Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thomas (Cat) X, October 1989 - 22 September 2010

Tommy didn't make it. The veterinarian called a little after 2:30 this morning to say he'd taken a turn for the worse; his temperature had started to fall and he need an oxygen mask to breath. His white-cell count was still abnormal, despite antibiotics. Time was running out. "I thought you'd better know," he said, "he's unlikely to make it 'til morning."

Tam and I went to the pet hospital. Tommy was on a table, looking like just what he was: a very old guy, on life support. He'd continued to decline and started panting while we were there, needing his oxygen turned up even more. He was swaddled in heated blankets. I petted him and talked to him; so did Tam and the vet. He did start to purr but all too soon, it was time. He passed peacefully and, I hope, happily. It was about four in the morning. I was crying.

I cried when he was born, too. Unlike The Slinker's mama cat, who gave birth under a quilt, quietly, Thomas's mother, a feral I'd named Missy, fetched me to attend at her birthing bed. She'd showed up at my door, wanting in, wanting to be My Pet, and was so sweet-natured I couldn't refuse. Like her offspring (and the tom who probably sired them), she was almost all black, just a hint of white at her throat and tummy. She was a smallish cat, almost prissy, very neat and dainty in her movements.

As is so often the case with female stray cats, she soon commenced to swell. I read up on birthing cats (it's called "queening" and for good reason: you have not seen regal 'til you have seen a mama cat proudly reigning over her kittens) and made a bed for her in a broken kitchen cabinet, just the height of the toe-kick off floor level. She spent some time in and seemed to approve; with a door propped ajar, it was dark and private. I figured she'd have them there, move them to any one of a number of spots soon after, and I'd be well out of it.

I was wrong. One morning while I was getting ready for work, Missy -- now looking fit to explode -- came and got me, insistently meowing until I followed her into the kitchen. She hopped into the cabinet and kept on talking 'til I opened the door. As soon as I did, she went into labor!

It didn't take long; about as soon as one tiny kitten was born and cleaned up, another was on the way. One of them -- the last or second to last -- seemed to be stuck; I reached to assist but before I'd barely started to move, she leapt up to the half-width shelf above and pop! out came the kitten. I think that was Tommy; he was always larger than his three sisters. In due course, she gave birth to four black kittens, who would later be named Jane, Charlotte, Emily and...Thomas. (He was briefly named after the Bronte brother but it didn't stick). I was so touched by Missy's faith in me that I just broke down and cried.

I made up another bedding area in the space next to where she'd given birth and eventually left for work; by the time I returned home, she'd moved them and after I removed the birthing box (fancy name for a cardboard box and a rag bed), she kept the kittens there until it was time, several weeks later, for the Grand Parade.

Missy was a very good mother, but she was a feral cat. As soon as they were weaned, I was going to take her to the vet and have her spayed; but as soon as the kittens were weaned, she went into heat and as frantic to Get Outside! She made a dash for freedom before her appointment, joined up with a big, dark tomcat and they both lit out. I never saw her again.

But the kittens remained, a furry, purring quilt through that Winter, a source of joy as they grew up and explored. Tommy and Janie were with me all their lives; Emily and Charlotte had a litter of kittens each as soon as they were old enough (oops!) and with their young, spent about a year as outdoor Rodent Control Technicians at the Skunk Works North Campus. (They lived in a tent over a ground-level hot-air exhaust that Winter. I found homes for all of them except Slinky, who came home with me).

Tommy grew up to be a dignified tomcat; he had a degree of gravitas, though he was willing to set it aside to thwart string or shoelaces and loved chasing bouncy, foam-rubber balls on the stairs at my old house. He'd play with one by himself at night, chasing it down, catching it and carrying it back upstairs in his mouth, meowing, "'Awl! 'Awl!" all the way. As he aged, he was less active; I'd skip the ball up a flight of stairs and he'd reach out and catch it effortlessly.

When he was even older, he had problems with getting stopped up; like many another aging individual, he had to have Metamucil daily, and eventually he had to have a prescription digestive aid, too. Then came thyroid trouble, and high blood pressure; but he persevered. He spent most of his time on my desk, sleeping behind the monitor or sitting at my right, smoothing on my hand as I used the mouse and helping me type. He had become very frail. His old bones felt like porcelain but he'd leap down from the desk (with a cat carrier as an intermediate step) and until very recently, he could leap back up again, too, despite arthritic back legs.

He was so frail for so long and held on nevertheless. I kind of wonder if he was staying to be with The Slinker; after she passed away, he was pretty quiet, though he was still coming out to be petted as I typed.

I miss him a lot. I've had one or more cats most of my life but Thomas, along with The Slinker and Janie, was one of the very best. He was a wonderful cat.

As for me, I'm lost. I've outlived my adopted children. I just hope I gave them good lives.

77 comments:

Nathan said...

So sorry, Bobbie :(

og said...

You gave them excellent lives, for you gave of yourself. Sorry for your loss, and sorry for your sorrow.

Robb Allen said...

My deepest condolences, Roberta. Take solace in the knowledge that you gave Tommy a wonderful home and a great life.

Bob said...

My condolences on your loss, Bobbie.

Anonymous said...

To die while being comforted by your loved ones. Who could ask for more? Something is in my eye gotta go.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

I'm so sorry.

ZerCool said...

Words are never enough, but it's all I have.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Your writing shows (and I think you know) that you've given all your family critters a fantastic life.

Seems to have gotten a bit dusty in here...

reflectoscope said...

I just hope I gave them good lives.

If anyone could have, I have faith that it was you. I'm sorry about Tommy.

Jim

Jay G said...

I'm so sorry Roberta.

falnfenix said...

this and the post about the Slinker have made me cry. i'm so sorry for your loss.

Ken said...

I'm so sorry.

Mark Alger said...

I'm sorry for your loss, but am convinced you should take comfort in that you did give them good lives, and that every moment you had with them should be counted a blessing.

M

Marko said...

Sorry to hear about both of your friends.

It's probably a small solace, but they both had good, long lives, and you made sure they were good lives.

Jennifer said...

You certainly gave them good lives as you loved and were loved in return. I am so sorry for your loss.

D.W. Drang said...

At work, must not cry.
Easy to say "They're just cats/dogs/ferrets/whatever" bue they still are part of our lives, we still give them our hearts and they give so much in return.
It was bad enough when we lost Fluffy Kitten to cancer 3 years ago Christmas, when wse lost Pretty Kitty to cancer a week later it was unbearable.
You have our most sincere condolences.

Evyl Robot Michael said...

I'm so sorry! It's never easy. It sounds like he had a wonderful life!

Anonymous said...

If you believe that souls and spirits survive mortal death -and who is to say?- then it is easy and comforting to imagine Tom and Slinky cavorting and painlessly leaping about...together again.

And they're probably meowing to each other "Dude, that Bobbi was one awesome person-pet...I'm gonna miss her."

Lucky, lucky cats. Condolences to you, Ms. X...but you done good, and it was time.

AT

LC Scotty said...

Sorry to hear this Roberta.

Midwest Chick said...

Deepest condolences from Mr. B and myself. You gave Tommy a good life and lots of pettings and a cat carrier as an intermediary step so he could get around better.

You were there when he was born and you were there when he passed. You gave him a good life and a place--you were part of each others' world. Our furry companions are the great joys and the great sorrows of our lives.

We remember them and love them all of our days.

JD said...

Sorry to hear the news, always hard to lose a family member like that. Hang in there.

Nancy R. said...

I hope that when I die I come back reincarnated as one of your cats.

Peter said...

When my time comes, I hope I pass over surrounded by those who love me, feeling their love and comforted by it.

There are much, much worse ways to go.

You did good.

DJ said...

Some kitten will claim your heart again, and then your heart will heal. That's what kittens are for. Been there, done that.

homebru said...

You were a good and true friend and I am sorry for your loss.

Lissa said...

Oh, I'm so sorry, Roberta. I hope you take a little comfort in the fact that Tommy and Slinky are together again. *sniffle*

Turk Turon said...

This is terribly sad news. Tommy was a great old guy with a great old guy's voice, deep and scratchy.

Bobbi, you took such wonderful care of him, particularly in his old age. He was nearly 21!

Joe Allen said...

I'm so sorry! Twenty one years is a hell of a good run for a kitty - he had a great life and great family.

doubletrouble said...

Sorry for your loss Bobbie & Tam.
As has been said, you provided a good, long life for your friends.
That's all that can be asked.

Alan said...

Condolences, Roberta.

I think I have something in my eye.

theirritablearchitect said...

"As for me, I'm lost. I've outlived my adopted children. I just hope I gave them good lives."

Please, Bobbi, don't for a minute think that you didn't.im

Bubblehead Les. said...

Sorry about Tommy, but it sounds like he couldn't have had a better life than the time he spent with you. However, something tells me that Whoever is running the Universe will NOT allow a Cat Person to be deprived of the love that the Feline Species brings to us. Cherish your friends memories, and be ready to open the door when the Cat Gods send you some new friends to live at Roseholme. Lord knows there are plenty of little kittens just waiting for their new Mommy to let them into their hearts. Take care.

Rustmeister said...

Sorry to hear that, hon.

George said...

I never had animals as a child, wasn't allowed. When I choose to as an adult, they were wonderful!
They're all gone, now, and each instance was difficult. I KNOW he was loved!

George said...

Ah ... Roberta. I've been unable to stay tuned ... and this blog entry was my first today. Like all your friends, I'm saddened at Thomas' passing but ... and you should hang onto this ... he lived, thrived and died in love. Nothing more can be asked of us. Nothing better will we get from the pet members of our families.

Console yourself with your memories of Thomas and his long, long time with you.

lean back on us as you need to, Roberta.

Regards.

Borepatch said...

Roberta, I'm so sorry to hear this. We adopted a pair of kittens in 1989, and had them until they too got old.

They died a couple years ago, and the kids were lost - they'd never not had the cats around. Quite frankly, we were more than a little lost ourselves.

But you gave him a good home, and a good long season. I get the feeling that he'll stay with you the rest of your life.

Blackwing1 said...

My condolences.

Not only should you feel good about Thomas' wonderful life, you also gave his momma a warm, safe place in which to have her kittens, and was an appreciative step-mom willing and able to take care of them, nurture them in her absence, and find loving homes for them.

Take joy in remembering all of the good, fun times with him.

D.W. said...

I tried to think of something useful to write, but words fail me.

Please accept my sincere condolences on your loss.

*wipes away tears*

Brandon said...

You gave your kitties good lives. I'm very sorry for your loss.

Rabbit said...

I'm so sorry for your losses.

pax said...

Condolences on your loss.

Tennessee Budd said...

Sounds like you gave them very good lives indeed.
Sorry for your loss.

Comrade E.B. Misfit said...

I am so sorry about Tommy.

perlhaqr said...

Sorry, darlin'. :(

Your cats do sound like they had everything they need from a family, though, with love and petting right up to the very end.

Anonymous said...

My condolences on your loss, Bobbie.


Noel

wb0***

Judy said...

So sorry!!

Sarah said...

I'm so sorry.

There's no doubt that you give your fur babies wonderful lives. Anyone who'll take the time to write such a thoughtful and honest piece about them is clearly one of the most-loving caretakers.

CGHill said...

I have no doubt that their lives were better for having spent them with you.

"Staying to be with the Slinker"? Makes perfect sense to me.

Stingray said...

I'm so sorry. I wish I could do something more than be glad they had such long, well loved lives, but I guess that'll have to do.

LabRat said...

I've done the small-hours-of-the-morning phone call. You were there for your last duty.

As a species, cats tend to have lives that are short, nasty, brutish, and end in fear and the dark. You give yours lives that are long, dignified, and touched with love from beginning to end.

Hopefully I will stop crying before Stingray's done with whatever's occupying him.

Squeaky Wheel said...

At nearly 21 years, Tommy lived to be about 7 times the age of your average feral cat. I'd say you took good care of him, and Slinker, too.

I'm very sorry to hear about all of this kitty sadness - if it means anything at all, I sympathize wholeheartedly.

He was with his momma when he passed...that has to count for something. At least he wasn't alone.

*hugs*

Crucis said...

My deepest condolences, Roberta. Joyce and I have been through this as well. Grieve as you need and in a few weeks begin the search for another furry companion. It always seems that our furry companions are too ephemeral. Compared to us and others, that may be true, but they fulfill a need.

Personally, I look askance at anyone who thinks pets are just animals.

jbrock said...

So sorry; my condolences.

Hobie said...

We hate to see friends pass. So sorry to hear of your friend's passing.

The Freeholder said...

Roberta, no cat could ask for more, and so many get less. You've done well by them all.

I'm sorry for your loss. However, I suspect that, sometime soon, that cat-shaped hole in your life will again be filled.

Remember them with fondness, and you'll see them again sometime.

Sean said...

Sorry about this Roberta, I know it's tough. We lost our two "fur people" earlier this year, and have only recently found new ones to share their lives with us.

Hang in there & I know that their times were better for living with you.

Firehand said...

Damn. And condolences

Jim said...

I am so sorry, Bobbie. Not looking forward to that myself (Gracie was born July 1991) but hope I'm here when it happens. My condolences.

Scott McCray said...

Roberta, my deepest condolences to you and Tam.

Joseph said...

My Condolences, Roberta.

No matter how long they live, it's always too short.

Hans said...

I'm sorry. May the joy of your memories soon outshine the pain of loss.

Jeffro said...

Damn.

I just hope I gave them good lives.

Oh, Roberta, that's when I finally lost it. Let that be the least of your worries - of course you gave them better lives and they loved you for it.

My condolences to you and Tam. Two beloved pets passing on in such a short time is a very difficult thing to endure.

Again, I'm so sorry.

DaddyBear said...

I'm so sorry about your loss. My first Siamese lived for 16 years, and it broke my heart to put him down. He's up in heaven with your two chasing small fuzzy things now.

rickn8or said...

So sorry, Roberta.

(Hugs)

Scott said...

I have been through this many times over my 51 years. It never gets easier, whether a dog or a cat.

Endeavour to persevere.

Anonymous said...

From your description it would seem that Tommy and Slinky had much love in their lives, and that you and Tam were the source of it.

I don't think you have cause to worry if your animals had a good life.

Cowboy Blob said...

Sorry for your loss. It's been a bad year for furry friends down this way,

Gay_Cynic said...

My sincere condolences...it's never easy to lose a longtime friend, human or critter.

You done good. Their lives with you were filled with love, care, and kindness.

Cybrludite said...

My condolences as well.

Roberta X said...

Thank you, everyone. Your kind words really do help.

Breda said...

They break your heart in the end, but it's so very worth it. I'm so sorry, Roberta.

Matt G said...

Truly a full life, and you were there, always, for them. May I suggest some travel, now?

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Condolences just don't seem enough. At least when it was time he had his person there to comfort him, and a purr in his throat to show you his thanks for a lifetime of love.

Jon said...

I'm so sorry, Roberta.

Anonymous said...

I don't have the words to express my feelings at this news, so I'll just stick with:

I'm so sorry. You have my heartfelt condolences.

ThoreMo

phlegmfatale said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss of Tommy. What a sweet, handsome cat. Bless you.

Justthisguy said...

Dang, Ma'am! Sorry to be so late, but, well, I just couldn't assemble the gumption until now.

Twice in as many weeks is a coupla hard hits. There must be a better way to lubricate one's eyeballs.

Please be assured, Ma'am, that you have my most earnest heartfelt condolences!

Linoge said...

Bit late on this, but I am terribly sorry to hear about it.