Monday, September 10, 2007

One Little Life

The best cat that ever lived, Milady Rogers Osborne, died today... September 10, 2007.

The vet called this morning and said that Milady was severely anemic, dehydrated, weak and uncomfortable. She could feel a large mass in her stomach and intestines, that it was fast-growing because it wasn’t there a month ago. She said she was crying a pitiful meow as she petted her. She said that Milady was going to die.

And I am in Charleston, 5 hours away from the vet’s office.

The vet said she could try to keep her alive until the weekend with a blood transfusion, but that the best thing for Milady would be to put her to sleep. She told me to think about it and call her back.

There really was nothing to think about. It was all already there in my heart. There was just no way I could make that precious little cat extend her suffering just so I could have my selfish little teary-eyed goodbye. I called the vet back after an hour of crying, praying, and talking on the phone with Doug, my mom, and Joannis. And I told her to go ahead. She assured me that she would be with Milady when she passed.

I had known in my heart that Milady was going to die. I had prayed about it a lot earlier last week, and I asked the Lord if she was going to die. He actually told me yes, and that it would happen soon. I asked if I should put her to sleep before we went to Charleston, and He said it depends on whether or not I wanted to be there when they put her to sleep. I told Him I didn’t know what I wanted to do about that. I didn’t want to think about it. I just wanted to push it away from me. There was too much else going on, what with my in-laws living with us while my father-in-law recovers from brain surgery and receives treatment for lung cancer. Then there are the other health issues like Isaac’s peanut allergy, etc., and car issues that seemed to add to financial burdens. I felt nearly overwhelmed, and I didn’t want my cat to die in the midst of all this other stuff. Why now? I asked. No answer to that one.

And then, Wednesday and Thursday she was eating a little better and seemed to be slowly regaining her strength. The vet had told me that if it was just an ulcer (and not cancer), that the ulcer medication would take two or three days to help. It seemed to be helping, so maybe it was just an ulcer after all. Maybe she wouldn't die (yes, absurd I know, especially in light of a previous conversation I had with Someone). I couldn’t bare the thought of putting her down if it wasn’t a certainty that she had cancer, but we just couldn’t afford exploratory surgery for her; nor did I want to put Milady through that.

So I waited. Time came for us to leave for Charleston, so I took her to the vet to stay, asked them to please call me if there were any changes, knowing they’d take good care of her.

And then today she’s gone.

And I’m heartbroken. The best, most loving, most gentle cat in the entire world is gone. She was mine for almost 13 years (it would have been 13 years in October). She was 13 and a half years old, born sometime in the spring, in May or June of 1994. I got her when she was 5 months old. I wasn’t there when she was born, and it turns out I wasn’t there when she died…even though I had always thought I would be.

No doubt about it, God had sent her to me. And I sent her back to Him today via a cell phone call.

I’m feeling a lot of guilt over not being there when she died. But if I had been there, I’d have been on a crying jag, and Milady would have been distressed about that and trying to comfort me. She always tried to comfort me when I cried. She would circle my legs, get in my lap, kiss my eyelids with her nose, meow at me. I can't tell you how many times her fur was wet with my tears over the years. This was just what she did. She was my Little Comforter. It was probably most peaceful for her to go exactly as she went, with a compassionate vet who gave her peaceful comfort while she went to sleep.

My roommate Aubrey used to tell me that if anything ever happened to me, she wanted me to leave Milady to her in my will. I told her to get in line, because several others had said the same thing. I’m telling you, this was one special cat. And she was mine. For some reason unbeknownst to me, God decided to let me be the one who owned Milady.

It was October 1994 when I first met her, back when I was in college. I had decided to visit the Watauga Humane Society (in Boone). I walked past all the dog cages, but most of them were timid or aggressive with fear, so I moved on to the cat room. I’d had a few dogs in my childhood, but I’d had close to a dozen cats.

Back then all the Humane Society cats were in a room no larger than a dorm room. There was a bench in there, and lots of shelves and cubby holes lining the walls, where cats would perch and space themselves out. It was a crowded little room--I counted at least 30 cats--but the employees kept it very clean. I went in and figured I’d pet some of the cats. Each cat wore a little paper band around its neck with a name given by the Humane Society employees. Most of the cats would circle my leg and move on, and some would pause if I scratched their heads, but most were just not that interested in being petted. But after a moment this one little bob-tailed 5-month-old kitten jumped on my lap, put one paw on either side of my neck and rubbed her face against each of my cheeks. That was my first ever Milady hug. I fell in love with this little creature. I lived in the dorms at the time, but I didn’t care. I had to rescue this precious animal. The name the employees had given her was Alice. After spending some serious bonding time with her on that little bench, I mustered up the strength to leave her there with a promise that I would return for her. I didn’t know how, but I would do it.

The guy I was dating at the time lived in an apartment off campus. I talked him and his roommate into letting her live there until the end of the semester. Then I took my roommate and best friend, Joannis, with me back to the Humane Society and I adopted this little kitty cat. Joannis wrote a check for her because I didn’t have the cash on me. She stayed at that apartment for two months, I guess, and then I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment of my own. And that was the beginning of my life with Milady.

Thirteen years is a long time. I mean, think about it. It’s the amount of time it takes to go from Kindergarten all the way through twelfth grade. And any kid will tell you that seems like a lifetime. And it is. It’s a cat’s lifetime. I always told her that she had to be one of those cats that lived to the age of twenty. Apparently she wasn’t listening.

I just can’t believe she’s gone. Did you know she saved my life once? Or maybe I should be more specific: she saved me from being partially scalped and knocked unconscious. It was back in college, at my Birch Tree apartment. I had hung a heavy (and I really mean heavy) mirror above the head of my bed. I used three anchors in the sheetrock to make sure it didn’t fall. And that night I sat in bed doing my devotions as usual, my head resting against the wall beneath that mirror. Milady was on the nightstand, probably licking the lightbulb, as was her habit during those days. Suddenly she was on the other side of me, standing on my pillow, her front paws on the wall just beneath that mirror. She meowed at me and looked up at the mirror and meowed repeatedly. I sat up from the wall and pushed her away. And that was when the mirror fell. It came straight down into my pillow, right where my head had been. I’m talking a 30 pound mirror, or more. This thing was huge and had a heavy mahogany frame. It would have scalped me, given me a concussion, or cracked my skull. And after it hit my head, it would have fallen over my face and probably broken. The anchors had held. They were still in the wall above us. So what had happened? The mounting cable on the back of the mirror had broken. I don’t know if Milady could hear it unraveling, or maybe God had her do what she did. Either way, that cat saved my life.

Pud Tat. Pudda. (both derivatives of “Puddy Tat” from Sylvester and Tweety) Mrow. Cat. (when I was annoyed) These were my other names for Milady.

Thank God that she is no longer suffering. Thank God for the time I had with her. It’s amazing, the impact of one precious, furry little life.

Goodbye, Pudda. I love you. Thanks for picking me that October day, for being mine.