August 27, 2013

My Boy

I want to start out by making a confession. I’ve never believed that animals were capable of love. I feel they can be loyal and comforting, but I believed that most animal behaviors humans interpreted as love came from the animal recognizing that you were the food source and they were relieved that you were back and around to feed them.

And then there was Angus and that belief changed because Angus loved me.


Angus was a people person cat. Unlike the other cats I’ve owned, Angus would make a bee line for the living room when company arrived.  He’d jump up next to someone and accept petting for as long as the giver was willing.  Angus loved people and people would leave our house loving Angus too.

He had bad habits.  He’d leap into the middle of the dinner table, lay down and survey the land.  He’d attempt to steal food from your plate if you were eating something he liked.  He loved fried chicken and marshmallows.  He’d would frequently knock food off the counter to share with a grateful Jack.  He had an intense need for a pristine litter box that could make him annoying on the days when the litter box wasn’t.

But, Angus loved people and he really loved us.  I have so many more pictures of Angus with us than any other of our other pets.  It’s because Angus lived his life with us, as a fully integrated part of our family.
Angus and Baby Bee

Maybe it’s because Angus knew he wouldn’t have twenty years to get all of his love out or maybe it’s just because that was how Angus lived.  He loved an available lap or a corner of the bed.  He just loved being near us.  All the time.  Sometimes too much.  Many nights, Baby Bee would wake crying because Angus was sleeping on top of her and she couldn’t move.
Angus loved to be close.  He loved to comfort.  He loved to give head butts and to knead at you with his paws.
When Angus started losing weight this winter, I worried a little and watched.

When his weight loss became apparent and dramatic, we took him to the vet for blood work. When the vet called back, he seemed amazed. Angus was in perfect health. All of his levels, including his thyroid and blood sugar looked great. I was hoping, of course, for a diagnosis of diabetes since I believed we could manage it and keep him with us.

This month, I noticed Angus was losing weight dramatically again. His comforting bulk was now just bones. Running your hand down Angus’ back now meant feeling every vertebrae. We took Angus back to the vet who suggested his teeth could be to blame and we consented to a cleaning and some exploratory work. He was ten, after all. The pre-surgary blood work showed that Angus had diabetes and I felt a little relieved. I thought we could manage diabetes.

Angus came home and we changed his diet and for a couple weeks, Angus perked up and felt better, but last week Angus began to decline.  He would cry at me and he stopped eating.  I made the decision Friday night that we had to have a Saturday appointment with the vet.  Diet change wasn’t working and Angus must need insulin.

Saturday morning, Angus’ breathing was labored.  I called the Vet and cried and he came in early.  We gave Angus fluids and insulin and brought him home.  Big Daddy watched Angus and offered him food and water, none of which Angus took.  When I returned home from being at a bridal shower, Angus was in very bad shape.  My sweet sister-in-law made a million suggestions and ran to the drug store for syringes so we could force some fluids into him, but Angus would only take a few drops at a time before turning away from me.

My boy was leaving.

We had a terrible night. Big Daddy was away and as the hours ticked by and Angus slowly worsened, I knew we were coming to a decision point.  I gave him his evening insulin, hoping against hope that it was just high blood sugar, but feeling as though it wasn’t.  Angus moved around the house restlessly with me in tow.  At midnight, I kissed him and told him he should go where he needed to go.  I told him everything I needed him to know. I thanked him for every kindness and every bit of love and happiness. I checked on him a few more times, but didn’t try to force any more fluids or try to make him cuddle.

In the morning I knew.  I couldn’t even wait for Big Daddy.  I couldn’t fix my boy despite wanting to with every fiber of my being.  I only had one choice for him left.

Angus and I left home together, the way he had come home ten years ago.  I talked to him on the trip. I never shut up the whole way. I kept my hand on his back through the bars of the carrier.  He never once cried to get out or bit at the bars on the door.

At a little before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning with a blue cloudless sky, I held my boy as he left.  I was there when his big, lovely heart that was so full of love and kindness and joy stopped being.  I was there for his last raspy, tired breath.  I whispered in his soft ears that didn’t flicker as my breath tickled them.  I told him to find Jack.  I kissed his head.  I held him like he’d never allowed me to for more than brief snatches over the course of his life.

“Have you been together long?”, the vet asked.

I nodded.  Of course.  For Angus it had been forever, but for all of us not even close to long enough.

Angus and Baby Bee

“Angus went to the vet.”, I say.
“When will you pick him up?”, she says.
“I can’t”, I say, “Angus died.”
“Cats can’t walk on the road”, she says “You have to drive.”
“I can’t drive to him”, I say, “Angus won’t come home.”
“Then the bus will get him. The bus will pick him up.”
“The bus can’t get him.”
“Yes it will.”, she insists.
I wish it could.

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