Saturday, June 9, 2007

Greetings from Orlando

It's 4 a.m. in Florida and the hell day is done. We left the house a little after 8 this morning and got in an hour ago. There were problems in Dallas, a long wait for the rental car, and two four year olds who went insane at around 10 their time. Fortunately, they both went down for the count about two seconds after the car hit 417 South. It's hot and humid, and there are palm trees everywhere.

I killed my cat the night before we left. My friends have seen this coming for awhile.

We were going to have our neighbors feed Oz while we were gone, and had a friend dropping in for a more extensive visit or two, but on Thursday night Carolyn and I both looked at him and had to ask ourselves whether he'd be alive when we got back. Our cat of eighteen years was near the end, and neither of us really wanted to deal with it.

I called the emergency pet clinic on Lake City Way to see if we could have him put down, and they said yes. It would have been a lot harder for Carolyn, so she stayed with the girls and worked on packing while I did the deed. I drove him over at around 9 pm.

Oz has always been a howler when he's scared, but he barely made a sound. It was a measure of how little was left. He weighed maybe two pounds.

I've never liked this cat all that much. He's sweet, but basically a really annoying animal. One of those cats who was removed from his mother too early and never recovered.

So I was kind of surprised to find myself getting all emotional. I drove to the clinic with his carrier in the passengers' seat and said inane things in cooing tones the whole way.

The clinic had the drill down. I could either just drop him off or stay and be with him to the end. Disposal options included mass cremation, single cremation with ashes returned, or home burial. I opted to stay and and to have him incinerated with the others. A perfect mix of sentiment and practicality. They asked for their $102 up front.

They took him away to put an IV catheter in his leg, and returned him to me in a room where he and I could sit as long as I liked. I asked for three minutes. He was wrapped in a blanket and seemed to enjoy his final moments.

The vet came in and explained that the blanket would keep things from getting messy once the drug was injected. They were basically giving him a powerful anesthetic. He'd be gone in about 45 seconds. There might be some body reactions. There were three syringes. The first with water, to clear the tube. The second with viscous pink stuff that looked like Pepto-Bismol, and the third another clear liquid. Maybe water again. I didn't ask. There was a shudder and a smell. I held him throughout. She listened with a stethoscope. "Just gut sounds," she murmured. "He's gone," I asked? It came out choked. She nodded. I handed her the bundle, said thanks again, and left.

As I shut the car door it hit me that I felt more for this cat than I knew. I started to sob, and to laugh at the same time, because I couldn't believe that I was crying over this cat. Me. The guy who can maybe get a little misty over a poem or a piece of music, but who basically hasn't cried for more than 30 years. Some guys are criers. I'm not.

But there I was, in a dark parking lot, alone in my car, drowning in snot and tears over a cat I didn't even think I liked. "Fucking cat," I laughed and sobbed. And after a couple of minutes, I dried my face on my shirt, turned the ignition and drove away. And that was that.


Stephany said...

Oz had a good life, and a long one at that. I had the same reaction after I thought I could handle taking my dog [years ago]. I was being brave so I thought, until the event took place. The wailing cries that came out of me scared me and everyone else in the place as I found my way to the car.
Being the "one" to take pets to the vet for that--awful.
You did good. Bless Oz.

Robin said...

Dear Tim,

Thanks for sharing this moving and personal moment--and for your other strong work. In this story, you really capture our uncanny connection to animals. I thought of A Schweitzer's work.

I hope your observations will be available in book form. Great work.
Thanks again. Robin