Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tribute

I called him Sol.  He was named for a character in my favorite TV Series DEADWOOD - Sol Starr.   I acquired Sol almost 6 years ago.  One of my daughter's housemates had found him and he needed a good safe home.  He was a Russian Blue, his fur a lovely shade of gray, and he was pretty beat up, his ears had been chewed on, he had patches of fur missing.  A check up at the vet found him covered with fleas, ear mites, and of course  worms.  He had several teeth missing, but overall, he was a healthy cat.
When I brought him home, he howled in the backseat of my car for about 40 miles - from Forest Grove to SE Portland, OR where my little apartment had everything but a cat.  That first night, I woke up to find him perched on the top of the door.  Being up high would always be his favorite thing.  Well, aside from poking me awake each morning.
Sol moved with me twice in the years we spent together.  First to a house that would come to be known as the squirrel house.  He liked to sun himself in the front yard and lure young girls over to pet and coo over him.  (He was a man whore - always showing off for the pretty girls)  And in the winter, he would sit and gaze out the big picture window and watch the world go by.  He was always waiting there when I got home from work.
The next time we moved, it was to a second story apartment.  While I wouldn't let Sol outside here, because of the traffic on the street, he didn't seem to mind.  He would sit in the front window and watch the squirrels and birds in the trees.  The squirrels would taunt him by getting as close as they could and chattering at him.  He always gave them the - "Oh if only I could get out of here" - look.  But he never tried very hard to get out.
It was always a game of sorts when I would have to make frequent trips in and out of the apartment - laundry room, garbage and recycling, groceries from the car - to see if he could slip out into the stairwell where I would chase him down and then back up the short flights of stairs.
About a year ago, Sol began to have trouble eating.  He would frequently vomit up his food shortly after eating - but he'd go back to his dish and dig back in.  His teeth had gradually fallen out until he only had one or two left, so I eliminated dry food from his diet and only gave him wet food that was well ground up.
Anyway, after a couple of months of cleaning up cat mess - no sign of hairballs or obstructions - we went to the vet.  He protested loudly, but when the doctor prescribed a diet of "unusual foods" and probiotics, he responded well and life went back to normal.
A normal day with Sol started out with him sitting next to my head on the pillow.  He would position himself between me and the alarm clock, and as soon as it went off, he'd begin to poke me with his soft paw.  Never any claws, just a little pat on my cheek to remind me that it was time to get up and feed him.  Once I was up and he was fed, he'd watch me get ready for work while he settled back into the warm covers for his morning nap.
When I would get home in the afternoon, he would want to be fed right away, but just a little bit, a snack of sorts.  Then he would insist I sit down on the couch and he would tell me all about his day.  Once he settled into my lap, it would be very difficult to do anything but pet him.  And if I headed toward the kitchen to fix dinner, well, let's just say that it had to meet with his approval.
With dinner out of the way, it was time for more lap time, allowing for the occasional bathroom break, water break, nibble from the bowl.
He had developed some peculiar drinking habits over time.  At first, he drank from a small decorative fountain that I had.  When the pump for the fountain died, I searched and searched for a substitute.  I tried several, but none met with his approval.  So when he was thirsty, he would go into the bathroom, meow, and wait for me to come turn on the faucet to a little drip.  He wouldn't get up and drink however, unless I stood there patting him on the back telling him what a good, handsome boy he was. 
Bedtime was my favorite part of the day with Sol.  I think it was his too.  Once I was settled in with my pillows and my book, Sol would jump up onto my chest and lay his head on my shoulder.  I would hold the book with one hand and pet him softly with the other.  Occasionally, I'd give him a little kiss on the cheek and he'd nuzzle back.  At lights out, he would climb down and settle himself in the crook of my knees.  Until it was time for the alarm to ring out once more.
Around the holidays, Sol started needing a lot more of my time.  And his food didn't seem to be agreeing with him anymore.  I attributed it to stress and the weather and just gave him as much nurturing as I could.  But despite my best efforts, he didn't seem to be getting better.  He began to lose weight.  He wasn't drinking much at all.  And he seemed to be developing breathing problems.
Last Friday night, Sol threw everything up.  Repeatedly.  And all over me.  Something he's never done before.  I finally got him calmed down and we went to bed, where he just repeated it.  I changed my bed and got him settled on the couch.
The next day, I went and got some baby food, hoping that might help calm him.  It worked.  For a day and a half.  It was clear that something was very wrong and food was no longer the issue.  Sol was in pain and starving to death.  Never a big cat - he topped out at 9 pounds - he was now almost skin and bones.  His belly was distended and making all sorts of noises.  He didn't wake me up in the morning.  He didn't follow me into the kitchen.  He just hunkered down under the blankets and lay there.
Finally, yesterday, I was able to get him to the vet.  Tuesday night I had held him close all night, telling him over and over that we were going to find a way to stop the pain.  When I came home to take him to the doctor Wednesday afternoon, he was ready.  Sitting in the sunlight streaming through the front window, he waited for me to give him his pats.  Then he walked onto the towel I had laid out for him and  lay down.  I bundled him up and set him in the backseat of the car.  He never made a sound.
First we weighed him and found that he was down almost half his body weight - just over 5 pounds. The vet fed him some more baby food and almost immediately, Sol became distressed and restless and vomited it up.  She palpated his abdomen and found a large mass.  His stool showed internal bleeding.  His breathing indicated that whatever it was had probably metastasized to his lungs.  His constant hunkering down indicated that he was suffering.
We could run tests and do ultrasounds and all that fancy stuff, but the truth was pretty clear.  It was time for Sol and I to say goodbye.  The vet left us alone.  He crawled up onto my lap, stretched himself up to my chest and looked into my eyes.  He purred his deep, lovely, throaty purr.  He nuzzled my cheek and as my tears fell on his fur, he wiped them away.  I kissed his little swollen cheeks and laid him down on the towel.  He reached his paw out to me - and finally gave a little meow.  I know he was saying "good-bye."
Sol was with me through some very hard times.  Through heartbreak and sickness and loss and pain.  He was also with me in some very good times.  He was a lovely, proud, happy, brave cat.  I miss him and I will miss him for a long time.

4 comments:

Jenn Feeney said...

A lovely tribute. Sol was clearly a wonderful companion. You were both lucky to have eachother. Hugs.

Bridgete said...

I held together for most of this post, until your last day with him. I wish I could have said goodbye...but I think he knows.

I love you and we both will miss him dearly.

Lori A said...

Brought tears to my eyes! Sorry for your loss KC. I know Sol got us much love as a kitty could hope in his lifetime. Hugs,Lori

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Oh KC, I know that there is noone else in the world who could have been the perfect companion for Sol all those years, it was definitely you. This was a beautiful memorial to a feline who lived quite the happy life. I wish I could give you a big hug right now my friend.