This post is sure to be a bummer, as it’s about losing a pet. Feel free to skip it. It’s going to be pretty disjointed, anyway.
One of the things I have talked about on and off for months was the failing health of my last cat, Cortez. Sadly he had a clear, sudden, obviously irreversible turn for the worse overnight, and we had to have the vet end things for him today.
I had Cortez for around 15 years, longer than any other pet I’ve had. We had three cats as little as a few years ago, but over the past couple of years lost the other two. Now with Cortez gone, for the first time ever in this house, I am totally alone. There is no living thing sharing this space with me, until my wife gets home tonight.
Cortez was a very special pet for me. He had a mixed reputation among my friends – some were actually afraid of him, some actively (but respectfully) disliked him, and some thought he was wonderful. Only four of all the people who have entered my house besides myself and Lj could consistently and safely pet Cortex, and much more than triple that number had been attacked by him with enough force to shed blood. To most of my social circle, he was a grumpy enigma.
Cortez absolutely was grumpy. He was also the very first cat to leave the box his litter was born in (his mother’s owner named him after an explorer as a result – he was Cortez before we got him, and we first met him at two weeks though he didn’t come home with us until later). He was also viciously loyal to his brother, vaguely tolerant of the elder cat we eventually added to our home, and surprisingly vocal about his defense of our doors and windows against outside animals.
Cortez was an explorer – first one to walk the perimeter of any new place we took him, but also agoraphobic. He *wanted* to go outside, but always froze as soon as he realized the was NO CEILING. We kept him and his compatriots as indoor-only cats for their own sake, but I’m pretty sure he’d have been a magnificent alley cat… if he’d been born outside. As it was he was fat, and soft, and much more wailer than warrior.
He also loved me in a way I have never seen any other cat love. While he was as randomly cuddly or stand-offish as any cat under normal circumstances, if I was sad or sick or hurt, he *always* came to me. And if he was stepped on he rushed to me for protection… even if I was the one who stepped on him.
He’d given us some scares over the years, and at least three times the vet told us he likely wouldn’t last more than a few more weeks. The last of those proclamations was over a year ago. Cortez was too stubborn to get sick and die on any schedule but his own. When we last thought his time might be up, the vet ran tests and concluded that while his body was riddled with cancer, all his organs were functioning normally. He put him on long-term pain control, and he was fine again for three months.
Yesterday, that ended. We made all efforts to find another way to give him more time, or perhaps to give more time with him, but his strength was clearly and swiftly gone. I will do all I can to heal and preserve a sick cat, right until that causes the pet distress or pain. His time was up, and he was kind enough to let me know.
I spent most of the night holding him, and called the vet as soon as they opened. Lj got a chance to say goodbye, but he was already barely with us. He has always hated car rides, but made only a single weak complaint as I took him to get some rest at last.
When Cortez had to stay overnight at a vet’s office some years ago, he was so violently aggravated he ended up in a larger dog cage with a sign that said “Warning, will strike!” He has always hated other animals. And yet, as he sat in the waiting room while I was at the counter, when a kitten got lose from its owner and rushed up to Cortez’s carrier, my grumpy, vicious, violent cat just pushed his nose through the grill, and nuzzled the young striped tabby, who promptly nuzzled back, then went off to play.
Cortez got the last laugh, and was an enigma to the end.
At the end, he was nuzzling me, because I was crying. It was the fasted and most peaceful I have ever had to let a pet go.
If loving your pets was enough to keep them with us, Cortexz would have lived forever.
I wrote this during what feels like the tail end of what I have called “The eye my hurricane of my grief.” I expect to be intermittent at best for a day or two at least. If I don’t respond to something, please don’t take it personally. I’m not sure yet how I am going to process this loss. Other, obviously, than writing about it.