranged reason the poison has to be administered through a vein, and if the cat fights the injection, as younger, stronger cats often will, it can be quite difficult to administer. I’m standing there looking at my cat in the pet carrier, hissing, and thinking “Oh, that’s just great.”
But I told the tech that, yes, I wanted to be there when she died. I wanted to tell the tech that I wanted to make sure that her death was easy, but couldn’t speak. That feeling when the muscles around your mouth start cramping, and your lips feel too tight… So in the end I managed to get out that I wanted to be there.
The tech went to get the vet, and then came back a few minutes later to tell me that the vet would like to administer a sedative first, so Turbo wouldn’t fight the injection too much. Seemed like a good idea to me, so the tech took the pet carrier with Turbo in it to the back room.
And I sat in the examination room, with posters about medicines for dog arthritis and a mural showing children and dogs and kittens playing and being happy. After a few minutes I heard Turbo scream, so I figured they’d gotten her out of the pet carrier and were administering the sedative. Several minutes went by as I looked at the mural where two cats were sitting in a red wagon and tried to not think about what was soon to happen.
Then the tech brought Turbo into the room and put her on the examination table. Her pupils were dilated all the way, the way cats’ pupils are when they’re scared, but she laid down and put her face on my hand to tell me to scratch her behind the ears. So I did that. Scratched her behind the ears and told her that I loved her. That everybody loved her. She let me scratch her, even though her pupils stayed dilated and her ears stayed perked right up. At the end I had to whisper to her, since my voice was breaking.
Then the vet and the tech came in with a bottle of rubbing alcohol, a swab, and a loaded needle.
The tech gently grabbed Turbo and put her on her side so the vet could get access to the inside of her thighs, where the easily-accessible veins are. They told me I could pet Turbo, so I did, nuzzling her under her chin like she always loved. She was complacent. The vet swabbed her inner thigh with the alcohol, inserted the needle, drew back the plunger to make sure she’d hit a vein, blood rushed into the needle, and then she depressed the plunger.
After a few seconds, she put her stethoscope on Turbo’s chest and said, “She’s gone.”
And I started bawling like a baby.
Unbelievable. I can’t even remember the last time I cried, but I bawled like a baby looking at my cat lying there on the blanket on the examining table. So the tech and the vet told me to take as much time as I needed and then just go to the front counter when I was ready.
It was a strange feeling, standing in the little cheerful examination room, the cadaver of my beloved cat on a table, her eyes open, lying on her side, looking like she was right in the middle of stretching, but not moving, just lying there inert, frozen in time, like she was trapped in an endless moment. Finally, I couldn’t take it that her eyes were open and went to close them. Her little body was cooling, not at all the feel of a living cat, and I couldn’t close her eyes: the skin wouldn’t stretch. She laid there unmoving, looking at nothing, without breathing. I touched her paw—she loved to put her paw on my arm and purr—and it felt cool and limp.
After some time, I was ready to go out and settle the bill. Went to the bathroom first to splash some water on my face and get back into some sort of real reality.
I paid the bill, then went to get the empty pet carrier to bring it back home, and the staff had put an angel cat pin on it. I normally scoff at that kind of thing, but looking at it made me come really close bawling again. So I shoved it in my pocket, got in the car, and drove off to pick up Andrea at day care.
I’d given a lot of thought to what I’d tell Andrea about the death of Turbo. There was no question that she wouldn’t pick up on the empty pet carrier. So my plan was to tell her that Turbo was at the vet, and then after we got home I would break the news that she was dead. Cunningly, I thought I would tell Andrea that Turbo had gone to be with Bambi’s mother.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t gotten my story straight with what my wife had told Andrea.
So we left day care, got to the car, Andrea saw the pet carrier in the back seat, and said, “Is Turbo in there?”
“No, honey, Turbo is at the vet.”
At which point Andrea broke down and started crying “I don’t want Turbo to go to cat heaven! I want my Turbo! I don’t want Turbo to go to cat heaven!”
Oh, damn. We drove the mercifully short way home with Andrea completely inconsolable.
And her daddy not too happy either.