Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Animals

I don't remember where I read it, but I read it somewhere:  Dogs don't show pain.  They can be in awful agony, and their expression shows no pain.  Things that would put you or I on short-term disability are invisible to dogs. I guess they don't want us to see them in pain, being our best friends and all.

I've never owned a dog.  I'm a cat person.  Cats fit into my lifestyle.  I can care for them, feed them, and leave them for most of the day without worry, as long as their litter pan is clean and they have something to drink.  With dogs, you have to be around to walk them, or fear that they'll pee on the floor.  Not that I'd blame them.  I couldn't sit in a place for 12 hours without the urge to pee somewhere.  I love dogs, but one has to realize ones limitations.

I have shared my life with two cats over the past 26 years.  The first one stayed with me through my divorce and was at my side as we both struggled with desertion.  The cat sat by the front door for a few days, until I said, "She isn't coming back."  Eventually, he acquiesced, and we shared another 12 years together.  He was fortunate, since, during our marriage, I was the one who fed him.

After he died, I went a year without another cat.  I didn't realize how long it had been, but once I felt that the time was right, I sought-out another feline companion.  Sorrow has a long healing period.

I have documented that process, so I will not repeat it.  Suffice it to say, my time with Thor has been both satisfying and a learning experience.  The animals teach us, even though they do not realize it, an they bring joy to us, even though they do not intend it.

He is sick.  His kidneys are failing.  They were tiny to start with, and now their diminutive size is working against him.  He is too young to be going through kidney failure, but old to be doing it with such a small organ.
The satisfaction I bring out of being his caretaker is that he would surely have been dead long ago were it not for me.  Some would see it as a rationalization, but I see it as a truth.

He had gingivitis when I adopted him.  Two years later, while cleaning his teeth, almost all of them fell out.  He was left with a couple of teeth and a still-healthy jawbone due to the diligence of caring for his oral health.  Had he been left to suffer, his jaw would have deteriorated, and he would have died.
Pancreatitis caused him to spend three days in hospital and countless more at home without an appetite.  I struggled to find food that he could eat, settling on chicken broth and the juice from Fancy Feast fish packets until he was healthy enough to chew.

His last set of bloodwork numbers were bad enough for me to think that he was lucky to be alive, let alone still walking and purring.  That was several months ago.  The decline has been slow and steady, and his mood has likewise been declining.  Lately, he sits alone rather than with me, and sleeps in some secluded spot until I find him and gather him up to sleep with me.  It's my selfishness that I require his company, and his selflessness that he wishes to be left alone.

We struggle with out desires.  His desire to be left alone to deal with his declining health and my desire to share as much time with him as possible while his health declines.  We are at crossed purposes.

As these last few weeks (months?) wind down, I will fight my desire to have him at my side while he fights his desire to show his weakness.  I will win, because I am bigger and stronger, but I will feel his pain because that's what I do.  The thing neither of us knows is how much longer we have together.  I suppose that is true of every human/pet relationship, but in this case, we have a finite time and we know it.  I think he knows it, too.  He has to know that he isn't the same cat that he was five years ago.  I know I'm not the same man I was five years ago, and I'm just a stupid human.

We will carry on.  He will get his daily fluid injections (which he has gotten increasingly tired of - as have I) and I will continue to struggle to find food that he will eat - until he stops eating - which I have been told is the next step.  His phosphorous levels will get so high that he will lose his appetite.  Once he stops eating, it won't be long before the inevitable takes command, and I have to do what I have been fearing.

And then, it will likely be another year before I subject myself to the unconditional love and acceptance that a cat gives me.  After all, there's only so much more of that I can take.

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