Oftentimes, I come up with titles for posts before a post even exists. I jot them down, somewhere, and hope not to lose them. I had something along the lines of Fur Magnolias, The Long Goodbye, and My Life Is Shit, Part 3. This post wants to be funny, but in many ways is equally sad.
Let’s start with the cat. Oliver, like any hot-blooded feline, loves to sleep on things. He likes backpacks and fallen cushions, dining room chairs and – the one that really pisses me off – the top of the dining room table. Now I’m not stupid – I know that cats love high places and definitely those with a view. The dining room table is no exception. Not only does it have a fantastic view of our driveway, birds, stray cats, and passersby, it also has a pad over which is a damask tablecloth. What’s not to love?
Ordinarily, it might not be so bad were it not for the moment we go to sit down for dinner and tufts of fur roll across the table. I’ve tried, unsuccessfully (as any cat owner worth their kitty treats knows), to break him of this. But I know I’m failing miserably when I return home from errands and he’s lying there, dreamily squinting at me like he’s just awakened from the most marvelous dream, and making no move to get up.
I have armed myself. I recently purchased a weapon and Oliver, until this week, was uninitiated in the aquatic assault I aimed at him. And, as expected, after one lesson I have only to pick up said weapon in the next room and he’s GONE. Meanwhile, the canine population continues to assault me.
Sabra, at 9 years old still the “baby” of the house, remains a nudge – only she’s getting worse. Where she was once the shy, almost shrinking, poodle of the house, she has become emboldened by her security and the peace we have here. When Pi is called to one of us, Sabra will push her way through and insert herself between us. She is unapologetic about stealing Pi’s snack right out from under her, or finishing off Pi’s food before her own. She follows me so closely when we’re outside, she steps on the back of my flip flop and makes me trip. She will routinely poke me with her nose, or mouth my hand if I’m holding it down at my side. I know what she’s doing. I also know what she’s doing to Pi and that it’s “pack” stuff, and I know she’s not maliciously inclined.
Pi isn’t getting old, she IS old. She is four months shy of her 16th birthday, and the recent months have seen an increase in weakness and falling down, and general senility. She falls down a few times daily, but can pick herself up, usually. She has an increasing habit of falling down on or near the food bowl, a scattering of nuggets following the familiar ping of the stainless bowl. She routinely walks through the water bowl, which I have strategically centered against the end of the island and with five feet around it to avoid just that, and one time she fell into it – ass first. (Don’t even ask me how – I’m still trying to figure that one out.)
It’s all very funny except when it’s not. Like the time she managed to get herself stuck under Ava’s bed when we weren’t home one day. We were gone about 4 hours, and I have no idea how long she was stuck that way but she couldn’t walk – at all – afterward. She’s done this a handful of times in our bedroom as well. Which is one of the growing reasons why we can’t leave her at home alone for very long anymore. I went to pick Opac up from practice and stopped at the grocery store one afternoon, and came home to her lying on the dining room floor in a pile of poop. I was gone an hour. This is the stuff of heartbreak.
The accidents are becoming more frequent, urinating in the house (usually after falling down) and this morning – after I had let her out and she came back in – I found her asleep in the hall just two feet away from a giant turd, and there were two more in front of her bed in our room. It’s My Life Is Shit, revisited. Only this time, I’m no longer laughing, or angry. I’m sad.
Before the animal rights people get their panties all twisted – she is NOT suffering. She is NOT sick, or crippled, or incapable of going outside. She is just …. Old. She eats well – she enjoys plenty of home-cooked meals and broth-soaked food, and more than her share of cat food (which I’m certain Oliver purposely meows for, so that she can have it). She runs across the deck with me like a puppy, with these happy bursts of energy where she remembers who she is. And, while I often find her staring off into space in a room somewhere, there is still light in her eyes when they meet mine.
I am the human who is with her every day. I am the one who is here to pick her up when she can’t get up, the one who feeds her, and bathes her. I am the one who lets her out when she wakes me up at 2, 3, 4 in the morning and I am the one who walks back and forth to different doors while she decides which one she’s coming in. I am the one who defends her, as Sabra steals “head dog” position and circles her tightly until she falls down.
I know her. And I will know when she’s no longer thriving. The hardest part is the knowing that we are on that inevitable path already, and that one day either she will choose, or we will have to.
Clockwise from top left: Pi, Sabra, & Oliver. Ever watchful of the foodkeeper. The Tara Chronicles, 2016.