Monday, December 5, 2011
I've been lucky enough to live with some of the best cats one could ever imagine. After adopting the first, Miss Kitty, who was only with us for 5 years due to a mysterious cardiac condition, we were blessed with Charlotte and Benji. Then along came Gomer- an "unplanned adoption" whom Wilson and I shamelessly guilted Joe into agreeing to. I can't speak for Joe but I know I've never regretted the manipulation, even for a moment.
Initially he was so sick from an upper respiratory infection (something not uncommon in shelter cats) in addition to his "man surgery" we were quite concerned. Several trips to the vet for exams and fluids along with the antibiotics finally paid off; after 10 days of sequestration Gomer was finally ready to come out and meet the rest of the family. Once he was up and about there was quite a bit of sniffing underneath the door by Benji and Charlotte so they had exchanged scented messages, but no face-to-face meetings because we didn't want to infect Charlotte and Benji with whatever illness Gomer had.
Introductions went very well and Gomer assimilated into the family without any trouble. True to his ginger color, he was affable and affectionate. He and Benji hit it off and enjoyed playing outside and snuggling together inside. After hearing many disaster stories of attempts to add a new cat to households over the years I'm amazed that he was accepted so well, but am grateful there wasn't even a hiss or a swat.
This all happened back in 1995, when Wilson was in kindergarten. Over the years Gomer accompanied us on walks to school (along with Benji and sometimes Charlotte- all 3 of our cats were very dog-like) and enjoyed playing in the yard but always came in at night to sleep with Wilson. He's had his mishaps over the years, including a nasty row with Whitey Bulger one summer (though Benji's left ear took the brunt of those battles) as well as a mysterious bite at the base of his tail, which we always suspected Benji of, but could never prove. Despite fiercely defending his territory he never was anything but sweet and loving to us.
Now he remains the last one of our Original Three, not surprising since he was the younger than Benji and Charlotte by a few years. He's 16 by the vet's estimation, no small feat for an in-and-outdoor cat. These days, he spends most of his time indoors curled up in his favorite bed. His once voracious appetite has dwindled to picking at his food and several trips to the vet over the past 6 months have showed continued weight loss. Sadly, the vet thinks he has lymphoma, which is causing the weight loss, since most other diagnoses have been ruled out. We won't definitively confirm the suspicion since we wouldn't opt for treatment at his age, which would consist of chemotherapy. The plan is to keep him as happy and comfortable as possible for his remaining time.
At his age, I suppose every day is a gift, but as his family we nevertheless delude ourselves into thinking he'll be with us always. Now that we know for sure he won't be, and that his days are numbered, instead of dwelling on the fact that he is dying, I'm finding myself being more aware of his presence and enjoying the time we have with him. Each opportunity to curl up on the couch with him, scratch his chin or give him a gentle brushing is savored. He's adjusted to (though doesn't enjoy) the twice a day Prednisolone pills because he knows a tasty meal will follow. The drug has seemed to stimulate his appetite and he's eating better. I confess to letting him have his fill of chicken every time I cook it.
I do feel very sad at the thought of losing our long-time family member, but surprisingly it has also given me the gift of appreciating the time at hand even more. I'm thankful we've had Gomer in our family to enrich our lives in more ways than it's possible to count, and for his important reminder in his last days to remain present in the moment and not to dwell on what is in the future. Thank you, Biggin.