In Memory of Monkey July 4, 1999 - August 6, 2008
Last night we brought home our first baby, our dear ginger kitten, for his final night with his family. Ruckus was a little skeptical because Monkey smelled like fear and vet's offices and kept a wide berth. We cried a lot. We sang a lot. We filled our hearts with gratitude and thankfulness. We re-told Monkey all his stories. We remembered when he was a tiny kitten who used to cry "mew! mew!" when we left him alone in a room (at the time we lived in a 400 sq ft apartment, so it was always humorous that he could feel abandoned when we were never more than 10 feet away). He used to be so excited when I would come home from work, even when I came home for lunch, that he would run directly up the front of my body and perch himself on my shoulder. He'd nuzzle his tiny face under my hair and suck on my neck. I always had tiny kitten hickies. We talked about his first earthquake when he was new to our house, and how he was sleeping between us - as usual - when it struck and I picked him up (in just one hand, he was so small) and we ran for the doorway. We stood there for a good long time, watching the water in the pool slush up over the sides. We laughed about how when he was a kitten, the vet told us he was a girl, and we named him Meesha, and then a few months later Ryan called me at work to say "uh, Meesha has balls" - Monkey was suddenly a boy cat and his name was suddenly "Monkey". When he was a spry young thing that used to climb the door jamb, like a Monkey in a tree -- where he got his name -- and get scared and cry for us to rescue him. We talked about how we moved so many times in the past 9 years and the stories for Monkey in each new place. The time he escaped out the garage door of the Irvine house and we found him on our porch, begging to come back inside. The time we lived in the funky Tustin apartments and weren't supposed to have cats and had to block the windows to keep him from sunning in them and giving us away. We talked about what a great big brother cat he was and how he took in Ruckus who wasn't only a new cat, but the feral kitten that we'd seen outside our building who was now injured. How he showed him to use the litter box (or sink in a pinch) and how to wrestle like a man. We laughed about the 'midnight crazies' and how every night they'd set off on a giant game of chase around the house, one with no winners or losers. It was running and yelling for the sake of running and yelling.
All night long, he traveled around the house to spend time in all of his favorite hang out spots. He spent time under the chair and on the chair, under the bed, in the office, under Ryan's desk, under the TV, in the window, in the closet, several stretches of carpet and tile. It was great to see him out and around, in all the places where we're used to seeing him.
When it was time for bed, I put him into bed with us, installed on his favorite blanket with a few towels underneath in case he didn't make it to the litter box. He instead opted to take up Ryan's side of the bed, telling us that blankies were for suckers. Ryan and I got in bed next to him and then Ruckus jumped up and slept directly next to Monkey. Nobody moved an inch for hours. The warm energy was amazing and we knew that this was the perfect send-off for him - a night full of family comfort and love and sharing.
This morning he was struggling pretty hard to breathe and his eye was still pretty bad looking. I knew he didn't feel well, but we decided to give him some peace alone at home while we ate breakfast - knowing that we wouldn't be able to eat later - and went to see the vet. The vet gave us a sedative to relax him a bit before we'd have to take him in to the office, so that he wouldn't be afraid of the car ride. The pill was supposed to take about an hour to take effect, but he started getting woozy in about 10 minutes. He was pretty nervous about it and came and laid down in my lap. We stayed at home for about another half hour until his breathing started getting heavy, then we drove over to the vet. We carried him in a big box with his favorite blankie inside and not the cat carrier, so that we could pet and hold him the whole way. At the office, we were given a private room and were seen right away.
It was the hardest thing and the greatest privilege I have ever had. I am so grateful that I was able to be there for him in his final moments and made sure that he was unafraid. He was able to die with dignity, and though he suffered in life, he did not linger in death. He was able to carry himself with pride from start to finish and that makes me feel really warm inside. To know that I was able to give him that small gift means a lot to me.
During and after this whole event, things started getting very literal (it's hard to believe in coincidence when you're bombarded from all sides). I can't even remember all of the incidences, but it kept us giggling (thank you, Monkey).
- Ryan stumbled across a Grant Morrison interview, where he talked about one of the hardest things he's ever done in life was lose his cat. (Who, incidentally, says his own epitaph should read "I LIKE THE LOOK OF YOU... I’M FOLLOWING YOU HOME TONIGHT") But that one of the worst parts is that once they've become part of the universe again they are with you all the time so you may never get to sleep again, because they'll be running and playing in your mind all hours of the day.
- When the sedatives started working and he was relaxing, the song "Say Hello To Heaven" by Temple of the Dog came on the radio. Right after this, he started looking around the room, especially at the ceiling. (looking for ceiling cat?)
- Walking and talking about him, Ryan said "He gave us the best..." and then the car that was directly in front of us had the license plate that said THERAPY
- Taking Ruckus for a walk, we both got teary-eyed and looked up (to keep the tears from dripping out) and there was a cluster of 3 stars directly above us with a 4th very bright star, just to the side.
- When I went to upload his pictures off my camera I noticed there was a video that I hadn't deleted from a few months ago. It was Dead Man's Party performing "Gratitude" by Oingo Boingo. Of course.
We both keep vascillating between "I feel strangely calm. I'm ok!" and body-wracking sobs. We're kind of a manic mess right now. We're trying to allow ourselves to miss him, but not be sad. Transfer that sadness to gratitude - that we got to know him at all. That we got to spend 9 wonderful years with him. That his sickness didn't get the best of him, we did. That he never suffered. That he was always happy. That his spirit is still in tact. That our family becoming a threesome is still strong. That we took silly videos and lots of pictures. That we write our memories, so that we'll never lose anything. [for the record, gratitude is a LOT harder than it sounds] We're putting all of our energy into helping Ruckus cope with suddenly being the only cat and not having his big brother around to protect him. We're just trying to cope in general. But it's going to be ok. It has to be.
**The rest of the story is sweet, but sad. Stop reading here if you are squeamish about death.**
A nurse came in right away to set Monkey up with an IV line in his arm. She actually took him to the back room for that, and when she brought him back his arm was taped up with hot pink bandages to keep his IV secure. We spent some more time holding him and singing him songs. Temple of the Dog "Say Hello to Heaven" was on the radio. That was probably the point where everything started getting very literal (which lasted all night).
The vet came in and told us that she was standing by, and when we were ready she would come back. We were ready - and he was, too - so we asked her to give him the sedative. She administered a little more sedative, just to make him relaxed, which acts as a two-fold solution. It helps the pet be less afraid and give the owners some quality, calm time together and it also helps to prevent twitching and movement after death (which scares a lot of people, so they do their best to limit how much it will happen). So he got a little in his IV and then looked at her and said "Mrow!" to voice his displeasure with all the poking and prodding and, even though he was now very sleepy, he bit the end of the IV catheter and yanked it out and spit it across the room. We had to laugh - sass right up to the end. He was clearly 'over' all these doctors and bullshit. He even grabbed Ryan's hand and started biting him. It was so good to see that he hadn't lost his sense of propriety and indignation. :) The sedative made him very calm and lazy and sweet. I picked him up and held him and didn't care how much my arms were shaking - sadness and 16 lbs of cat will do that. He let me cradle him and set his head on my shoulder and told me all about everything. We sang songs (these ridiculous little tunes we make up for our cats) and talked to him, and he sang and responded. When the sedatives really started kicking in, he was breathing hard and panting through his mouth. That's when we could see just how hard his little body had been working all this time. His whole body was involved with every little breath, and now that his whole body couldn't participate, it was a challenge. So we asked the vet to give him the final shot.
I held him in my arms and Ryan snuggled around us. She administered the injection and within 10 seconds he was gone. We talked to him the whole way and never stopped sharing our voices until we were sure he'd fully gone. He had so much energy and spirit that his whiskers twitched for about another minute and he had two little cough-like spasms. The vet was so sweet in reassuring us and letting us know that it was normal, but we were comfortable with that part. It was just amazing to watch his energy dissipate into the universe.
We stayed with him for another half hour or so. We held his body, knowing that he was no longer there, and snuggled him in all the ways he'd hated so much in life. I cradled him and sang the "Sweet Baby" song that used to make him run like lightning (he didn't care to be cradled and the "Sweet Baby" song is only sung when cradling and is just a repetition of the words "sweet baby" in a hushed tone). We rubbed his feet (he hated that) and kissed his toes. We looked at his giant teeth - he really has some of the biggest fangs I have ever seen. We brushed out his fur so that he was velvety soft. He had the softest fur I have ever touched, especially when brushed. We even cut off a few pieces of fur to take with us. We brushed him down and made him as handsome as possible before summoning the vet again. It was hard to see him be carried away, but we took more of him with us than we left in that office. His body was the smallest part of who he was. We were covered head-to-toe in orange fur on our clothes and wore it with pride.