A regal calico feline. 17 years. Old for a cat. An outdoor cat in Los Angeles. Tough and clever. Possessed of the slow moving wisdom. Her coat no longer supple. Her gait no longer graceful. Wits still sharp as new scissors.
She moves with purpose.
Deep set, aged eyes.
She is very old.
She’s already survived one human mother who passed prematurely from cancer. She remembers. For time longer than her ability to total, she’s enjoyed the care and love of another mother. Daughter of that mother.
She knows she’s in trouble and asks for help. She comes to the door. She wants in.
A swollen, painful tumor in her mouth. Her beautiful face is distorted. Smeared. Lopsided. Blood runs down the pure white fur of her chin and throat when she moves. She continues to eat, drink and groom, because she is brave and because that’s what she does.
I guess and hope it’s a bad tooth. An abscess. The first doctor, an ER doctor, doesn’t think so.
Jazzy understands it’s not.
Still, she spends time convalescing on antibiotics and pain killers in the comfort of D’s bed. Days go by. The antibiotics have no effect.
She remains herself and goes on about her business. There is food and water. A box of sand. All indoors. Not far from the bed.
On the way to the hospital the second time, D says to me, “I have no pictures of her” and it reminds me that I have no pictures of my own two girls. I love my girls and I know how much I need to do this for myself. I need pictures. I start to cry. Jazzy is behind us in the back of my car, in a cage. A cat carrier. I hate them.
She’s not quite content. She does ask us about what’s going on so we answer as best we can. She knows this too will pass.
The second doctor tells us a biopsy will be painful and the x-rays will be uncomfortable. She will need to be anesthetized. It’s most likely a particularly virulent cancer. Fast moving and lethal within a matter of weeks, maybe a month. She tells us if it’s in her mouth, it’s probably metastasized in her lungs. She says she wouldn’t blame us for taking her home for a few days or weeks. She says she would understand if we decided to do this. She wouldn’t blame us. Jazzy will deteriorate very quickly when it comes. She is a kind doctor.
What we need to know. She’s telling us it’s a done deal.
Jazzy’s mother knows what she needs to know. Jazzy’s mother tells me what she intends to do. She tells me this as she holds Jazzy in her lap, comforting her with gentle hands. I contract. My throat is full. I start to cry again. I find the doctor and ask her the questions I need to ask. To be sure, even though it’s not my decision. She answers my questions but I don’t hear or remember because I’m so sad and her eyes tell me what I need to know.
The doctor describes the procedure to us. She will take Jazzy to insert a catheter in one of her legs. We will then be allowed to spend the time we need with her in a more comfortable room until we are ready and then she’ll administer a shot that will render Jazzy unconscious before a second shot, an overdose, that will end her life. She tells us we can take all the time we need. I can’t help but think how absurd it is. How compassionate it isn’t. How much time?
She is a good doctor. She is kind. She understands and she does her best to comfort us. She talks to us very seriously but her eyes.
I spend a few minutes without noticing the room and then leave D alone with Jazzy. I’m a mess. D is brave. I go outside for a smoke. The Doctor finds me outside to tell me D is ready. The room is small and the lighting is cheesy somber soft. I don’t know what to do. D holds Jazzy in a small white blanket. I kiss Jazzy between her ears. I love that spot on a cat. I like the sides of their heads too, just behind their eyes. D strokes her softly and I swear Jazzy knows. She trusts.
It’s here that I hitch. There, that I start to get it. Here, the elegance of this proud and flawlessly humble animal. She asks us please not to suffer. She puts us in charge of that. Forgive us for we know what we do.
The doctor pets her head softly after the first injection. Jazzy sleeps. Without saying anything, the doctor prepares and inserts the second needle into the catheter.
I feel my face twisting and my chest ache. My tears are hot.
I will always remember this cat lounging in a planter furious with bees. She didn’t care. Drooling whenever I pet her. She didn’t talk much. She didn’t feel the need to tell me she owned the place.
Animals don’t even think about death until they are dying. It’s why they are far more gorgeous than humans.
A half minute and Jazzy goes gentle into this goodnight.
Then, the deepest sob I ever remember hearing.
A few minutes pass and the Doctor comes and collects Jazzy’s body quietly. She looks at us and I want to smile. She holds her gently, careful to keep the blanket wrapped around her.
I keep thinking how tragic it was. But it wasn’t.
Early one Saturday morning my own cat, lying in the middle of the tile floor, a small puddle of urine behind her. Early one Saturday morning. So sudden. No reason. She was only six and I was crushed. Months went by. She was a star.
This wasn’t tragic. It was beautiful.
No perfidy here.
It’s the innocence, the immaculate benevolence of kitties, that breaks my heart. They don’t even think about death until it’s on them. Are they pretending to be that cautious all the time? It’s a good thing they don’t have money. I love kitties. I adore them.
Rest in peace Jazzy you old rip.
Drinks for my friends.