At first, I thought it was just an oil-stained orange rag beneath the souped-up Camaro in the parking lot of the Combs Motel in Hazard, Kentucky. Then, a voice from within urged me to look closer. I did, and realized the oil-stained rag was actually an oil-stained kitten—barely breathing, eyes matted shut, with a stripe of Valvoline from nose to tail. I didn’t know if I could keep him alive, but I had to try. I wriggled under the car, carried him out, and wrapped him in a tee shirt. While washing his eyes out with warm water in the motel bathroom, I decided to call him Oscar, after the trash-can dwelling grouch on Sesame Street.
At this point, I had no intention of adopting him. I already had three other cats and a dog. But, I would do what I could to save him. He was too weak to eat on his own. so I bottle-fed him, which essentially required taking him everywhere I went if I was going to be gone for longer than eight hours. I bought him a fluffy, red teddy bear as a substitute for litter mates. I took him to the vet. After a couple of weeks of tender, loving care, it was obvious he was going to make it…and he was not going anywhere.
It took the oil-stripe nearly a year to grow out. During that time, he developed quite the personality. It could best be described as perpetually-pissed off, earning him the title of Oscar Brown, Meanest Cat in Town. God, but how that little orange tabby cat swatted, growled, head-butted, and hissed his way into my heart. I was never able to look at his grumpy little face without smiling…until he got sick.
Two years ago, while we were residing on a boat at Royalties Marina, Oscar took seriously ill. As I do, I wrote about that horrifying day in another blog, which you can read HERE. After tons of tests, the diagnosis was Pneumocystosis, a serious form of fungal pneumonia caused by Mallard duck droppings, meaning he would need a strict regimen of lifelong meds. Once again, if I was going to be gone for longer than eight hours, Oscar had to go along, too.
Since his diagnosis, he’d had mostly good days…a few bad…a couple really, scary bad. And, we’ve known that the Fluconazole would sooner or later take a toll on his liver. I’d always asked Oscar to let me know when it was time…when he was ready to go…when there were more bad days than good. He did so, beginning last Friday, in the form of a hunger strike. He just stopped eating, absolutely refusing to taste a morsel of even his favorite food.
On Monday, I called our veterinarian.
“What else can we do?” I asked, desperate.
“I’m afraid there’s nothing else. Quite frankly, I’m surprised he’s made it this long.”
“So, we just have to let nature take its course?”
“Or we can opt for euthanasia, which would be the most humane thing to do if he’s in pain or suffering.”
“How do we know if he’s suffering?”
“Only you can decide that. You know him best. It’s up to you.”
And that is the very hardest part of being a pet parent--accepting that you must experience the pain of their death, so they don’t have to experience a painful life.
Yesterday morning, just as I did over a decade ago, I looked at a weak and barely-breathing, now twelve-year-old, kitten and had to decide whether or not I could keep him alive. This time, I knew the answer was no. As hard as it was going to be, I had to let go. For him, it was time. Our veterinarian agreed to come to our house. That afternoon, with Oscar snugged in between Frank and myself on his favorite blanlet, we said goodbye.
And now, there is a gaping Oscar-shaped hole in my heart and an empty place in our family. It is truly amazing what a huge impact a tiny, orange kitten made in all our lives. Oscar Brown, to me, you will forever be the most-missed cat in town.
the bourbonistA, Promoting Debauchery and stamping out political-correctness one blog at a time.