The Fat One (December 19, 2009)

cats

Two years ago when we took in our younger cat, Jordan, now 5 years old, Eddie had a habit of not being able to tell him apart from Snuggy, the elder statesman, at least not when the two of them were whizzing by, running for the food bowl, or chasing each other around the furniture. To make things easier (and you can’t really grasp the full extent from the recent picture above), Eddie began to distinguish them by labeling Snuggy, “The Fat One,” as he once weighed in at 16 pounds. Jordan, the slighter and more agile of the two, became, “The Little One.” This naming system was so apropos that it stuck, and in time, both cats began to recognize and respond to these monikers.

Regular readers of this blog are aware of both my 15 year devotion to Snuggy, as well as his ongoing health problems which began this Fall. I regret to inform you that this past Thursday afternoon, Snuggles Inky lost the battle for his life. For the last three months, after surgery was done to remove the remainder of Snuggy’s teeth, I have nursed him like an infant. If sheer will were enough to keep someone alive, the combination of my efforts (thrice daily feedings, wiping his mouth after meals, twice weekly baths, medicines and a lot of cuddles) and Snuggy’s magnetism would have beat down any possible illness.

For the last 10-12 days, I knew something was terribly wrong. Snuggy, the feline version of a gluttonous foodie, loved nothing more than to chow down. Suddenly, he wasn’t so interested anymore and his meals grew smaller and smaller. His eyes began to take on a peculiar, leaky glaze and he spent more time sleeping soundly than awake. Jordan backed off their daily games. Snuggy lost weight. However, I must now admit that I was guilty of denial, of shutting my eyes to the truth, somehow lulling myself into the belief that if I didn’t say it aloud, it couldn’t be true. For those of you who know me, confrontation and businesslike steeliness is my usual MO, so this fleeing from reality was a strange anomaly. All I can say is that my love for this animal is not at all typical.

On Thursday morning, I could afford to bury my head no longer when it came to Snuggy’s obvious pain. Those sad eyes will haunt my dreams for weeks to come. He continued to refuse food, though he genuinely seemed hungry. He was consistently whimpering and then, most heartbreakingly of all, an unexplained bloody discharge began to leak from his mouth. Unwillingly, I left for work that day, but not before instructing Eddie to say his goodbyes. I knew, one way or the other, that Thursday had to be Snuggy’s last day on Earth – for his own sake if not at all for mine.

However it took a conversation with Jen to fully make me understand the suffering Snugs was enduring and that I absolutely HAD to let go. As I have said already, it is most unlike me to require a verbal shake before taking necessary action. I was paralyzed with fear and grief, which may seem odd as I have arguably been through worse situations than the death of a cat. But this was not a cat by any regular definition. This was Snuggy, my main man, the constant in my life for the last 15 years, those precious moments from ages 16-31 when it seems like everything important and crazy happens.

If I can say nothing else positive about Thursday, I must mention how wonderful the staff at Uptown Animal Hospital is. I called the office at 2:30 PM and briefly explained the situation to the woman who answered. Though I had no appointment, and was clearly on the brink of madness, she empathetically told me to come in right away and they would “make it work.” When I arrived cluthching Snuggy in my arms (I had neither the time, nor the inclination for a cat carrier), the staff did not make me stand in a queue, though they were quite busy. Snuggy and I were shown to Exam Room 1.

From there, everything was low cost, efficient and terribly compassionate. Snuggy nearly passed away after the first shot, the one given to numb the body. That’s how weak and small “The Lion King” (another Eddie bestowed nickname) had become. His profound sickeness did not, however, stop him from charming and giving affection to everyone encountered until the last second. It is a testament to his beguiling nature that one of the nurses continued to try to feed treats to an old man with a gigantic throat tumor (Snuggy’s unfortunate cause of death). I dare anyone who ever met this cat not to love him (and that goes for you too Theresa!).

The tumor had commenced by growing under Snuggy’s tongue. I asked the doctor how in the world this could have happened so fast when he had just seen a vet in September? One of those cruel, terrible things that can go down in elderly cats I was told. The bloody discharge was from the growth, which had also prevented him from eating in his final weeks. I was nearly overcome as it hit me how miserable the last few days in particular must have been for him. The guilt of knowing I had prolonged his suffering, as he bled and starved to death, was almost too much to take.

I regrouped enough to cuddle him and say the things I needed to say to Snuggy before the doctors began their work. I told him what a great life we had together, and how we both (I) needed to be strong to face the next steps. I said that I had had other pets, and would again, but none would ever be as special to the course of my entire life as he was – and I meant it. I held him close in my arms before the final shot was adminsistered, and I could not stop myself from picking him up again after it was all over.

I wept with Snuggy’s lifeless body in my arms, cradling him like the baby he was to me. I cried for his emaciated frame, the end of new memories together, and for Eddie’s inability to be there with me to say goodbye. But Snuggy had one last surprise. He made me laugh, even in death, by releasing his bowels down the front of my clothes. One more for the road, eh Snug? I have never treasured being soiled more.

How can I decsribe the overwhelming sadness of trying to resume normal life without my guy? The awfulness of performing the morning routine with just Jordan, who also seems at odds without his playmate? The weird sense of deja vu, as I have already tried to endure this process once this year when I lost Jesika?

The outpouring of grief and sympathy from friends who met Snuggy over the course of his long life has been a great source of comfort. It has been gratifying to hear how many lives he touched besides mine.

But there can be no argument that this cat and his unique ways did the most for me. In so many dark times over the last decade and a half, Snuggy was my touchstone, patiently allowing me to weep into the soft, black fur on his back. He was there for the good times too – for everything of any importance. Snuggles Inky Bluemel Sarwate was one of a kind, a truly irreplaceable original.

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